Earlier this year, I had Laura write a very informative guest post on my blog. It was very well received and I still get comments and positive feedback about it. You can read it here. I'm thrilled to have her back again, this time for an interview. Laura is a landscape painter and she lives in The West Kootenays in British Columbia. She has a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts specializing in Painting and a Bachelor in Education specializing in High School Art.
1. What's the story behind your business name?
I actually wrote a blog post about this not too long ago! It's pretty in detail of how that came about – I'd love for you to check it out here.
2. What is your typical day like?
My typical day is rather unorganized. But it 99.9999% of the time – begins with coffee! I usually take a few minutes to go over what I need to do that day while I drink my coffee. If my day involves painting – which I try to incorporate some kind of art making into most of my days. I'll plan the rest of my day around the art I'm doing that day. Since I'm working out of my home it is easy to do laundry or housework between layers, or when my eyes start to cross and I need a break. On days where I work, I'm fortunate to be off by 3 pm at the latest so if I have projects I'm working on I'm able to squeeze in a few hours of work before my husband gets home from work. I try to keep evenings open when he's home. When we have days off together we try to get out fly fishing, hiking or if we can swing it, camping. On days where I don't end up painting I'm usually working on my website and doing more of the business side of things.
3. Who or what inspires you?
When I first started painting my grandmother and my dad were my inspiration. My grandmother was the other artist of our family – she was the one to help me with my first ever acrylic painting when I was 12. My dad has always been on the same creative wave as I was. He owned a couple custom motorcycle paint shops while I was growing up and was always playing with different techniques and ideas and coming to me with challenges. In terms of what inspires me – nature. Anything to do with this incredible planet we live on is my inspiration, from the mountains to the wonder of how conscious beings came to live here. Living away from any metro area I'm lucky enough to get major stars where I live as well. Space, stars, planets...I could read about it all for days. My recent series of watercolor works is a mix of space and landscape kind of working together as one.
4. You have a formal art education. Do you think that a formal education is necessary in order to be an artist?
Absolutely not. I see that being asked in almost all of the artist groups I'm in on social media and I really don't think it matters. The only thing I will say is there are certain “tricks of the trade” that you pick up in school that I think gets missed when you're self-taught. You learn things like color theory and the importance of composition and intent which are all important to making art. One thing to remember though is these things don't immediately make you a great artist – you still have to put it all into practice. You can have all the training in the world and still put out weak art. You need to find your voice and work at it. So long as you're true to who you are and put in the hours necessary to make what you do great – those are things that make an artist.
5. You've dabbled in other styles of painting. What made you decide to focus on landscapes?
The landscape has always kind of been one of those “clichés” for artists. In fact, when I was in school there was often arguments on whether or not the landscape was dead as a form of art. Some professors were very clear on how they felt about landscapes – and if you did a landscape in their class, you'd often end up with a rather harsh critique. But for me, there was something about them. When I'm outside, hiking or camping or just going for a walk. I see nature in brushstrokes. Often tripping over my own feet as I walk in awe of how those mountains came to be, towering over everything. I get chills thinking about it. It just makes sense for me to incorporate the landscape into my work. It's so much a part of who I am. You could say it's the source of my passion.
In my media posts, you will see the hashtag #longlivethelandscape I use this as kind of a shot at the professors who would tell me and other students that the landscape was dead or that it was a cop out form at art. If you were to look at some of the work being put out by modern landscape artists you will see that it is absolutely still alive and well. I do think that it's easy to get caught in the simplicity of the landscape but that's where artist practice comes into place. Using the landscape in your work in a way that makes it different from the rest is crucial when there are so many other "Landscape Artists" out there. I think you still need to find something about your work that makes it unique. The artist's voice is what makes it art, at least to me.
6. You were born in the heart of the Rocky Mountains and live in beautiful West Kootenays in British Columbia. Do you think that if you lived somewhere with less scenic views that you would still be attracted to landscapes?
Oh gosh.. haha even though I've only ever lived in B.C I'm not sure I'd survive somewhere that didn't ooze scenery the way B.C does. Aside from here, I have lived in the Vancouver area as well as in the Interior of B.C in Kamloops. I only lasted 6 months in the city. Even though I could technically still see mountains, and spent time doing laps around Stanley Park – I needed to be closer to nature. The introvert in me tends to go where the masses aren't, also. I lived in Kamloops for about 15 years and spent a lot of time adventuring through the rolling hills of the area. I will say that one thing I do miss about Kamloops is the smell of sage brush after a fresh rainfall. I think I just needed to get back to the real mountains again. So I've been back in the Kootenays now for 7.5 years.
7. You use photographs as reference materials for your paintings. Have you ever considered a foray into photography?
With the amount of digital photography programs out there I'm not sure I'd know where to start with it now. I was heavy into photography during my BFA but back then we were still using film! haha. I took both black and white and color photography during my degree. I think the reason I didn't keep going with it honestly was the evolution of digital media. My days/nights were spent elbow deep in processing chemicals in the dark rooms of the university. If I were to get back into photography I wouldn't get that same satisfaction out of digital... there's just something about doing everything from start to finish yourself. That could just be the reluctant traditionalist in me speaking too though.
I do love that my husband has a Nikon D5100 though – I still love taking photographs, I just think for me the pictures I take are more so incomplete paintings than final photos. I don't get as much from sitting on a computer using editing programs to finalize my photos. One thing I've been doing more of lately is working on my shots. Using my photography training I try to be conscious of my lighting, composition, and depth of field. My husband is huge into hunting and archery and just a few weeks ago I went on an archery shoot with him for the hikes and scenery. The photos I took there were both of the landscape but also of him and his friend doing the shoot. Since 90% of my photography consists of inanimate objects and landscapes - Taking pictures of people was a nice change of pace for me.
8. What advice would you give to aspiring artists or creatives?
The more you create the better you will get. That's the one fail-proof way of improving. No one starts out a master, not even the masters. If you find yourself comparing your work to other artists, STOP. You will always be your own worst critic. If you aren't confident in your own work that just means you need to make more of it. It doesn't mean your work sucks, there will always be someone out there who is better than you. That just means their journey is on a different path than yours. The worst thing you can do is compare yourself, focus on you and just keep creating!
9. What's the best art-related advice you've ever been given?
“You can't force it”.
I remember I was in my final year of my fine arts degree and had just made the decision to make painting my main focus of my studies. It was essentially the day I took the first step of who I really was as an artist – rather than who I was as an art student. Part of our study requirements was to come up with a body of work to show in the year end exhibition, it was to be self-directed work that spoke to who we were as artists. I chose to focus on the evolving relationship between Nature and Technology. My first piece was a play on a still life of fruits and cheeses that had evolving technical aspects like cheese turning into a circuit board and vines turning into Ethernet cables... it was weird.. and as good of an idea as it seemed in my head it had me at a complete stand still creatively. I was wasting so much time and completely losing any direction I wanted to take my art.
So at my next meeting with my professor, I nearly had a breakdown because I was SO behind at this point and had no idea where to take my work. He looked at me and said and I'll likely be paraphrasing...You're spending too much time trying to force an idea that clearly isn't what you're trying to say. I say forget about this piece or at least come back to it, and try starting over and just do what YOU feel like doing. Don't force it. So, I took the painting down and literally hid it from sight. Then began going through photos I had of a recent day of hiking with my brother and our friends...suddenly I had an idea. I chose a picture that looked up into a forest, there was smoke from our fire that was just out of shot dancing through the trees. I took small aspects of technology that fit with my relationship with technology at the time, within the trees is a tiny mouse pointer and in the smoke I added binary code that translates into a line about nature from a poem by William Wordsworth – A poet whom I'd been studying the summer prior. From there my work switched gears a little. I was really pressed for time after wasting so much of it stressing over my direction. I felt that I was still trying to control my direction – so I decided to do a body of abstract works. I focused on process to force myself to let go and I still kept my relationship between nature and technology by using organic cells as reference and in the titles of the works. To date, these are still some of my strongest abstract works.
This piece will always hold a place in my heart. During the years I was doing my BFA, cancer was making its rounds throughout my family, my brother had just finished chemo and was in remission, my grandmothers were diagnosed... It was a really difficult time for everyone. I looked for a way to making something beautiful out of something so terrible. This piece came from a photo of a cancer cell under a microscope, the painting process was chaotic and made a HUGE mess of my studio. It was a way for me to cope as well as to let some frustration out. At the time, my computer had taken a turn for the worst as well, so I found the title to be fitting in both situations.
10. What's next for you?
So many things! Haha. I'm actually just finishing up my first official commissioned painting, which is a huge step for me. That's pretty exciting. As you know, I've been taking a bit of a social media break – since my break, I've been turning my focus more toward my local art market. I have some work being shown at a local cafe/art gallery in a town not far from here. I'm also in the process of setting up a trial run for paint nights in my local area, I'm really excited to get this off the ground and to start teaching a little.
Aside from that, I'm doing regular updates to my website – you can see my latest series of galaxy watercolors on there as well. I've also been revamping business cards, planning new pieces and organizing all my current work. With summer coming to an end I've just been taking advantage of the weather and getting out hiking as much as I can. I'm forever looking for new material for paintings, new ideas, and of course taking advantage of the incredible scenery around here. Though I'll say with the forest fires this year we haven't been able to see much through all the smoke. We could use some rain for a while, for sure.
I just want to say a big thank you for reaching out to me! This interview was a bit of a trip down memory lane, it's nice to look back at where it all began. I've included a link to both my current blog and my older blog. I think the old blog is a good window into who I was as an almost graduate.
You'll have to check Laura's social accounts to see the reveal of her commissioned piece!
Facebook: Colorfully Bananas
Instagram: Colorfully Bananas
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Interview by Glodeane Brown
All photos supplied by Laura Morrison