Rita Winkler is a young woman with Down syndrome. She was born in Calgary, Alberta, and currently lives in Toronto, Ontario. Prior to covid Rita worked in the Coffee Shed in New College at the University of Toronto, part of the Common Ground Cooperative, a social purpose enterprise. More recently she has been working in the Lemon and Allspice Cookery, also part of Common Ground. Rita also attends the DANI-Toronto day program. Rita enjoys social media, listening to music, watching movies, writing newsletter articles, and being with friends and family in her free time.
The foundation for Rita’s art journey was laid by the excellent art program at DANI-Toronto. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rita joined a Zoom art class offered by L’Arche London, which introduced her to watercolours as a medium. Watercolours are now Rita’s primary medium, sometimes supplemented with ink and acrylic paint/pens. Rita’s mom, Helen, who previously had no training in art, is Rita’s art facilitator. She devises adaptive techniques to allow Rita to overcome disability-related barriers to the art creation process.
Rita, Helen, and her Uncle Mark Winkler from Kenora collaborated on a children’s book, My Art, My World, recently published by Second Story Press. It tells the story of Rita’s day-to-day life through her art and offers a message of inclusion. The book has brought Rita’s art to the attention of the greater community. All book proceeds are being donated to organizations that help people with intellectual disabilities.
The most common remark from the public about Rita’s art is that it makes them smile. This alone proves the benefit of sharing art created by people of all abilities with the world.
Rita’s creative process—written by Helen Winkler, Rita’s mother Rita’s process begins with inspiration very often triggered by calendar events such as holidays or special occasions. Other times, ideas just come to her. She then starts looking at images online that appeal to her to help her to visualize what she really wants to do. Once she decides what she wants to paint, the next step is determining how she can accomplish her desired painting. Rita is very challenged when it comes to drawing shapes accurately. With her mother’s help, a simplified version of the image is created on sketch paper. Very often this means finding a tutorial on how to draw the image, or finding a very simplified basic shape version and drawing it on paper. Alternatively, a photograph of the desired image is used and printed out on printer paper. The image is cut out and used as a masking template. It is applied to watercolour paper using temporary glue. Rita paints the background. Then she removes the template and paints to objects in her paintings. When dry, she goes back and adds details or ornaments to the finished pieces either with paint, Posca markers or ink. Detailed instructions can be found on Rita’s website in the “Learn How We Do It” section.