The first time I heard of Kit and Ace was when I received a email from the store manager, Sarah Hutchings, asking if I would be interested in doing a commission for the store opening in YYC. Knowing virtually nothing about the company, I hit up google for some answers and was immediately impressed by the classic, cool style of the brand. Then after meeting with Sarah face to face and hearing a bit more about the project and the company’s vision I got a little more excited! It was so cool to be working with a company whose vision is so fresh and out-of-the-box!
So, began the Kit and Ace painting journey. (In case you’re wondering, Kit and Ace is the relative of Lululemon. The founder's wife and son, Shannon and JJ Wilson, began this company that specializes in technical cashmere t-shirts...and other soft and cuddly products. )
A little glimpse into my process.....The top image is a crude version of the shapes and composition that I visualized - this is me just getting what's in my head out on the paper. The middle image is a "frankenstein-ed" drawing of what the finished piece will look like. I rely heavily on the sketch. At this stage, what you see is basically what you get, minus the color and paint. Finally, the photo above gives you an idea of what the staging was like. I take many many pictures before choosing the best pose for each character.
Kit and Ace was kind enough to basically give me free reign on the concept and content of the piece. The initial idea came to me one night while in my studio, and was inadvertently influenced by Wes Anderson, since I had recently fallen in love with his film the Grand Budapest Hotel and was on a serious WA kick. The concept was intended to capture the nostalgia of free-spirited, childhood innocence, while growing up in a time of political and cultural incorrectness....The excitement of summertime camps and playing cowboys and Indians...this was the vibe I was going for. If you look at the original sketch you'll see the camp leader wearing a First Nations headdress. After a lot of discussion back and forth with Sarah and a friend closely linked to the aboriginal culture, I decided to remove it. At the time there had been a lot of controversy floating around about the misappropriation of aboriginal symbols in pop culture, and although art is a great vehicle for social commentary, there is a time and place for everything, and this wasn't it. So, off came the headdress.
At the time, I definitely had an internal fight with what to do with the empty space behind and around the camp leaders' head. The headdress carried a lot of visual weight on the left side of the painting and I was disheartened about having to employ a non-existant "plan B". For the life of me I couldn’t find a satisfying solution that wouldn't be a complete afterthought! But lo and behold I found a solution, and the solution ended up being the moon. Pretty magical stuff, if you ask me. :)
I've decided that it is completely vain to be lovey-dovey with your own art like I am with this piece, but I just can't help myself. I love this painting not because of the aesthetics, but because it represents the sheer delight of being fully immersed in the creative process and seeing something through to the very end.
On a side note, my 5-year old was as excited about this painting as I was. He wanted to be a part of the process too, so he did his own version of the painting. That long-necked, wild-haired figure on the left is me, and in my lap is him, all cute and tiny. (He got my hair to head-size ratio correct). The red image at the top says "NO GHOSTS".....as in ghostbusters. Because you can't have ghosts hanging around the campfire, people. I'm also pretty sure that those black things coming out of the fire resembling 5, 39 and 10, are supposed to be marshmallows roasting on a stick. Well, either that or they are the numbers 5, 39, and 10 and represent our respective ages, which is also very possible. Exploding sparklers for a birthday cake perhaps?? It shall remain a mystery. :)
The final piece below, and a few images from the Kit + Ace grand opening....
Thanks for reading!