ONTARIO. CANADA. JANURY 22, 2021.
My name is Celia Lees, I am 24 years old and I was born in a small beach town in Southern Ontario, Canada. My home town is two hours west of Toronto, in which I am currently living. No husband or children. One pet, a dog. It is challenging to put into words what I would like to project from my artist practice. However, over time the following words have always stuck with me: “Art is a language I can not articulate otherwise.”
Tell us your story, how did you come to painting?
I began painting in 2017 while completing an undergraduate degree in Fashion Design at Ryerson University in Toronto. Initially, I was interested in this program as means through which I could channel my artistic interest. During my time there I found this program to be very effective in teaching me technical skills applicable to design, although as time went on I began to long for a more profound way to express my emotions and connect with myself on a more creative level. As a product of this creative frustration, I turned to the art form I believed to be most raw, expressive painting.
How would you define your current painting?
My current painting process is rooted in unapologetic risk. I always allow myself to try any idea I have in mind, make “mistakes” and rework them without self resentment for experimenting. With regard to aesthetics, I try to incorporate elements that are intriguing and dimensional to draw the viewer in, allowing them to feel as though they have formed a relationship with the piece.
While my process often feels busy or at times chaotic, I find the end result becomes grounded in the expressive application of paint. Creating a sense of movement and balance that is ultimately quite satisfying to the eye is something I strive for. Personally, I love being able to see each physical brush stroke and textural element layered into my pieces. I like creating a painting in which a viewer is able to discover a new mark each time they look at the piece.
Tell us about your style and technique. Any secret that can be told?
My current painting style is still very experimental. I am extremely inspired by the materiality of various mediums and tools that provide so many possibilities. I love trying different techniques of mark making. The one consistent thread throughout my work is the presence of mixed media. Despite using acrylic paint as my predominant medium, there will always be hidden materials worked into a painting. These materials can range anywhere from oil pastel to sand. A secret I can share is that some of the best places to find unique, inspiring tools and mediums are in hardware stores and outdoors.
How do you usually start your paintings? With a sketch, a draft or is it just an improvisation?
It is normally complete improvisation unless I have some sort of reference or inspiration photo. I will always begin with preparing the canvas in a neutral colour for a background. I then will have a general idea of which colours I will be using and select one of those to make the first mark. Once the first mark has been laid down, it becomes an additive and subtractive exploration until I feel satisfied with the visual composition.
What are your motivation forces? And the artists who have been and are an influence for you?
My inspiration to create is rooted in self expression, love, success and purpose. I do not have specific inspirations for each piece, but rather a collective group of inspiring things in life that light the creative fire in me. There are many talented artists to be inspired from and to only choose a few is quite difficult. With that being said, I will try! Among the greats; Willem de Kooning, Cy Twombly, Franz Kline, Edward Clark. With regards to inspiring contemporary artists, Yann Houri, Emilio Villalba, Monica Perez.
What can you tell us about your studio, what kind of place is it?
My studio is my absolute favourite place. It is a small space in a building shared with fellow creatives that opens onto the harbour of my town. I love being located on the water, it gives the space such a calming energy. The bright white walls and incredible natural light are inspiring and immersive in their own right, almost imitating the feel of a blank canvas.
What is art for you?
A visual diary.