Toronto Tuesdays: Patricia Storms

Today’s guest is Patricia Storms, children’s author, illustrator, and artist. I’ve known Patricia for several years and have always enjoyed her gregarious nature and infectious laugh. Patricia is a fantastic artist who uses bright colours and infuses her work with pure joy! She’s also a wonderful supporter of her fellow artists and writer friends. Welcome to Toronto Tuesdays, Patricia!

What’s your favourite creative medium? What draws you to expressing yourself this way?

Hmmmmm. Difficult question to answer. My favourite creative medium is whatever is making me feel the happiest and fulfilled at any specific moment. I seem to toggle between writing, drawing, painting and singing, with a little bit of clay sculpting on the side.

Right now I’m getting lots of satisfaction with my gouache painting. In the past, I had thought that I did not have what it took to attempt painting, plus at that time I was very busy with my cartoon work, plus, well… in the past I experienced a lot of questions regarding how much money I could actually make with my art (I came across the usual attitude towards artists – you can’t make any money, you’re having too much fun, it’s time to grow up, ergo, stop doing what you are doing). So I was quite obsessed with making coin with my art to prove my career path. The pandemic changed a lot of things – for me it was finally reaching a point in my life where I no longer cared about what others thought about my life choices. Though I do want people to enjoy my art, of course. But in the end, it’s important that I love what I create – it always shows in my work, I think, whether or not I’m enjoying the process.

For me, with my gouache painting, it’s like something finally ‘clicked’ and now I’m not afraid to attempt challenging subjects, like painting water or clouds, or drawing a detailed forest scene. I love the feel of gouache paint on paper, and I love painting wild and loose as well as tight and detailed (tho wild and loose is much more fun). I’m eager and excited and I want to try it all before I shuffle off this mortal coil.

What inspires you to create? And, as a follow up, why is creating important to you?

The natural world is a big inspiration for me these days. Flowers, plants, animals, trees, clouds – it feels like my blinders are off and I see so much, it’s a bit overwhelming, sometimes, soaking in all this natural beauty. I also love photography (fell in love with this medium while studying graphic design), so I take lots of photographs of potential subjects for me to paint.

I’m also fascinated with the world of fantasy – Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for example – or pretty much folktales from all over the world. For some reason I have a strong desire to paint my interpretation of Little Red Riding Hood, The Snow Queen, and something really dark and delicious, like Krampus.

So why is creating important to me? Big question.

I would say creating is important to me because that is how my brain is wired. My brain does not work in a regular way, if that makes any sense. It probably makes sense to those who don’t understand me, heh. Math and numbers do not excite me. Fashionable clothes are of no interest to me these days, and please, don’t talk about sports or buy me jewelry. When I was young, my world was all about constantly creating. My sister and I shared a bedroom and we spent a lot of time in a very detailed, fantasy world. My sister is also a very talented artist and writer. When we were kids, we spent a good chunk of our time drawing and writing comic strips, as well as making up songs and stories about this detailed world. Our characters had detailed lives and problems as well as unique faces and voices. So not only did I learn about creativity, I also learned a bit about collaboration and acting at a young age. So when I entered school, I was always trying to find a way to add creativity to all of my projects. For example, I once wrote a long Elizabethan-style poem about Richard III’s famous soliloquy. Another time I wrote a musical based on The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. In biology class I presented the concept of cloning by creating a play with a crazy scientist, his sidekick Igor, and lots of toy frogs. I wrote detailed poems about various subjects instead of writing boring essays. I gotta say, I really suck at writing essays, which might seem odd for someone who loves literature so much. But my brain is not gifted when it comes to formulating arguments. I’m just not interested in winning arguments. I’m interested in ideas and sharing these ideas with others to generate interesting conversations, and to learn and grow. I have no interest or patience for ‘one-upmanship’ at all. So as a kid I wasn’t that interested in my appearance or competition. So much of my activity went on in my head. Unfortunately, back in those days, there was a LOT of pressure for girls to be focused on their appearance to gain approval and attract men. At least, there sure was a lot of pressure on me to focus on my looks. It takes a lot of strength to ignore these pressures and follow one’s heart. I got a bit lost here and there, but I’m grateful that I can now fully immerse myself in my creative passions, instead of fussing about my hair or clothes, or make-up. Creating is what I am meant to do. I want to be remembered for my art, not my appearance or how clean my home is at any given moment.

What, or who, is your greatest creative influence?

Heh – that’s another loaded question. Because my interests and artistic styles have changed over the years, so too have my influences changed. When I was young, my heroes were cartoonists. People like Lynn Johnston, Charles Schulz, Bill Watterson, Walt Kelly. When I studied Graphic Design in my mid-30s, I learned a lot more about abstract artists like Jackson Pollock or Jean-Paul Riopelle. When I got into illustrating children’s books, I wanted to learn all about children’s illustration, past and present. Nowadays my focus is on painters – artists of the past like Frida Kahlo, Breugel and Chagall, as well as contemporary artists on Instagram. You can really get overwhelmed with all the amazing art found on Instagram.

What is your favourite time of day to create?

Definitely the morning/early afternoon. Mornings are fresh and full of possibilities – plus my brain tends to work better earlier in the day.

Which of your creations is your personal favourite, and why?

Another really hard question! Hmmmmmm….. I think my book NEVER LET YOU GO is one of my personal favourite creations because it had such a wonderful response from readers young and old, and the story was completely unplanned, straight from my heart. It’s my one book that has been translated the most, too!

How do you deal with creative slumps?

I’m fortunate that I don’t experience creative slumps too often, but when they happen… if I’m having trouble working in one medium, I will change mediums for a bit. So I’ll go from painting to writing or drawing to singing, etc. If I’m slumped in everything, napping or exercising helps.

Who are you beyond your art? Give us three insider facts about you.

Wow. Thinking about this question makes me realize that a big chunk of my life is all about art! 

I’m a big fan of old movies and TV shows, as is my husband Guy. We love snuggling on the couch doing a movie/TV marathon of Brit murder mysteries or a collection of classics, like say, all the Doris Day movies we can find, or the complete series of Perry Mason.

I love to dance – not professionally, of course. But these days kitchen dancing is my go-to exercise to boost my mood, and attempt to get into shape. 

I’m a terrible gardener – I’ve failed at numerous attempts to create a flower garden in my front yard, and a vegetable garden in the back. And yet – I adore flowers and trees and love just gazing at lush, colourful gardens.

As you can see, my life is pretty quiet…. 

What’s one of the best – or most memorable – questions you’ve ever been asked, and how did you answer it?

This is what happens when you ask a middle-aged person this question – they can’t remember! I know that over the years I’ve had quite a few intriguing questions from kids during school visits – questions like how much money I make, who is my boyfriend (???), and where do I get my ideas. Probably the question that has stayed with me the longest actually came from a cartoonist instructor I met many years ago at the Dundas Valley School of Art. I was still unsure about what direction I should take in my life, and he was frustrated with my inability to make a decision. He asked, “What are you going to do with your life, be a missionary?” I laughed. And thankfully, I did not become a missionary.

What’s something you’re excited about right now?

Another good question!

Hmmmm…. I’m quite excited about the launch of my latest picture book, SUN WISHES. And I have a story to tell about it: The idea for SUN WISHES came about at one of your Christmas parties! I think it might have been the last Christmas party you hosted before COVID. I had brought a copy of MOON WISHES for people to look at. The lovely Kate Blair after reading my book said something like, “Well, so when are you going to write SUN WISHES?” My jaw dropped. I had not considered that idea at all! But as soon as she said it, I could not stop thinking about it, and within the next few days, the words poured out of me so easily. I love it when that happens!

I was able to celebrate the release of SUN WISHES at Word on the Street, OUTSIDE!!! And as well as presenting SUN WISHES, I also hosted the Children’s Literature Tent again! Plus, I did a live presentation of SUN WISHES at the Museum of Contemporary Art on June 4th. 

I’m also really excited about summer this year. Winter felt like it would never end (and I usually love winter!), so feeling the warmer weather, along with all the delicious colours — it really helps my mood. I’m really looking forward to painting lots of nature scenes.

And I was so excited about spring, I made a collage of my flower photos!

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions so thoughtfully, Patricia! I’m excited about summer too! And I love this flower collage! 😍

You can find Patricia at her website and on Instagram

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