Alyson Borycki is a Toronto-based artist transplanted from the heart of the Canadian prairies in Saskatchewan.
Our recent chat was filled with lots of laughs and plenty of insights from this super-talented contemporary abstract artist, who also has a passion for her house plants (and who wasn’t shy about sharing this fact).
I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did.
[Featured Artwork: “My Oasis” by Alyson Borycki.]
The following responses are lightly edited for length and clarity.
01. Rock, paper, or scissors?
Rock. Because it’s the first on the list.
02. What are three interesting facts about you?
A. Right before I became a full-time artist, I was an elementary school teacher in Saskatchewan. That’s where I was born and raised. I moved out to Toronto about three years ago to live with my partner because he lives here.
B. I love my house plants. The last time I counted I had about 35. I get super excited when a new leaf pops out.
C. I’m a pretty good mixologist. I like trying out new cocktail recipes.
03. What is the main medium you use in your art?
I use mostly acrylic paint right now and some pencil crayon. I really love collage. I haven’t used it to much in my work yet but that’s something I want to explore this summer when I have a little more time.
04. What inspires your art?
I’m inspired by a lot of things: patterns found in nature; the small details of things; the movement of different types of music; conversations I’ve had with people that I replay in my head; graphic design, especially mid-century modern design with bold colors and geometry; and things like architecture and cityscapes.
Right now, I’m just really interested in exploring different parts of myself that I feel have been hidden or that I’ve undervalued in myself throughout my life and just figuring out how to move past that need for perfection or for outside validation.
I like to mix different types of shapes and patterns together in my artwork. It’s just a way to show we can be many different things at once. We don’t have to fit ourselves into a box. I’ve always been observant of details in my environment. Even though my work isn’t detailed in nature, my work is often drawn from those little details like cracks in a sidewalk, veins in a leaf, or how a flower might cast a shadow.
05. Are you more productive at night or in the morning?
I’m not really a morning person. I’ve always had trouble getting up. I don’t know if I’m productive at night either. I’m more of a mid-afternoon person. That said, I do find myself very productive when I do get myself up in the morning.
06. What is the most unique thing about the city you live in? (Toronto, ON)
I live in Toronto and I’ve lived here for about three years. Most of it was during pandemic times so I’m just starting to really explore the city and the neighborhoods. I appreciate the diversity of the different parts of the city and that there is always something new to see and explore. The thing I like is that it’s always changing and always in flux. It just feels alive and I like that.
07. Is art your career or a hobby? Something else?
I think it’s both. I think I’ve always been an artist in some form or another. In the last couple of years, I’ve made my art into my career. While I was a teacher, I was just so busy all the time and I yearned for a time when I could just do my hobbies but I didn’t have the time or energy for it. So, when I quit teaching, I dove back into several of my hobbies that I was missing and started to feel that spark, feel more alive again.
Art, in many different forms, will always be my hobby. But I’m also lucky enough to have it as my career.
08. What kind of training do you have?
I am a self-taught artist, which means that I didn’t go to art school. But I grew up in a really creative family. My aunt was a professional artist and she taught me so much of what I know. I also take workshops and different types of art classes.
At the time when I was choosing my major, going into art school didn’t really feel like an option to me. Part of me thinks that if I had gone to art school when I was younger, I don’t know if I would have been able to make it into a career like I have now. I appreciate the path I’ve taken. I’ve experienced a lot that has allowed me to get where I am today.
09. The art is one thing, but what’s your secret to generating interest and ultimately selling your art?
I’ve always tried to treat my art as a business. It’s important to me to invest in myself and my business and learn as much as I can. I take courses for creative entrepreneurs and I read a lot of books and listen to podcasts to try to keep learning how to create a successful art career. I always try to be very intentional and professional with what I do.
For me, what’s been important — and what’s important for a lot of artists — is just being able to learn how to build connections with people and being able to look at things in a variety of ways. Being open to new ideas, but also remaining true to who you are and what your values are.
10. Where did your passion for art start?
I think back to when I was really little. I grew up in an artistic family and my aunt was an artist. Some of my favorite memories as a child were spending time with her in her art studio. She would let me go into her studio and play with whatever materials I wanted. It was never about the end product. It was about experimenting and playing and figuring out what I like to do. It was more than just a hobby, it became a passion to me early on. I think that’s where it started.
11. What would be the most annoying thing about having yourself as a roommate?
Probably how many plants I have. I’ve monopolized all the window space in my house and filled it up with plants.
12. What is your go-to band or singer?
I’m really into music. I’m a bit of a music nerd and discovering new music is one of my hobbies. Right now, I’m listening to a lot of Jacob Collier. He’s an incredibly talented musician. He does jazz/funk type music with super rich harmonies and dozens of instruments. When I’m painting, the different ways he composes pieces and the different harmonies he uses make me come alive a bit.
13. What’s something you’ve been meaning to try but just haven’t got around to?
Dance. I’d love to take a dance class of some kind. Maybe hip hop or ballroom dancing. Just anything that might teach me how to move my body in a different way.
14. What household chore do you actually enjoy?
Vacuuming, for sure. If there’s crumbs on the floor and then there’s none, it’s just a sense of accomplishment.
15. What app do you use most often?
Instagram. I think it’s great for artists because it’s highly visual. But what I use it for mainly is being able to connect with other artists. I think I have a really strong art community on Instagram and we help and support each other. A lot of major opportunities in my career have come about through people I have connected with through Instagram.
16. What is one common misconception about being an artist?
I think a lot of people grow up with that starving artist stereotype engrained in us. I did. I always wanted to be an artist but even in my own mind I always thought it wasn’t possible. So I didn’t even consider it an option. I had to do a lot of inner work to unlearn that mindset. I had to learn that my dreams and aspirations are valid and that being an artist is a valid career choice.
Something that has really helped me with that is to surround myself with like-minded people and with people who have been successful in creative businesses.
17. What is your favorite drink?
My favorite drink is tea, but I do also love making cocktails. I think my favorite of the traditional cocktails is a margarita, but I try to put a spin on it by adding different ingredients.
18. What do you hope people get out of your art?
I’ve received a lot of feedback on my art that it makes people feel happy and calm. That alone is enough for me. But I hope people can look at it and see themselves reflected in the art or just see the world differently in some way.
People need to feel lit up, feel good in this world. Because my art is about my own self-discovery, empowerment, and growth, I hope that people can be inspired to find the truest version of themselves as well.