Do you consider yourself an artist?
I consider myself an artist in my own head, however it’s a little difficult for me to declare out loud.
What does “artists” mean to you?
I think anyone who enjoys stepping outside the boundaries of logic or reason is an artist of some kind or another.
Do you have a specific art form that you work within, or is creativity more of a spectrum for you?
Painting and drawing has always been a large part of my life. Specifically, I like working in pen and ink, watercolour and acrylic, but as of recently I have been playing around with the idea of coffee as a medium – we’ll see how that goes. Portraits and the human form are my favourites, although I like to exaggerate and distort when it comes to representation. I also enjoy creative writing, mostly prose, poetry, and short stories.
What inspires you?
People. Bizarre and fascinating people. Nothing particularly extraordinary in terms of external events, but the overwhelming passion and emotion people carry within themselves throughout their mundane lives.
How does your inspiration manifest?
With my writing it is mostly through personal experiences. For example, a young man approached me on the TTC one day and commented on a book I was reading (so simple, so mundane), and by the end of the month we were almost inseparable – running around harbour front at night, laying down side by side on an empty stage, yelling, crying, laughing… another month goes by and at the end of it we stopped speaking to each other. It’s that kind of bewildering, personal, intensity that I try to get at in my writing. I usually start with an experience (such as the one I just mentioned) and ask myself very basic questions: how did that feel? How did you feel then versus how you feel now? What does this mean to you? How does this relate to a bigger picture? And I attempt to answer. The important word here is “attempt” because sometimes if not most of the time, writing for me is just to get the mess out. It’s like an explosion of an experience happened and now I have to clean up a little in order to carry on functioning. If I want the mess to make sense outside of my own individual life and understanding, I go through many drafts and redrafts on paper, then I’ll type it up to make it feel more permanent, but I’m still always changing things and probably always will. My art is a little different, it’s something I can do for work and for fun, it doesn’t always have to serve me in the way that writing tends to. I can usually just tell myself, “I feel like sketching today” and act accordingly. I’ve been trying to become more disciplined than that though, in order to be more productive, so I have committed to painting outside at least once a week, hopefully that sticks.
Do you think there is a focal point in your life that put you on this path?
Drawing and painting are things I have always done, but the purpose changes. Some of my paintings were shown in an elementary school setting not too long ago, and the children were asked to write stories based on the three women portrayed. The women portrayed are women of colour, bare shouldered, and two out of three are noticeably smiling, they have no visible makeup or jewelry, but I paid a lot of attention to the detail when filling in their hair. The majority of the children thought these women were lonely, sad, poor, waiting on a friend… etc. In general, they perceived these women as experiencing something negative or in negative conditions. I want to change that perspective that these children have apparently absorbed at so young an age, that people (specifically in this case women of colour) without visible material possessions must be in some horrific, sad, or poor position in life. Currently, a majority of my work follows similar lines: women of colour without a lot of dress or embellishments, who still appear at peace or happy.
What is your greatest aspiration?
My greatest aspiration would be to give back to my community through the arts. I want to work with children and inspire them the way artists inspired me while I was growing up. I’m not sure if that means starting my own business or classes but, I want it to be big, I want to be a positive influence in as many lives as I can whether directly or indirectly and I think art is a great way of achieving that.
Who, if anyone, do you look up to?
This is going to sound like a lie. A big, fat, cheesy lie, but I’ll say it anyways because it’s true. I look up to my mother. She is without a doubt the most incredible woman I have ever known and almost all that is positive in me comes from her influence. As an artist I think it is important to be creative to the point where you step outside of the lines every once and a while, but also forgiving and capable of restarting when you go a little over the edge – and lucky enough for me, someone who goes over the edge multiple times, my mother is both of these things, creative and forgiving.
What do you think defines you?
That’s a hard one. My instinct is to say nothing, but that’s not very satisfying is it? I suppose it is always changing? I think I would be uncomfortable if I could be defined because, personally, I think that means I have stopped developing and growing as an artist.
What is your relationship with your art?
A whole host of things: pleasurable, business-like, therapeutic, erratic, compulsive, soothing… like my personal definition, the relationship I have with my art is always changing.
How does this relationship compare to the one with yourself?
Very much the same. For example, I said I want to be more disciplined with painting so that I produce more, similarly I’d like to be more disciplined in general so that I can get the most out of life. I am naturally inclined to be a little erratic and impulsive which is what my art is most of the time – or the process of my art I should say, rather than the images themselves – these are senses that I feel in my body, but I know in my mind that I need order, structure, etc. so that I don’t fall a part. I think developing my art has taken the same route as my personal development as far as I have come to recognize that I need to find a meeting place between intensity and peace. Whether I’m actually getting there or not is another question.
What is the most challenging part about creating for you?
Creating on a schedule because art for me is emotionally charged and time is not.
What is the hardest emotion for you? Why?
Loneliness probably, because it’s the one that lingers.
What is the significance of creating for you?
I think, especially in this society, we spend a lot of time absorbing and adapting to a system or way of life that was given to us rather than creating our own, so to tap into the imagination and to use it to step out of that given framework is important and necessary if you ever want to take control of your life or make change. You can’t change habits without the help of the imagination because logic and reason will tell you, as they have told you again and again, that anything but what you are already doing is impossible (because you haven’t done anything different, so how could it be possible?), but once you let the creativity flow and imagine the impossible, it’s that vision, that image, that ignites what you need in order to make change.
What words of wisdom do you live by? Why?
“There’s no dark side of the moon really, matter of fact it’s all dark.” I don’t really know why these words make sense to me if I’m being completely honest. All I know is that when I have made mistakes, major, major mistakes, this line from the end of a Pink Floyd song pops into my head and it helps. I suppose I interpret it something like there is no real “bad” vs. “good,” life is just life, and it is what it is. All you can do is mind your own intentions, hope for the sun to shine on your side of the moon, and don’t lose yourself when it doesn’t shine because it just won’t sometimes, and that’s okay.
What advice would you give to your future self? Past self? Present self?
To my future self – this doesn’t really count as advice, but I just want to pre-apologize for anything I might be doing with my life right now that you’ll have to undo/ redo later, my bad.
To my past self – Stop trying to grow up so fast. You’re not going to have a steady boyfriend nor a six pack by the time you’re 22 so please stop spending your ever-fleeting youth concerned about those things. Forgive yourself more easily. Don’t worry, you come to understand yourself with time.
To my present self – Keep your long-term goals in mind, and don’t forget to thank and appreciate those who are helping you along the way.
What are some “taboos” you face in the art community?
Nudity has always been a weird one. Some people find it objectifying (especially if it’s female nudity), while others find it empowering. Although, that might be more of a taboo outside of the “art community” but nonetheless, I still feel hesitant to post paintings or drawings, particularly of nude, female figures on my art-focused social media, because I feel like I always have to consider a sexual gaze even if that is not my intention when creating the image. Will someone else sexualize her? Will someone else think I’m sexualizing her? Is that necessarily a bad thing? A good thing? Objectifying? Empowering? It’s frustrating.
How has your art brought about an understand of yourself/your world?
My art for me has brought me closer to myself, it allows me to connect with myself, to listen to myself, to build a relationship with myself (even if it’s a little crazy at times), and ultimately to love myself, at the very least, for being a creative person. On a level outside of myself, it has allowed me to connect with others, to work with children, to have meaningful conversations with people who are completely different than me in age, gender, ethnicity, religion, etc.
How would you like to be seen?
As someone who is constantly learning, changing, breaking, and building again and again and again.
How do you, in contrast, think you are seen?
As someone who perhaps is a lot more stable, steady, and defined than I really am.
You can find more of Magdalin’s work at