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.

Chronology

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 in 1998.

Gerrit 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.

Graphite

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.

Nothing

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.

Stippling

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.

Life Drawing

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 setting?

At times, 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.

 

All content copyright Peter Leclerc