How would you describe your subject matter or the content of your work?
I enjoy painting pop culture icons that are no longer with us or have a special place in our hearts. When I paint a portrait, I research their life story first. This allows me to learn about them, connecting me to who they are and helping me express them visually. I also paint words about them into the portrait, whether creating a pattern of words in their outfit or the texture of their hair.
Your #WIDEBIGEYES collection is inspired by Francesco Clemente’s way of painting eyes. Can you describe your feelings when you had seen his work for the first time?
I first saw Clemente’s work in the 1997 movie remake “Great Expectations” many years before I started painting WIDE BIG EYES. His portrait style made such an impact on me that almost 20 years later it influenced my signature style with a focus on the eyes.
Great Expectations (1997)
Do you see your work as autobiographical at all?
Not really. The portraits I do now are more of a biography about the person I’m painting. In my initial series of paintings, “Lake Life” and “Eyes of Desire”, I had a few paintings in each that were autobiographical. Those series were influenced by artist Alex Katz, “painting my surroundings” or what I knew.
What mediums do you work with? Why?
I work with Acrylic on canvas – sometimes a mix of Gold/Silver leaf. I like that Acrylic dries faster than oil and I feel more comfortable with acrylic. I have taken a liking to Gold Leaf, adding it to many backgrounds in my portraits.
Are there any fashion trends you are presently inspired by?
I have a new fashion collection and the fact that big patterns and imagery are on trend right now is fantastic for me. I love that it’s fun, colourful and eye-catching.
What does having a physical space to make art means for your process, and how do you make your space work for you?
Well, you need physical space to work. I especially like natural light, so my studio is south facing as I enjoy the sunshine. I know north facing studios are preferred by artists, but for me, since I spend so much time inside painting, having lots of light allows me to enjoy a beautiful day from inside. It’s a small studio space so I must be very organized. I create better when everything has a place.
What interests you the most when you mix illustration and fashion?
When creating my fashion collection, I enjoy creating patterns from the patterns I painted in the portrait and use them in an interesting way. When painting the portraits, I often create a unique pattern from biographical words. The research and the style I choose makes it interesting.
Can you name artists that inspire you?
Donald Robertson, famously known as @DonaldDrawbertson on Instagram, an early inspiration for me in how he utilized Instagram as a platform to make connections. He once told me, “Dream Big!” and I went with that and haven’t looked back. Right now, Ashley Longshore is a big inspiration. Her art is fun and provoking, but it’s her marketing and business sense that I am watching. She also shares her stories of failure and hard work in the beginning, but most of all she is her authentic self which I believe is compulsory to having success, Being an artist is running a business, part of which I enjoy as well.
Michelle Vella and Diane von Furstenberg @michellevellart
Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?
I was accepted into IDS (Interior Design Show Toronto) this January 2019. I had intended on printing my portraits on fabric and upholstering Louis VIIII Chairs, but I have seen this done before and I wanted to offer something different. So, I decided to combine high-end smart design with my pop art. I asked David Beaton, owner of studio b, if he knew of a furniture designer that I could collaborate with. He invited me to studio b on King St. East and he showed me the Eames Elephants by Vitra. They were perfect. I fell in love with these baby elephant sculptures immediately. The original Elephant was designed by Charles and Ray Eames in the 1940’s using plywood and now Vitra makes them in a robust plastic – in two sizes (small and large), and a variety of colours. With news of the accelerating loss of elephant lives to the ivory trade, I thought this could be a perfect opportunity to give back. studio b donated four Eames Elephants which I hand-painted for my capsule home collection. The small ones were on sale for $500 each at my Yorkville Village pop-up with a portion of sales donated to Save the Elephants. For IDS, I will have both large and small Elephants, plus a few hand-painted Panton Chairs, designed by Verner Panton for Vitra, again in collaboration with studio b. Who knows what the future could hold? If they sell well, I intend on painting many more Elephants.
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