Rebecca Chaperon’s got some magic in her. The Vancouver artist translates notions of place into enchanted, surrealist paintings; her work is dotted with mystical crystals, wobbling rainbows, and colour schemes of a different world.
As the queen of curating mood, she definitely knows how to create a cozy environment for herself with simple pleasures—like a good podcast or a living room full of art from close friends. She was kind enough to answer some of our burning questions via email—read on.
Do you have any rituals that tie into your artistic process?
I do have a few rituals that tie into my creative process and I feel that these rituals change to support my artistic process depending on how busy I am and the type of work I am doing. For example, I love to use “free-writing” in the mornings to plan my actions and clear my head when I am working on multiple projects. There is an amazing app called 750 Words that lets you know when you have completed 750 words and then analyzes your word choices to give you an idea of your state of mind. It’s a very good way to stay centred when things get busy…and the analytics part is a fun bonus.
I always like to listen to podcasts when I have a more repetitive and detailed painting to work on. My work is fairly solitary and time-consuming, so I’ve come to think of my favourite podcasters as my pals. They keep me company and make me laugh. In the case where I have just finished up a project and want to reset the energy of the space, I like to clean my studio and rearrange the furniture. This is a time when I begin to reset my intentions for my next project, and setting up the space helps me visualize the way I will approach this.
When I need to write about my work—artist statements or proposals—then I read poetry. This is an important ritual as it helps me tap into language use in a more free way. In particular, I have been incredibly inspired by poet Hannah Stephenson. Poetry makes me slow down and really think and feel in a way that is hard to describe, but makes it much easier to write. I have collaborated with Hannah since 2014, and I sense that her writing will always be an important ritual for tapping into my work in order to write about it without getting to technical, disconnected, and distant.
Place is especially important to your work. What’s your favourite place in the world (real or fantasy)?
Oh! That is a tough question—I don’t travel much, but earlier this year I went to a very stunning place called Esperance located on the south coast of Australia. I didn’t know places could be that beautiful: the ocean was absolutely glittering and there was hardly anyone there. My only sadness is that there is a pink lake there (like in my paintings!) but, alas, it wasn’t pink that day. The conditions have to be perfect and I seem to remember it needing to be hotter. Right now my favourite fantasy place to be transported to would be Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry because I want to see all the moving paintings, ghosts, secret passageways, and magic!
If you had to, how would you describe what your series Eccentric Gardens smells like?
I think that Eccentric Gardens would smell like vitruvi’s Grove blend. Grove is such a green smell—it reminds me of fresh evergreens that stretch to infinity. It’s very rejuvenating and clean. Eccentric Gardens is a series of paintings of lively and surreal gardens that represent an inner space that is overflowing with creativity. This inner space is a place I go to in order to feel inspired and refreshed and to be transported to a better headspace. Grove reminds me of this and teleports me into the midst of British Columbia’s vast, lush, and misty forests…with a little bit of campfire thrown in the mix.
Who is your biggest creative inspiration?
It’s a complicated answer! I think primarily my mother had a huge impact on the way that I perceive the world around me. She convinced me from a young age that magic exists, and I think this sense of magic and mystery comes through in my paintings. On the other hand, I have been inspired by so many people and I constantly discover new artists who inspire me—whether they are young, emerging, and unknown, to the famous and dead. I love the work of Canadian artist Wanda Koop—I think she is brilliant and such an inspiration. I also love the work of the surrealists, including Remedios Varo, Leonora Carrington, and Dorothea Tanning. The way they build up stories within their work is amazing and so unique.
What draws you to surrealism?
Surrealism offers people some escape from the mundane; it is a little bit of magic. Also, it doesn’t play by the rules. There is such a liberated creativity in surrealism that I adore. There is also a sense of storytelling, which is interesting to me, and I think aspects of this are fairly apparent in my paintings (some more than others). I have built up an army of subjects that appear throughout my work (for example, my “wobbling rainbow”) and act as little metaphors for creativity, mystery, transformation, and ideas about perception.
Tea or coffee?
Coffee! Though I wouldn’t say no to a cup of tea, either.
Other than with art, how do you create mood or atmosphere in your home or studio?
At home I acquiesce to my partner Ben, as he is very picky about scents. There I would choose to diffuse the single essential oils rather than the blends—Bergamot, Lavender, Eucalyptus, etc. After all, one way to a harmonious atmosphere is respecting the shared space. I really love to have a quiet space at home so I can relax, and books and warm light get me through the dreary B.C. winter weather. People often assume that they will see lots of my art at my home, but I love to surround myself with the art of friends and artists who are kind and positive people—it’s nice to be reminded of them throughout the day.
At the studio I have been hosting Secret Painting Parties. I host a few of these every year and people get to come and relax and paint with me. We paint crystals, icebergs, moons, and strange little landscapes—all of the things that I love to paint. In order to welcome people into the studio and transform it into a serene and creative place, I love to light candles and arrange flowers; this November, we diffused vitruvi’s Dusk blend—it was the perfect choice. It sets the stage perfectly for creativity and a thoughtful, meditative practice. It reminds me of temples and churches—places where people can soften themselves and be in the moment.
“Stop thinking about artworks as objects, and start thinking about them as triggers for experiences.” – Brian Eno
This interview has been edited and condensed.