As the cool winds arrive in full force, we’re ready for some seriously cozy imagery here at Demetres HQ. Luckily, local Toronto artist Kima Lenaghan delivered just what we were looking for with her fantastical menu art featuring an autumn fun fair. Featuring giant lady bugs and gourds aplenty, we couldn’t wait to sit down with Kima to learn more about her work and the inspiration behind these seriously detailed illustrations.
Hi Kima! Tell us a bit about yourself and your art journey so far.
I just graduated from OCAD, and this is the first year that I’ve been illustrating as a full time job, once I realized that this is something I can do to make money. Before this I was working in retail and I was getting a bit caught up in it, thinking that “this is so easy, and I like everyone here, so I can just stay.” But then finally I surrounded myself with the right people and decided to quit retail this February. It’s been super easy from then on to get completely into art and cut out everything else.
What made you decide to pursue art? Was it something that you’ve just done ever since you can remember?
Yes it was always sort of obvious… when I was graduating high school, I was thinking of doing either science-based art like biomedical illustrations or just illustration in general. Once I started OCAD, I knew it was definitely going to be illustration.
How long did it take you to develop your current style? Was it something that you had already established when you started at OCAD?
I was kind of all over the place when I first started. I wanted to do teaching, I wanted to do book illustration, and now the biomedical drawings are a far away thought. But I do have a secret dream of doing a textbook one day – to make the most beautiful textbook ever. I’ve been getting into things like edible plants and wildlife and fungi, and those would be really cool to illustrate.
What are your favourite tools to work with?
The Micron 005 pen is my favourite tool of all time. It’s the smallest tip you can find. I’ve been using it since first year, and got obsessed with it in my drawing and painting class. I would do observational drawings with this, and just go to the museum and get real specific with it for every little detail. I also just got this iPad [points] for the menu project, because it allows me to draw at the cottage, so this is my new favourite thing right now. Those two are the only things I really use, aside from markers for fun or paints occasionally to add little bits of colour.
Tell us about a recent project that you’ve really enjoyed doing.
I would say that my favourite things to work on have been my own projects. My Homo Conscius series is one where I’ve been really getting into the research. I read books about human evolution, and tried to come up with an alternate timeline for the way humans evolved that would be more true to our own consciousness, as well as not destroying the environment. Basically what would happen if things never went this route… kind of like sci-fi meets fantasy.
When it comes to sci-fi centred around our world, there seems to be a spectrum ranging from a dystopian view to a more idyllic situation. Your work veers towards the more positive end of the spectrum – is this expressing perhaps your own personal yearning for a better world?
It is a little bit. Lately I find myself moving away from the city a little, and wanting to be somewhere where it’s not so hectic, and I think that that definitely reflects in the work. So it is a little bit of “what if everybody felt this way” – but not all of it is idyllic. For my recent work in reimagining extinct animals coming back to live in today’s society, you’ll find these animals living in circuses and being traded on the black market.
With this menu project, did you find that it pushed you in any way especially since our menus are quite large, and your illustrations are very intricate and detailed?
This menu was created digitally, and usually I don’t work digitally. But being able to edit the illustrations was important in this case. I found that doing it digitally actually made me draw everything a lot bigger. So in a way, it might open the door for me in making bigger works in analog. I don’t think I’ll do more digital work though, because I like the fact that in analog there’s only one of the artwork and that makes it special in a way.
When you’re not working, what do you get up to here in Toronto?
When I’m in Toronto I’m mostly doing artwork [laughs]. But even when I’m working, I try to integrate that time with learning or entertainment. So I listen to audiobooks and podcasts, and doing those things simultaneously allow me to have fun and work at the same time, so it doesn’t feel like you’re working as hard. During the weekends I’m usually in Muskoka – it’s nice to have a break there, and it’s more relaxing than anything I can think of to do here in Toronto.
Here’s our 2018 fall menu cover: