Studio Visit 4

Kim Dorland, Painter

Kim Dorland is a painter. Based in Toronto, he exhibits across Canada and internationally in Milan, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. His painting are in private collections including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Glenbow Museum and Berlin’s Sander Collection.


The concept for my next show is the word ‘ghosting.’ It’s when you close your eyes and there’s that imprint of what you’re looking at, and whatever other connotations come up with that. I conceptualize bodies of work with my wife Lori. We got together when I was 17 and she was 16 and we’re still together. She knows what I’ve been after the entire time.


She’s ruthless with my ideas. It’s not like she gives me the idea and I paint it like a monkey. It’s just that she’s really helpful because my brain doesn’t stick to one idea. The ideas tend to float off into pieces and Lori helps me hold it together and keep my eye on what I’m doing.


I drive my kids to school and then paint for five hours. It’s tough because my time is dictated by their time but it’s fine. I have awesome kids and I’m happy to do it. They hang out at my studio quite a bit too. They have a clubhouse.


When I first moved into this studio, I thought I’d have my office in there but I can’t have internet so it would just be a dead room with a desk. Instead, my kids can go in there and just go crazy, which they do. I put their studio shoes on and they’re happy.







If my time was open, it would be a nightmare in here. I’d get lost in that. I’m a process-oriented painter and I get so lost in the process. I want to say this, but I don’t want to sound arrogant–I’m really good at painting now. However, there’s a point where being good at something can actually be negative. I can come in here and make a painting that will look convincing but it won’t have the guts.


The process I go through helps me make sure that painting is reaching for something, or goes through a long period of failure before it comes out the other side. There’s always difficulty to it. Something I didn’t expect happens or something challenges the viewer.


I really believe in painting and the integrity of the work. I really believe in the difficulty of painting because there’s a lot of easy painting out there. I believe in frustrating that process as much as possible.








Life is hard enough and busy enough outside of the studio. When I come here, I come to work. If I’m not a nazi with my time, it’s too easy to have it frittered away. My time in here is lean and mean. When I had lots of assistants, the music went up and I ignored everyone and worked.


Music is a way to become clear, if that makes any sense. I have the music on extremely loud. I’m sure my neighbours despise me, but it’s just a way for me to push everything out of my head. It’s a way of turning everything off, for me.


I had two big breaks. The first was when my thoughts came together and I was able to recognize that and dive in and purse it. The other break was when I realized that the entire superficiality of it all–going to openings, shaking the right hands, networking–it doesn’t actually work. It works to a point, maybe, but the only thing that will ever get you ahead is making great work and the only way to make great work is if you’re completely dedicated and push yourself as hard as you can. There’s no secret. There’s no formula to a big break.






In high school, I wasn’t going anywhere. I wasn’t going to do anything. I was smart, but I didn’t try in school. I didn’t really give a shit what happened to me–then I fell in love with Lori and I knew that I wanted to do something.


She gave me that drive. She’s super supportive, but when she was 16, she didn’t know how I was going to make a living as an artist. No one thought I could. One day her grandmother sat me down, this amazing fucking hard-as-nails¬†Ukrainian woman who grew up on a farm, and she said, ‘Maybe you can just invent something?’ but then she was the most proud of me when things worked out. It’s all or nothing. I never had a back-up plan.


–Kim Dorland, as told to Studio Beat

Photos by Vuk Dragojevic



Check out Kim Dorland’s website here.

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