Heather Horton is a contemporary Canadian artist who focuses on internal states, contemplative narratives and often has a personal connection to her own life. She often paints friends or those close to her, as well as many self-portraits.
She was born and raised in Burlington, Ontario, Canada. She attended McMaster University where she received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. She then went on to graduate from the well-respected Interpretive Illustration program at Sheridan College.
Horton has been exhibiting regularly since 2004 and has had numerous solo and group exhibitions over the years. Her most recent solo exhibition was in Toronto in September 2020 at Abbozzo Gallery.
Horton now has studios in Los Angeles, California and London, England, as she now divides her time between two countries. She is beginning to work on paintings for a new show, but no location or date has been set yet.
A selection of her paintings is now a part of the permanent collection at the Canadian Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, as well as part of the Government of Ontario's permanent collection.
Several of Horton’s paintings can be seen in the Lionsgate film “A Simple Favor”, starring Blake Lively, Anna Kendrick, and directed by Paul Feig. Her work can also be found in private and corporate collections worldwide. She has also been profiled by Bravo! Canada series The Artist’s Life.
1. Have you always been interested in creating art? How young were you when you discovered this inclination?
I began drawing at the age of 10, and I dove right into it, using graphite, charcoal and a little later, watercolour. I didn’t use oil or acrylic paints until shortly before attending art college. I adore oils but found acrylics frustrating! But yes drawing came first, at a pretty early age!
2. Have you had a formal art education? How have you seen the benefits of your education as your work evolved?
I attended four years of art study at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario, Canada: a fundamentals course and then three years of study in Interpretive Illustration. I value those years highly, as I learned so much about colour mixing, different painting techniques with different mediums, and we also learned how to treat ourselves as a business as much as a creative. Those business courses were very valuable!
The benefits of the education in art have been present all along… it did give me confidence, which is an amazing thing to have. Artists and creatives are often very hard on themselves, but the education gave me a portfolio of paintings as well as the confidence to dive into the fine art world. I realized in my final year of art school that I wanted to be a painter rather than a commercial illustrator. I will never forget the support my instructors gave me to do that, stipulating that I could paint any way I wished, as long as I followed the curriculum!
3. Who are your biggest influences?
My first influence was Tamara De Lempicka… I loved how she painted drapery and people in quite a stylized, almost mechanical, planar way. That intrigued me.
I also love Frida Kahlo’s work for the deeply personal experiences that she stitched into her paintings. She truly did paint her life, albeit in my dream like compositions.
Lucian Freud is my other big influence. No one has ever painted flesh like he did, in my opinion.
Finally, Andrew Wyeth. I love his stark, sparse landscapes and his painting technique astonishes me every time I see one of his works.
4. What has been a seminal experience in your practice?
The first time I painted a large water painting (72”x48”), a collector asked to purchase it… I had only spent about ten hours on this huge canvas, but she saw the finished painting before I did. That painting is one of my favourites that I have ever done. So, her belief in my work and what the painting would evolve into, even before I fully grasped what was developing, is something I shall never forget.
5. How has your art evolved over the years? Is there a pattern? I notice that many artist’s flow is purely organic and with some their evolution is phasic.
I think that art is in many ways, like fingerprints: our style evolves over time and it is indelible yet fluid. I began applying paint in a planar way (inspired by Lempicka and Freud) early on, but have softened that overt treatment of it over the years. I think that there are many factors that are at work within the evolution of one’s art, and most of the factors are unconscious, at least in my own personal experience.
6. What challenges, as well as joys, have you experienced in your art career?
Many years ago I suffered from anorexia, and I painted all throughout the struggles with that illness. My art was a constant, and the knowledge that it was what I was meant to do with my life, sustained me, along with the love of my mother, family and friends.
A joy I remember was the first time a painting of mine was accepted into a juried art show in Toronto. I did a small painting of a pear, and the art critic Gary Michael Dault saw it and loved it, including it in the exhibition. I was so exhilarated as I was just finishing my last year of art education. It was a real coup.
Also, having several paintings in the film “A Simple Favor” was a huge boon and thrill. It was a wonderful experience, and I am very thankful director Paul Feig saw my work and wanted it the film.
7. What is integral to your work as an artist?
Calm seas, consistency of practice, setting goals for paintings and creative output, using the best materials you can afford, and knowing that to abandon the odd painting makes room to learn and create successful paintings.
8. Tell me a little bit about your life as an artist and how does it impact your personal and social relationships?
I have made some lifelong friends through my art, and I am thankful for each one. Art heals – it connects by the very nature of the practice, and it is also truly therapeutic as well.
The greatest thing to emerge from my art, however, is that it brought my husband Joss and me together. We met because he collected my paintings, and I was a great admirer of his work as a writer and director. One and a half years after he purchased some paintings we met, and the rest is history. Our mutual respect for one another’s art was a big factor in how we met and has been a wonderful witness to our falling in love. So I have art to thank for making this life one I am beyond proud to live, and to share it with him. I cannot wait to see what comes next, on the easel and off of it.
9. How does your art contribute to society?
I like to think my paintings help people slow down and take a moment to look inwardly while looking outwardly at a painting. I hope it might inspire them to ask questions of the work, of themselves. If my work can move anyone in a way that helps give them insight, or joy, or contemplation, anything that helps a person evolve perhaps, that is very exciting and rewarding.
10. You are a contributor to the TAE, when did you start and what motivated you?
David Sandum and I connected via Twitter many years ago, before the first TAE I believe. He asked me to contribute and I was thrilled to, as I love the ethos behind each exhibition, and donating to any cause which helps others is a huge joy. I have participated in about four of the TAE’s… I definitely want to create another piece for next year!
11. Are you involved in similar projects, contributing to fundraising or community development?
I just completed and delivered a portrait that I painted of a rescue dog as part of a charity fundraiser in Pasadena, California. Animal welfare is a huge love of mine, and I have donated paintings over the years to other shelters/rescues and animal welfare causes. It is profoundly rewarding to take part in those projects.
12. How has contributing benefited you as an artist?
It helps me to know that people and animals who are not as fortunate as I am might be helped in some small way.
13. Is there anything else you would like to share with the TAE Blog readers?
I will definitely be posting about any upcoming shows or exhibitions on my social media accounts. I am thankful to the TAE for giving my work exposure through their worldwide exhibitions!