MIRROR MIRROR: AN INTERVIEW WITH KINGSVILLE ONTARIO’S KNIGHT TWINS
It was brought to my attention, recently, the story about the famous Knight twins, Lauren and Allison, from my Canadian home town of Kingsville, Ontario! Not only were they featured in a documentary studying twinship, they are successful portrait artists and authors. I was pleasantly surprised by this news and through a friend was introduced remotely to interview them. What interested me most about their highly and solely figurative art was not only that they work on everything together and that it is really well executed but that they document their process. Together they work with a commission based structure, only use pencil crayon and are not trained artistically beyond their high school art class! They have also written a book which began to be about their twinship but ended up digging deeper into their relationships and personal well being. You can buy an e-copy here! Presently, they are at teachers College with what i’m certain will be a bright future for them both.
Laura Horne-Gaul: The language of your artistic pursuits are severely figurative and precise. Do you consider any other style of painting or medium when you are working together?
Lauren and Allison Knight: We've always worked on realistic pieces with each other, and we predict this will continue to be how we work because we've had success with realism. That being said, we appreciate many other types of art, and perhaps someday we will experiment with other styles. Our preference is to work with pencil or coloured pencil, and most of the commissions we've done over the past decade plus have been with coloured pencil. We've also worked with oil, watercolour, watercolour pencil, and ink.
LHG: Does one of you have a different skill set than the other? For example does one person draw the outline and the other shade/colour?
LAK: We believe we have the same skill set. In high school art class we always did our own projects, but after we graduated we wanted to see what it would be like to work on pieces together. We had a lot of positive feedback, so every art piece we've done beginning in the summer of 2002 has been a collaborative one. How we work is that we usually have two pieces going on at the same time. We sit at the same table, each working on one, and then alternate every couple of hours. Because we spend so long with our pieces there are several exchanges made for each piece. Part of the fun for us is continuing on where the other left off, so we have an equal hand in any part of the picture. There have been occasions when we've worked simultaneously on one piece, but in these instances the picture has been a large one. People find it rather remarkable that one of us (Allison) is left-handed and the other (Lauren) is right-handed and yet we have identical styles.
LHG: I love that you have included the images of the portrait process on your website including a great write up of your challenges. The time consuming aspect being a feat alone, have you had to turn down commissioned work because it would be too intense? (if so, may you give an example)
LAK: We have never turned down a commission before, but we think before commissioning us people recognize where our artistic strengths lie-- that being with people, pets, and wildlife. There have been a few exceptions, such as when we produced a coloured-pencil drawing and ink drawings of railway cars for a book we were hired to illustrate. We don't shy away from commissions we know will be time consuming, because generally speaking, we take considerable time with all of our art.
LHG: What are a few of your influences in art? Do you feel akin to a certain art movement?
LAK: To be honest, we don't have much of an art background. Aside from taking art classes in high school from grade 10 to OAC (grade 13), anything we've learned about art has come from our own initiative. We'd like to say we've been inspired by a particular artist or art movement, but other than appreciating artists of realism the most, we don't have one artist we follow or emulate.
LHG: What is coming up for you in the not too distant future?
LAK: We started Teacher's College at the University of Windsor in September, so we've taken a hiatus from artwork for the time being. We're the type of people who get really engrossed in our work, so we don't feel we could handle our teaching and course work along with commissions. Our last commission was a portrait of a friend, Michael Schatte, who was in our grad program in London. Michael is an extremely talented musician and we were honoured and grateful to be asked to draw what would become the image for his next album cover.
LHG: May you explain what pushed you to decide to write a novel? Is it written from both of your perspectives as artists?
LAK: Our book MIRROR MIRROR: TWO BODIES, ONE SOUL, was published in 2011. We started writing it after we had both earned our Master's degree in history in 2008 because we weren't sure what we wanted to do for a career and were initially writing to express frustration with where we were at in life. We invested considerable time in our work, and at some point we decided we wanted to produce something for public consumption because we felt we had a story worth telling. We initially started writing about our twinship, but we recognized in the process that in order to explain ourselves to our audience better we would need to delve into issues such as our joint experiences with bullying and mental health. It wasn't an easy book to write because it's so personal, but we hope through telling our story we will reach out to others. Just like with our artwork, we enjoyed writing collaboratively. There are a few sections in the book identified as written by Allison or Lauren, but through editing there really isn't a single paragraph in the book which hasn't been worked on by both of us. We like this aspect of both our artwork and book-- we can't tell who worked on what. Although we touch on our collaborative artwork in one of the chapters, the book really is about ourselves as people rather than specifically artists.
Lauren and Allison Knight (self portraits), 2012
Tim McCready (original photo and an excerpt from the piece in the process), 2010
Tim McCready, 2010