STEAM Profile: Television Producer and Artist Karina Sinclair

Technical know-how may be essential in television production, but as Karina Sinclair has learned, a strong foundation in the arts is also key. 

So often, I hear stories from peers about how they would have loved to pursue their creative passion, but bowed to parental pressure to study a “serious profession.” I imagine the intent was to save these individuals from becoming proverbial “starving artists,” but such a disservice to the workforce.

I was a lucky child, born to 2 very creative people.  My parents held what would be considered blue collar jobs, but their imaginations were vivid.  They each had an innate ability to find infinite solutions to any problem.  Using a range of skills and disciplines, they simply imagined their way around any obstacle.

My father was quite skilled with a pencil stub and a scrap of paper (nothing went to waste).  I distinctly remember balancing on the arm of a recliner, watching my burly father sketch Snow White for me.  The scent of the tar he sprayed to waterproof basements lingered under his finger nails.  He would have been exhausted from a long day battling heat and temperamental equipment.  And yet, there he was delicately shaping a princess balancing a bluebird on her hand while stretching in repose for me to colour.

My mother didn’t draw, but she could do just about everything else creative.  By day, she was a house-keeper, but every other waking moment was spent in creative pursuit.  Knitting, cake decorating, sewing, and furniture refinishing were regular on-going projects, as well as lesser known crafts, including pergamano, porcelain doll making, and chocolatiering.  The more obscure the better, as part of the thrill was mastering vintage techniques no one else remembered in modern history.  Without any formal instruction, both my parents came to these skills with keen interest and personal satisfaction.

They shared those gifts with me.

When I was a shy 5 year old, they encouraged me to take Irish dance lessons.  Doing so blossomed my love for the Celtic tunes of my ancestors.  Later, they tirelessly drove me to weekly fiddle lessons, where my love of music (and understanding of its theory) broadened even further.  Watercolour summer camps, countless ceili sessions (think Irish kitchen party), birthday gifts of airbrush kits, stacks of books, and a shared love of Bob Ross on PBS all supported a love of the arts and creativity that resonates to this day.

Maybe by now you’re thinking “Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but how does it pay the bills?”  I’m so glad you asked.

All these years later, I’m a television producer, and I’m far from starving.  I joined this industry at the ripe old age of 13, whilst performing with my fiddle on a local cable television show.  The behind-the-scenes bustle intrigued me, and frankly, still does!  A job in television production is an amalgamation of all things artistic, and blends it with technology.  Timing is everything in video editing, not unlike the precision needed as a dancer or musician.  That training ingrained the importance of music to set express emotion.  The painting classes and time spent blending pigments on canvas taught me how to balance colour palettes, set perspective, and important compositional rules I use daily when sketching storyboards, designing a lighting setup, shooting photos and videos, and collaborating with graphic artists.  Those beloved stacks of books with worn spines and dog-eared pages inspired me to write.  Wouldn’t you know it, writing is a major component of my daily job; not that I actually consider it “work” to write.

Click here to see a sample of Karina's work.  

The performance aspect took me out of my shell, and made me brave.  Enough to stand up in front of a packed audience with just my fiddle and a microphone, and brave enough to present my ideas to a boardroom full of corporate suits.  I’m not sure which is more intimidating.  Neither bothers me now, thanks to those early days with my parents cheering me from the wings.

You see, if the arts had not been introduced and supported at such a tender age, I probably wouldn’t be the person I am today.  And I like that person very much.  I love a good “problem” to trouble-shoot.  I can imagine a world of possibilities, and am excited by how new technologies facilitate the arts.  Best of all, I love having my daughters perch on the arm of my chair while I sketch for them with a stubby pencil.  I can see it in their eyes; the wonder, the potential, the future of creativity.

I’m so glad I get to show them it’s possible to have a “serious profession” that’s built on artistic foundations.  And I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

Karina Sinclair has spent more than two thirds of her life working behind the scenes in television production, covering just about any technical and creative aspect possible.  Besides producing documentary specials for The Weather Network, Karina has always been artistically employed: as a busker; a fiddle teacher; and family/wedding photographer.  In her spare time, her creative pursuits are currently focused on writing about adventures in artisanal ice cream at The Ice Cream Initiative, and serving on the board of directors for Arts Milton.