Lorraine Thomson - Featured Artist for June 2010

Which artistic media do you prefer to work in and why?

I work primarily with acrylic paint on canvas. I love the versatile quality of acrylic paint because it dries so fast that it forces me to work more from a spontaneous place. Canvas gives me the option to work light or heavy and allows for mixed media options (inks, fabric, foil etc.).

With which past or contemporary artists or artworks do you, as an artist, feel a connection? What is it that draws you to them?

I’m particularly drawn to Turner as well as Redon.  Turner’s “sky” has always deeply affected me ever since I discovered his work when I was young.  His particular (pallet), his treatment of light, his movement of colour never fails to take my breath away. I can truly get lost in his sky. In Redon’s work I am inspired by his subtle and nuanced treatment of colour ….a finely detailed visual texturing that appears to allow gesture to evolve rather than lead.

What process or technique in art-making interest you? 

What interests me most is the ‘alchemy’ of colour. I could literally spend all my time working the boundaries of where colour can go. I’m interested in colliding colours on the canvas….seeing how they intersect, or interact or turn from one into another. It’s the transitions between distinct colours that  (excites me)  (This) means exploring how colour can function as movement in a painting…it sounds a little nutty….but I’m really playing with how the painting ‘moves’.

What technical challenges do you face in the process of making art?

Right now my specific technical challenge is how to integrate the gestural  line (using standard drawing materials such as graphite and conte) into my pattern of working in a very subtle way with colour (using acrylic paint). This is a challenge I am artistically ready for but technically new at. It requires of me an opening up to new perspectives and a loosening of old habits. (I’m) very excited by this challenge.

What in your artistic training do you value most at this time?

I value more and more my past training as a dancer/choreographer. Somehow I feel so much of what I worked towards expressing in three dimensions (in movement)has deep implications in my(current) work in two dimensions. As a choreographer I learned to trust improvisation as a creative process and I honed the technique of following a movement, an impulse, a gesture all the way through to  (its)resting place. This aspect of my past has given me the courage, patience and trust to continue my explorations in paint.

How much of a role do accident and control play in your work?

Accident plays the primary role in my work. It is the place I’m looking for as I begin to paint….the place where I have found the most surprises. As soon as something surprising arises, then I initiate control. I begin to shape, develop and play with what’s arisen in a finely detailed way. Control always comes second for me. I can never begin from a place of control.

What are some of your artistic challenges at present?

Always it is the same for me…the delicate balance between abandon and control. The balance between the spontaneous juicy gesture and the honed, detailed framing of that gesture. Sometimes I love the initial gesture….but it is too raw, too incomplete and I crave to refine it. Tipping the balance the other way….I end up controlling the shaping to the point that I squeeze the life out of the gesture.  If it does not move it is not right for me.

What are some of your artistic accomplishments at present?

I’ve managed to make the massive leap from dancer/choreographer to working exclusively with paint and mixed media on paper and canvas. This has been a wonderful and amazing journey and also incredibly  difficult.  What I’m most pleased with as a painter is my complex way of working with colour. Through a long process of improvisation, play and accident I am beginning to see in my work the possibilities of colour becoming  (its)own gesture…a subject in itself. Where I go from here I know not….but the implications are exciting to me.

Can you share three things you’ve learned as an artist through your own art?

I’ve learned and grown so much from my art that I almost don’t know where to begin. The richest thing that(my) art practise has shown me is that in some mysterious way everything, every gesture, every idea, every colour, every feeling is already here….on the canvas, in my head, in my heart and in my body. Learning to trust this, to wait, to persevere, to accept struggle, to collaborate with and to surrender to this mystery and getting out of my own way is what I strive for in my art. This lesson bleeds into the whole of my life. In my art as in my wider life I find this is easier said than done but of infinite value.

When you need inspiration, how to do you get it?

When I need inspiration there are two things I do. First I look at art; all the past artists that I love and as many new works as I can. I go to galleries. This is outside inspiration. It doesn’t take much to get things going. Then I turn inwards and try to wait for an inner impulse to arise that I can follow. For me both these things must go together.

When you need to learn more as an artist, how do you do it?

I’m always learning more from other artists just by looking at their work. But this year I felt I had hit a wall artistically and needed to push forward. I took a drawing course at Emily Carr. I don’t use drawing in my work and so this was all new for me. I learned a great deal…more than I imagined. Learning to use new materials, getting student and faculty feedback and being in a group of other artists was a real boost.

What is exciting on your artistic horizon?

The new endeavor for me is to start a painting by gestural drawing using conte and graphite. I always begin my paintings with paint on the canvas so this is radical for me. This is allowing my paint gestures to arise out of lines. Changing how I begin is changing everything. In a way it feels more like dancing the canvas into a painting. It has given me a whole new freshness and development to my work.

What is it about this artwork (self-selected work shown) that led you to choose it for this feature? What specific challenges did you face in making this artwork?

I chose this work because it is what I am currently and recently working on. It is the first painting to come out of my excursion into drawing. Here is where I allow the paint to follow the lead from the gestural line. I’m very excited by this as the process requires that I move past comfortable artistic patterns and discover something fresh in my work.