Toronto-based artist and illustrator Eryn Lougheed entered her bachelor’s course in Design at OCAD University creating black and white drawings rendered in neat, restrained penwork and uniform, disciplined lines. Having been encouraged throughout her studies by her fellow students and her tutors to experiment artistically and embrace her tendency towards what she calls a “wonky” aesthetic, Eryn has since turned her practice towards making vibrant, fluid paintings.
Far from the monochromes of her early illustrations, Eryn’s current work employs a palette of fantastical, exaggerated colours and patterns to compose scenes that draw on the mythic and magical. A yellow lion sprawls across the canvas, the green tentacles of its mane twisting and intertwining; the cross-section of a house is woven like a folkloric painted tapestry; witchy women melt into one another around a table of food, a golden-haired figure is exulted in a ceremony attended by multicoloured peacocks; an old woman with a handful of stones dreams beneath a starry quilt; and a shamanistic lion tamer with swirling black hair levitates a lion while its cubs chase yards of squiggly red thread.
There is an otherworldly, dreamlike quality to Eryn’s works, which immerse the viewer in captivating narratives of an imagined world. For Eryn, being open to following her creative instinct when it comes to conjuring up her painted visions has been an ongoing process made possible by her participation in the collaborative community of her course and of Toronto more generally. Being supported and challenged by her friends and fellow artists has, she says, “taught me how important community is to art-making”.
It’s Nice That: Why did you decide to study illustration?
Eryn Lougheed: A lot of the artists I admired were illustrators, and the illustration programme at OCAD appealed to me due to its structure, the abundance of both technical and conceptual skill-building, plus the great faculty and alumni.
“I started embracing and honing my wonky inclinations”
INT: What was the most unexpected thing to come out of your studies?
EL: I went into first year making black and white pen drawings, and came out with a thesis of colourful paintings. There were a lot of moments of discovery which led to new avenues. I think I spent a lot of the early years fighting my instincts and my natural way of drawing, which obviously led to a lot of frustration! Sometime in the middle I started embracing and honing my wonky inclinations, and that gave me more comfort and joy in the process of making things.
INT: Who is someone who has helped guide you in your creative journey?
EL: I feel that I was at OCAD at the right time, because my experience was so shaped by my classmates! I feel so fortunate to be part of the supportive and collaborative illustration and art communities in Toronto. I was particularly lucky to cross paths with my dear friends and collaborators Lily Snowden-Fine, Adam de Souza, Mary Kirkpatrick and Sarah Mason. They are all so uniquely brilliant, and I’ve learned a lot from working with and around them!
Their friendship has taught me how important community is to art-making. It can feel like an isolating process at times, and it’s so valuable to have trusted friends to be excited, dedicated, vulnerable and curious with, and to encourage and challenge one another. I was also very fortunate to learn from my thesis instructor Jon Todd, whose enthusiasm, guidance, and criticism helped me feel confident, open and free in my practice.
“Friendship has taught me how important community is to art-making”
INT: Which pieces of work are you most proud of and why?
EL: In the fall of October 2018, Lily, Adam, Mary and I had a group show, House Guests, at Ignite Gallery here in Toronto. The collaborative process of creating an installation for our work to coexist and designing an immersive experience for the viewers was challenging and rewarding – I’m proud of what we created!
INT: How do you see your work and practice developing, and what are your main aspirations?
EL: I’m eager to learn some new skills and experiment with different mediums! There’s so much I want to do, and I am open to everything – I love that illustration can be a million things. I want to make work that is lighthearted and sincere, wonky and graceful. I want to always consider what my role is an artist and how I can use that to foster community and collaboration!
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