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Original photo by Brandy Saturley

Original photo taken by Brandy Saturley, 2016 and resulting painted portrait, 2019. Copyright People of Canada Portrait Project 2019

The Story behind the portrait, 341 Steps in Yellowknife, by Brandy Saturley

This portrait is very unique in this series I am creating for the People of Canada Portrait Project, this is the first time I 

used a reference photo that I took. This was a moment I captured when in Yellowknife on my 2016 cross-Canada tour. I waited on this one a long time as the photo did not come from a submission and there was only one person in the photo.


I originally built the idea for this project around the couples, relationships and their stories. Being a full-time professional artist much of my time is spent in solitude, it is a required element, it is essential to my success. From appreciating that which surrounds me, to observing others, to making art in my studio; solitude is required, it is the number one requirement for this career. I could see a relationship here, even though there is only one person in the photo, the relationship is with nature, one of my favourite muses.


I recall the day and the moment, there were others and the feather was placed in the subjects knees at the last second through a friend's intuition, and the placement was perfect. The symbolism of the feather hinting at freedom, the mind taking flight in thoughts of the day, and the freedom to live life your way. 


Deciding on the title is always the final toast to another journey, in this case it couldn't be more obvious. On the side of the hat the number '341' is visible - this is exactly the number of steps it takes for this man to return home after a night of celebrating at the favorite local watering hole, the Woodyard Brewhouse & Eatery - NWT Brewing Co. Pretty brilliant idea, as long as you can remember which direction you should be taking those 341 steps! Read on to find out more about the subject behind the portrait, '341 Steps in Yellowknife'.

Where are you living and where were you born? Born in Ottawa, living in Yellowknife since 1998

What is your current job? Satellite mapping for the government in Yellowknife

How did you come to this job? Basically using pictures taken from space. A previous career was in geology - out on the land everyday, mapping the rocks, collecting samples, living in a tent in the middle of no where. As much as I loved being on the land all summer, exploring places where I could never afford to go, after 13 years, it was time to switch, go back to school, learn about new technology and start a career.

What do you love most about where you live? Yellowknife is unique. A small town surrounded by nature. There is mostly one of everything here - one Canadian Tire, one Walmart, one Hospital though two Tim Hortons! It is small town, and we have 'rush minute' - not rush hour. Yellowknife is also on traditional First Nations territory, and the town as was first developed for resource extraction (gold mining) as are so many Canadian towns.

In your spare time where can you be found and what do you enjoy most? In summer, depending on the wind I prefer to be on my sail boat, or freighter canoe on Great Slave lake, and in winter skiing or biking on the same.

Where else in Canada would you like to live? Why? I am attracted to smaller towns, where is easy to get around, and easy to get out of town. I also prefer to live near water; either the ocean or a large lake.

What is your family ancestry? Where did they immigrate from? Dutch. My parents were both immigrants to Canada from the Netherlands in the 1960's. I have dual citizenship.

We all have traditions, what unique traditions are common in your home? A few Dutch traditions for Christmas and birthdays. I am guessing eating herring will figure here :-)

Do you like Canadian music? Great Big C, Tragically hip, Rheostatics


It’s Sunday morning and it’s snowing, where are you and what are you doing? Most likely exploring skidoo trails with my fatbike, or photographing the landscape. Noble Canadian pursuits :-)

Do you have a go to saying, or expression? Ha - Don't think I have one. - we'll accept HA!

Regarding politics, where do you lean? I am left of centre, though Politics are not high on my list of discussion items.

What do you wish for the future of Canada and all Canadians? How do you feel about the stereotypes of Canada? Canada has many stereotypes, reflecting our diverse history. Some stereotypes are now less relevant, or appropriate, and other stereotypes are 'new', representing a change in what is means to be a Canadian.


What was the last book you read? Farley Mowat - A Whale for the Killing. - Seems fitting.

Beer or something else? Definitely a craft beer from a small brewery.


Food, what’s your comfort? Homemade bread - Mmmmm bread.

What are you most proud of ? My daughters

What does being Canadian mean to you? A lot. Canada has so many truly amazing people that inspire, create, invent, design, lead and those that put their life in harms way (and many paid the ultimate sacrifice) so others can live. My mother was liberated from the Nazi Germans by Canadian soldiers during World War 2. Canada is a truly amazing land, with a diverse range or people, each with their own culture, history and traditions.

Where were you sitting in my photo? We had taken the freighter canoe across Yellowknife Bay to a small island. An island where I had camped with my family when the girls were younger. It is also an island that my father had visited in the early 1980's as part of his geological fieldwork collecting samples. Not far from I was sitting, my father had drilled to holes to remove rocks for analysis to determine where on the earth those rocks were when they cooled from a molten state.

Do you recall what you were thinking about? - Not sure what I was thinking. Totally content... "Life is Good"

What is the significance of 341 on the side of your hat? 341 represents the number of footsteps to the NWT Brewery from my house. A bit of an interesting story, the women of the neighborhood got together to give the men of the neighborhood caps from NWT Brewery with the correct number of footsteps to our respective houses! - perhaps so they could find their way home after a night of enjoying life in Yellowknife.

Thank you Steve! We love your view of Canada and thank you for the inspiration. For more on my adventures in Yellowknife, you can read the article I penned for Reader's Digest More Our Canada here.

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