My favourite painting that I have ever made is a piece called “Trophy Wives”. I’ve shared it on my Instagram and displayed it at a few different events and showcases, but I can’t bring myself to part with it, so it lives back in my bedroom/studio in Windsor for now. It’s a 36 by 36 acrylic painting with some textural elements added using corrugated cardboard scraps in the foreground and in the hair of the women painted.
Here are some progress pictures of the painting that show the mixed media elements that went into it more clearly:
Because I’m still in the beginning stages of developing my style and technical painting skills and because I seriously believe in the power of a growth mindset, I usually like each piece I create better than the last, making whatever I last created my favourite work. But thanks to this painting, everything I have made since last March has been halted at the second favourite slot.
I believe in “Trophy Wives” supremacy for a few reasons:
- I love a big gallery canvas. I’m used to working with cheap supplies because I’m on a budget, but every now and then my mom lets me steal a canvas she’s given up on or doesn’t intend to use anymore and I always like how those paintings turn out so much more. I’m not sure if it’s because it looks more impressive of a high-quality canvas or because I save the ideas and compositions I’m most excited about for those larger surfaces. With this painting’s 36x36 dimensions, the subjects ended up being not quite life sized but large enough that painting the details of their faces was so much more satisfying than most of my work since.
- I had full creative control. This painting was something I decided to do for myself, rather than a commissioned work. I asked my roommates at the time, Eva, Zoe and Deschanel to model for me and I set up a whole photoshoot with spotlights and a dark curtain backdrop to get the exact reference I wanted to create the image I saw in my head. I wanted a very regal and dramatic look which was reflected in my colour palette choices, but also, I was able to direct my friends to tilt their gaze up to just the right height to help convey the tone in their expression. I don’t often have the luxury of such control because I don’t have a studio space and I’m not a photographer, but the experience and satisfaction that I felt throughout the entire process of creating “Trophy Wives” makes me hopeful that one day my art will be able to support those kind of investments so that I can make art that is exactly what I dream it to be.
- This painting feels like a little miracle. And I mean that in the least egotistical way possible… let me explain. My grandma was one of my biggest fans, even as the content matter of my paintings got a little less modest than was likely her style. She was the first person to ever buy one of my paintings when I was just thirteen years old for $60 which she insisted I accepted because she wanted to be my first real customer “of many to come”. She made me sign my name at the bottom right corner like all the real artists do so that when I got big and famous, she could authenticate her ownership of my “formative works”. Realistically though, she just wanted me to know my worth from early on and her support gave me a lot of the confidence I needed to get this far. I lost my grandma last March to a combination of cancers that made her really sick really suddenly. She spent her last few weeks in hospice and I came home to visit just prior to her passing. During my last visit with her she was on a lot of painkillers and wasn’t able to speak much and was in and out of long naps, but I had just finished this painting and got to show her and see her eyes widen and whisper “wow!”. She had been nearly non-responsive during that visit and in that moment, I watched her senses come flooding back. That was so special for me, to have my painting be what got through to her and to see her light up one last time.
That’s the heavier part of why this painting feels like a miracle to me but also it is a miracle that this painting still exists (and maybe it was my grandma looking out for me like a guardian angel). You really had to be there to understand the gravity of the situation (pun intended) and my roommates still remind me of that time the University Community Centre staircase was almost my downfall (pun also intended). For International Women’s Day, I was given the opportunity to display my work at Western University’s US-SHE event and talk about it on stage.
The large square canvas is pretty awkward to maneuver, but it arrived in one piece, my little talk went pretty well and then it was time to carry it home on the LTC back to my house off-campus. On my way down the stairs in my leather heeled boots I tripped over my own feet on like the very first step and I swear I continued to fall for like a minute straight. If you’re familiar with the video of the man slipping over and over again shovelling snow, imagine that, but it’s me, and I’m airborne falling down a flight of about 12 steps, with zero regard for my own safety, just panicking that I’m about to go through this painting that I just finished after like two weeks of work.
I landed at the very bottom of the steps knees first, but with my canvas held up above my head. I was in total shock and as soon as everyone realized the painting was safe, we all couldn’t stop laughing hysterically about that fall. I had way too much adrenaline in my system to feel any pain for hours and I could’ve cried tears of joy from the relief I felt that I didn’t just ruin my life with my clumsiness.
Here's a snapchat I took a few days later to send to my roommates to give you some visual context:
A few days later I had massive bruising on both knees, and I remember meeting up with a friend at this bar in Windsor and biting my tongue when he rested his hand on my knee because I didn’t want him to not rest his hand on my knee but like… ouch.
So coincidentally, “Trophy Wives” remains undefeated but I am so excited for the day that I create something that I like even better and then I can write about it and share all the unique reasons that make it even more special to me.