I had the opportunity recently to chat with an Edmonton-based artist whose work I’ve admired since the first time I laid eyes on it.
I met Byron McBride through my wife about eight years ago. While we haven’t exactly kept in contact, chatting with him is always like re-connecting with an old friend. I appreciated our conversation, which you can read below.
I must add, however, that Byron demonstrated incredible vulnerability sharing about his dyslexia. I would encourage anyone experiencing symptoms to seek support. You can learn more about dyslexia from the International Dyslexia Association or Dyslexia Canada.
[Featured Artwork: “Scissor Girl” by Byron McBride. Acrylic on wood.]
The following responses are lightly edited for length and clarity.
01. Rock, paper, or scissors?
I always go with rock and I always regret it.
02. What are three interesting facts about you?
A. I never wanted to be an artist. I wanted to be a musician but I was not that good at music and pretty good at art.
B. I’m dyslexic. I didn’t realize when I was a kid but my dyslexia drove me toward art and kept me in art, which was a great thing for me to have.
C. My art is largely inspired by comic books and Renaissance artists. Although, recently I’ve been finding more inspiration in graphic novels.
03. What is the best single day on the calendar?
Halloween. I don’t like scary movies that much but I will scare myself silly throughout October. I’m not a dressing-up type of guy either but I will for Halloween.
04. Is art your career?
I have a full-time retail job, so art is still a part-time thing. Like most artists, I hope to do it full time but I still do ok.
05. What is your go-to band or artist?
That changes a lot but I’m gonna have to go with the Rheostatics. They’re the most Canadian band ever and were a favorite of The Tragically Hip. Right now, Bran Van 3000’s “Drinkin In L.A.” is my go-to song.
06. What is the main medium you use in your art pieces?
I use acrylic on wood panels.
07. What inspires your art?
Like I shared, it was originally Renaissance artists and comic books. More recently, I’ve been drawing inspiration from graphic novels. But, really, I’m most interested in lines. Being able to delineate shapes in either simple or complex ways to represent reality. Recently, my exploration of solid, definitive lines seems to parallel the uncertainty of the pandemic we’re in — just having solid points of reference to help navigate through the murkiness of uncertainty.
I also love exploring what things are made of. For example, if there’s a bridge, I really find it important to include the nails, include the support structure. I feel it’s important to show the behind-the-scenes things like what’s holding this bridge up or what’s holding it together and how does it all interact to make it complete and fit into its setting. That’s where I am as a person right now — trying to figure things out — and my art is reflecting that.
08. Where did your passion for art start?
My uncle had a friend whose name was Norman Johnson. He was a renowned watercolor artist in Alberta. He would come out to all the family functions and he would bust out his watercolors and just start painting at the table. At school, I would think about that and just doodle in notebooks connecting what I learned from him with my own exploration, like taking a stick figure — like a duck — and filling it out into it fullest form. The drawings became more elaborate. Having an actual artist in my life really helped.
09. How did your dyslexia play a part in your art?
I always knew I was different. I was great at things other people weren’t, like art, and vice versa but no one could ever explain it. I came to the realization in high school but it went undiagnosed. While it’s been a real benefit, I also didn’t deal with it because I didn’t know how to. I didn’t know where to get help. I developed my own coping mechanisms and was just kind of fine with it. I seemed to be a well enough functioning human being and just left it at that. That lead to challenges in my relationships and I’ve since stopped hiding it and am continuing to work on it.
10. What are you hilariously bad at?
Dancing. The rest of my family is really good at dancing, especially my parents. My dad actually competed back in the day and my sisters are competitive. But, at weddings when the dance floor comes out, I try to find a dark corner.
11. Are you more productive at night or in the morning?
I’m more productive at night. I do like to work in the morning but, generally speaking, I try to get life stuff out of the way in the morning so I tend to work in the late afternoon and evening.
12. What hobby would you get into if money wasn’t an issue?
Dungeons and Dragons. But that level of board-gaming requires a lot of time and I would have to quit art.