How I Became An Artist

2003: Picking up where I left off in portraiture. My first oil painting.

2003: Picking up where I left off in portraiture. My first oil painting.

Looking back on my years as an artist, I sometimes find myself asking “How in the world did I end up here?” or “What decisions have led me to this point in life?”. Though I’m unable to recount every decision or detail up to today (besides I promised myself that this would not be a long post), I would like to share with you some of the more influential moments which have started me on this path. I believe that we are all born with artistic ability. People laugh when I say this, but I honestly believe this is the truth. Children are proof of that ability. The first thing children do is interpret the world they see, through song, dance, drawings, role-playing you name it. They create stories and are eager to share their discoveries with the people they love. It’s how they learn and express the things they see. So what happens when we get older? Who knows, life happens, but little by little we put away such things. Not all things are “childish” or should be put away. If a child has a strong desire to build or create, then it’s a matter of nurturing their interests. Maybe the child is a musician, a painter, a poet waiting to come of age. And when they do, a paradigm shift may occur, influencing future generations.

What’s the point of living if you can’t do the things you love?
The person who said this to me years ago did so only in passing, but it stuck with me. When I think of this statement I’m reminded of why I chose to be an artist. However the path isn’t easy. Becoming an artist seemed like a natural fit. But the biggest hurdle on this path was me. From a very young age my artistic interests were encouraged mostly by teachers and some family members. I excelled in visual arts in high school, but I never set out to be an artist. Being able to draw and paint was just a part of me. The thought of not creating didn’t cross my mind.  However upon graduating high school in 1996, my family couldn’t afford to send me to art school or university for that matter so I took out student loans and went to college to study business administration, graduating in 1999. Like so many people, life happened. I couldn’t create – With the pressure of paying off the student loans, bills etc. I was working to survive. During those years it felt like a part of me was lost. That was until the year 2000 when I picked up the paint brush and started painting.

Hello, is it me you’re looking for?
Painting again was like being reunited with an old friend – surreal at first, but eventually you pick-up where you left off. One day, with encouragement from my grandmother, I submitted my works to the Human Rights through Arts Exhibition to be juried and was accepted. My reason for participating at the time was that it seemed to be a worthy cause – to bring human rights awareness through art. On the opening night of the exhibition, people observed my paintings, asked questions and were positive. Viewers added their own stories and interpretations to the work. It was wonderful! I felt a sense of euphoria. And it was in that moment that I knew this is what I wanted to do. Realizing this, I felt reborn; I had finally found (or more like re-discovered) my fit. In the years that followed I painted vigorously, with a sense of urgency, experimenting with several art media, styles and subjects.

I eventually signed-up for night courses at Ontario College of Arts and Design (now OCADU) and when I reached my course limit I enrolled in the Fine Arts program as a mature student. Enrolling as a mature student actually worked to my benefit, because I had a better appreciation of the experience, also since I was working; I was able to pay for the entire program myself. 

L-R: 2003: This collage was a study in non-objective art. 2003: Meanwhile outside of school I was experimenting with. 2004: An early school assignment.

2003 – 2004: I experimented with several styles and mediums from collage (left), to digital painting (center). But I had an interest in capturing a person’s emotions in portraiture (right). All were studies completed while at OCAD.

The wonder years
Between work and school I submitted my paintings to several galleries and juried shows. I was one of the few students in my class exhibiting. I figured it’s better to start approaching galleries while in school that way the transition to the art world would be easier after graduating. I think a lot of students fail to realize the importance of setting up contacts while in school, making the transition to the art world more difficult upon graduating. An instructor even advised us that if you don’t start exhibiting while in school you’ll never do so after graduating especially if there’s the added pressure of finding work in order to pay off students loans. There is certainly truth in what he said. By graduation in 2007 I already had a steady network of galleries and public spaces to show my artwork.

2004-2005: (L) A school assignment. I was starting to experiment with abstracted landscapes. (R) One of the last portraits I did before moving into landscapes and abstractions.

2004-2007: I was starting to experiment with abstracted landscapes (left). One of the last portraits I did before moving into landscapes and abstractions (center). A two-panel piece or dyptych that was accepted in the COLOURblind? mask-themed exhibition (right).

Early in my artistic career my works were accepted into exhibitions, but a lot of times not. Going through this experience was invaluable because I had better appreciation of the opportunities that came my way. The rejections were very hard, but I’ve learned that with something as subjective as art not everyone will like your work. Rejections are not personal. With galleries, collectives, art guilds etc. it all comes down to value systems and fit. What matters is that you believe in yourself. When I started to take myself seriously as an artist and truly believe in my abilities, others started to do so as well. I researched galleries beforehand to make sure my work was a good fit. I sought guidance from experienced artists, curators and other members of the art community. Lastly I slowed down and started to paint with purpose – which is to bring people together through art. Afterwards things began to fall into place. This was when I really started to come into my own as an art professional. Experimenting with different media, challenging myself.


2007-2010: The years when I began to come into my own as an art professional. Work from the The REALM of Belief (left), Terra Forma (center) and Impressions of Kinetic Creation (right) series. I always had an interest in alternative science, science-fiction as well as nature, therefore my works always revolved around these themes, which remains to this day.

Today, I recognize that being an artist is not fleeting, it’s a vocation. As you mature so does your work. Above all it’s a path where you end up learning more about yourself. I’m still learning.

2010 to present: My work today.

2010 – present: My work today.

Let’s Paint! A Fun Exercise in Mixing Colours

For the month of March, fellow artists Zoraida Anaya, Lisa Fox and I launched our exhibition titled My World, Our World at the Smith Zone Gallery of Lakeshore Arts. The exhibition was part of the Women’s Art Project artist collective, a multidisciplinary and diverse group of women artists. To close the exhibition we were invited to the gallery’s special edition of Open Studio as their guests. An open studio is an event that offers art creators and enthusiasts a fun and supporting environment to discuss and create art. Lakeshore Arts hosts such an event every Friday (unless otherwise noted), from 12-4pm. If you haven’t been to an open studio and are looking for a little inspiration, I highly recommend checking out Lakeshore Arts!

In the session I decided to do an exercise of mixing colours directly on the canvas and thought to share with you my process. In my last post I mentioned that I like to create my palette by mixing the primary base colours of red, yellow and blue. If you want to build your technique in mixing colours then I recommend doing this exercise. If not, then try it anyway just for fun! This exercise will help you:

  • create greater colour-harmony and balance in your painting
  • think about composition
  • learn how to use warm and cool colours effectively to create contrast
  • become familiar with working with your paint medium, giving you greater control

I used inks because they’re fluid and easy to blend making them ideal for this exercise. However you can use any paint medium such as acrylics, watercolours, oils etc… In fact, I repeat this exercise using different mediums to build strength in working with them. Now with that said, let’s paint!

What you need:

  • A red, yellow and blue based paint, black and white (Ink, or soft-bodied acrylic paint)
  • Brushes: If using acrylic paints a round soft bristle synthetic brush will work. For inks, a natural bristle calligraphy brush, bamboo or Chinese ink brush will work best.
  • Cold-pressed paper, canvas or canvas board
  • Water container for rinsing brushes and re-wetting paint
  • Paper towels for wiping excess paint off brush if needed

Note: If using heavy-bodied (thick) acrylic paints, you will need 5 small containers (one for each colour) to thin out your paint with a little water.

Since we are actually mixing the colours directly on the paper or canvas, we will not need to pre-mix the colours on a paint palette.

For this exercise I'm using Daler and Rowney Acrylic Artist's Ink: Process Magenta, Process Yellow, Prussian Blue (Hue), Black and White.

For this exercise I’m using Daler and Rowney Acrylic Artist’s Ink: Process Magenta, Process Yellow, Prussian Blue (Hue), Black and White.

Step 1
Starting with the colour, drip the blue ink/paint directly on the paper or canvas. Then drip white ink/paint over the blue.


A view on the side so you can see how think the ink is.

A view on the side so you can see how thin the ink is.

Step 2
While the ink/paint is still wet, with the tip of the brush start to slowly “swirl” the white ink/paint into the blue in various directions. Afterwards add drips of red and start to “swirl” that into the blue. You can also drip a little more white. As you start to swirl red into blue, you may begin to notice various shades of purples. With the additional white you will get various tints of blues and pinks.

This exercise requires a light touch with the brush. Therefore, don’t over mix the colours. Work with the tip of the brush and loosely swirl one colour into the other. During this process you want to pay attention to how the primary colours mix to create other colours on the paper/canvas.

Red and blue mixed together will create, which the secondary colour. Notice when white is added light blues, purples and pinks are created? These lighter shades are called tints.

Red and blue mixed together will create purple, which is a secondary colour. Notice when white is added light blues, purples and pinks are created? These lighter shades are called tints.

Step 3
While the ink/paint is still wet start to drip in yellow and begin to swirl the colour into the red and blue. Depending on where you place the yellow, you should begin to see green or orange form. Yellow and blue will create green, while yellow and red will create orange.

At this point the ink/paint may begin to dry. You can keep adding drips of red then yellow, then blue in stages, slowly swirling them together to create as many colours as you can. Adding in drips of white will give you a lighter/tint of a colour. You can also add drips of black, to get a darker/shade of a colour. Black will also create contrast. You can also swirl black with white to create shades of grey. Pay attention to how the various colours are created. Also notice the how light and dark colours lay next to each other. Continue building up the layers until you’re satisfied with the result.

Notice how the primary colours; red, yellow and blue are mixed together to create the other colours.

Notice how the primary colours; red, yellow and blue are mixed together to create the other colours.

Final result
At the end of this exercise, I usually ask myself:

  • How many colours was I able to create by doing this exercise?
  • Do the dark and light colours create contrast?
  • Is there balance in the shapes of the swirls?

There are no definitive answers to these questions. They are only guidelines to help me think about colour harmony, balance and composition.

I recommend doing this exercise numerous times until you are comfortable with blending and mixing colours. This exercise will not only build your technique as a painter but you’ll get a different result each time.


Learning how to mix the primary colours will help you understand colour harmony, balance and composition. It will also help you use warm and cool colours effectively to achieve contrast.

Lakeshore Arts Open Studio Special Edition Featuring WAP, Apr 1, 2016

Meet fellow artist Lisa Fox and myself at Lakeshore Arts, this Friday, April 1st between 1-4pm.

As our Women’s Art Project (WAP) exhibition, My World, Our World winds down, we will be Lakeshore Arts special guests at their Open Studio event. Hosted by the gallery every Friday, between 1-4, Open Studio offers art creators and enthusiasts alike to discuss and create art in a fun and supporting environment.

So drop-in and let’s chat!

Lakeshore Arts
2422 Lakeshore Blvd, West, Toronto, ON