I first met Laina shortly after starting a small artist community called the Kamloops Open Art Society (KOAS). The process of starting this society was slow– but I was quickly approached by a young woman artist by the name of Laina McPhee. If not for Laina’s support and enthusiasm, there might not be a KOAS at all.
One of the first things I came to appreciate about Laina was her openness to discuss mental health. As artists, we’re often labeled as neurotic creatures who thrive off of inner turmoil in order to make art. After attending a Nick Cave concert last year, I took a new perspective to heart with the words he had said to his audience “Misery does not inspire art, we make art despite misery.” I think the same can be said about art and mental health. Despite our struggles with anxiety, depression, past trauma or whatever we may deal with– we use art to help heal us.
I knew I wanted to feature Laina as soon as I came up with the idea of having a blog celebrating women artists. Her vision of a community of artists was paralleled to mine and her passion was infectious. Read what Laina has to say about what it’s like to be a woman, an artist, a Kamloopsian, and a human just trying to make it by in the modern world.
Q: How long have you lived in Kamloops?
A: In short: 7 years. Long answer: This is my hometown; my sisters, dad, and several other relatives were all born here as well. When I was four years old, my family moved to Vancouver Island, living there for 13 years until coming back to Kamloops in 2016. I have stayed in town since and look forward to continuing to make it my home for years to come.
Q: When/Where/Why did you start making art?
A: I used to tell everybody that I was the least artistic person they know; that I had no creative skills whatsoever. When I was in grade 10 at Esquimalt Highschool, I needed one more course to fill my schedule, and picked self-paced Art 11 as an “easy course.” I figured if it was self-paced I could just ‘bs’ my way through the semester. What I found was a natural talent for watercolour, and a soon-to-be fascination with all things you could create. There was no bounds and being in self-paced, I could choose what I wanted to explore. I’ve never stopped exploring since then.
“I used to tell everybody that I was the least artistic person they know”
Q: What are your artistic goals for the next 5 years?
A: My goals for the next few years are mainly to build my portfolio, expand my personal business into more commission work, and continue to develop my (our) new project the Kamloops Open Arts Society into something that can truly add another layer of depth and resources into the Kamloops art community and scene.
Q: What are your favourite mediums and what medium do you want to try?
A: I practice in a few different mediums, mainly pen on paper, watercolour, photography, and acrylic on canvas. My favourite medium to date is plain old acrylic on canvas though. I will probably be trying out oil soon, not as of yet because it’s a bit daunting for me, but my dream-medium has to be marble sculpting. Very expensive and hard to do, requiring lots of brain power, planning, and strength, marble statues and sculptures have always captivated me.
Q: What is the best and most difficult part of the Kamloops art scene?
A: The best part is definitely our small-town feel. Although technically a city, the community is still small enough that if you know a couple of people, you pretty much know half the town and art community by association. The most difficult is absolutely the flip side of that; because Kamloops isn’t a huge place, it doesn’t have the resources and developed art scene that somewhere like Kelowna or Victoria has. There is little to no accessible spaces for unestablished artists to meet, gather, be social, and be creative.
“I actually did my art school (grade 12) final project on the correlation between how my art style developed alongside my mental health. I initially only did black and white, very monochromatic pieces, that were much more twisted and surreal. As I became more comfortable and confident in myself I began painting much more colourful, abstract pieces. It was very difficult at first to learn to manage my anxiety around painting, specifically having to start with a plan, following very particular “rules” I would set for myself. The more I let go the more my art developed and the more I liked it myself.”
— Lindsey Tyne Johnson