I had the utmost pleasure to meet and visit Eric Santerre’s studio in Verdun, Montreal. Not only was he a welcoming, enthusiastic soul, his artistic imagination was truly evident and inspiring throughout the walls of the duplex turned studio. He told me that since having this space, for two years now, gives him the freedom to create without feeling constraint. His painting was voted by the public to be the third edition of Romeo’s Gins cover and since then, his career is skyrocketing in Montreal. The bottle was recently launched in most Quebec liquor stores.
However, Santerre has already had international success particularly in Europe, where he has had exhibits in France, Italy and even the Vatican to name a few. Being a proud Montrealer, he is particularly excited about being the face of Nicolas Duvernois’s gin bottle during the 375th anniversary of Montreal. You can actually note 50 imageries relating to his hometown in the winning painting. It is absolutely stunning! His interview below gives a glimpse of his corky and endearing personality.
Who are you and what do you do?
That’s a tough one! My name is Eric Santerre, but everybody calls me SANTERRE. I am an artist from Verdun, Montreal that concentrates on visual art as primarily an acrylic painter on canvas.
Why do you do what you do?
Art has been a part of my family for generations, I had no choice, it was already programmed in me. I love being creative in all aspects of my life. For me, everything is ART. I am the ARTIST CAREBEAR! I put art everywhere with my magical belly! (laughs)
How do you work?
I usually go directly on the canvas without doing any sketches beforehand… When the project is more precise (such as the Romeos Gin competition I entered), I prefer to brainstorm with my self in a sketchbook first. I then keep the best ideas and build from that.
How did you become the artist you are today?
I am still the same person, its the people around me who created SANTERRE, the artist. Without my family, friends and art lovers I would still be doing art as a hobby only. They pushed me to exhibit, they bought my ART, people sent me contest links they thought I should enroll in, they shared their appreciation and most of all, they believed in me. By doing all that, I started believing in myself! That is how I became SANTERRE.
What role does the artist have in society?
ART is therapy for the mind, body, and soul. Using art, you can bring out emotions in people such as sadness or laugher. You can hypnotize them into staring at a piece for hours. A piece of art is something you can hate or love but it never goes unnoticed. Once you understand that, you become a therapist for society and yourself.
You have won numerous awards and have been recognized for your work around the world, can you tell you tell us more? What are you the proudest of thus far in your young career?
My work has been published in a global contemporary masters volume, I have won medals in Rome, Bruges, Miami, Cannes and even Paris. It’s been an overwhelming journey thus far in the last few years (I started in 2007). However, winning the Romeo’s Gin contest is the thing that makes me the proudest. Winning an art contest in my hometown, having the public vote for my art has no price. This year, I decided to put my international exhibitions aside to concentrate my efforts here in Montreal and I do not regret my decision!
How has your practice changed over time?
I used to put a lot of pressure on myself, wanting to be precise, do straight lines, calculate everything, and also, I did not want to be too messy in my apartment. Having my studio changed everything! It gave me the chance to express myself freely. That aspect alone has changed the way I work tremendously for the better.
Do you have a favorite piece that you created that you would like to
A painting I did of Demis Roussos following a trip to Greece. On it, there are some little details reminding me of places I visited. I almost sold that painting but when I saw my wife drop a tear right before the transaction, I realized that this artwork was something extraordinary and unique to us. I canceled the sale and still, we have it and it is not going anywhere!
Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?
When friends around me become pregnant! I don’t know why but their pregnancy has been really inspiring. Future Moms are in every one of my paintings or almost. Weird!!!!
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
The excitable question¨Are you SANTERRE?¨. People recognizing my art style and telling me that it is very unique. That is the most beautiful thing you can hear from somebody who doesn’t know you personally.
What do you dislike about the art world?
It is really different for artists depending on where they are in the world. Unfortunately, in my opinion, Montreal is the worst place for a newcomer in the ART world. A lot of Monreal’s artists are very selfish, the art galleries are like sharks and not open to self-taught artists. You have ART clans that are closed to newcomers. It is very hard in Montreal to make your way in the art world and be respected. I say this with a lot of sadness.
What is your dream project?
I don’t really like to dream about my ART or have a dream project. Since the beginning of my adventure, I have just been following my instinct. This way, I always have surprises coming to me and few disappointments.
Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.
Tim Burton, Michel Gondry, David Bowie I know they are not painters, but if I had to be compared to an artist those are three individuals I would like to be compared to. As for painters, I don’t like when people compare, but I learned to accept it.
A favorite or most inspirational place that you have been to and why?
My God!!!! Greece and that is not even questionnable! The people/history/smell/food/colors/energy/islands/etc…
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Be yourself! That is the most important thing in all aspects of my life.