Tell us about you! Where are you from, what was life like growing up?
I was born in Vancouver, BC and raised around the lower mainland, mostly Delta and Surrey. Growing up was alright, I think I was a pretty typical kid in the 70’s and 80’s. I got interested in art at a really young age, doodling on scrap paper while sitting at the kitchen table with my Grandparents and when I was around 9 or 10 I saw graffiti in a movie called Beat Street and that was it for me, I fell in love with that style of art and that’s what I wanted to do.
What made you decide to pursue art as your life passion?
I didn’t really decide this, it’s just something that has sort of happened for me. Like I mentioned above, I’ve been creating art since I was a kid but it was something that I was always told that I couldn’t do as a job and needed a “real” job. Unfortunately I listened and worked full time doing something I was ok with but wasn’t passionate about for about 18 years and kept creating art in my spare time but just for fun and for myself. It was only a few years ago that something changed in me that made me decide to actually make my passion a reality and I’ve been super fortunate to have been making that happen since. Maybe a mid-life crisis? I don’t know but I’m glad I’m doing what I love everyday.
What’s it like when your pieces are displayed in a gallery or at a show?
It’s always a humbling and exciting experience for sure. I feel super fortunate to show and sell my work, something I put my heart and soul into and my goal with any work I have on display is to evoke some emotion within, whether good or bad.
What artists from the past or present inspire you the most?
For most of my life the majority of my inspiration has come from the graffiti community to be honest, older artists who I look up to as well as my friends and even the younger generations. There are a lot but a few that I want to recognize would be my two mentors and long time friends Shiver AWR.HNR and Reel BNA.XMEN as well as Cos, Kaput, Cameo and Ranks. Outside of the graffiti community, besides all the amazing artists who I’m friends with, my main inspiration would honestly be my husband Kristofer Parley, he’s an amazing artist that specializes in watercolours and pen & ink. He’s the one who pushed me to show my work for the first time and over the years he’s been the kick in the ass I needed to step out of my comfort zone and try different mediums and styles.
What around you inspires you most when you are creating a piece?
Just what’s around me honestly. I get inspiration daily from my surroundings. I live and work in Chinatown in Victoria, BC alongside my husband and this neighbourhood and city in general is super inspiring. The positive, exciting and supportive energy that I’m surrounded by living here as well as being surrounded by historic 100+ year old buildings and the history behind them, great weather and awesome beaches year round, watching the tourists look at the city the same way I did before moving here… all that inspires and shapes my work from my abstracts to portraits to graffiti influenced, etc. I moved here just over 3 years ago and I’ve created more work in that time than I have my whole life I think.
What are your favorite pieces to design and create?
I tend to change up every once in awhile but I’m known for my colourful abstract acrylic pieces and my custom HO Scale model train graffiti pieces. I also really enjoy working on portraits of dogs and cats, love the challenge of capturing their personality and I find the challenge of making the portraits look realistic keeps me wanting to make more. Lately though I’ve really been focusing on the model trains, I really like making these miniatures look as realistic as possible. The majority of the graffiti on them is done using a toothpick dipped in acrylic ink so they take a lot of time but I enjoy the zen feeling of focusing on a canvas that small.
How do you select what materials to use in your art?
I have my favourites that I like to use for certain work… acrylics for my wood panel abstracts and for my model train work, spray paint and ink for my graffiti inspired pieces and pencil crayons for my portraits. I learned through trial and error over the years what particular brands of mediums I enjoy using. I’d suggest if you’re not sure where to start for a piece you have in mind to go to your local art store and try the samples of different paints and mediums and don’t be afraid to ask the staff questions. Also ask your artistic friends and artists you look up to what they would suggest. I’ve learned a ton just by asking my friends… sharing tips, tricks and experiences with various supplies.
What are your plans for the future?
I’d like to keep creating art that I enjoy making and to continue working with young adults and youth as a teacher, mentor and facilitator. I’d like to continue making art accessible to anyone around me, regardless of age or skill level, who would like to either give it a try or learn something that I can maybe help them with. Art is therapeutic to me and has helped me throughout my life and I’d like to keep making those around me feel comfortable and inspired to create.
Click here for more information on Nathan’s work.
Lesley is the founder and editor of What’s Up NW. Prior to creating WhatsUpNW.com, she was the Seattle city editor for AskMissA.com. For both publications, Lesley has covered fashion shows, openings, and local charity events. She has written numerous articles shining the light on local businesses, encouraging readers to always shop local.