When an artist is magical, her art will be magic too: this is the premise behind the eclectic and extraordinary oeuvre of Toronto-born artist Lydia Knox. Of Czech descent, Lydia is the daughter and granddaughter of florists. She traces her expansive sense of colour to her early-teen years, when she worked in her grandmother’s Queen Street flower shop. There, she was entranced and inspired by the glorious natural palette of the flowers, and the many-coloured and shining wax-paper wrappings, with which she would play at creating art. Already a talented illustrator, Lydia also began to observe and appreciate the properties and variations of colour, and just how magical they can be.
In addition to her love of drawing, and her new fascination with colour, Lydia was also influenced by the art-nouveau architecture of Prague. At the age of ten, she had spent a summer there, visiting family, and the glorious excesses of the colourful architecture fascinated her: the lines, the faces, the curves and lettering. This, too, influenced her creative spirit, and she knew by the time she was a young teenager that she wanted to be an artist.
Lydia enrolled herself in classes at the Art Gallery of Ontario while she was still a teenager. There, she was exposed to various media and was encouraged to experiment. She was introduced to such new artistic experiences as etching and batik. As she entered her twenties (and became a young mother), she enrolled in Fine Arts at York University. There, however, her undiscovered talent as a writer and poet found recognition. She eventually received her degree not in Fine Arts, but in English and Creative Writing.
For many years Lydia's focus was on her writing. She found work as a creative writer with an up-and-coming internet company, while building a portfolio of poetry and other writing efforts. At one point, her employment took her to Panama, where once again she found her original calling as a visual artist had not died. She was fascinated by the shades and hues and palette of Panama, where even the city buses were as brilliantly-coloured as hummingbirds.
However, in 2008, the economy collapsed, and Lydia found herself without employment. She also found that her original passion - her intense need to create visual art - could no longer be set aside. She made the decision to return to art and to train her raw skills, to allow her vision to grow with discipline, experience, and direction. As much as she believed her art was a spiritual gift, she wanted to learn more about what she could bring to that gift, to ensure it was allowed the greatest room to move.
Lydia obtained her Certificate in Fine Art from George Brown College, as well as studying privately and in self-directed studies such as those offered by Stephan Galvanek. "He was a big influence on my art," Lydia explains. "He encouraged me to focus on oils, and since then I have worked almost exclusively in that medium. Like the Romantics, I believe that nature is alive, and that it speaks to us. I find that oil paint as a medium provides me with the best connection to nature's voice."
Lydia's love of nature and her need to commit to it in her art found further nourishment during her two-year stay in the interior of Florida, where the deep greens of the trees, festooned with curtains of Spanish moss, made her feel like she was breathing underwater. Water, and the colours green and blue, feature prominently in her works to this day.
A dedicated auto-didact, Lydia has embraced the influences of Emily Carr, particularly her depictions of the forests of British Columbia. She has also, however, familiarized herself and found inspiration in such varied schools and artists as the Pre-Raphaelites, Edward Munch, and Vincent Van Gogh. She became adept at the reading of tarot cards, particularly those illustrated by the artist Pamela Coleman Smith.
Her unique style is at times Impressionist, at others surreal. Even her most serious pieces tend to feature some whimsy. Lydia's pieces frequently feature magical-looking women, as well as creatures such as owls and wolves. The power of nature - its oncoming storms, its massive ice-jams, its bursting and powerful springtimes - are all brought to life in Lydia's art, as she incorporates and draws power from her own spirituality and struggles to define her self-image, particularly in relation to the wildness around us.
Lydia has now settled into her home and studio in the Bruce Peninsula, where she lives with her beloved husband Andrew. There, she feels at home, surrounded by the wild landscape, where she can hear coyotes howling from the peace of her yard, and listen to the cries of the sand cranes as they fly over in migration.
When not painting, reading about painting, or writing about painting in her blog, Lydia enjoys a nice glass of whiskey. She also knows how to box and to shoot a gun, although she has not recently been called upon to do either.