– An Interview with Painter Graham McKenzie
by Alyssa Laube
About: Graham McKenzie is an easy-going and honest person who draws his artistic inspiration from nature. Most of his work is based off of hikes in the Fraser Valley, so British Columbians can visit the scene of Graham’s paintings! He finds joy in escaping the man-made world and immersing himself in the magical, sporadic qualities of the natural world. With his paintings, he invites the viewer to experience it with him.
Your interest in art started with wax crayons. When did you pick one up for the first time? Is there a reason why you loved it so much?
When young, we all pick up wax crayons. I remember my first real art lesson was given to me by my mother. While visiting some friends and colouring with their child, I liked the way his colours looked compared to mine. I told my mother that I wanted crayons like his. She simply said, “Don`t push down so hard.”
Art left your life for a while. Do you know why that happened, and what inspired you to get back into it?
I don`t think I lost interest in art, it just faded away for a while. I started having dreams which rekindled it, and soon started to push a pencil around.
How did working with your drafting board help you develop as an artist?
An artist, no matter what their skill level is, needs a work place; a place where you can return to your work and not have to clear up because it’s dinner or bed time.
How has your art evolved over time?
I really believe that practice makes you better. The more you paint, draw, or scribble, the faster your fingers and brain learn to communicate. I feel that my paintings have evolved over the last couple of years because I’ve made an effort to make painting more than just a hobby. I have always been a detail-oriented person and have been working creating more depth in my work.
Your desire to paint nature and landscapes started after you began to hike in the Fraser Valley. What is it about this place that inspires you?
Even as a child, I spent a lot of time in the woods playing and making forts. Walking into the forest really excites me! I love the green of B.C.. The way the moss grows and hangs from the trees creates a magical wonderland.
What are some of your other favourite places to paint?
I don`t know if I have a favourite place to paint but I really like the Cultus Lake area and Lindeman Lake as well.
Why do you love to paint nature, rather than anything else?
I work in the aerospace industry, where everything is measured down to the one-hundred thousandth of an inch. Everything is very controlled. Now, with nature, everything is beautifully random and free. It`s that freedom that allows a person’s mind to wander, paint a branch or throw some leaves here and there to suit your mind’s eye.
What does creating art do for you?
Sometimes, when painting, you get into this zone where things are flowing. It`s almost like meditation. You’re thinking about what you’re painting, your day, the people in your life, listening to music, or sometimes all of them at once. It sounds busy and crowded but your mind just wanders. Then you look up at the clock and 3-4 hours have flown by.
How would you like to challenge yourself in the future?
I feel like I`m just getting started in my painting career, so I definitely want to put more effort in and be more disciplined. Large canvases are intimidating, so I think I have to tackle some of those as well. I’ve been fortunate in that I have met a lot of helpful and unselfish people over the last couple of years who’ve been very supportive. I want to continue to support others that I meet and pay it forward, as they say. B.C. has a great artistic community and I’m grateful that I’m starting to mix in.