Artists at The University of Lethbridge
Written by Lauryn Evans
One thing I have always loved about the University of Lethbridge is the amount of talented artists that go here and see their works on display around the Fine Arts building or even work from local artists that are hung up around Lethbridge. Art has always captivated me – whether it be painting, poetry, drawing, cinema, or photography. When you see an artist’s work, you get to peer into their minds and are let into their own little worlds. It is such a beautiful thing to be given this opportunity and to be allowed to see the world through the eyes of another.
I was motivated to write this article because of this. I wanted to learn more from artists and learn more about them. I had the opportunity to sit down with three artists from The University of Lethbridge and discuss their art with them – their process, artistic journey, and learn more about some of their pieces and works in depth. For this piece, I sat down with three local and talented artists, Kort Woycheshin, Kiyomi Scoville, and Leah Evans. It was such a pleasure and honour to be able to speak with and learn from them. I sincerely thank you all for your transparency, vulnerability, and time. Without you, this article would not have been possible.
Interview with Kort Woycheshin
Tell me a bit about yourself and your art
“I am in my fourth year of a multidisciplinary fine arts degree. I focused more so on the new media side of things when I was in fine arts – or when I was getting into fine arts. Then, I switched gears a little bit these last couple years because I’ve completed the majority of my media stuff, and I’m just focusing strictly on art. Mainly photography, digital photography, and film photography.”
How old were you when you first started doing any art, and what did you first start with?
“I feel like I have always kind of been drawing and doing that kind of stuff, but I suck at drawing, so I gravitated towards photography. The first real photography experience that I felt like I was using, you know, a DSLR, and getting into it was – my mom had one, and we were at a wedding, and I took it and started taking photos of the flowers. I was kind of blown away that you can just focus on something and, you know, choose what’s in the frame. I used to make lego movies – stop motion lego movies. So I’ve always been interested in film and cinema, and those kinds of things too. So that appears a lot in my work, those kinds of references.”
What does your art mean to you?
“My art, to me, is kind of just like a good way to get out a lot of, you know, how I feel about things. How I’m feeling about the world, social issues, political issues, those kinds of things. It gives me a voice to talk about it in a safe space, in a creative space, I just find it a lot easier than, you know, dealing with it all alone, of course.”
What is your style or theme of your work if you do have any?
“I mean, like a soft style I would put. It motivates a lot of the work I’ve been doing recently on men’s mental health and toxic masculinity in general. You know, coming from a heterosexual man and looking at the fragility of men, and how it can be better portrayed. That men can be soft and you know, you’re not gay because you do these kinds of things. This is work I’m interested in. So, I have one piece I do want to submit, it’s called ‘Crying is for Pussies.’ It was a screen printed poster designed like a movie poster, honestly cause I love cinema and things like that. It’s kind of just about the fragilities of men and the poster is actually titled ‘Tough Pill to Swallow’ and it has like a featuring list of different types of men that are not dealing with their emotions. It’s all satirical and fun, and I enjoy that kind of work.”
Is soft style an actual style?
“No, no. Like, so that was a painting. But in photography, I just, I feel like it’s in the back of my mind when I’m taking things. I did a bunch of work last semester on analyzing the mental health in my family, specifically between my dad and myself. And the goal was to do it with more members, but I could only wrangle up me and him. So we did an interview type thing similar to this, but I documented it on film, and we took portraits. The whole theme was,‘what is something you think you should talk about more?’ He wrote what he thought, and what he needed to get out, and then I wrote what I needed to get out. It was just a really good bonding moment at the end of the day. But it turned into this, you know, nice series of images. And recently I’ve been doing a lot of street photography and just doing it because it’s fun.”
Speaking of theme, I noticed that quite a bit of your work also is in black and white. Is that a specific reason for you, or do you just like black and white photography?
“Honestly, it’s because black and white film is easy and cheap to develop. I feel like I’ve bounced around a lot between black and white and colour, and I’ve recently been wanting to do more colour because it’s a little happier. And, you know, January is a sad month. So trying to not just have all my work be sad and depressing, which every artist seems to be doing. Everything I make is just black and white and dreary. It’s like, I gotta stop doing this for a while.”
Do you have any inspirations for your work, or do you have an artist that influences your art and style?
“Richie Culver. Like his work – I just like his style of how he writes stuff and really vulgar, weird things and just puts it on a big board. He’s got a cool story. Fan Ho, I really like Fan Ho. I feel like movies are probably more inspiration to me than art. Midsommer (2019), any Tarantino movie I always vibe with. Honestly, the most recent Batman (The Batman, Matt Reeves, 2022). Just thought it was so cool.”
What do you hope your art means to others or what do you want it to evoke in others when they look at it?
“Honestly? Just, you know, careful thought, and incite some sort of feeling that there are positive men in the world. And, you know, there’s this generation that’s aiming to make a change so that we don’t get stuck in this horrible cycle of toxic men that just keeps running rampant through, especially post secondary education, and specifically our world. So just trying to get away from that, and, you know, give people hope that there are people out there who recognize that.”
Do you have a favourite art piece you’ve ever created or a photo you’ve taken and why?
“No, I don’t think so. I don’t know. I mean, probably the ‘Crying is for Pussy Poster’ is my favorite. It just felt the best. I feel like I had, you know, never taken a screen printing class before. I went the whole semester getting, like, you know, B+, A-, A-, and then, like, finally put so much time into that one, and then banged out an A+. Everybody loved it. The most rewarding project I have ever done.”
Do you think it’s the most rewarding as well just because it was the first class you’ve taken in screen printing or is it because of what the project was for you as well?
“I think it was both, you know. I mean, I had Katie Bruce, if you know her as a professor, she’s just so good, and, you know, just was so open to these ideas and thinking that art can be funny, art can have dirty humor, like shitty jokes essentially, and having fun with it. She was totally down for that, and would guide me in the right direction. And there were many versions of that poster where she was like, “yeah, you’re going too far on this. But like, not in a bad way, but just because it’s the contextual elements you’re trying to put in.” So I felt like I was guided really, really well to get to that final product. And that’s why I felt the most rewarding, because I had that support from my, you know, my mentor, my professor.”
How did you develop your artistic skills?
“I don’t know, just taking photos all the time. That was kind of where everything started. And then like to get into poster design stuff. I got really into typography, and specifically concert posters and tour posters. So I just kind of started buying them whenever I go to a show, and then just drawing references from those kinds of things.”
How has your style changed over time?
“I don’t know. I think I’m still trying to figure out what my style is, honestly, but I think it’s gotten more technical, is what I would say. And then focusing more on the craft of photography, and then looking at how you can shape light, and how the camera has a relationship with light and those are the kinds of things that I’m far more conscious of. I feel like that reflects my style. So I’m gonna be, you know, thinking more consciously about what time of day I wanna go shoot, and why this building, from this angle, has a larger shadow compared to the other side. So those kinds of things.”
What projects are you working on? Do you have anything underway or any ideas?
“No, I’m in like the biggest slump right now. My God, so far, when it comes, it comes – I have no motivation to do anything. I’ve just been taking a lot of pictures, and that’s kind of where I’m at a turning point, like my recent projects are just becoming an exploration of photography and not thinking so much about theme. And I felt like when I was doing a lot of the men’s mental stuff, I still love to do it and stuff, and still wanna pursue that, but it’s just like, a little too much of it just kind of bogs you down, and then you’re over complicating things.”
Is there anything you’re looking forward to exploring with or anything you want to just play around with?
“I mean, we’re doing large format photography. So I guess portrait photography is my favorite of all the styles of photography, I just love it. I like the control and being in a controlled studio, controlled lighting, and controlling how the model is looking and such like that.”
What motivates you to create?
“Just expressing myself and getting my thoughts and ideas out in the world. And having fun, I guess having fun would definitely be the big thing. If I’m not having fun, I’m not gonna do it.”
What has been a seminal experience for you when it comes to your arts?
“Discovering the artistic side of photography, and not just doing photography for the sake of capturing sports and events and stuff. And it’s not that I don’t like those things, it’s just like, a totally different way to look at it. And then you start seeing how people are referencing art in their photography, they feel like that’s – you know, might not be my end goal in life is to be an artistic photographer, but to think about that when shooting makes a huge difference.”
Who are some of your biggest supporters when it comes to your art?
“My friends, honestly, my friends, my family, Katie Bruce, my professor, and mainly my photography studio class which has been awesome. They’re always hyping me up and pushing me way farther than I probably should be. But it’s good. Sometimes you need it. Definitely need it.”
Do you have a favourite medium?
“I don’t. I guess, not a medium, but, like, I love seeing my work printed. No matter what it is. It has to be physical for it to be good. So even if it’s just a poster, you know, some sort of typography poster, that kind of stuff, or even a picture, it’s way better printed than ever looking at it digitally.”
For more of Kort’s art, find him on instagram: @flamesgrain
This Reminds me of a Horror Movie, Where They are Drowning in a Pool
Portrait by: Cody Robinson
Interview with Kiyomi Scoville
Tell me a bit about yourself and your art.
“I’m in my third year of my Bachelor of Art in Arts, so it’s kind of more of an open degree program, where I could focus on my art studio classes as well as equally focus on my art history and museum studies courses. I guess something that’s really important to me and my identity is my Japanese Canadian heritage, that’s a really big part of my art practice as well, and something that I try to incorporate into a lot of my works is just kind of like exploring who I am and where I’ve come from, including, like, how I’ve grown up in a predominantly white small town, because I was born and raised in Lethbridge, and my family came to Alberta after the Second World War. My grandparents moved here from BC, and we’ve always kind of had a weird relationship with our Canadian identity as well as our Japanese identity. So that’s something that I really explore; my artwork is kind of how I fit into it and how it’s kind of difficult not really feeling Japanese and not really feeling white – if that makes sense.”
Yes, that makes sense. I’m actually half Filipino and half Welsh, so I understand that. It’s like, where do I fit in exactly?
“Yeah, exactly. And it ends up being kind of a lonely journey, where it takes a lot of self discovery and just looking inwards, because there aren’t too many people who can relate exactly to your situation. Especially for me, like there weren’t a lot of Japanese Canadian kids at all. I don’t think I ever met one – until I was in high school or university, so that was really difficult.”
What was that like, if you don’t mind me asking, for you when you did meet someone that shared the same heritage as you?
“I had a bit of impostor syndrome, I felt like others had more of this identity than I do. So I felt like they were more Japanese than I was, so I couldn’t express my Japanese identity at all. Like I need to kind of hide it, or I feel almost, like, embarrassed about it, because my family, while we’re Japanese, we’re not too traditionally Japanese. And especially for the Japanese Canadians, the third and second generations of immigrants definitely tried to assimilate to Western culture, so it was heavily pushed on, like my mother and her generation, who then pushed it onto me. In order to fit in, you need to do what the white kids are doing, basically.”
Do you feel like your art has made you feel more secure in your cultural identity in a way?
“Definitely. Especially because with so many of my pieces, I have to do so much research into it that I’m learning more and more about my Japanese culture as I’m going, in really unique and beautiful ways through art, and through different Japanese artists and Japanese Canadian artists and stuff like that. So it’s really cool.”
What is your style or theme of work?
“I think for me, I don’t really have a particular style, because I’m so open to exploring and exploring different media, different practices, even different forms of art, whether it be like visual audio, stuff like that. I don’t really want to ever limit myself into only one sort of category. I think that that came out from me transferring from being in neuroscience and math and having that plan all through high school and my first couple years of university; I was kind of doing it for everyone else. I was doing it to make my parents proud and to reach the expectations of other people around me. What I found was really important was trying to figure out what I wanted, what was interesting to me, what I responded to. And the same thing kind of came out of my art that I found that when I was trying to only work with one medium, I was limiting myself. And I really wanted to just keep an open mind and then just realize that I’ll never really be able to master all techniques or anything like that, or even maybe not be familiar with all techniques, but I’d like to try and become a little more familiar with as many as I can.”
Like you said already, it’s been a journey for you of self discovery and introspection through your art. So, then I can just imagine that bringing in all of those other art forms, it’s just another aspect of self that you can be meeting with that piece.
“Yeah, exactly. And I feel like even as I grow older and I become a more mature adult, that exploration and curiosity will never go away. I’ll always be trying to find different ways of doing things.”
I see that there’s a lot of themes that you bring into your work – do you draw on any inspirations?
“Well, kind of along with the whole like exploring different things. I take inspiration from almost everything. I take inspiration from traditional Japanese art mixed with contemporary art. I’d say that a big inspiration I did have for a long while when I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my art was that Third Wave feminist movement, specifically the Third Wave, because of how aggressive it was, and the punk rock aspect of it, it was very like in your face. It was bright and colorful, and it empowered women to be able to go into the fields that were predominantly held by white men. And not only fields, but also interests such as, like, a big one for me was skateboarding, so stuff like that. And then also art. When I started studying art more, I found out how often female artists are left out of the picture. So I really went towards kind of feminist movements and feminist artists to see what they wanted to say and what they were trying to say to the world.
I really like what you said about third wave feminism and why you liked it. That it was in your face and bold. It’s like fighting from the sidelines or being quiet about it has never worked. So then it’s like, we’re taking this space – we’re not gonna wait for you to create space or make space for us. But we’re gonna take it now because it’s ours.
“Yeah, Yeah. Exactly. Even, like, when I was starting my art studio classes, I was critiqued a lot by professors for not planning out enough or for not putting into my sketchbook exactly every little thing I was thinking of. And for me, my art is that I get the idea, and I just go for it. I don’t do a whole bunch of planning. I like to just kind of move with how my emotions are going and kind of feel it out. So I guess it’s more expressionist.”
That makes sense, especially since you said your art has always a discovery of self, so I can imagine that so many of the emotions you experience sort of just leak into your art.
“Yeah, and a lot of it also came from my confidence in myself. That I was confident in my ideas and as myself as an artist and that I knew that what I was going to create was going to work, and I didn’t feel like I had to necessarily plan out exactly the way that all my professors wanted me to.”
Do you feel like you were able to break free from that constraint in a way?
“Yeah, definitely. Because I just, I didn’t listen. I would fill my sketchbooks with, like, my drawings and stuff that I wanted to fill them with. I would take notes on certain artists that I was interested in, but I never really listen to my professors, I guess (sorry if any of you are reading this). And it ended up working out for me, because I’m very proud of all the art I’ve made from it.”
What does your art mean to you?
“I guess for me, my art, is kind of like a testament that I can do whatever I put my mind to. I never thought that I could be successful in art, and it was so terrifying when I was coming out of the sciences to go into something on kind of the opposite end of the spectrum. And I had a lot of people question me and question how I was going to make a living out of art. And I was just confident that I could, that I could network with the right people. So for me, it was kind of like saying to, like, take that risk, to trust yourself and to go for it. And something I always tell people when I’m talking about my student experience is how important it was for me to pick a program and degree that was right for me and not my parents. And I found out that I could struggle for four years and then go into another program and then struggle for another six years after that. Because that’s what I always planned to do when I was in high school, is to go on, like the premed doctor path. And I was so confident that that’s what was going to happen, and I was so sure of myself. And then I got here, and I realized that it was not what I was expecting, and it wasn’t what I wanted. I wasn’t happy with studying so late all the time, and I just wasn’t sure that was what I wanted to keep doing for the rest of my life. So then I think it’s important for people to see my art and to know also where I came from, that I really struggled with breaking out of that self conceived perception of myself that I had to stop trying to prove to the world that I was smart enough, and instead prove to myself that I can love my life enough, I guess. Another big thing with my art too, and what I like to tell people, is that anybody can create art. You don’t have to be an artist. I think that’s why a lot of times I experiment with my art too, and I show myself trying new things for the first time, because you’re not going to get it perfectly the first time that you do it. But that doesn’t mean that you should ever give up. Or just because you look at something you’ve created and it’s not necessarily what you thought, it doesn’t mean that piece isn’t important. And it’s the process of creating art that’s really important, and I think that more people should allow themselves to do it, regardless of the outcome of what their art looks like.”
What do you hope your art means to others?
“I think I would want it to invoke self exploration in them. Not to say that, this is my identity that you should also relate to, but kind of more as a message of this is how I’ve explored my identity; maybe you should explore yours more as well. Also, I think it’s important for people to have more confidence and resilience when trying new things. I never would have thought that my art could have ever been enjoyed by other people.”
When did you start sharing your art?
“Probably at the very beginning of Covid, and because I had so much extra time to myself, and I kind of saw that things were starting to shut down. I was doing more and more art, and I realized that it was something I was passionate about, and even if I couldn’t make a career or a successful future out of my own art, I wanted to be immersed in that kind of world. I wanted to be involved in the community and see how it benefits society. I wanted to be involved in that in some way, whether that be through art curator, public programmes, museum studies, art education, anything like that.”
Do you have a favourite art piece you have created and why?
“I would say that my favorite is an oil painting that I did. It was based off of another oil painting that I had to study in my advanced painting class. It was a painting by Freud. And it wasn’t the weird Freud, it was his son Lucian Freud. So he did an oil painting of a photographer named John Deakin, I believe. And his whole practice was painting people how he saw them, not how they should be seen by the viewers. So taking away ideal beauty standards and instead accentuating what the figure or the sitter might see as unconventionally attractive, like a larger nose or like larger ears, and accentuating that and putting focus on it instead of trying to hide it. And I really loved that, and I was inspired by it, and I chose that for my study. Then for my painting, I did a large painting. I believe it was 22 by 30 inches. So it’s one of the largest paintings I’ve ever done. And it was a close up of John Deakin’s eye, and just the side of his face, instead of his entire figure in the frame. I think the reason why I love it so much to this day is because of how much I hated oil painting. When I first started, I was like, this is not for me. I hate oil painting so much. This paint is so hard to work with. I wasn’t familiar with it. It took forever to dry, so I had to be very patient, which was also something I wasn’t used to. Because with my art, like I said, I kind of just go for it so that in the 4 hours I’ve been working on it, it’s done. Whereas with this, I had to leave it for a night and then come back to it and keep adding onto it. But at the end, I kind of looked at it, and I was like, “I can’t believe I did this.” Like, I was just really shocked that I took a medium that I was so uncomfortable with, and I had so much resentment towards, and I complained the entire time. But then I produce something that’s now one of my favorite paintings I’ve ever done. And there’s just something about the way that you can see the brush strokes in it, and working with the paint so closely, which was really different from what I was used to. And just kind of stepping back and looking at him, and him looking back at me, it just – he feels like a very warm, safe presence, if that makes sense. I feel like if I hadn’t struggled so much with it, and with that class, I wouldn’t have appreciated it as much at the end.”
What has been a seminal experience for you?
“I think my interest in the arts kind of came out more when my great aunt and my great uncle passed away. My great uncle passed away in 2018, and my great aunt passed away in 2022. So just recently. And for me, all of my family, growing up, was very proud of my academic achievements. When I was doing well on my tests and stuff like that, it was always really great praise. But then when I was alone with my great aunt and my great uncle, they would really incorporate a lot of artistic things into my life. Things like dancing, music, and singing. And they would always really encourage that, even if they made fun of me for it. Sometimes when I would be with them, that’s when I would be immersed in artists like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and others. My great aunt would always have me drawing, and she would always keep every single one of my drawings; even when she passed, we found all of my childhood artworks. And she encouraged it. She kept telling me to keep working on it and keep doing it. And even though I wouldn’t show anyone, I would show her my art. So then, even as I got older, I would show her my art. And it was really important to me that I had that kind of push and encouragement, and I think that’s what pushed me to believe in myself and to kind of take that risk.”
Could you tell me about your favourite medium?
“I think it would be a tie between photography, drawing and painting. Photography was something that I was always, like, somewhat interested in, but I never really wanted to pursue it in my art practice. So then I took my first photo arts class, and I just fell in love with the process of developing the film, and really having not so much control, but an influence in the whole process of the development of the film, and feeling even more like it was something that I had created, and not something that the camera had created necessarily. Yeah, so that was a really eye opening experience to me, and then it kind of taught me a lot more about photography too, and what goes into it. And I also found that I was quite interested in the science behind it, because I still have that kind of science-mathematical brain. So learning about all of the physics behind photography really itches the right spot in my brain. It was something that I slowly kind of fell in love with.”
How did you develop your artistic skills?
“I guess just practice. Just a lot and a lot of practice. And not necessarily practicing to get better, but making art, just to make art – not having the end goal in mind of creating something that’s perfect or a photo realistic representation of something. I think it was just important for me to constantly be doing it and incorporating it into my life more and more. And the more that I did that, the more artistic influences I found in my life, like the social media I was consuming and the books I was reading became more and more art focused. So then I learned more, and then I was talking to more creative people as well, and I think that that really helped. Before university, I was completely self taught because in high school, I took one art class, and it was the worst grade I ever got. So then that was another reason why I was terrified to switch my degree into art, because I hadn’t done well grade wise. I hadn’t been that successful in high school. And I was like, well, what if it’s the same thing again? But I thought that I just wanted to try it. I wanted to put myself out there and take these classes to know if it was right for me or not. And I was willing to accept it if it wasn’t right for me.”
How did your family respond to you making the switch to pursuing the arts academically?
“They were nervous … but I just had to reassure them that I’m my own person. That I will have my own experiences, and that if I fail, then I fail, and that’s okay, but it’s okay to fail, and it’s okay to kind of brush yourself up and get back up and keep trying. And even if you have, like, a long period of, like, stagnancy, you can come out of that. And it doesn’t mean that that’s your set future for the rest of your life. So I think having those conversations with my parents really helped, and then also showing them that I got my grades in the sciences and my math grades and stuff like that on my own. I worked hard for that, and I could work just as hard in the arts, so I was confident in myself, and I had to help them realize that I was confident enough for all of us. And the nice thing was that my sister was always extremely supportive. She said that it was something that I had to do. I had to follow my heart and passions and just try it, even if it didn’t work out.”
How would you say your style has changed over time, or even just your improvement from where you were then and where you are now?
“I’ve slowed down a little. So I know I said that I kind of slap stuff on as soon as it happens, but I have slowed down quite a bit, and I kind of am able to take a step back. I’m less critical of my artwork in the process of making it. So instead of thinking like this isn’t going how I want it to go, it’s more of seeing where it goes – discovering where the piece itself is going to end up and knowing that I can’t necessarily have perfect control over that. Kind of like Bob Ross is, like, the happy accidents. Yeah, I incorporate that a lot, and I think that helps me a lot with my anxiety around creating art as well as that mistakes happen. But that can also be art in itself.”
I really like what you said about letting the piece sort of take you there. Instead of you creating the piece, you can let it basically create itself and see where it takes you.
“Yeah, because I think that a lot of people have issues with having preconceived notions of how it’s going to end up or how it should look to them. And when they can’t immediately produce that, they see it as a failure or as something that they’re not good at. But it’s a skill that you can develop over time. And also, just because it doesn’t necessarily look like one thing, it doesn’t mean that it’s not good. Like taking away those expectations that you have and just kind of going with it and seeing what happens. Another big thing when I’m talking to, like, my friends and people who are not necessarily artistic individuals, but I try to encourage them to do art. They always say that they can kind of see it in their head, but then they put it on the paper and it doesn’t turn out right. And I tell people that they need to remember that artists often use references, and that it’s okay to look towards real life objects and have them in front of you and you looking at it. And it helps a lot. It’s very rare and hard for an artist to just take it completely out of their mind and reproduce that perfectly.”
When you said you slow down and take a step back, was that something you acquired from your oil painting class?
“I’d say so. Yeah, taking some time. It’s important to take some time away from the artwork, I think, because I think that when you’re so up close and personal to it for such a long period of time, it’s almost like you’re looking at yourself in a mirror for so long and criticizing yourself for so long that you start to almost lose touch with what you really look like, and you kind of get confused a little. And I think the same thing happens with your art – when you’re criticizing it so closely and looking at it so intently all the time that you’re not able to see it as a whole. You’re only searching for the specific imperfections. And then when you kind of step away, and you come back to it with a fresh new brain and opinion, you look at it, and you see it for all of it, not just straight into the imperfections.”
What motivates you to create?
“I don’t know. I guess just my emotions. Like, I have so many feelings and thoughts and emotions swirling around at all times that I feel like I need that outlet to let it out. And I need to get it out, or else it comes out in tears for me, I get so worked up. And for me, art is kind of meditative where I can make something and slow down and take a breath and put everything else that’s happening around me just out of my head and only focus on, like, this colour or this brush stroke. So I guess that motivates me, my own mental health, my own sanity.”
It sounds like it’s always been a really beautiful way for you to connect with yourself?
“Yeah, that was a big part for me. And even, like, my entire, like, early twenties, has just been figuring out, like, who I wanna be and who I am in this moment, and being content with who I am in this moment.”
At the end of my interview and conversation with Kiyomi, I asked her if there was anything else that she would like for me to include. In response, she said,
“I think that another thing that I would want other students to know is how important it is to get involved in school, to join the clubs that seem a little weird or that you’re unsure of because you don’t know anyone in them, to put yourself out there and join. Like this semester, I’m doing an internship with the Art gallery, and I also am an Executive member of our Art Society, curating the niche Gallery. It has helped me so much with understanding how galleries work, and how the professional art world is and how it operates, and how to talk with people in that field. And also, I think, by joining clubs, reaching out to your professors, doing internships and stuff, it helps prepare you more, and it’s a bit more of an easier transition when you graduate, because you have these mentors that are there to help you and other people who are going through a similar experiences yourself. It can definitely be scary and intimidating when you think that your schedules are so busy already, thinking about how are you gonna join a bunch of other stuff as well? But when you’re thinking about the grand scheme of where you’re going with your career, it really makes a difference.”
For more of Kiyomi’s art, find her on instagram: @_artportfoliokiyomi
“Look at me ” 2021, 20x24in, acrylic and gouache on canvas
Interview with Leah Evans
Tell me a bit about yourself and your art.
“I grew up in a lot of small towns, like Rimbey and Drayton Valley. Lately I’ve been exploring a lot of memories of childhood and femininity, not necessarily in the term of feminist discourse, but more the emotional aspect. I am pretty multidisciplinary. Not much of a sculptor, but interested in photography lately as well. I am studying for my BFA (Bachelors of Fine Arts) in Studio Art.
How old were you when you started doing anything creative?
“When I was in preschool, my mom used to have craft days.”
Would you say you have a style or theme of your work?
“I’m not sure I have a style. I know, I started out more in high school focusing on hyper realism, and then I kind of drifted away from that. I wouldn’t really say a specific style.”
Do you have any inspirations for your work or any artists that have influenced you?
“Of course. I quite like, gosh, Marlene Dumas, Philip Gustan, Neo Rauch, Jenny Seville. I’m trying to think of this one singer – Matt Maltese. Mitski an awful lot too.
How would you describe how they’ve influenced you?
“For the painters that I mentioned, I like to, I take a books basically, and I look at how they paint and their subjects, read a lot about them, watch interviews and the music, I can kind of pull themes or just makes you feel more inspired with the, like, dead silence in the room.”
What does your art mean to you, and what do you hope it means to others?
“I think right now it’s exploration. And also it’s an outlet. so I guess it just feels right to me to make art. Maybe I’m hesitant to say I’m an artist for, say, and maybe that’s more like a professional artist, world gallery type thing, you know. But what I hope it means to others? I think if they can get something out of it, like if it helps them with a memory or a feeling, I think that’s enough. They can find something in it. Like, I don’t just want my art to be pretty or nice to look at. I want something substantial there for someone to pull out of. Relatable, maybe.”
You mentioned that for yourself, your art has been an outlet. How has that served you?
“Yeah, I struggled a lot with my mental health. You probably know, not that I think I’ve told you much about it, but I think at certain points in my life, it’s been pretty obvious. I find it helps me, especially when I was in more like middle school and high school, to really pull that feeling out of myself instead of just letting it boil up inside. And right now, I think it’s helping me process the way I feel about things. And yeah, it’s just, it’s just making the art itself is one of the best feelings.”
Leah elaborates on her Gone Creature Series in regards to her experience with mental illness
“The childhood series kind of reflected on my journey because I feel like – not that, I feel like that, but I know that my middle school to early high school, even later high school years are so blurry because I was just doing so poorly. But the years before I was twelve or so, before all that stuff happened, so trying to process and see what I could pull out of that. I was going for – I didn’t want people to look at me like, “oh, happy kid paintings.” That wasn’t what I was going for, and hopefully it didn’t come across that way. I wanted the images to drip off the canvas in a way.
Do you have a favourite piece you’ve created?
“It’s – there’s two. I think – I’m hard on myself for all of my work. But the final piece of my Gone Creature Series, [Playhouse]. And then there’s another one from my second year, titled, ‘Beer Garden’. [In reference to Playhouse] – I think [I’m] trying to find my balance between, because I was referencing real photographs, trying to find a balance between the actual photograph and memories of that age. I think I did that most successfully in that one. It was also the last one I created. So maybe that’s just why. [In reference to ‘Beer Garden’] – it’s the first time I really, like, explored the cartoon style. I think maybe that was just really freeing, I guess. I liked how ridiculous it was, and I just liked having fun with that one, really. And pieces I don’t like are easier to talk about because it is easier to be critical of my own work than positive.”
What is your favourite medium?
“Acrylic paint. I find it, it sounds weird, but the smell and texture of oil paint really sets me off. And I also like it more – because with women’s art, like textiles, anything considered craft hasn’t ever really been taken seriously. And I find acrylic paint is definitely the more craft paint of the two. It’s not taking it seriously or traditionally, and I like that about it.”
How did you develop your artistic skills?
“I liked art – it was my hobby. I did a lot, it’s funny actually. I actually started out and, like, just like from sketching, I started out really big into drawing manga when I was, like, 15, yeah. And then after that, I tried doing realism, a bit of online, like, youtube tutorials, and then I just grew for fun. I never could get digital art down, though. Yeah, I can’t do it. I do my best to draw everyday. If it’s not drawing, it’s at least something stupid, like writing down – I’ll copy song lyrics sometimes into my sketchbook, and then I feel fine when you write down the lyrics to something; you can really pull out what’s inspiring you about that song. I’ll highlight what I’m like, “okay, there’s something there that I can use.”
How has your style changed over time?
“I guess it’s like the little kid style. When I was really little, like elementary school, it was like, strictly because I looked at my mom’s high school sketchbook, but I was really inspired by it, and it was all pencil drawings. So I did that for the longest time. And then went through a big phase of just trying to hyper render fruit because there was a girl who came to our school, a children’s author, when I was in elementary school, and she drew a picture of an apple really quickly for us with pastels. And then she did a draw for which kid got the picture, and I did. Like, I got it, and I still have it. It was like my most prized possession, but I went – I would just copy this apple for the longest time. Apple phase. And I guess, I guess, the manga drawing. And then back to realism in high school and some really dark, edgy stuff. And then, I guess, just being a little bit looser now. I think letting the paint be paint is a big thing for me. I don’t know what artist said that. But not quite like that. In my way, I like to think about it as if I want something to be hyper realistic, I’ll just take a photo of it, so that feels more effective and time saving.”
Have you ever faced any difficulties in creating art?
“Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I had a big art block, actually, two weeks ago. I’m in Senior Studio right now. It’s just like the first independent studio. What I’m focusing on sharing now is female rage in the actual way it feels as a woman, a young woman, and trying to represent that through painting, both visually and emotionally. But I went through, and I was having a bad day, and I went in, and I just, I had like four paintings planned, and I walked in, and I scraped them. Just scraped all my ideas. Didn’t throw my paintings away. But, like, it happens for sure. I, yeah, I-I don’t have a lot of confidence in my work. I don’t know. I’ve always been really hard on myself. Like, I think that’s typical for people who have had an eating disorder is perfectionism, and I’ve never had a piece be good enough for me. But if I can pull anything out of a new piece, that’s enough.
How did you overcome those struggles and challenges that you face making art?
“Sometimes I work it through my sketchbook, which is probably the healthier way. Or I listen to music and try to work it through there. Just take a really long nap; sometimes, it’s effective. Or then lay in bed until I come up with something good; I’m not gonna fall asleep, which also, it works because you’re just so frustrated, right?”
So you’ve touched on this a little bit prior, but could you describe the project you are currently working on in more detail? (Pictured below, ‘Shower’)
“For me, yeah, I’m just gonna pull up a picture of it because my memory is shot right now. So no, so the piece I’m working on right now is kind of my intro piece. It’s my first painting in senior studio. I’m looking at women – it’s two women in a shower, and it’s featuring, kind of, they have bloody knees and are menstruating, and it’s about the menstrual cycle. But also, there’s this idea of the gaze and how women are traditionally depicted in art history. I’m kind of wanting to challenge that. Like the way that she is bent over against the frame and almost trying to push out of it, and the showering aspect of it, like the desire to be clean. But there’s also these figures that look almost deadly and bruised. I still have to work through it a bit more.”
What has been a seminal experience for you?
“When I moved to WhiteCourt, when I was twelve, I was bullied pretty badly. And so I basically turned to drawing as just to distract myself, obsessively so. And that would be like, where I really started to [create art] a lot. I had a lot of experiences I was able to pull my own feminine rage from.”
What has been a memorable response to your work you’ve received?
“One of the few things I do remember from middle school is when I was at the end of term, my teacher handed out these little notes to us, and then she kind of said something positive to each of us in a circle, which is a really nice thing for a teacher to do. But she told me that if I ever need help getting to, like, an art school or something, to let her know, and she’d recommend me, which in reality doesn’t make much sense, but I thought that was really nice.”
What motivates you to create?
“I think guilt – if I don’t do it, I feel real guilty. But it also just, it just feels right. Like I don’t think I know who I am yet as a person, but I know that I make art, so somethere’s there. I just have to figure it out. It’s more about expression and making sense of the world around me.”
It sounds like a lot of your art is a representation, an expression of your own inner world.
“Yeah, absolutely. I have really crazy dreams. Lots of recurring places that don’t exist or childhood homes, but they’re warped. Lots of nightmares – haven’t had a nice dream in a very long time. they’re not necessarily scary or as gory as they were when I was a kid. But yeah, those those, I have pulled inspiration actually directly out of those before. I just paint it back, which I know is, I wouldn’t say I’m a surrealist artist, but I know that’s a surrealist thing. And, like, I didn’t think I’d ever be into photography, but then I took a photography class last semester, and I just went on and bought my second camera. It’s a 110 fisheye camera.”
For more of Leah’s art, find her on instagram: @leahe.art
(Gone Creature Series) Playhouse, acrylic on canvas, 36×48 inches, 2022