When Noah MacLeod paints, he often starts with a shape on a canvas and lets the piece reveal itself.
“I’ll just draw a random shape — I don’t really think that much about my art when I’m making it — and then I take the lines and I make something out of it.”
It’s a somewhat similar process to how he created Local Losers, a youth-oriented art studio that had its grand opening on 30th Avenue in Vernon Tuesday, June 1.
Standing before a painting of a bright red, heart-shaped character with an eerie grin — a spray-painted piece of his called the King of Hearts — the 22-year-old summarized his plans for the downtown space.
“I think it’s one of those things that’ll kind of grow really organically as people come in.”
MacLeod has spent the month of May transforming the space formerly home to Five Fathoms Tattoo into a bright and colourful studio packed with paintbrushes, print-making tools, accessible workspaces and other art supplies for clients to use as they please.
It’s something MacLeod says Vernon has always lacked, and he hopes Local Losers will help young local artists access a community of like-minded people, a workspace full of resources and — perhaps most importantly —a centrally located venue to hang and sell their artworks.
“Vernon needed this. I wish this was here sooner honestly,” said Ris MacLean on opening day, a young artist who knew MacLeod in high school. “I have some work in here and this is probably the first time I’ve had work for sale in a public place, because it’s not accessible for so many young people, so I think it’s so exciting.”
Spencer Wylie, another opening day attendee, said he might have gotten into producing art at a younger age if a space like Local Losers had existed then.
“It’s nice to see all the pieces from people who do work around town,” he said.
The studio’s name originated as a clothing brand; it’s what MacLeod and some of his artistically inclined high school friends used to call themselves.
“Honestly, all we were thinking about is art,” he laughed. “Whether it was musicians, visual artists, poets, we were all kind of just super involved in our creating.”
‘Counterculture’ doesn’t fully capture the aesthetic patrons will find at Local Losers, though the art on the walls tends to be visually striking, demanding attention with bright colours and, like the King of Hearts, some uncanny abstractions.
“It’s all born of love and compassion and community, and there really isn’t anything exclusionary or divisive that are coming from that.”
Since leaving high school, MacLeod says he’s seen many friends and colleagues in the Vernon art scene leave town to places like Victoria, where less traditional forms of art tend to be more abundant.
“A large part of that is because Vernon doesn’t always serve that niche,” he said. “Even just in my personal circles, there’s so many young, interesting, unique, weird artists in Vernon with immense talent who are kind of just doing their thing, and people don’t know about them, and I want to showcase that and share it.”
The space for young artists who are “weird and unique” is a good fit for the weird and unique times artists are currently creating in. The studio’s opening comes as B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout is well underway, and restrictions are easing.
“As far as art goes it’s definitely been interesting,” MacLeod agreed. “It started with people painting a lot more darkness and despair, and then hope, and then we came back to the monotony of life being in lockdown for over a year, and so I’ve seen it in my friends, the way their art has changed and evolved.”
“What I’m excited to see is the hopefulness and happiness and the collaborative works that come out of it, where people actually get to interact more and share more and they have a more positive outlook.”
The studio will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.