By Anna Horsnell
In exclusive conversations with the artists from The Prow Gallery, Breaking the Surface delves deeper into the personalities and passion behind the artistry. Our sincere thanks go out to each artist for graciously sharing from the heart.
Let’s set the stage. You walk into your studio to face a blank canvas. How does your act of creation begin?
I prefer to get started on something in the morning with a cup of tea and the radio on, listening to music. I usually start by painting out the white of the canvas or paper with burnt umber. If it’s to be an abstract, I like to start with mark making lines. If it’s to be a figurative piece, I will start with the outline of the figure.
Colour plays an important role in your paintings. Would you describe that aspect in your creative process?
Perhaps because of my heritage, I am instinctively drawn to a more vibrant color palette. Mixing certain tropical hues together to create artwork comes naturally and intuitively in my process. Certain shades convey different emotions and their use, whether immense or sparingly applied, will evoke feelings for the viewer.
As you have suggested, painting is often akin to meditation in its focus and connection to the work. How does this benefit you personally? What moments of self-reflection or self-discovery has painting perhaps uncovered?
Painting for me is an intuitive and meditative process. Creating art allows me to zone out from the real world and focus on being in the moment. I let the work direct me and tell its own story. In my practice, I’ve learned to sometimes step away when it seems like a piece is becoming a challenge, providing me with time to reflect on how to return to it with fresh eyes and ideas to make it better. This has benefited me personally as well because in my day-to-day life, when I have challenging circumstances or disagreements, I've learned to feel whatever emotions arise in that moment, but then take the time to rearrange my mindset to figure out a solution to respond in a more beneficial manner. Painting also helps to ease my mind and provides me with a sense of calm.
The gallery features paintings from three different series of your work (Visual Eyes, Expressions, and Frequent See) which appear to be variations or perhaps an evolution of abstract faces. What is the story behind this work?
I enjoy creating both abstract and figurative artworks. In the past, with my abstract work, sometimes viewers would point out that they could see faces or figures in the painting. At first, this was frustrating to me, but then I decided that I’d embrace this and deliberately create abstract faces and images, so this is how these figures eventually developed.
You’ve mentioned the dynamic art scene surrounding you in Toronto. How important is that in your development and path as an artist?
It’s important for artists to connect and communicate with other creatives. This allows you to learn and grow in your practice. It’s true that ‘art is not created in a vacuum’. Moving to the next level is a little more achievable when you can reach out and interact with like-minded individuals.
What or who has been the biggest single influence on your abstract painting?
It’s pretty tough to list just one. I appreciate the works of Frankenthaler, Rothko, Picasso, Matisse, Basquiat and De Kooning to name a few. Besides these famous artists, my work is inspired by music, vibrant colors and nature.
You are also an accomplished song-writer. What part does music play in your painting practice, if any?
Being involved with music and song-writing is certainly another creative process that I appreciate. I definitely need to have music playing while I paint because its synergy is ‘music to my ears’. Sometimes, I’m listening intently while other times …not so much, but it’s always in the background keeping me company. Also, the flow in my painting may be influenced as I evoke a vibe from the song being played at the time that I will incorporate into the work.
Any artistic career is invariably a roller-coaster of ups and downs. Would you share one of the challenging down moments and one of the high-points in your artistic journey?
I once participated in a wonderfully organized and curated group show event including musicians and an art exhibit, however, ticket purchases were light.
A high moment for me is just being able to be creative and to grow and discover different ways of expressing myself. It’s even more special when others appreciate and support my path. A few months ago, I participated in a group show in the US in which all of my paintings were collected and I received an artist award as well.
What is the most important quality for the viewer to bring when approaching abstract paintings?
Abstract viewing is more approachable with an open mind. The flow and freedom it evokes is more than meets the eye. It can be left up to interpretation or intention. It invites the viewer into an experience and a feeling that is sometimes unexplainable yet fully understandable at the same time.
A fun question. What musical instrument would best accompany one of your paintings?
Well, I’d like to say both violin and piano because individually they emote such feelings, but together they take you on a journey into another world.
What's something about yourself or your art that would surprise most people?
A couple things would be...I am initially pretty low key, perhaps a little shy, until you get to know me and how much I can swear. (LOL) I love to dance. I have two super kids. I am continually amazed by my talented music producer husband who believes in me as a songwriter and artist. I've had the opportunity to co-write songs that have been featured on hit television shows worldwide. The first time I saw an episode with a song playing in the background was a surprising and exciting experience. This feeling is truly always thrilling.