Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name’s Kirsten McCrea and I’m an artist and a publisher. I run an affordable art subscription called Paprimass. And I also paint murals and illustrate and do all kinds of different things.
How did you get started as an artist?
I’ve been drawing obsessively since the age of four. Being an artist was a thing that my parents were happy to encourage when I was a kid, but then as I got older, they were like, “Well that’s not really a thing that people do professionally.” So I went to university and did a few years of women studies, and after a few years of that I was like, “You know, art was always the thing I was best at and there’s an entire industry of people who work in the arts so it can’t be true that it’s not possible to be that.” So I dropped out of university and went to arts school and the rest is history. I’ve been doing it professionally now for about nine years.
Where did you go to arts school?
I did my first two years in Edmonton, which is where I’m from. And then my final two years I went to Concordia in Montreal. I took studio art, so I kind of took it as an opportunity to dabble in a whole bunch of things. I was doing some painting classes, drawing classes, some screen printing, some video.
I didn’t take any classes that had to do with design, the more business side of art, or anything to do with illustration specifically. It’s funny because that’s actually what I ended up doing when I got out of school, was working a lot with things that involved the Adobe Suite and stuff like that. I’m totally self taught when it comes to that stuff, but I think that there’s an advantage and a benefit to a self taught learning curve; you get to discover stuff things in an unusual way, so I’m glad it worked out the way it did.
Can you tell us a bit about the print subscription company?
I run a print subscription called Paprimass and basically we’re a monthly creative surprise. We send an art print in the mail every month, but it also comes with an artist interview and a little card that has an artist quote on one side, something that we find inspiring. On the other side, there’s a fun, creative activity for someone to do. It’s our way of sharing what inspires us with the rest of the world. It’s an excuse for us to also write to people who’s work we think is amazing, and rather than just being a fan, we get to actually offer them an opportunity and that’s really nice in terms of connecting with people.
How did you create our menu artwork?
I started out with line drawings on paper. I did a loose sketch in a light pink pencil crayon, and then went in afterwards with pen and drew in fine ink. Then I scanned them into the computer and did the colouring and watercolour effects digitally.
Knowing that the menus were coming out in the Spring, I thought that it would be really great to do something that was really uplifting, and had a spring theme. I wanted to have a lot of plants and a lot of flowers. When you guys first approached me, it was pretty cold in the winter, so I was thinking very longingly of warmer days and warmer weather ahead. I think my favourite one out of the batch end up being the bunny rabbit. He’s super cute and I just thought what a perfect iconic image of Spring.
If there was any artist you could work with, who would it be?
I love so many different artists for so many reasons. I really love Shepard Fairey. I think he’s done a really amazing job of teaching his progressive beliefs and incorporating them into really well designed iconic imagery. And then translating that into prints and murals. When you see his work, you know instantly that it’s his. He’s done so many different thing in the similar style, and yet they all look really different and fresh. I think he coordinates pattern into his work really well which is something that I love. I’d be so curious to spend a day in his studio.
What are your 3 most precious art tools?
My three most precious art tools are definitely Montana Acrylic Paint pens. They’re what I do most of my drawings with and I love that it’s paint but that you’re drawing with it so you have this really, really great control. I also have a friend who just got me into Molotow, they’re also acrylic paint pens but they’re a lot more opaque and they have a better colour range. So I’ve been kind of going nuts with these recently. When I paint murals, I really, really love spray paint. It’s only something I started using a few years ago, but it’s so fast and you can get these amazing shading effects, so I’m a big fan of that. And if I had to list one more, I would say just a good sheet of paper. High quality, nice paper you can’t go wrong.
Do you have a favourite spot in Toronto?
My number one favourite place in Toronto is Toronto Island. Every time I go, I can’t believe that there aren’t more people there. It’s amazing it’s a $7 ferry ride and you’re in this beautiful wilderness. There are incredible beaches there, there’s an artist residency there that I’ve done a few times. It’s such a fun place, like I’ve never had anything resembling a bad day there.
Image courtesy Agnieszka Gaul/iStock
Every time I’m there it’s such a relief from the city. Even in the Winter it’s nice. I stayed there once in February and it was so beautiful. The water from the lake comes up and hits all the stones and it creates these crazy ice formations along the waterfront that you never see anywhere else. It’s like these crazy natural sculptures it’s really cool.
What’s your favourite project you’ve worked on recently?
I was really lucky to create a few more murals last summer. Canada’s this funny thing because you only really get to paint outdoors for a certain percentage of the year, so it almost doesn’t even feel recent. But I was fortunate to go a graffiti and mural festival in sudbury. I got to paint a big mural on the side of Northern Ontario’s only gay bar. I was like “This is so awesome!”
I just love anything that can celebrate a particular community. Especially people who don’t always have the easiest time. I felt really fortunate to get to participate in that and to play a tiny role in help solidifying that history. It was also just really fun to get to explore a new city, Sudbury’s a great place!
What advice would you give an aspiring artist?
I think the number one thing when you’re starting out in art is to not give up and find a way to keep making it. The first few years are really hard, you don’t have a reputation yet, people don’t know who you are, and it can feel very competitive. And the sad reality is that as a result of that, most people out of art school eventually stop creating work. I think the number is that 10 years later on 10 percent of young artists out of art school are still creating work in a meaningful way. So I always thought if you can just keep making stuff on a somewhat regular basis then bam you’re automatically in the top 10 percent. So I think the thing is to just keep going and not give up.
In another life, what career would you be pursuing?
I thought at one point that I would be a lawyer because I thought you know “I’m really good at arguing,” and then I realized that I’m terrible at arguing in person. I’m really good after a confrontation of thinking of what I would’ve said. And that does not make a good lawyer.