Studio Visit 3

Tristram Lansdowne, Painter

Tristram Lansdowne is a watercolour painter. Born in Victoria, B.C., he lives and works in Toronto. He’s represented by LE Gallery and has exhibited all over North America. His paintings juxtapose 20th century architectural ideas with present day urban environments.


I do tiny scribbles in my sketchbook to work out ideas but my work takes forever to make and if I do really thorough prep work, I lose interest. If I do four detailed prep sketches, I can’t be bothered to do the painting at that point. I also don’t want to know exactly what it’s going to look like. I need to do color tests because with watercolour I can’t change it. It just goes on and that’s it. Other than that, I try to get away with as little prep as possible.


I work from photographs that I take myself, mostly. I have a general idea from my stupid sketches of what I want it to look like and then I figure out which parts of the photograph will fit in different spots on the painting. A lot of people ask me, ‘Why don’t you use a projector. It will be a lot faster,’ and I agree. It would be way faster but sometimes things turn out wonky and it’s good, you know? I don’t want to be an outsider artist but I like some naive painters because their work looks really interesting because it’s a bit off–not because they’re trying to make it off but just because it’s a bit off. My process allows for wiggle room, for error or changes in scale or something that’s warped. I like that. It gives more tension to the piece.







Watercolour is what I’m most comfortable with. I like that it sits between drawing and painting. Some people don’t consider it painting, which is fine with me because I can bring in architectural illustration and botanical illustration–things that aren’t necessarily considered in the general art realm. I like that it straddles that. It’s always made more sense to me. Oil painting is like moving mud around, for me. Watercolour isn’t spontaneous, but there’s something riskier about it because I can’t change too much once it’s on there.


I start in the morning and work until five or six. It’s a product of how long it takes to make a painting. I don’t think I could possibly produce enough work if I didn’t work like that. It’s not to be overly disciplined, I just work better in the morning. I really prefer natural light. I get the sun in my eyes for an hour and a half every morning so if it’s sunny so I wear this hat. Luckily no one is usually in here at that time.






I did a couple etchings last year and more this spring. I’d never done it before. It was nice to do something drawing-based, line-based. It’s a bit frustrating because you work on plate for a couple of days, then you put it in acid, then do a test print and it’s usually not what you expect. It doesn’t turn out the way you want it to. I realized that printmakers are much more patient than painters. I worked on the etchings with Gideon Näf. We’d make a print and he’d say, ‘It’s different, it’s cool,” and I would say, ‘No. It’s wrong. We have to do it again.’



–Tristram Lansdowne, as told to Studio Beat

Photos by Courtney Vokey



Check out Tristram’s work HERE.

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