Mairi Budreau grew up on a hobby farm 40 miles north of Toronto, Ontario. She was the youngest and only girl of five children. Her father owned and operated a lithographic printing business and she remembers him bringing home wildlife prints by Canadian painter, Glenn Loates – the realism really caught her eye. She met Group of Seven member, A.Y. Jackson at the McMichael Canadian Collection in 1970 when she was ten years old and fell in love with the notion of painting in nature. Her family moved to Huntsville, Ontario when she was 15 and she spent holidays paddling many of the lakes in nearby Algonquin Park. A parallel interest with painting was photography and she was awarded first prize at the local photo club for a pine stump ‘portrait.’ She worked for Lyle McIntyre, M.P.A. F/PPO M. Photog. Cr., and learned colour darkroom printing.
In her 20’s Mairi was a private contractor in Algonquin Provincial Park and Robert Bateman figured prominently as an art mentor. She met him in 1986 and had her first critique. She was working in acrylics, attempting wildlife realism as well as pencil work, influenced by American Artist, Paul Calle.
Budreau was 30 when she moved from Ontario to Vancouver Island, BC. There, she met William Kuhnley Jr., a Nuu-Chah-Nulth Native Artist and worked with him for three years as an informal apprentice. She learned Native design and carved primarily in Haida style. When Bill moved to the Mainland for his apprenticeship with Robert Davidson, Mairi lay down the carving tools. She found that what she gained from carving masks, bowls and totem poles honed her ability to draw, and she returned to pencil drawing.
As a non-Aboriginal emerging artist, Budreau proposed the idea of a portrait series to The Gallery of Tribal Art in Vancouver, BC and succeeded by booking a solo exhibition. She originated a legacy exhibition of First Nations Artists portraits and blazed a fresh trail for pencil drawing in the ‘90s by producing these high realism renditions. The silver-grey works were like the totem poles of their cultures. As with most exhibitions by emerging artists, it did not produce many sales, but was abundant in praise. The portraits were further exhibited in Vancouver at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
Budreau filled commissions from Germany, California and BC and was a drawing instructor to many. For four years she lived off the tip of a pencil and then came to a crossroads of financial ruin or return to the 9-5 workforce. Both choices meant that full time art was over – it felt like a betrayal of self. It was a hard lesson learned and she found steady income from a creative source in a photo retail shop and that led to photo printing. A couple years later, her interest in visual communication led her to explore film production. After graduating from Vancouver Film School in 2000, she was a producer for an award wining Documentary Film, Lost Nuke. Mairi’s photography, which remained a steady passion since her teens, earned honourable mention from the Professional Photographers Association of BC in 2004. In 2007 she graduated with a Graphic Design Diploma from Thompson Rivers University, and has worked at the university as a graphic designer ever since. She combined both photography and design and self-published – Budreau’s Kamloops and Region in 2008, now in a second printing.
But visual art is her truest calling and the skills gathered along the way serve her well. Since 2008 Budreau attended several painting workshops and in 2011 transitioned from acrylic to oil. She earned an Active Status Membership in the Federation of Canadian Artists in 2009 and regularly enters juried shows. In 2010 she won the Gold Award in the National Open Federation of Canadian Artists Show for her graphite portrait of Chief Walter Harris.
Mairi is currently painting for a 2013 solo portrait show, in oils.