Interview by Mariya Karpenko
As they say, “Good artists copy, but great artist steal.” Can you name a few artists (or even non-artistic figures) that inspire or influence your art-making?
I started communicating through writing, and so some of my influences have been writers, Gertrude Stein most undoubtedly. I am wanting to do a series based on her writing. As far as painters go, I would say Brenda Chrystie. She’s an excellent painter out of Seattle whom I have emulated for her brush work. And most recently, and locally, I have been inspired by Rhianne Boa-Ireland. She has been a great motivational factor for my art and for improving my art skills. She has taught me a lot about color and has given me a lot of insight into the decision-making process that is necessary when creating art, such as knowing when to stop, etc. I really admire her portraits as well and her use of light. I am also inspired by music—mostly music without words, like classical or jazz. I have been lucky enough to work with Rhianne as well, doing “live” painting performances to music in which we would switch and work on the other’s piece, combining our efforts and skills. I suggest more artists do this sort of thing. It’s an extremely creative process that opens you up to learning so much as well as to letting go of certain fears you might have as an artist. I also would like to see more artists involved in mentorship/apprenticeship. I don’t think that you should have to go to school, necessarily, to learn art. I would like to find an encaustic painter who would be willing to teach me the process and coach me along the way.
It seems to me that most of your pieces are dominated by strong, warm shades. As a painter, do you feel you have a special connection with colors?
When I began painting, I took a beginners painting course. There was a quick intro to color theory but nothing more. So, I would say that I’m still learning and probably will be for a long time. My connection to color has always been based on emotion. Certain colors reflect an emotion that I feel. But also, certain colors are “safe” for me. Lately, I have been working with new colors that previously, I would not have taken seriously, like pink and unbleached titanium. I am starting to see more relationships between colors and am working on being able to use them with a certain intention in mind, not only an emotion.
Some of your pieces are abstract, yet some are populated by figures and what seems to be a suggested narrative. Does either appeal to you more, and how do you balance the two?
This is something that I have been thinking about a lot lately. I can’t point the finger at not been properly schooled in art all of the time, but I do believe that I’m still searching for my “voice,” so to speak, in visual art. I have certain limitations due to this; for example, I really wish that I could paint beautiful, realistic portraits. Instead, because I am still limited in certain skills, I choose to create portraits of emotions that are abstract, such as my work called There There. It’s an abstract portrait of my emotions about a dear friend of mine. I also feel as though certain styles of work are like different tools or instruments. Abstract can speak in a different way than figurative and vice versa. Which appeals to me more? It depends on the day and what I am trying to communicate. I figure that the more styles I have, the more I will be able to communicate with more people. Like languages. But, I would also like to say in the future that I have mastered one style.
Do you think the landscape of our city (and perhaps our province) has influenced or inspired you in the past?
Well, I’m new to Alberta and to Edmonton, and previous to this, I have lived in Idaho and Montana, places that have very similar skies to Alberta. I do think that I have been influenced by these places. There is a quality of light and openness of space available in these places that I haven’t seen anywhere else. It is only recently, though, that I feel I have been able to let these qualities affect my work. A friend of mine suggested that some of my recent paintings have a traditional landscape composition in them. I never thought of myself as a landscape painter but am beginning to see how I might be influenced.
And last but not least, what made you want to be a painter?
There are two reasons. One was my dream of being an artist since I was little. My mother was an artist, and I wanted to follow in her footsteps. Secondly, communication. As a writer, I strove to communicate my emotions and thoughts. At a certain point, I felt as though words were not enough, and so I began to paint. At times I combine the two, which for me, is almost the ultimate communication.