On the cover: Feel the Magic by Vicki Carruthers
Interview | Matthew Lee
What can you tell us about our cover art, Feel the Magic?
For the last 15 or so years I’ve had a cottage up on Georgian Bay in Ontario, which is probably one of the most beautiful places in the world – water, rocks, the trees, the sky. The inspiration for Feel the Magic comes from this part of Canada; you do feel the magic when you’re there, and I used my imagination to explore the shapes and the colour and make it my own.
Is the red sky a reference to heat waves and climate change?
No, it’s nothing to do with that. The first colour I choose in my paintings is always the sky, whether that’s red, purple, green, yellow or orange. I have a weird imagination where I don’t see the world in normal colours. I don’t worry about the colour of the sky having any relation to the world.
How long did it take to make Feel the Magic?
A few weeks. My paintings involve a long process of working on the design, deciding on the colours, and then adding lots and lots of layers of paint. I sometimes alter the colours as I go along because it doesn’t feel right. I use fluid acrylic paint so there are no bumps in my work, so it’s completely flat. I don’t want any texture, and to get that intensity of colour I add around 40 layers of acrylic paint in a painting. There’s a simplicity to my art, but it’s very time consuming. If anybody tries to copy my work they’ll quickly get bored.
Is there a distinctively Canadian quality to your work?
I think so, yes, because there’s a tradition in Canada of landscape painting. The Group of Seven were an iconic group of landscape painters who worked in the 1920s and 1930s. I’m also inspired by indigenous Canadian artist Norval Morrisseau. He’s such a Canadian icon, and his images told these huge historical stories of outdoor life. While my work doesn’t really tell stories, I was influenced by the way he uses colours, his shapes, his black outlines – I was very drawn to his work.
How did working with children affect the way you paint?
It had a huge impact on my work. When I graduated I did a lot of lithography, a lot of graphic art, I worked on Muppet stuff for Jim Henson. But when I started having a family of my own the community where I live knew I was an artist and asked me to run special art programmes for kids. What worked well with the kids was giving them very limited palettes of colour – no browns, beiges or ochres, just bold colours – and encouraging them to not get caught up in silly little details. I wanted them to use their imagination, to see the world in shapes, and to have a crazy fun time. It was magical seeing their work, and I was so drawn to the kids’ work that I began working the same way. I’ve had comments from art critics saying “You have to be more painterly”, but I now have huge confidence in myself because I know my work is powerful, joyful and happy. That took a long time, though. It’s been a process.
How did Covid restrictions in Ontario affect your working life?
It didn’t change much because being a painter is an isolated job. I have a studio in my home and one in my cottage, and I had more time so I just worked harder.
How important is it to create happy art at difficult times, such as the pandemic?
In my experience there’s a real desire for positive, joyful art at the moment. I’ve always been drawn to happier art, I don’t feel good around work that’s depressing and sad. Last year, with the Covid-19 pandemic, was one of my best years commercially because I think people really needed to surround themselves with joy and happiness. I have a personal relationship with many of my clients who buy my pieces, and the happiness they get from my work fuels my desire to continue. I had a personal struggle with cancer around ten years ago, and since then I’ve really understood that life is precious, that I should wake up each day happy and joyful, and try to make a difference in other people’s lives.
Visit vickicarruthers.com to see more of Vicki’s work and to commission and purchase prints
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