Interview by Y. Levin
Bombing Science: First off, where are you from, where do you like to write, what do you write?
Labrona: Hi. I grew up in Ottawa but have made Montreal my home for the last ten years. Ii am known for painting trains but I do street stuff too.
I just like painting outside.
BS: What does a typical labrona day look like?
Labrona: These days I’m working on art shows, so I spend my time working on paintings. I like to get a graffiti and skate session in there too.
BS: What are some of your favorite spots/scenes to skate?
Labrona: My favorite place to skate is in ottawa with the dudes I grew up skating with, we have been skating together since the 80ies, it is supper fun, makes me feel like a kid again..
BS: If you could get away with it, would you rather do one huge piece or lots of small pieces? Where would you do these pieces and why?
Labrona: I’ve always wanted to do a huge mural, like a whole building. I hope I get a chance to do that soon.
With trains I like to paint as many as I can. There are millions of trains so if you want to be seen you’ve got to get them out there.
BS: When did you start doing art for skateboard decks? How did it feel integrating your art and your skateboarding?
Labrona: I have been doing graphics for homegrown skateboards for about a year and a half.
It’s been awesome I always dreamed of being a pro and having my own model. When I was a kid I spent all my time in class sketching my pro models for made up companies. Homegrown is a really cool company my friend Jesse makes all the board himself by hand. I go down there for a few weeks do the graphics and help silk screen the boards.
BS: When did you start doing canvasses? How is that different from your preferred medium of trains?
Labrona: For awhile I just sketched and painted trains. My friend Other got me into a couple of art shows and from there I started doing more and more shows.
These days I’m painting for shows all the time. When I paint outside its done really fast it’s not planned out I just start painting a fast as I can. I don’t second guess myself I just go. When I paint inside I spend ages just looking at the painting figuring stuff out making changes. My canvases are way more thought out and polished. Outside my work is more free and spontaneous
BS: I’ve read that you find the face as the most expressive part of the body. Also, I find a lot of your faces have a slight, almost Mona Lisa, smirk to them. Any thoughts on that?
Labrona: I like my characters to have a mysterious air to them, like they know something we don’t.
I’m really influenced by the mood of old religious paintings the facial expression are so intense.
I try to capture the same intensity of those old paintings and use them in a non religious context.
The Mona Lisa smirk is so classic and iconic I’m sure I’ve been influenced by it.
BS: So is there a certain classical artist who influenced you? Who do you think of when you thing classical art?
Labrona: Oh yeah I am influenced by lots of classical art. I went to Europe on a skateboarding/girlfriend mission in the 90’s and checked out all the museum and churches. I was really liked the work I saw in churches stain glass windows and the massive religious paintings.
I remember seeing Picasso’s Guernica in Madrid and being really blown away. I saw some Hieronymus Bosch on that trip too, his stuff was amazing.
I also spent a lot of time going through art books at the library. There is so much stuff out there to be inspired by…
BS: Are you happy about seeing all this street art going into shows? What do you think about people like Banksy and Shephard Fairey who are making tens of thousands of dollars on their canvasses?
Labrona: Street art is on the streets, once it is in a gallery it’s a painting on the wall. You can’t buy graffiti, I think when it is done to sell it becomes just a painting, it could be a painting done in graffiti/street art style but once its left the street it’s just art. That being said I am happy with all the hype street art has received, it enables me to make a living doing art. I can’t really complain about that…
BS: Have you done any street art with mediums other than ink? Like stickers, wheat pasting?
Labrona: My street stuff is done in oil stick and sometimes spray paint. My pieces take awhile so I usually paint in chill spots so I have enough time to finish something nice. Wheat pastes would be great idea to hit some high profile spots. I have been meaning to do some for years but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’ll do some this summer.
BS: Do you still have those class sketches from your youth of your pro models? Have you seen an evolution from those pieces?
Labrona: Well, I am still painting people. My work has evolved a lot. I’ve been painting and drawing from my head mostly these days no photos or models. I would like to do some more life drawing to add a bit more realism to my work, I think I’d be better at it now then I was ten years ago at school.
BS: Finally, if you had to choose one, would you spend the rest of your life being spontaneous on train pieces, or doing elaborate long thought out canvasses?
Labrona: That’s a tough question. I think I take a chill train spot with constantly a rotating supply. I’d be content with that.