Whimsical lanterns light up the darkness

Local artist created lanterns in the shape of nocturnal animals

Gabrielle deGouw was an artist ever since she could pick up a pencil. Like many artists, she honed her skills drawing and painting, but she didn’t find her true passion until recently.

“I ran into the Quarters Arts Society lantern parade a couple years ago, and I fell in love,” she says. Through trial and error, she taught herself how to build the paper-covered wire frames.

deGouw soon began working with Quarters Arts Society as the lead artist for the parade, teaching lantern-making and refining her skills to create whimsical sculptures, usually animals. She has since become the go-to person for lanterns: she built a 20-foot whale for the 2020 Deep Freeze Festival and is slated for another installation for Kaleido On Tour.

Luckily, we don’t have to wait to enjoy her work. Right now, eight of her lanterns are tucked away in the Alberta Avenue vicinity as part of the Uplift the Community project, organized by Arts on the Ave and funded by the Edmonton Arts Council.

Look for this owl lantern. | Darcy Morin

“They wanted to do some stuff with the community, so they asked me and another artist [chalk artist, Alexandra Jade] to literally bring some light to the community in these darker ages right now.”

Her pieces include King Cat, the Mouse Family, and lanterns in the shape of an owl and moths.

“I wanted to do animals that were nocturnal and lived within our community, but then add my own whimsical style. Usually when you throw an idea at me, I can come up with some ideas pretty fast. It just comes out of my head within a couple minutes. Then it’s just a matter of figuring out how to technically do that.”

Gabrielle deGouw says she wanted to create lanterns in the shape of nocturnal animals. | Gabrielle deGouw

Each small lantern takes deGouw about a week to build, starting with some online research to study poses and ending with installation. She has placed the lanterns in various semi-secret locations to encourage people to explore their community (there’s a map, available on her social media, that’ll put you in the right ballpark). Unfortunately, one of the pieces she put up earlier this summer, King Cat, has vanished. 

“Yes. I’m almost certain that someone just stole it, but I’m going with the story that the mice have taken him down. They didn’t like the hierarchy.” She has taken this all in stride, seeing it as an opportunity to create something new. Rather than make a copy of King Cat, she is replacing him with Her Royal Mewjesty, the Queen Cat.

Eight of deGouw’s lanterns can be found in the Alberta Avenue vicinity. | Gabrielle deGouw

“I didn’t think it would be fun to just replace him with the same thing. Either that or with a very fat mouse.”

On a happy note, deGouw reported that King Cat was found.

That’s basically it: deGouw wants this to be fun. She just wants you to enjoy them (preferably leaving them there for others), because there is something inherently magical about the glow of a lantern at night.

The lanterns take Gabrielle deGouw about a week to create. | Gabrielle deGouw

“I think it’s just the unusualness of it. It’s not something you see that often. And I really enjoy things that are difficult for me and constantly pushing my barriers. Lanterns definitely do that. ”Watch deGouw’s videos and see more images on her social media. Access her Instagram at gabsdoesart, YouTube at gabsdoesart, and website at gabs.ca.


Featured Image: Gabrielle deGouw created these moth lanterns. | Gabrielle deGouw

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