Introducing Louis-Bernard St-Jean, a self-taught visual artist achieving great things in little time! Coming from a completely different background (Information Technology!), art is something he found within himself. His skills were self-taught and progressed tremendously with time. St-Jean is a hardworking artist who has created a unique way of applying oil paint on canvas. Represented by a gallery in Montreal and in Toronto, he has achieved success in his field and particularly, for clients who want to make a bold impact on their visitors. The richness of the colors and textures in his paintings are evident in all his pieces, but all are inspired by something different. His latest collection is themed from particular songs he enjoys. It is always interesting to understand where an artist gains stimulus and this collection demonstrates it by the name of each artwork. Read on to find out more.
Can you describe your story on how you became a visual artist?
It’s a crazy story lol! While I was born and raised in a family of artists and art merchants, somehow I never got to follow their path or did I do, any art degree. It was only at the age of 30, shortly after I met my spouse that I started painting. I had been looking to buy a new artwork for my apartment, and I couldn’t find what I was looking for, nothing was speaking to me. At one point, my foot brushed off the shopping bag containing the small painting kit I had gifted my girlfriend for Christmas. I made a sudden realization that the piece I longed for, I would have to paint it myself, along with an insane feeling of determination and certitude that it would eventually turn into a professional career. That painting would become my true calling. (I think I was trying to find myself at the time..!)
What inspired you the most to become a full-time artist at age 33?
At that time in 2013, I had this compelling inner feeling that if I were ever to make the jump, it would have to be then. Otherwise, I would “miss the boat.” The setting was just ripe: I was finishing my IT contract at SAP, my painting style really started to mature and I was longing for more in my life.
That year, there was a surprise concert of the band Cat Empire during Francofolies one evening. The band had just released their album Steal The Light and [my spouse] Annie and I happened to be there… The lyrics of their songs resonated so strongly with me, it was the final push I needed. I booked an appointment with both YES Montreal and the CJE Plateau the following day.
How did you learn your artistic technique and how has it evolved?
I did what every good artist does at the beginning: first, go down the beaten path and follow the footsteps of contemporary Masters to teach both your hand and your mind and to try to understand the underlying mechanics. In my case, it was mainly the works of Jean-Paul Riopelle, Paul-Émile Borduas, and Pierre Soulages. And while this may sound or look easy to do, it took me a couple of years to learn how to paint a lot of “gray goop” before getting the hang of it… As I got better, the desire to distance myself from their works grew stronger; it felt “more urgent”… I had to stray away and find my own style before getting caught into the trap of making more variations of the same thing. Based on those same techniques, my current style arose from a series of fortunate “accidents,” followed with lots of trials and errors to push and explore it further.
What are you the proudest of in your career as a visual artist?
I have a few examples, all intertwined. First, to have gotten this far in my career, in only a few years. I am being represented by professional galleries in different cities, I have participated in art fairs and solo shows. I have developed my own unique style that I am proud of. Lastly but more importantly, I am proud to say that people enjoy my artworks and I am an impact in their lives. When I hear someone still talk so passionately about my artworks, even years later, saying that they experienced a positive change owning them is truly the best feeling.
Who or what inspires you the most when you are creating?
Music and nature. Whether it’s the setting, the ambiance, the vibe, the emotional connections. I take it all in like a sponge, then restitute it on canvas at the right moment. I can take a few months thinking about a specific piece before I actually start applying paint on the canvas. I need to visualize it, to feel it. Once I start painting, I only have a few days to finish it, and this process requires some critical steps to happen at the precise moment. Consequently, I need to know exactly what I want to do before I am ready to paint it — even though I know very well that the painting will “take over” me midway through the piece…
Would you like to discuss your upcoming projects?
Not yet, it’s too soon, I can’t! All I would say is, I have been experimenting and exploring new materials in parallel for some time now, and while it’s promising, I haven’t entirely “nailed it” yet (to my own level of expectation, that is). When the time is right, I will be more than happy to showcase it to the public!
What is your favorite part of being an artist in Montreal and your least favorite aspect?
I haven’t lived anywhere else so I cannot relate to any other part of the world. Montreal is renowned throughout the world for its high creativity; the sheer number of artistic projects and the astounding level of support and implication for the arts from the city. It creates such a positive and energetic momentum that I don’t see myself living anywhere else.
Visit his website here for more information on this wonderful artist.