What I Didn’t Know I Needed

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Rooster Heads or Tails (Friends with a Squirrel)

Rooster Heads or Tails (Friends with a Squirrel) 5′ x 5′ A/C

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”- Anaïs Nin

Laura is a friend of  mine I was lucky enough to meet because she saw my paintings on the internet and liked them enough to contact me.   When she emailed me two years ago to inquire about a piece she was considering buying, I didn’t know anything about her. It wasn’t until her boyfriend contacted me a few weeks later inquiring about that same painting to buy her for their anniversary that I was informed of her many artistic talents. It’s obviously never a chore hearing that somebody likes your work, but it definitely adds a little something extra when finding out that person is a crazy talented artist.  I was instantly drawn to Laura’s animal totems, and almost immediately purchased one as a gift for a friend and some custom cat totems for my mom for Christmas. I didn’t realize at the time she’s also a painter, and continues to blow my mind on an almost daily basis (she’s pretty prolific). Since then we began speaking a lot more frequently, about our art, our loves, our dogs. I felt and feel very fortunate to have someone like Laura to bounce ideas off of. Sharing a similar painting ‘process’, we often romanticized creating a big painting together, but with me in Ontario, and Laura in North Carolina, we weren’t exactly sure when this would ever happen. Fast forward to a few months ago, when she tells me an opportunity to come to Toronto fell into her lap, and she was totally coming, first week of May! 

Walking up to meet her at her downtown Toronto hotel decked in a sweaty black t-shirt and ripped jeans with paint all over them, I joked to her, “Be there soon! I have purple hair and look relatively homeless, you won’t miss me.” “AYE AYE CAPTAIN!” she responded.  A few minutes later, I entered the lobby of One King West and immediately spotted Laura calmly pacing the tile. “HEYEYEYYYYYYY!” I half-shouted, overcompensating for my natural awkwardness when meeting someone that I sorta know but haven’t ever seen in person before. I forced a hug. “I like your paint-pants,” she offered. It never dawned on me that Laura would have a bit of an accent. She was more soft-spoken than I’d expected, but just as inquisitive and polite and interested as she always seemed through our conversations online. As we walked and talked it dawned on me how much of my life I had shared with her over the past couple years. I thought about how it was pretty surreal that we were on our way to the studio to make a painting together.

We often text each other while we are working…. just the other day I took a photo of a large painting I was working on and frantically texted her: “What the fuck colour does this need!” “Ummm. Dark purple or orange,” she texted back a few moments later. I love how forthright she is when I ask her advice on a painting. She knows I just want a straight answer, or else I wouldn’t ask. Her painting process is similar. After having stapled the un-stretched canvas to the wall, primer near-dry, I looked away for a moment, (perhaps to think a little bit too hard on which colours I felt like seeing) and when I glanced back at the canvas it had sporadic dark purple streaks throughout it. I had some reservations about two-people-one-canvas, but having gone through a bit of a painting-lull the past few months I knew I had nothing to lose. It’s funny how I can go on and on about how seemingly important it is for me to let go in the studio; to just be, and let the painting come together. I know this, but it was nice to have Laura there to remind me this time. Laura always says she has trouble limiting her colour-pallet. This is obvious, but so far as I can tell it’s only been doing her favours. Her lack of boundaries in her paintings adds a freeness in the strokes that can’t be learned, and I felt very lucky to have that overflow on to me while we worked on our canvas. It excited me to watch her completely submerge her hands in paint. “Can I use this?” She asked me as she picked up a discarded piece of plastic wrap and dusted it off. She proceeded to use the plastic to apply the paint to canvas and joked about how she’s just ‘the laziest painter”. I laughed at the irony: I was so in awe at her lack of hesitation to apply paint to canvas, so enamoured with the way she smeared the excess paint off her fingers and onto wall without much thought at all. I made a mental note to paint more with my hands in the future. I thought about how it seems backwards that I’m thinking about graduating to finger-painting after using pallet-knives for years, and not the other way around. I certainly expected to feel inspired painting with Laura, but I had no idea it would be exactly what I needed to kickstart my “second wind” of 2013.

I’ll admit that at first, I was a tiny bit hesitant to start the piece. I was doing what I normally do after prepping a canvas:, picking up bits of paint and placing them in different areas of the studio, rearranging tubes, losing my drink. Anything but painting, mostly. I’ve been to the studio hundreds of times since 2011 and the ritual is always the same. Meander around until you snap out of it and have nothing else to do but paint. I suppose I was slightly afraid of dominating the canvas so I was eager/hoping to let Laura dive in first so I’d have something to build on. I’m glad I did. I was amazed at how much I enjoyed the prominence of the deep purple, more so how pleasing the yellow and purple looked on top of each other. At the time, I was having trouble choosing which colours I wanted to see, so for the most part I followed her lead. I’m not sure if we ever decided we were finished with the painting, but rather that we were just done the act of painting for the time being. We spent an hour or so pointing out all the little things we saw inside it, among them, a rooster or a squirrel. We have received a lot of interest about this painting and I’m excited to see where it ends up. If all goes well, we’re hoping to do more of these, and maybe eventually we can plan a show! In the meantime, I’m just happy to have had the chance to collaborate with Laura, I didn’t realize it at the time, but I really, really needed it.

Read Laura’s thoughts here. 


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