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ArtsCase Talk – Paula Lukey

Paula is a Toronto-based graphic, pattern, and screen print designer. She has worked with many notable and innovative companies in her design career including Wired, Rossignol and BMW. In the past 3 years Paula has taken the initiative to launch her own brand of playful, bold patterns and prints. She has licensed her work with various companies and sells her own line of home and lifestyle products. Paula is addicted to her sketchbook, making patterns, using color and screen printing her little heart way. She creates almost every day – and if she is not creating, she is getting inspired. Whether it’s a visit to the desert, hiking a lone trail or keeping pace in a bustling city, Paula enjoys searching for new things that will inspire her work.

Where are you from?

I grew up in a small town on the prairies of Canada but after attending Art College in Alberta my graphic design career took me to the US where I spent 5 years living in both California and Vermont. I had the privilege of working at some incredible companies along the way such as Wired and Rossignol.  I then moved back to Canada to pursue my graphic work and to eventually start my own design business as a contract graphic, pattern, and screen print designer. And now I currently reside in Toronto.

How did you get involved in art?

In elementary school I was influenced by my Principal who was also my art teacher. He was a well-known artist in the community and did all these amazing ink drawings which he showed at local art galleries. To me at that time he was my biggest hero and influence. Somehow he saw potential in me at a young age, and really pushed me to draw every day and keep a sketchbook. When I moved on to high school I was lucky enough to have a very influential art teacher there as well. She also saw my passion for art and worked very hard to bring out the best in my drawing and painting. After high school I knew I was destined to pursue a career in art or design. At first I enrolled in Interior Design school but found that a bit too contrived. I moved on to discover graphic design which I found to be a bit more open-ended and allowed me to pursue my creative dreams while still making a decent living. As I gained more experience I eventually became an independent designer, making my own patterns and screen prints on products while still working as a contract graphic designer.

Your biggest influences

The luxury of going to art school is that you become exposed to so many different art movements. I’d have to say I loved Fauvism (Henri Matisse), Art Deco (AM Cassandre) and Art Nouveau (Charles Rennie Mackintosh). They all had different purposes but collectively I admired the refinement, beauty and color influences in all of them.  I also appreciated the socially conscious movements like Constructivism (El Lissitzky) and Bauhaus (Kandinsky, Van der Rohe) where they made art and design with a specific purpose – both in everyday life and in society. I can also see influence in my work from people like MC Escher and Joan Miro.

What do you do to keep your creativity flowing?


I think it’s really important to continually seek out new things to influence your work.  For me I love the intensity of living in a bustling city like Toronto and discovering stuff like street art, going to a music show, or taking an art class to keep the creative juices flowing. That said, I also find inspiration going for a quiet hike in the woods with my dog or travelling down to the desert every year. Nature is so powerful and the smallest thing can have such a long lasting effect on your work.

What do I like the least about the world of art?

I think it can be a bit over saturated at times. With the way the world is today and with social media – you can easily get consumed with too much that you start to lose focus on your own vision. It’s easy to get frustrated, compare yourself to others, or lose your way. So for me it’s always good to take a step back once and awhile and to remember your purpose as an artist/designer and know that you have something valuable to contribute.

A bit about the 100-day project


I love a good challenge. And luckily for me I am pretty self-motivated. So I started this project to see if I could push my pattern designs and get out of my comfort zone. And it worked! I discovered so many intricate things about my work. I tried new color combinations, I discovered old sketches that I turned into amazing patterns, and I made so much work to influence some of my screen printed designs for next year. All in all, I think it’s important to do these challenges every once and awhile. It will kick start your creativity and you never know where it may lead.

What abilities or special capacities do you think a graphic designer should develop?

I really believe graphic design encompasses practicing your craft every day, problem solving, and still making a good living at it. I wish I could just make art all day and nothing else, but the reality is, as a sole business owner, you have to do some hustling, too. I was (and always will be) an artist first, but as a designer you are kind of plopped into this commercial world where you are expected to produce on tight deadlines. That said, I think if you are passionate about making art, you are half way there. So work on developing your own style and story. The other half is learning your tools and getting your work out there to the world. If you can find ways to refine your skills and market them in some capacity – you will succeed.



photography by Paula Lukey

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