Building Sand Castles for Toads and Painting Shirt Faces With Local Artist, Kinsey Deakin

A born-and-raised East Coaster, artist Kinsey Deakin‘s small town roots have helped to produce some extraordinarily colourful art since her move to BC.

We spoke with Deakin in advance of her November (exact date TBA) exhibition, “Shirt Faced” – which sees her peers painted to match their garments – and the impending release of an exciting new video collaboration venture. Find out more and take a trip through the fantastical imagination of the artist by reading our interview below…


What sort of child were you? Tell me about your first memories of being creative. What were your early influences and/or exposures to arts culture? I was definitely a bit of an odd ball. I spent most of my young childhood alone in my sand box building little worlds out of sand and capturing toads to live in them. I definitely had quite an imagination. I had a couple of public school teachers who were all about arts and crafts. My Kindergarten teacher had a piano in the classroom and my grade 3 teacher was very arts focused and encouraging.

What was the first piece of art you made? When I was four, I used water colours to paint a vase with flowers. I showed it to my parents who said “Wow! That’s amazing Kinsey, good job.” I then made 100 more and tried to sell them to neighbours on our front lawn. No exaggerations.

What was your last unexpected or unusual source of inspiration? I watched the movie Dawn Wall recently, which is about a man scaling the Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. It was inspiring to see him work through so many life challenges to accomplish his goals. It definitely gave me a push of inspiration with my own art form.

What is next on your list of things you want to try or creative avenues you’d like to explore? I recently directed and set designed a music video for a BC artist named Frase. I’ve been inspired since a young age by filmmakers like Wes Anderson and Tim Burton who take a more artistic approach visually with their films. Making my vision into a three-dimensional set and directing characters was a lot of fun. There will be a video release party on October 4th at Fortune Sound Club with performances by Frase with special guests, as well as a screening of the music Video “Paddlin’”.

I’ve also been working on a project I’m calling “Shirt Faced”. This involves me painting my subjects face to match the pattern of their shirt, creating a strange, surreal yet beautiful piece. I’m focused on showcasing talented creatives within the Vancouver community. I’ll be presenting each piece as a photograph and hope to have an art show in early November.

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< strong>What inspired this project in particular? The shirt face project came to me through my love of patterns, people, and painting. I had no clue what to be a few years back for Halloween, so I went as my shirt and just painted my face to match. I thought, why not showcase some exciting patterns and creatives within the Vancouver community? This project is not just about me as an artist but about my subjects as well, who are all very amazing and talented people. There will be an art exhibition for this project when it is complete!

You utilize a lot of vibrant colours and patterns in your artwork. Where does your penchant for vibrancy and graphics come from? I was very into fashion design when I was younger. I would draw the Spice Girls and use them to model all of my clothing designs. I’ve always been drawn to patterns and colours. They are fun – what’s not to like about them?!

What has been the biggest challenge of your artistic career that you’ve encountered, so far? I would have to say my fear of failing or not being good enough. In the past I have been intimidated by artists I look up to and by the art scene in Vancouver. Comparing myself to others wasn’t getting me anywhere. I’m now focusing on myself and what my practice means to me so I can build on my own style.

Also, I used to have a lot of projects on the go at once. I would overwhelm myself and nothing would get completed. Having a couple main projects to tackle that I’m passionate about seems to work much better.

What is your biggest source of strength? My biggest strength would be that I’m always willing to try something new. You never know what you could fall in love with.

Where do you find all of the time and energy for all of your various interests and projects? I work in the film industry. I do really enjoy it and the people I work with, but the hours are hard to work around and can sometimes be long. When I’m not working, I’m catching up with friends, getting outside, biking, camping or I’m in my studio working on a project.

If I’m correct, a lot of your artwork is inspired by travel. What has been your favourite place to visit, so far? That’s a hard one. I loved exploring Guatemala. Japan was extremely inspiring. In both countries I enjoyed the landscapes, architecture and culture. I’d have to say the west coast of British Columbia is one of the most beautiful places to explore and has given me constant inspiration. It’s a humbling place. This past June I traveled to Europe – Portugal and Berlin – and would highly recommended both for different reasons. Southern Portugal for its beaches and surfing; and Berlin for its art and music scene.

What else inspires you? People, photographs, collaborations, landscapes, plants, colour theory, animals, stories, environmental issues, patterns, music, movement – it’s all linked.

What are you most afraid of? I would say I am most afraid of failure. Having anxiety and self-doubt for so long was setting me back and getting in the way of putting myself out there with my art. I’ve decided to push that a side and listen to the more positive voices in my head! Get out of here self-doubt. Bye, bye for now.

Have you always been so (seemingly) fearless and adventurous? I’ve always loved to try new things. I’m from a small farm town in Ontario. I moved out to the west coast right after University and fell for the outdoor lifestyle. Since moving out west I have been traveling, solo, with friends or with my partner. It helps that he is very adventurous as well. We push each other to try new things. I used to be afraid of heights (still afraid), but he encouraged me to start climbing, and now I love it!! I never thought I would climb, ever. Next, I want to take on surfing!

How do you think that your small town upbringing has influenced your artistic practice or overall mentality, if at all? Is there anything that stands out as being particularly “small town” or “East Coast” about your art? That is a very good question. I’m not sure my small town upbringing shows so much in my art aesthetically. I do think it influenced my art. There wasn’t much excitement growing up in a small town; no movie theaters or malls to hang out in. There was literally nothing. It was just you, your friends, nature and your imagination. I think that’s where the surreal aspect of my work comes into play, through having to create my own little worlds.

How does Vancouver inform your creative output and general attitude towards being artistic? Vancouver is a young city, but it does have an art scene, you just need to know where to look. It has really been growing in the last few years. We have Mural Fest now and Public Disco. Things are really picking up. I’m inspired by many of the creatives making things happen in Vancouver.

What needs to change in Vancouver in order to make it a better place for artists? Number one would be cheaper rent. Rent in this city isn’t cheap, and then add a studio onto that. Meaning more work at the day job and less work creating in the studio. Number two would have to be artists getting payed for their work. When you’re an artist you are expected to work for free because you are getting “exposure” in return. It’s nuts. Unless it’s a collaboration then artists should be getting payed for their time and skill. Bottom line.

How are you personally contributing to making it a better place, do you think? I believe I contribute by making art and collaborating with other artists. Getting each other involved gets the creativity flowing.

I have run a couple of collage workshops in the past. I would like to do more of those. It’s nice to meet people in the community and everyone seems to open up and enjoy the experience! I’ve also been applying for more opportunities with the City of Vancouver. They have artists calls for community-based projects. The goal is to colab with artists and local businesses to share my art on the walls of Vancouver.

If you could travel to any place during any time period – real or imagined – where would you go? I love everything tropical so I would go to the most tropical place on Earth. Or maybe it’s called Planet Tropicana, with all things tropical! Waterfalls and parrots and white sand beaches. And climbing and surfing and treehouses to hang out in.

Tell me about the last dream you remember having. I had a strange dream where I was walking through a maze and each room looked like a Broadway stage. Each room had a different cast of characters, some who I knew. I came to a room with Astroturf lining the ground and a single locker in front of me. I opened the locker and sitting there was a brown wallet. I opened it. There was a picture of a bearded man. There was also about $400 dollars cash in the wallet. I took the wallet initially thinking to find its owner. The whole while I thought, this is just a dream, what if I just take the money and return the rest of the wallet? I then looked down to see I wasn’t wearing any shoes and was walking bare foot on the dewy grass.

Where do you see yourself and your career in the next year? 5 years? Decade? I would like to be working as a full-time artist, collaborating with other artists, landing some commissions for larger commercial work, traveling, building skills, maybe even more directing and set design!?? I know in 5 years I want to be successful with my art.

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