Tracy Root is an observer, a critic and a narrator. Her role, first and foremost, is to visually enhance and emotionally touch the lives of others. If one person can rethink her idea of beauty, reconsider an opinion, avoid making a swift judgement, or gain a deeper understanding or awareness, she has done what she intended.
Tell me a bit about yourself and your background?
I was born in England in 1964-immigrated to Canada when I was a young child. I was artistic from a very young age and my father, also an artist, encouraged me to read as much as possible about art and study the old masters. I had a very early love for animals, esp. Horses and animals were my main subject matter up until my early 20’s.
I have 3 sisters, one of whom is a photographer and playwright though I’m the only sibling who got the art bug. I also have one son, Lucas living in Alberta.
What is the first memory you have connected to creating art?
My first memory connected to art was when I was about 3 years old and I remember cutting out drawings I had done of lambs and making a mobile with them.
How did you get started in the art world?
In the early 90’s the curator, Leonard Jubenville of the Thames Art Gallery in Chatham, Ontario noticed my work was developing into a totally different style than before (I had previously worked as a realist) and offered me a two person show with an artist from London. That was my “break” and beginning of working as a professional artist.
How would you describe your subject matter or the content of your work?
I have two main subject matters with my work….landscapes and figuratives. I like to incorporate the land (whether urban or natural) with my figuratives. I use a lot of geometric shapes, clear strong brushstrokes and try to simplify as much as possible.
When doing strictly landscapes, I try to portray the movement of nature in the piece and the emotion I am feeling whilst picturing being right at that spot at that moment.
My figuratives are more often than not, a reflection of an inner longing I have; an experience I’ve been through or seen another go through and social issues often come up in my more urban paintings.
I am a very narrative painter and even if I’m not aware of it, a story line develops as I paint and once the piece is complete, there is always a lot of symbolism and a story to be told.
What mediums do you work with?
I’m very old school with my paintings using strictly oils. I don’t varnish my work, finding a matte finish more appealing to my style. I also do illustrative work and use watercolor and ink.
I do use acrylics for the murals I have done though.
What is your WHY?
Good question. What is my why? Hmmmm….I am an artist and have been one, I believe since birth so I have a strong drive to create. I honestly don’t think I have a choice in the matter.
I have a hard time verbalizing a lot of different feelings and emotions but can put it onto canvas. I feel VERY deeply and have always needed an outlet for my emotions. Some of my most powerful paintings have come out of tumultuous times that I could not express any other way. Painting for me is second nature…..like breathing almost and sometimes a very healing act.
What are you presently inspired by— are there particular things you are reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
I am presently working on a solo show for September. Nearly 2 years ago I had a huge crisis in my life-lost nearly everything- and am doing a show on the journey of healing I’ve taken. I’m having to look deep within myself and my connections to people and nature and my biggest inspiration is coming from my daily walks through the woods along the river right now.
I listen to all types of music while painting….very eclectic and very inspiring….depending on my mood I will listen to anything from Nirvana to Elton John! Music is very much my muse and I can’t paint without it! I say my ears lay flat to my head because I’m always wearing headphones!
What is the most profound experience you’ve had as an artist in your life?
I would have to say it was the collapse of my very toxic and abusive marriage. At the time I thought I would never recover and was absolutely devastated with the events that happened. But my biggest inspiration and my best pieces are now coming out of my introspection into myself and the journey of healing I have embarked on over the past 18 months.
I was left with absolutely nothing. Physically, emotionally and spiritually. Really, just an empty shell and I stopped painting for about four months; thinking I would never be able to paint again. But I had some sort of spiritual awakening during this time and began rebuilding my life and the inspiration I’ve gotten out of this I’ve never had and it’s quite exciting. Now I’m painting more hours than before and have more ideas than I’d ever had.
Besides your art practice, are you involved in any other kind of work?
No, I have been fortunate to be able to work full time as a professional artist.
Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?
Absolutely! I am working on approx. 25-30 new pieces for my upcoming solo show, “Transforming Hearts” at Kings College, UWO. This will be my most important show to date for myself as all of the pieces are stepping stones through the past couple of years of my life and the healing journey that I have taken.
Are you involved in any upcoming shows or events?
Yes my solo exhibition……
“Transforming Hearts, One Artists Journey Through Poverty and Into the Richness of Faith” at Kings College (Wemple Building), UWO. The opening reception is September 26/2018 at 7 p.m. and the show runs through until October 9
Where can people see/buy your work?
People can pop by my studio to see new works at 1140 Dundas St. East (2nd Floor of McColloughs Costumes). Call or text first to set a time. 226-224-9853
Also May-October at Circle Arts Gallery in Tobermory, 14 Bay St, Tobermory, ON N0H 2R0
Phone: (519) 596-2541
and in Port Stanley at the Art and Soul Cafe, 291 Bridge St, Port Stanley, ON N5L 1C2
Phone: (519) 782-9987
Any advice for emerging artists?
With social media rampant with mediocre artists now who have excellent business skills my biggest suggestion would be to hone up your marketing and business skills if you want to earn money with your art. Many excellent artists are generally not the best business people but to compete today and to earn a living you either have to be able to market yourself successfully or have someone who can do that for you.
Develop your OWN style! Stand apart from other artists. I’m fortunate that I have a very unique signature style and it is constantly evolving. This is very important.
Follow the road less traveled….don’t worry about what others think.
And above all, practice, practice, practice! Make art your life!!
Words to live by… a favourite quote or motto?
“A Picture is a Poem Without Words” by Horace
Thank you Tracy, very inspiring!
interview by Ann-Marie Cheung