Jenn Flinn is a familiar face to many in the Campbell River arts scene despite her admitted lack of self-publicity and marketing efforts, the fact that she really doesn’t show her work that much, and sells it even less frequently. She also doesn’t really have a focus, either in subject matter or medium, so….

“I’m a dabbler,” Flinn says. “I’ve gone through obsessive phases of just about every medium. One year it was silkscreening, another it was airbrushing, and one year I traded my friend a bass guitar for a tattoo machine.”

The tattooing didn’t stick, but most of the others have, at least in terms of having some stylistic influence.

And then there’s the painting. There’s always been the painting.

“I paint everything,” Flinn says. “Ukuleles, guitars, mannequins, helmets, shoes, jackets….” and the list goes on.

“Right now I’ve got a thing for clowns,” she says, which is even stranger than it sounds, considering she’s got Coulrophobia (yes, that’s a fear of clowns, and it’s more common than you’d think).

“I’ve recently been painting really creepy, sick looking clowns that you almost feel some sympathy for. They give you serious ‘no no’ feelings.”

She doesn’t show her work often, but Flinn was recently invited to display some of her work at the Vancouver “Pancakes and Booze” show this November, which she’s really happy about.

Whether it’s Jenn Flinn or Stray Cat Sue, this artist sheds artistic convention.
Whether it’s Jenn Flinn or Stray Cat Sue, this artist sheds artistic convention.

Flinn says there was a call for artists to submit work on Juxtapoz Magazine’s website, “so I sent in some pics of a few of my things, not expecting anything to come of it, but I heard back from the organizer right away,” and she’s excited to show off her work outside the local scene. She previously showed some work at the Art Walk at Spirit Square “a couple of years ago,” but doesn’t frequently get the opportunity to do so. Not being able to show your work also makes it hard to sell, obviously.

She thinks the reason she (and many other local artists) haven’t really been able to make a go of it financially-speaking in any real way is because Campbell River lacks creative spaces for artists to congregate.

In an attempt to rectify this, Flinn has created “Tooned Up,” which are nights for artists to come to her “studio,” have a few drinks, play music on the multitude of instruments she has laying around, and create art.

“I actually got the idea from a fella who interviewed me for a graphic design position here in town (which I didn’t get, obviously, since I’m not a graphic designer),” she says.

Apparently, after the usual interview questions, her interviewer was talking about a friend of his from art school who threw painting parties his friend used to hold in his unfinished basement, where they would just “get tuned up and throw paint everywhere.”

“It sounded like a brilliant idea,” Flinn says, “so I cleaned out my shop, moved all my art stuff in and proceeded to get pie-eyed by myself and painted for six hours.”

And, not that it wasn’t fun, but now she’s looking for friends to join her. You can email her directly at straycatsue@hotmail.ca if you’d like to be part of it.

And then there’s the burlesque.

“There was a shout out for talent on Facebook about eight years ago,” Flinn remembers, “and I knew I didn’t have any talent, but wanted to challenge myself, so I showed up and learned one dance, and didn’t f*** it up too badly and was accepted (into the troupe).”

She then decided she needed something to set herself apart, so she “went home and researched obscure talents and decided I needed to buy an orange Flying V Ukulele off eBay.”

She would become Stray Cat Sue, the ukulele-wielding, skivvies-donning stage performer of Campbell River’s own Sweet Tease Burlesque (hence the email address earlier).

“At first I was so nervous. I was so concerned with getting the routines right and not looking stupid, until I finally realized that looking like an awkward twit was actually my appeal,” she laughs.

Does she still get nervous after eight years of shows? How long can one keep pulling off the “awkward twit” role?

“Well, I crack a lot of jokes and make fun of myself,” she says, adding that it’s not difficult to keep up the nervous persona, because every show is still a new adventure, and it’s a bit scary every time.

“Right before the show starts, I still get the nervous pees,” she laughs. “I feel like I have to pee every minute, which is a lot of fun with fishnets and garters and corsets on,” she says sarcastically. “But once I’m on stage the adrenaline rush takes over and I could go all night.”

For more information about Sweet Tease Bulesque, including videos of performances and upcoming event dates, find them on Facebook.

Flinn also has her own Facebook page as Stray Cat Sue, where she is also featuring her newest artistic dabbling: poster design.

If you’d like an original Flinn creation for your very own to wear around town, you can get one of those, too. She’s currently doing a cosmetology apprenticeship at Industry Hair and Body Care on Shoppers Row in Campbell River.