Joan Rankin

About the Artist

Joan Melvin Rankin was born in Calgary, Alberta, in 1927. Her mother, Edna Gladstone Melvin, was among the first group of women to graduate from the University of Saskatchewan, in 1919. Her father, Stanley Lorne Dowswell, served in the First World War, first as a soldier and then as an airman, one of only 193 Canadians to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross in that war.

Rankin’s parents settled in Regina, Saskatchewan, in 1928.  The arts and culture were important to the Rankin family who listened to the Metropolitan Opera on the radio on Saturday afternoons and attended Regina Symphony Orchestra performances.

Old Camera Rankin recalls that from an early age she was always drawing, and when she was in grade eight her parents arranged for her to take art lessons in still-life and  figure1.  The form of a human, an animal or a thing; most often referring to an entire human form.  2.  A person of note (i.e., an important figure in history...)  drawing. During high school Rankin became an enthusiastic participant in the  cameraIn photography, a tool for producing photographs, having a lightproof enclosure with an aperture and a shuttered lens through which the image of an object is focused and recorded on a photosensitive film or plate. In video, a device that receives the primary image on a light-sensitive cathode tube and transforms it into electrical impulses. ( Find out about 35-mm cameras at Wikipedia:  club. At this time photography involved large, heavy cameras and tripods, developing film in your own  darkroomLight-tight room used for processing or printing photographic materials. (  and making prints using an enlarger. She also enjoyed  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (  small  landscapeA painting, photograph or other work of art which depicts scenery such as mountains, valleys, trees, rivers and forests. There is invariably some sky in the scene. ( Landscape is also a term that may also refer simply to a horizontally-oriented rectangle, just as a vertically-oriented one may be said to be oriented the portrait way. (  paintings outdoors.

During her final year of high school Rankin took a full-year university credit art class taught by Gus Kenderdine each Saturday. In 1946-47 she attended Regina College, receiving another year of art instruction from Kenderdine and an art history course taught by Gordon Snelgrove. Since Regina College offered only first-year courses, Rankin continued her education at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, graduating in 1950. During these years she served as a photographer, then chief photographer, for the student yearbook.

Rankin returned to Regina after graduation, and after working two unsatisfying jobs, she met Ken Lochhead, the new art professor at Regina College. Over the next two years she took art classes from him, later describing these courses as the most stimulating she had experienced. She also met Lori and Art McKay, who had become an art instructor at Regina College, and they became good friends.

In 1955 Joan married Jack Rankin, an engineering student she had dated while attending the University of Saskatchewan. She worked as a graphic designer and had paintings accepted into four juried exhibition organized by the Saskatchewan Arts Board. In 1959, when Joan was five months pregnant with their second child, Jack Rankin was killed in a plane crash.

Following this tragedy the Director for the Moose Jaw Board of Education, A. E. Peacock, a great supporter of Rankin, offered her the job of Art Superintendent. After the birth of her daughter Rankin took an Arts Education summer course and moved to Moose Jaw to supervise the art program in the public school system.
During the initial years in her new position, Rankin experienced some professional and social isolation. She knew she was resented for the demands she made on teachers, and she found it difficult to get many of them to try new things.

To counteract this isolation, at the urging of Ken Lochhead, Rankin packed her family into a car and attended her first Emma Lake Artists' Workshop in 1962. The workshop leader was renowned art critic Clement Greenberg. He made a huge impact on her when he told her that if she was going to be an artist, she would have to take herself seriously and make a commitment to art or else she would remain just another ‘Sunday painter.’

Rankin resolved to take painting more seriously, while also balancing her work for the Moose Jaw School Board. The Director of Education arranged a room on the top floor of a school for her to use as a studio. He also made it possible for her to spend a  sabbaticalOf or pertaining to the Sabbath; resembling the Sabbath; enjoying or bringing an intermission of labor. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary) In the academic world, usually a stretch of time during which faculty members are away from teaching, but doing research, travelling, writing a book, or engaging in some other work-related activity.  year (1968-69) studying for her Master’s degree in Art Education at Sir George Williams University in Montreal, Quebec.

Rankin chose Sir George Williams University with painting as her major and printmaking, in which she had no experience, as her minor area of study. When she returned from Montreal in 1969 Rankin decided not to continue painting. Her works were not selling, and she had a lot of paintings in storage.

During the 1970s Rankin worked primarily with photography, recording patterns and shapes, principally in nature. These included the series from Peggy’s Cove and another  seriesA number of things or events standing or succeeding in order, and connected by a like relation; sequence; order; course; a succession of things; as, a continuous series of calamitous events. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  of the hoodoos in the Alberta Badlands. She later turned to making  clayMud; moist, sticky dirt. In ceramics, clay is the basic material, usually referring to any of a certain variety of mixtures of such ingredients — fine-grained, firm earthy material that is plastic when wet, brittle when dry, and very hard when heated. There is a temperature with ceramic clays at which their particles fuse (vitrification), and this is most commonly controlled by heating (firing) them in a kiln. The most common types of ceramic clays are earthenware (terra cotta when fired, terra cruda when not), stonewares, and porcelain. (  and fibre sculptures, printmaking, and stained glass, using her garden as inspiration.

Rankin also created about 200 teddy bears, endowing them with complex characters and placing them in authentic-looking environments. Images of her bears have drawn international attention, and have been published in numerous books and magazines.

Rankin today (2008) lives in an assisted-living community in Regina, where she is preparing a spare bedroom that will serve as her studio.

Emma Lake Experience
First Career
Peggy's Cove
University Experience
Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning