I hesitated for a long time before writing what follows. I did not want to look self-centred, and then all this, it is very intimate. However, I noticed how much I like to hear about other artists’ journey art and painting in particular. I find these stories not only inspiring, but they also illustrate to what extent the human experience, with its ups and downs, influences the creative life. These stories also give me a better understanding of what is meaningful for the artists and their artworks. If it’s the same for you, I invite you to read my story…
Where I Come From
I was born in the 60’s, the last child of a large family living in the Eastern Townships (in the countryside and mainly in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada). My parents were not artists, but resourceful people and craftsmen in their own way. My father liked to work with wood in his spare time, but he could also build a chalet from A to Z (or almost), while my mother used to do sewing, knitting, quilts and braided carpets. No visit to the museum or an art gallery. The culture came from books, magazines and television.
Childhood, Teens and Influences
In one of my oldest memories, I was about 5 or 6 years old, sitting at the kitchen table drawing in my exercise book of catechesis. My mother helped me to trace a lion of a page from the encyclopaedia to illustrate the persecutions of Christians in Old Rome…
Several elements influenced me at an early age, such as children’s television programs. There were often a few minutes of animated film with figures made of clay or instructions for a simple DIY project.
Here is an example
And then there was the TV show “L’évangile en papier” in which we saw Claude Lafortune making characters and decorative elements made of paper. I found it really fascinating and I started trying to do the same.
I was also more subtly influenced by one of my aunts, Claire Guillemette-Lamirande. She was a photographer, a teacher and a painter. I did not see her often, but every summer she came to spend two weeks in the family chalet to do painting and photography, among others. She was a dynamic, sociable woman, a feminist and a committed artist with well-defined ideas.
Here is a video showing some of her creations
I would say that the last most significant element nourishing my interest for the arts was my frequent visits to the public library. I borrowed almost all the books on crafts available at that time and several on drawing and painting. It is from these books that I learned the basics of color theory, perspective, design, composition and painting. This knowledge was then deepened by courses and experience, but I can say that I acquired many notions by myself before being 13 years old.
Marked by these influences, I did a lot craft throughout my primary and high school (5 to 17 years): collage, arrow belts, embossed leather, wooden jigsaw puzzles, macramé, decorative carpets, embroidery, crochet, knitting, sewing, soapstone sculpture, tatting, terracotta pots covered with small pieces of ceramic tiles, pyrography, drawing, painting, and so on.
I also played music for almost all these years, and during teenage years, wrote short stories and poetry for the pure pleasure of it.
I was undoubtedly a very creative child and teenager. I was the teacher’s favorite at the high school art class. The teacher even offer me 20 dollars (a tidy amount of money for a student at the time) for a gouache painting created for the art class (see photo below). I refused, but it was the first time I realized that other people might be interested in what I was creating.
I had excellent grades in all my classes, but it was no surprise that I went to the visual arts program for my college studies. In fact, my goal was to get a college diploma and a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, and then to do a master’s degree in library science with a specialization in visual arts books. This has never been achieved.
During my first few months studying visual arts at the Cégep de Sherbrooke, I was struck by a harsh reality. I, who was used to having excellent marks, was confronted by the judgment of the teachers and the fact that others had more talents than me. I began to compare my work with that of others and to depreciate what I made. At the same time, my mother died suddenly and that shoved my world and definitely ended a period of carefreeness.
After a very difficult first year at the college, I went for a three years professional training in scenography or designing and producing costumes and sets for the theatre. This is when I left Sherbrooke for Ste-Thérèse de Blainville (Quebec, Canada).
Then, newly graduated, settled in Montreal and ready to do anything to find my place in the theatre industry, I got my first professional contract in a theatre company for teenagers. The conditions were not ideal, my experience minimal as was the budget. I should have refused the contract, but I did not and it was a resounding failure. I was now unemployed, starting my career with negative references. In addition, I was deeply hurt, doubting me and my creative abilities more than ever.
Following this failure, I put a cross on a creative working life and all the pain it evoked. I needed to pay my bills and thanks to contacts, I found work in a field where creativity is mostly absent: the banking sector. I tried to ignore my natural impulses for arts and to deny that part of me which ardently wished to express itself. In other words, I suffocated it the best I could.
A year and a half later, I left a permanent and well-paid job to realize a dream, visit Italy. I spent 6 weeks admiring the art masterpieces and architecture, as well as the most beautiful skies of my life. Unforgettable moments…
Back in Montreal, and after a brief depressing job in the field of credit working alone at night in front of a machine, I found a job in a natural health food store. I have worked for nearly 20 years in the field of natural health, alternative medicine and energy care. During this long period of time, I followed a wide range of training sessions to treat myself, take care of my little family and offer private consultations: reiki, naturopathy, intuitive radionics, reprogramming kinesiology, holistic nutrition, tarot card reading, numerology, pranic healing and so on.
I rarely painted during this whole period of my life. All the creative energy buried was raging inside to the point that I sometimes became ill. I took care of the others, but I avoided doing the same thing for me.
Sometimes, at rare moments, I allowed my creativity to touch the surface. People around me were then reacting, saying, “Ah, you’re an artist!. It was so good to hear those words! It was as if these people recognized my true nature.
I realized that I could no longer deny the existence of the problem when, repeatedly, I had more pleasure in creating my business cards or building a website than meeting customers and clients. The impulse to express my creativity was stronger than anything.
The recovery took a long time. I found my way back through drawing in a state of trance similar to that of hypnosis. That way I felt that it was not really me who was drawing, so I could make mistakes. It was less painful that way.
When I finally released my creativity for so long buried, it seemed to me that it was coming out of an uncontrollable flow, followed by a period of guilt. I forgot to eat and fulfill my daily tasks and I felt guilty doing something I love.
Gradually, I gained confidence and let go of the trance state while fully assuming my creations as mine. Now I have found a state of balance in which I allow myself to let the creative flow to express itself while using some form of control on it. I oscillate healthily between the intuitive and the rational.
If you are in a situation in which you deny your creativity, I can only encourage you to find a solution to get you out of it. Ask for psychological support if necessary, the help of a mentor or a person who loves you. Please, do not wait. There’s so much to create and so much to do, do not waste time with old wounds and move forward!