My drawing is a meditation, a journey inward, a revelation and
pronouncement of myself. It is a joy for me to discover and a
privilege to share what I love most and do best.
My earliest memory is that of watching my mother oil painting in
the living room of our home. Today, the smell of oil paint
invokes that day when life was simple and I
knew beyond doubt that my purpose in life was to be an artist.
I’ve been drawing my entire life. Starting out, I had clear eyesight and so,
produced detailed renderings of the world around me. I liked
to draw buildings and city scenes, but I always loved to draw
people, and women in particular.
When I entered Art College (CEGEP St-Laurent) at age 19, I
learned of the great periods of Art and discovered a passion
for pointillism (stippling) through studying the Expressionist
Masters of the previous century. I was fortunate to have some
helpful teachers there, notably Aurelio Sandonato and
Françoise Parent, who I thank for their patience and gentle
understanding. My friend and classmate, Christian Neveu, helped
shape my artistic world view by bringing me to exhibitions at
museums and galleries, and by discussing the details of what we
had seen and their impact on the course of Art.
I attended the Victoria College of Art at age 22 at my friend
Dana Irving’s behest,
where I discovered a whole new world of applied Art, but not
before realizing that, to my dismay, I was one of the poorest
students in terms of drawing ability. Adopting the school’s
credo that “Art is something that exists and which we discover
through doing”, I began to labour faithfully in earnest. After
my term at the college ended, I found my own style, just as my
teachers said I would. It emerged
nearly fully formed one day in August after I had struggled for
months in uncertainty. I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness to
my teachers, Jim Gordaneer, Jack Wise, and Bill Porteous, who
would not let me settle for anything less than my totality.
Back in Montréal,
I joined Le Groupe Expressionart, led by Emmanuel Claudais, in
1982. This loose association of young upcoming artists existed
to present group and solo art exhibits. My tenure in the group
lasted two years.
Commercial work came my way in the early 1980s. My former
teacher and friend Aurelio Sandonato channeled several
opportunities my way, including work creating latchet rug hook
and needlepoint designs. Through my friend Chantal Raymond, I
freelanced as a graphic artist for the Québec Liberal Party in
1983 and 1984.
Throughout the 1980s, I attended life drawing workshops
wherever I could find them, but mostly the one run by Anne
Lavoie at The Université du Québec à Montréal on Sunday afternoons.
Unlike many of my colleagues, my output did not dwindle when
school ended and I found myself out in the world. That happened
later, once I got married and faced the demands of career and
home-ownership. It was pretty slim pickings for a few years, but I never wholly ceased drawing.
In 1996, I found a Life Drawing workshop in Parksville run by
Mehdi Naimi, and other workshops in Nanaimo: one at Malaspina University-College,
and another at The Artery, run by Richard Hoedl. At the
Malaspina workshop, I met artist
Gerrit Verstraete who
had moved to Gabriola Island from Ontario at around the same time
I moved to Vancouver Island. He invited me to join the
Drawing Society of Canada
and I started our own Life Drawing workshop in 2000, and in
January 2001, began holding it on Monday evenings at the
Occidental Hotel in downtown Nanaimo, through the largesse of
owner Wayne Smith.
Much of my early work relied on graphite pencils of varying
hardness. Over the years, I tended to spend more time on each
drawing, seeking ever greater detail.
I found great satisfaction with the results of increased effort,
and imagined I would eventually find ultimate expression through
quasi-infinitely precise detail.
My work pattern has always been to complete a succession of
works in a given style or medium, while varying and fine-tuning
the technique or mode of expression with every iteration, until
I hit a plateau. Then, I switch to something else, either
something all new and exciting, or something I set aside a few
months or years prior, and pick it up with renewed vigour.
Graphite has been with me from the very beginning, and is still
a good friend today. The few graphite drawings I present in this
site are selected from among several decades of work. Some are
so intense that their detail is limited only by the fact that
what I was trying to draw was smaller than the fibers of the
paper I was drawing on.
By the mid 1990s, I consciously made drawing a central part of my
daily life. But at the same time, it dawned on me that the
representational nature of most of my work lacked the crucial element that
makes drawing Art. I understood that drawing what I see is merely
reporting. I reflected on this and determined that, as an artist,
I want to say something more than “look at how well I can draw”.
I searched for a new avenue and found it when I rekindled an
interest in doodling, the way I used to doodle while sitting at
my desk in High School. I started drawing without trying to
represent an object on paper. This practice ultimately led me to eliminate the
subject matter from my process. Taking a cue from popular culture,
I began producing drawings that are about nothing. My work was
still detailed, but without clearly identifiable features.
In the absence of visual stimulus, I turned inward and found
freedom and vitality in drawing from the soul rather than from the eyes.
When I draw Nothing, I distract my conscious mind by watching
television, playing Trivial Pursuit, or listening to music. This
occupies my first attention, reduces the deliberate control I
would normally exert, and results in treating the drawing as raw
pictorial elements. When I draw Nothing, I think in terms of
composition, tonal gradation and focal point. The most successful
of these drawings begin with one or two bold strokes and end with
greater detail in a limited area.
Emotionally, these Nothings are fundamental expressions of my current
state. They expose my inner self without preamble or apology and are
therefore purer and more direct than my representative work can be.
When showing the Nothings, I notice that people interpret them
in unique and personal ways. When viewed, they become something. This is both astounding and
delightful to me. The Nothings actually engage people to supply
their own subject matter.
I've loved stippling ever since I became aware of it in my
early college days. I felt it an outrageous premise to reduce
the light, shape, and emotions that comprise a subject into a
collection of single-coloured dots, which I interpret as the
sub-atomic level of pictorial art. I saw enormous challenge in
using a fundamentally non-painterly technique to create
atmosphere and personality. And that somehow attracted me.
Felt markers are my tools of choice. Early on, I employed
several colours in an effort to blend tones. I apply the
technique to landscapes and portraits.
At the same time I began developing the Nothings, I pushed my
pointillist technique of portraiture to greater extremes of
precision and detail. This work is in polar opposition to the
Nothings in how they are executed: I select the model, set up the pose and the lighting,
take many reference photographs, and execute the portrait over a
period of several weeks, usually in one or two hour sessions, because that's
about all I can sustain in one sitting.
It is very tedious and exhausting work, but the results are
unlike anything I’ve seen elsewhere. I lean towards an
Impressionist palette, which brings a high degree of luminosity
to the work.
Emotionally, the Stipple Portraits satisfy the side of me that
is detailed and meticulous. It requires rigourous planning and
discipline to produce a unified outcome.
I’ve been Life Drawing for over thirty years. Life Drawing is
the single most important building block of my Art. I resonate
so strongly with it and my journey has been so intertwined with
it that I cannot imagine my Art without it.
By regularly drawing
the living human figure, I continuously confirm what I know about
anatomy while seeking out more about it. Through
Life Drawing, I rediscover my humanity and strive to proclaim it in my drawing.
My life’s experiences emerge through my study
of the human figure.
I see evidence that this is basically true of
all artists. How else would you explain the vast difference in
results when many artists draw the same model in the same
I have spent hours at home finishing up the poses
started in the workshop. The beginning of such drawings rely on
what I see while the remainder rests on what I know, or think I
know, about anatomy. The cycle of looking, learning, and
externalizing invariably brings me peace.