In the back of the full-time space at 4 Carlaw, Veronica Racanelli spreads a light jade tarp across a table. With a small picture for reference, she begins painting on a 16 x 20 canvas from a paper plate with globs of yellow, blue, red, and white paint. She’s preparing a painting for her job hosting Paint Nite in venues across Toronto, where among a drink or two, would-be painters get a canvas, a reference painting, and an opportunity to paint minus the obligation to clean up a mess (that’s Veronica’s job).

Veronica’s work with Paint Nite puts her in a unique position. To make the nights a success, she needs to channel her creativity to a group of strangers, and make a complex expression accessible. She accomplishes this with a combination of her choices of paintings and her personality.

“I’m definitely a people person, so it was definitely a good way to combine a love of art with being an entertainer,” Veronica says as she runs her brush across the canvas, adding to the simple moonlit pond scene she’s painting. “And I guess, in a subtle way, the teaching aspect I do enjoy as well.”

Learning Through Teaching

The teaching aspect, however, doesn’t go exclusively one way. Veronica ran painting activities at the first ildsjel event at 3030 over a year ago, and even there it started becoming clear that the relationship she has with her “students” is a symbiotic one: just as much as her temporary students are learning from her, Paint Nite inspires her own work in both painting and photography, something she’s been developing since high school.

“Paint Nite was a great way for me to kind of rekindle my love of painting, and it rekindled my love of photography as a result,” Veronica says, mixing white, green and blue into a pale aquamarine. “I didn’t even realize that getting into Paint Nite was going to reignite that spark for me, but I’m glad it did.”

You can add both music and cosplay to her list of creative outlets, designing and putting together costumes of her favorite comic and film characters, and lately, Veronica has been reconnecting with her passion for painting and photography and developing ways of combining the two. Finding inspiration in nature, she has started taking trips to national parks like Algonquin to find inspiration and take photos, which she can incorporate in future paintings. As she says, “Nature’s kinda what keeps my art going.”

To Veronica, creativity isn’t something totally internal, but something she’s found through other people’s exploration. Veronica found inspiration in inspiring others and encouraging their creativity.

She tells her students “to not just follow the rules, cause that ain’t what art’s about.” It’s a sentiment that gets easier to live when you can see it happening in the people around you, and when Veronica steps back from her nearly-finished painting, it’s clear that you never know where your inspiration is going to come from.