Interview: Winston Torr & His Intuitive Artistic Process
Winston Torr is a global citizen with roots in Toronto and LA, while currently residing in Berlin, Germany. His intuitive, free-flowing, let-the-art-lead-me approach is refreshing to see in an artist making great strides in selling his work via relevant channels to fans collecting in various price points.
His work is always an extrapolation, a process of yielding to a power outside himself. Without rigid constructs, Winston creates collages, charcoal on newspaper drawings, and original paintings, then makes prints available of most of it.
By harnessing technology and creating various market entry points for himself, he’s been able to build an art career that doesn’t bet on home runs or relies on chance. He’s making the work, putting it out there, and selling it. We love that he’s just as focused on creating things that inspire him naturally as he is nurturing his entrepreneurial side, creating more time and space to make.
Ahead, we dive into Winston’s process, inspiration, thoughts on technology, favorite artists, and of course, his love of croissants.
Evan La Ruffa: Thanks for doing this, we’re excited to connect. I have to start out by saying, I love about pages like yours that tell a global story. You moved early on, until what age were you in Canada and how did relocating in LA each shape who you are now?
Winston Torr: I moved to Los Angeles from Canada when I was 4 years old.Toronto and LA are great learning grounds as a child growning up in an artist upbringing, also even as an adult. There are many inspirations to discover indoors and outdoors to really want to create. Where ever I was I always found art and creation in every little detail.
I grew up with an artistic mother who painted on china porcelain pottery and a father who drafted blue prints for electronic mock ups.
Although both had technical jobs, I have always looked upon them for their craft.
As a child I was always “awed” by every little aspect. I wanted to experience everything even up to this day. I even have done about two dozen odd ball jobs, in which at the time I did not think they were odd ball jobs, all while going to school and creating. Actually I really wanted to learn the craft of doing specific jobs, although they bored me so quickly and so on to another job. I yearned for certain challenges mentally and physically even up to this date. I even have a list of languages that i am learning and want to learn. All in all, I am always motivated to learn new things! Learning is what shaped who I am now.
Do you remember the first piece of artwork you made that you were happy with?
The first piece of artwork that I ever made consists of experimental abstract explosions of paint, found objects, and earth pigments on canvas. I was very happy with it, yet also unhappy with it. It was a piece of art in which could not last, yet lasts in my memory forever. It was unlike any piece that I ever made.
Tell us a little more about your process. You paint and make collages, is there any hierarchy to those practices? Is there one that feels more natural to you?
There is no particular hierarchy to my practice of painting or making collages. I started out with doing nude figure drawings of my friends with charcoal on newspaper, then I started ripping fashion magazines to create abstract looking portraits, and finally came to the oil paintings. Everything that I do seems to look like a collage. I start out with a clear image and then ends up looking like an explosion. What feels natural to me is creating with a blast of thoughts!
Your newspaper figures are fantastic as well. How did those come to be?
Accidents come to be at the most anguishing times. I have always asked friends to pose nude for me. In one drawing session in 2003, Germany, I ran out of drawing paper and grabbed whatever I had to save the moment. Afterward, what happened to be an every day throwaway item became a part of my practice that has continued to today. I realized that newspapers reflect a certain type of truth that society looks upon to grasp information. What we don’t often realize is that the the news or our social media feeds are always partial… some of it is the truth, most of it we do not really know because where were not really there to experience it.
These are stories people tell. I also worked in a Newspaper Company before as a layout artist and so acknowledged how much a story is stretched or cut by a writer / editor just to fill a column. Sometimes they even leave out certain truths! Drawing on Newspapers helps me to cope with this attention, allows me to create my own world on a medium I have no clue how long will last in this technology world, and in a way also lets me deal with who I am situated in this society with the truths, the lies, and the in between.
Years later I created a visual diary project in which I would draw self portraits every day for one year. That is 365 days! I learned alot about myself and tested my patience, boredom, and created new challenges. I turned this project into a book called “The Daily New(d)s”, mainly because I wanted to keep all the drawings together, and catalogue where I when I created it, as this was the year I had traveled the most around the world. Friends later inquired about copies so I made it available on Amazon. You can get it here.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day for me consists of getting up pretty early, or pretty late, depending on how late I work in the early evening or late midnight. I would get up, drink plenty of warm water for digestion/ hydration and eat fruits while doodling to get my brain juiced up. I would then begin to paint or collage until whenever I feel I had enough. If I had an appointment with a life nude model this would also fill in the gap. Afterwards I would go out walking as this helps clears my mind. I hardly eat in the day, except for fruiting, drinking water, and making sure I get the necessary diet with protein shakes. Eating a full course meal would only confuse me mentally and make me tired, so I leave that until I really feel hungry in the evening!
In our last interview, we spoke with Cassia Cogger about how art is like yoga or meditation, in that the act of making can silence your mind and make time fly. Do you relate to that feeling at all? What’s going on in your head when you’re making these amazing things?
I am in a different world when I create. I do not remember more than half of the stuff that is going on in my head when I am creating. It is like some mysterious release happening for the moment, and then when I am done, the trap door closes. I can’t remember a thing except seeing transparent colors like spirits fly around in the air. And as I mentioned prior, I have too many thoughts going at one time when I create. I meditate when I take many walks around the block and parks every day.
How do you feel about technology connecting artists with fans and visa versa?
Technology definitely has made it easier to share and see what artists are up to, but I have a love and hate relationship with Technology.
You currently live in Berlin, which is seeing quite an artistic movement these days. Do you like Berlin? Why or why not? What about it do you think has led to it becoming a beacon of creativity?
Every city has their own individualistic highlights. Berlin has definitely become tremendously perky for artists around the world. I do not recollect meeting this many artists in one city, for a city that never sleeps. There seems to be an Artist in every soul here, even if they have an office job. There are artists coming from every end of the world to the waahoo just to taste Berlin!
What experiences of Berlin you ask? This is to be determined on an individual basis. What ever you want! It is here.
It has led to becoming a beacon of creativity because people just do not give a rats ass about popularity. They either like your work or they do not and are quite honest in a kind manner without affecting the friendship or offending.
If you feel happy about creating what you create, then create it! At the end of the day, it is you that you must approve, not others.This is Berlin.
When you’re bummed out, what’s your favorite thing to do, eat, listen to, or place to go?
When I am bummed out, my favorite thing to do is to make a dessert that I have never made before. I also got into making hand-made bar soaps, cream, and lip balms. Once in a while I would spend half a day just making fresh croissants from scratch, and spontaneously calling friends to come eat it up. One can not just make one croissant. A normal batch is about 60. I would also spontaneously have coffee and cake afternoons in which I would invite friends to come eat the 8-9 cakes I made. This makes me happy to see my friends and family eating what I made. They are my taste testers. This turns my bummed out into far out!
At IPaintMyMind, we love to focus on artists who create prints of their work. We like the accessibility of the price point as well, in that it allows more people to participate. What made you decide to offer art prints?
I decided to offer art prints because many of my fans do not have the cost of original art in their budget yet they would like a piece of my work hanging in their space. I like the idea of art prints being accessible this way because now more people in this world may enjoy art without breaking the bank, of course until they save up for originals and start collecting.
You mention a few collaborations on your website. What makes for an awesome project when working with someone else?
What makes for an awesome project when working with someone else is that I totally need to love their work and see their commitment to their craft. There needs to be some type of chemistry, like soda pop or vinegar and baking soda. Most of all I really have to believe in the mission of the collaboration or else whats the point.
Name one dead artist and one living artist that inspires you.