Mackenzie Gregson brings tradition into the new millennium

Student artist discusses her work from early doodles to art galleries 

Despite only being in her second year at Queen’s, Mackenzie Gregson already has her artwork on display at 
the Union Gallery.
Titled ‘Bacon and Eggs,’ Gregson’s artwork is part of a new student exhibition Surface available for viewing from Nov. 17 to Jan. 12. The young artist sees her work as indicative of a path that blends tradition and realism with 
her personal style. 
The piece features a meal set up on a blue, woodgrain breakfast table surrounded by glued-on still lifes taken from an old magazine. The food on the table — a bright blue coffee cup, a grapefruit and the titular bacon and eggs — is an update to traditional strains of realism in the way it clashes with the quiet background. 
Like Gregson’s art, the food is traditional yet clearly modern.  
Gregson’s artistic flair goes back to her days doodling as a kid, long before she set her sights 
on realism. 
“I’ve always sketched and stuff like that but I was never big into painting until university,” she said. At her dad’s prompting, Gregson decided to pursue this passion at university.
She was accepted to all the schools she applied to, but Gregson decided Queen’s Fine Arts program best fit her interests in traditional realistic art. 
“I feel like Queen’s is a more traditional school experience and … it teaches a more traditional style than other schools,” she said.
Before coming to Queen’s, Gregson drew inspiration from pop art, rejecting traditional forms for the brighter colour schemes and imagery of pop culture. She always wanted to use realism in her works, but they never came out looking like she wanted them to. 
“Before university I always just did whatever looked fun,” she said. 
Gregson later developed her realist style out of the necessity of the university application 
process — she needed samples. 
“Last year most of my work was realistic,” she said. Despite this and her professors’ encouragements, Gregson felt her pieces failed to capture the images inside her head. 
“It’s hard to describe what you do … but they weren’t right.”
These early works have now become building blocks for Gregson, bringing her closer to her personal vision of realism and developing her artistic technique.  
“Personally, it makes me feel better about my own art if I’m getting somewhere with it,” she said. That’s why the more realistic her works become, the more she likes them. 
“My goal coming to school was I wanted to learn and develop a skillset,” Gregson said. Mostly, this development comes from showcasing her work to others and understanding how to represent objects as best she can. 
Another work of Gregson’s currently in the making takes inspiration from a painting from 1568 by artist Joachim Beuckelaer titled ‘Fish Market.’ Gregson came across the piece in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on a class trip and was immediately fascinated by the depiction of a man working over a table covered in 
butchered fish. 
The fish in the painting were staged like a still life despite the clear motion of the man’s hand as he chopped up the fish. The table in Beuckelaer’s painting was made to depict woodgrain and acted as a centrepiece of the work, continued in the themes of Gregson’s ‘Bacon and Eggs.’ 
Gregson’s work blends personal style with traditional elements that have been around for centuries. As a result, her art goes beyond mere realism and becomes a reflection of Gregson whether it’s intended to or not. 
Tradition and realism are used to build Gregson’s new artistic identity, distinct from her 
own influences. 
Though early in her career, Gregson’s early admittance into the Union Gallery and the other works from her studio make clear she’s got no plans to stop progressing as an artist.  
Check out more of Gregson’s art on Instagram @kenzpainting

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