Written by Jason Fonceca
I recently had the opportunity to interview Tori Mongrain, an incredible Toronto-based abstract artist. Behold her beauty, expression, and inspired words.
I’m in Tori Mongrain’s studio, watching the Mistress-of-Color work her magic, drinking in the pulsing, chilled-out rhythms of a CD that has a history, much as she does. She gave the disc to her lover 8 years ago, separated from him, and re-united 8 years later.
I’m drinking sangria, and soaking up the inspiration. She is painting and answering almost stream-of-consciousness style. I kicked in my transcription skills and got it down for our readers (and myself!)
Jason: So miss-Tori (or ‘mystery’) is this – like – your ‘painting music?’
Tori: Today. Today it is. I was just in the mood for… chill. It’s sunny out, it’s beautiful, it’s spring.
Jason: Yeah, things are about to bloom. Is waiting for spring to hit, for you, similar to waiting for a painting to come out?
Tori: You’re excited ’cause you know what [the painting] feels like, and know what [the painting's] gonna feel like. You have to have it out — I actually use a hair-dryer now ’cause I can see it unfold faster. I just don’t wanna wait for it to come out. Plus my hair’s awesome. I have lion hair…
Tori: I am a Leo, it makes sense.
Tori: …I cant find my palette, so I’m using a Cookie Master Plus cardboard.
Jason: Say what? What’s that?
Tori: It’s the cardboard packaging from a new toy. It injects shit into cupcakes; [Carl (Tori's muse) and I] are making Churros.
I absolutely love the way the colors form! It’s always a surprise! I ended up shading the everything with gold. Enjoying every brush-stroke and doing it for the love of it. Look at the orange, it totally goes right into the purple and green. It’s more… blendy… lately.
Jason: What do you mean by its ‘more blendy lately!‘ Is it surprising to you?
Tori: Of course! Well, I don’t really do anything, I just stand there in front of the easel and enjoy myself; I don’t know what it’s gonna look like. I’m excited to see what comes out myself. I’m so excited, that when it starts coalescing – coming together – and I can see the majority of it… well…then it’s just fine-tuning and I immediately start a new one. And then I watch that one unfold, and when I see it near-finished, and it just needs fine-tuning as well, then I chill out and catch up with myself. They finish themselves off.
Jason: So would you say that’s why you’re so prolific?
Tori: Well, I volunteer, I teach, and I paint – and it feels almost selfish, because I love it so much.
Jason: Well, it seems to me, if more human beings did stuff they ‘adored so much’ that ‘it felt selfish,’ — could you imagine the level of excellence, skill, passion and value their creations would have? Nothing would be dragged out, everything would be having a blast and pleased to show it off…
That’s why painting with Greg’s [, the person currently living with Cerebral Palsy whom I assist with art at Laser Eagles], so cool – he basically ‘makes’ me break all my comfort zones – I mean, the first painting I did with him is Billy Ray — Me? Paint a portrait ? I’m an abstract artist, and he’s sitting right there expectantly. So… I want to deliver, and I break out my pencil kit and…
Jason: Your latest works have had tremendously attractive blocks of color in the background. They seem purposely selected and chosen – how do you place each of the colors?
Tori: Well, when I was younger I spent hours and hours and hours changing the colors around on my pieces. Basically f***ing them up. I invested hour after hour practicing and perfecting color-choice, and I don’t really think about it consciously any more. I used to put so much attention on it, and now I can do it easily, I don’t even have to think about it, and my pieces come together super-quick.
Jason: Cool. Here’s a question: If you were to present people with two identical copies of your art, one that made use of all your passion, exquisite layer after layer of color and blending to get the right shade, multiple coats of black edging, all glossed and painted over an old original canvas – and the other painting you present is a a copy of that, but without all the history, hours, passion, layers, etc. – it was basically a skilled copy of the final colors + lines, perhaps one 2 or 3 layers tops… do you feel people would be able to tell the difference?
Tori: Oh yeah, for sure. Guaranteed. They’d gravitate toward the pure-passion, heartfelt original. Even if they didn’t *know* it had a million layers of paint to get it right. Even if they didn’t know it was painted over an old painting. Even if the other one was somehow more exact or more ‘perfect.’ People can feel the energy in a piece.
That’s why everyone should be the best them!
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