“Sunshine”- Acrylic Portrait

Biography I am an artist and registered nurse based in London, Ontario. My mother is the subject of the acrylic paint portrait I submitted. My passion for art began at a young age thanks to the encouragement and support of my late mother, Jennifer Connolly. She saw my potential and inspired me to pursue my passion for painting. After earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and working as a registered nurse in the cardiac care department at the London Health Science Centre, I continued to be moved by my call to art. During breaks at the hospital, I continued to draw elaborate dry erase whiteboard drawings to bring joy, not only to myself but also to my patients. My art has served as a beacon of hope and a source of comfort for others.

Artist Statement

Art is a way for me to connect with my emotions and express myself. I create pieces that are deeply personal and reflective of my experiences and emotions. Recently, I created a portrait of my mother as a way to process her loss. As it transformed, so did my view of her. The more I painted, the more I saw myself in her. To capture the essence of my mother’s spirit, I used bright contrasting highlights, and layering skin tones to create a more three-dimensional portrait. I wanted her smile and beautiful energy to come off the page, showcasing the love that we shared, painted with soft brush strokes to emphasize her gentle nature.

The light source in the painting is almost angelic and I wanted to create a halo effect on her hair through my dry brush technique.

I wanted to blend the background into the lighter portions of my mom’s figure to soften her feminine edges and allow fluidity throughout my portrait.

Through my art, I hope to inspire others to connect with their own emotions while seeing the beauty in the world around them. Thank you for taking the time to learn about my art, my inspirations, and my experiences.


Western University London, Ontario — Bachelor of Science in Nursing 2011- 2015
Extracurricular courses: Life drawing at the Art Project

Art elective courses: Life drawing and Self-portrait

Wexford School for the ARTS Scarborough, Ontario 2006- 2010


Drawing (marker, dry erase, pencil, conté, chalk pastel) Painting
Mural art

Graphic design
Children’s book illustrations


Sharon Morgan Hayward Award

In 2022 I was awarded the Sharon Morgan Hayward Award which is presented annually to a preceptor of the undergraduate nursing program who demonstrates an ability to inspire others to take action. Out of 100 nominations I was selected in honour of outstanding dedication to student learning. It was through my dry erase whiteboard drawings in the bleak setting of a hospital ward that I was able to share my passion and add colour to the hospital floor. I inspired positive light through art with others who were in pain and in need, helping them to heal more than just the body but also the soul.

During my formative adolescent years in high school, I studied at Wexford School for the Arts. I was accepted into a specialized visual arts program.

My secondary school allowed me the opportunity to refine my life drawing and artistic skills and develop a portfolio. My love for colour and eye for detail was fostered by this creative learning environment. One of my pieces was selected for a gallery exhibit.

Although I did not pursue a career in art, I had an opportunity to create a diverse art portfolio for a potential audition at the Ontario College of Art and Design. I used an array of mediums such as conté, oil, acrylic, and other mixed media. Life drawing expanded my knowledge of proportions, dimensions, and perspective.


Children’s Book Illustrations, London, Ontario- Markers, Graphic Design
November 2021- Current

Currently completing a series of drawings for a private commission, a children’s book. Through marker designs, the illustrations are intended to spark children’s imagination and sense of play.

Whiteboard Drawings, London, Ontario- Dry Erase Drawing Series September 2015- March 2021

A series of dry-erase whiteboard drawings at the London Health Science Centre university hospital. Completed over the span of seven years, I created the drawings to add light and joy to the cardiac hallways and motivate the patients to walk for their physio to come to see them.

Business Logo Design, London, Ontario- Graphic Design September 2020

I created a graphic logo for my personal business, Fight Yoga Club, first drawing the design by hand and then using the graphic editor program GIMP to edit and enhance it. The logo is on my business website and has also been printed on clothing.

Expressions in Chalk, London, Ontario—Chalk Pastel Street Drawing August 2015, August 2016, and August 2019

I have participated in the Expressions in Chalk festival in London, Ontario for three years. I learned to enlarge 8.5” by 11” conceptual designs to 9’ x 9’ pavement art using chalk pastels.

Private Commission, London, Ontario — Mural Painting August 2018- October 2018

The intent of the mural, painted using acrylic, was to reflect a psychedelic experience incorporating vivid colours and abstract figures to enhance the customer’s personal workshop. The customer wanted a mural to inspire creativity for their own personal live wood art projects.

Out of the Cold, Sioux Lookout — Mural Painting February 2016 – March 2018

I completed a two-wall mural, painted using acrylic, to tell the story of struggle and perseverance. I painted the mural in the women’s portion of the homeless shelter. The mural was intended to inspire, empower and bring colour to the shelter as well as raise awareness about their personal struggles. I interviewed the women who stayed at the shelter to learn about their experiences and culture, as well as to inform the creative process and design of the piece. DH

The Lotus

2020 has been a challenging year for so many. 

Through my hardships it made me stronger and what didn’t break me made me come out swinging. Thus the seedlings of Fight Yoga began to blossom. “The lotus flower blooms most beautifully from the deepest and thickest mud.” – Buddhist Proverb. The murkiest of waters can bring forth change and the beauty of new beginnings, The Lotus! During times of uncertainty your path may be unclear, but if you look inwards you can follow your heart’s guiding light.

This year I lost my mom and best friend four months after she received her heart transplant. A tragic loss of a woman delighted to have a second chance at life with her new heart. Her heart was too big for this world but her light and joy will live on through my teachings. I made a conscious choice that I could either let the grief become all encompassing, or I could tell myself to;

Where do you go when you feel all is lost? I came through the mud and resurfaced with new petals and a new perspective on life. Upon deep contemplative reflection, I told myself I had one choice and that was to continue moving forward on my path. Although uncertain, I knew one thing for sure… that each day spent breathing was a gift.  My mom instilled that value in me and always encouraged me to pick myself up, dust myself off and hold my head up high. So that’s what I did. I worked on proper alignment in yoga, elongating through my spine and standing up nice and tall. I tied in pranayama;  Prana, life force through daily breath-work, into my practice.

I knew that my mom’s legacy needed to live on and  her light needed to be shared with the world. The question I had to ask myself was how? The day she passed, her phone record showed she reached out to six other people to help them and sent words of encouragement. In her final hours of life her candle burned brighter than ever because her true light was a thing of illuminating beauty.

With the news of my mom’s passing, I felt like my breath was knocked out of me. I got hit with a strong force and in true fighting fashion, I didn’t let it keep me down. Dealing with grief during lockdown was very isolating. Fitness has always been a good outlet to help me cope with difficult times. I started thinking of the ways that fitness has helped me to heal and I began brainstorming how I could help spread the love of healing to others. Thus the initial seeds were laid down for Fight Yoga.

Onwards and upwards. This is how Fight Yoga emerged from the darkness and shined brighter than ever before. I truly wanted to end 2020 with a bang! I took control of my destiny by showing others the light at the end of the tunnel. Your true light – Namaste. I received good advice from a friend to get out of my head and into my body. So that’s what I did! I challenged myself to make small goals for myself. As simple as sleeping, eating and exercise (basic self care). My daily routine for 2020 included thirty minutes of boxing & thirty minutes of yoga practice daily and ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSES! …even if it meant waking up at 5:20 am to get a workout in before my 12 hour shift! 

Did I always feel like getting out of bed? The answer is positively NO (I’m a shift worker), but a wise woman once said, ” fake it until you make it!!” So I did just that. I made my bed so I could complete the first task of the day, got my sports attire on and rolled my shoulders back and lifted my chin up.            

Confidence is a choice and your worth is not defined by others. So the question to ask yourself is: what do you value in life and in yourself? Is it…

  • Family and a sense of belonging?
  • Pride in seeing holistic change in the mind, body and spirit?
  • Relief from back pain by strengthening the core and back muscles while staying limber?
  • Quieting the mind: mindfulness?
  • Stress relief – relieving tension in tight muscles?
  • Awakening your true light – Daily Chakra practice?

If you answered yes to any of the above then FIGHT YOGA ClUB is right for you!

By the way, that wise woman was no other than my beautiful mom  Jennifer Connolly; my might, my inner fight.

Today’s objective, reach out to six people and spread words of joy and encouragement the authentic Jennifer Connolly way.

Pay it forward!

Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

Peace, Peace, Peace.

Gillian Win Connolly