People to Watch

Dom Laporte

Photo: Yuli Sato

People to Watch
By Beka Shane Denter

Muralist and illustrator Dom Laporte grew up in a creative Ottawa family. “Art was always a part of my life in one form or another,” he mentions. His mom Denise Landriault is a respected artist and he says she would encourage him to “get lost in my imagination and just be a kid.” This freedom to draw, create and play “had a big impact on me,” he adds. His brother Phil is a local graffiti artist and his sister Marie-Anne has worked as a visual merchandiser. Even his dad Roch has a creative side, running The Gentlemen Gardener, a local landscaping design company.

Dom remembers sitting down for a whole day when he was around five or six and drawing 33 different ducks. “I guess this was my first series. I still have them.” Visits to the National Gallery of Canada with his mom, aunt, grandmother and father also figured prominently in his early art experience. “I think it’s super important to be exposed to places like that as a kid,” he says. “Even today when I walk around the National Gallery it brings back a lot of memories.”

By his teenage years, Dom was into drawing and painting and just starting to paint bigger canvases and public walls. “I did some screen printing, ceramics and photography in school, but graffiti and portrait painting took up the bulk of my time.”

Inspiration has come from “a mix of fine artists, graffiti writers and muralists” from around the world. The list includes Canadians Andrew Salgado and Tim Okamura, Brooklyn-based José Parlá, Los Angeles-based Augustine Kofie, Colombian Enrique Grau Araújo, Poland’s Etam Cru (collaborating street artists Bezt and Sainer), Spanish street artist Aryz and Australian street artist Fintan Magee.

With a nod to the street artists he admires, Dom admits his graffiti work “didn’t make much of an impression on the arts/graffiti community until I got into doing mural work.” His brother Phil, a respected local graffiti artist, was paying attention, though, and served as a mentor. “In those early years, Phil really taught me how to develop my own style and to work on my own, without having to seek approval or recognition to know that I was onto something. I suppose this was me trusting my intuition as an artist for the first time.”

Although Dom knew he wanted to be an artist from an early age, he also knew he’d need additional training to pursue his passion as a full-time profession. So he headed to Sheridan College and in 2015 he graduated with an honours bachelor of illustration. “Going to Sheridan helped me immensely with learning how to organize my time, be experimental and [master] the business of art. This last part was crucial to being successful.”

Today, Dom’s work and style appeal to a wide audience, from respected personalities in the local hip hop community to institutional clients such as the Canada Science and Technology Museum. “I would attribute the diversity of my clients to the referrals and name-getting traction in the city,” he explains. “Work begets work. I’m also comfortable communicating and collaborating with different kinds of people and I apply for artist calls every chance I get.”

Diverse projects—from creating a series of paintings for a gallery to doing a mural in a cross fit gym—allow Dom to experience the creative process in a variety of settings. “It’s definitely different. The client’s needs, deadlines, budget all affect the final product. However, I still try and allow room for the same creative process no matter what space I’m in.”

If you happened to wander through his solo exhibition, Pranayam, at the Ottawa Art Gallery last spring, it’s clear that colour plays a pivotal part (albeit not as a motivating force) in Dom’s creative process. “I use colour when I feel appropriate, when I feel like a painting would benefit. In terms of my mural work, bright colours are a means to attract people’s eye on the street. It’s hard to hold people’s attention these days for more than a few seconds so I strive to get people to stop, look and think about what they’re experiencing. And colour plays a big part in that.”

For Dom, painting large-scale murals was a natural progression from painting on canvas. “I understand how this medium can seem intimidating for onlookers who don’t know what’s going into the planning process of creating a mural,” he says. “It takes years to hone the skill of scaling up designs and adapting to different surfaces and mediums that fit the design you’re painting at the time.”

Dom loves to travel and often finds inspiration in his adventures abroad. “Travel has become a huge part of my life in the last four or five years.” He admits, “I never travelled much before I met my girlfriend Anaïs. But since we’ve been together, we’ve travelled a lot and it’s changed my way of looking at people and the way I paint and interpret people when painting a portrait.” One particular travel moment stands out. “We were sleeping in the jungle in Goa, in the south of India. The sounds at night when your only sound barrier is a mosquito net are surreal.”

The next step for Dom also involves globe-trotting. Not only does he want to paint murals while abroad, he hopes to establish himself on an international scale. An opportunity will come soon. He and Anaïs are travelling through Southeast Asia in 2020. “This will be the longest I’ve been away travelling in my life. We’ll be gone four months and visiting seven-plus countries,” says the artist, adding, “I want to create … while on the road and bring back pieces to be showcased as a visual travel journal of what I saw and experienced.”