I discovered Lisa Theriault’s marvelous coloured pencil fine artwork during the Artch festival in May 2020. This was one of the rare events that were not canceled during the pandemic (it was outdoors) and I met with many talented emerging artists there. However, one of my favorites was undoubtedly Theriault’s fine art. The composition ranged from detailed mystifying environments to abstract colourful work. It really moved me!
I was fascinated by the artist who is originally from PEI’s artwork. The delicate, colorful softness and intelligent compositions left me moved and intrigued. I wanted to learn more and had to go back to see her artwork a second time. It was one of those moments of discovery you don’t forget. When I asked her to be part of “Ribboned Rainbow”, the first exhibit at the new Jano Laping Gallery location (3819 rue Wellington suite 200, Mtl, QC), I was thrilled that she accepted and even created a specific artwork for the show.
Since then, Lisa Theriault and the JL gallery have officially partnered and her first more complete exhibit will take place in Fall 2021. I am excited to see what she will create! Below I have included an interview we did with Lisa that expresses some of her artistic processes.
Meet Lisa Theriault
Since you were a child, what do you feel were the important events that led you to become the artist you are today?
I’m someone who has always known art was an important part of my life. Some of my earliest memories are of asking for markers and some paper so that I could draw at the kitchen table. I would draw almost every morning for hours. I think that blank piece of paper had limitless possibilities to me. Even when I couldn’t think of what to draw, I would draw whatever was around me. There’s something reliable about that to me. That even as a child, before I had external influences telling me what I should and shouldn’t do, this was something that I was passionate about and that I was motivated to do.
As I got older, everything about pursuing art seemed very mysterious to me. I grew up in Prince Edward Island and there was very little there in terms of contemporary art. I really felt like I had to figure it out all by myself until I started to discover the small but passionate visual arts community there. My high school art teacher helped me apply to art schools in other provinces since there is no university offering a Fine Arts program on P.E.I.. So I ended up doing my BFA in New Brunswick.
There was also a national art gallery on P.E.I.. This was essentially the only place where I could be exposed to contemporary art. That gallery has been so supportive to me – I started volunteering there in high school, then I eventually worked there as a summer student, and more recently they’ve invited me back to show work there. Now I even have artwork in their collection. When I moved to Montreal, it really blew me away how much is available for artists.
What are your inspirations as a visual artist?
I am most driven to understand my surrounding environments. Place is really important in my work. I think it’s interesting that each place has its own individual presence and that places can be a reflection of the people and beings that live there (or vice versa), and I’m interested in looking at those relationships. I’ll spend time researching local history, architecture, social and economic structures, and so on. After gathering all these different ideas together I’ll find a specific concept I want to pursue in my own work.
One work often leads into what I will do in the next, as well. Being able to engage with complicated ideas in a way that is very open-ended and personal is really appealing to me. That’s part of what I love about visual art, that it can be both intellectual and personal, but it’s also a physical experience.
What do you feel is your most important lesson as an artist so far and why?
I think it was important for me to learn that there are so many different artworks that I admire, that I shouldn’t necessarily be making. Especially coming from drawing. People often think of drawing as the “learning” stage of being an artist. You draw so that you can move onto painting or something else. It’s still not completely respected as an artistic discipline for its own sake, I don’t think. I often felt like I was supposed to move on from drawing and find something else. So when I went to art school, I was exposed to so much more contemporary art. I really loved conceptual artworks, videos, performances, installations, and so many different things.
For a while, I was experimenting with every medium, as you often do in art school. When I tried to make those works though, it took me a while to realise that I was forcing myself to make them. With drawing, once I start it’s hard for me to stop. I could also still see the influence of drawing in those works too. This would be in certain compositions I would choose, still images, negative space, and the presence of lines. I realised that drawing was the basis of my art practice, and I could always build onto it with other mediums. However, I was motivated by the process involved in drawing.
Do you do anything specific to help yourself evolve as an artist?
As much as I can, I try and question my decisions throughout the process. I’ll especially ask myself what different approaches will do to the work and how it will be perceived. I mostly do this to try and not be lazy and safe with my work.
I think that’s a huge challenge as an artist, because no one can push you but yourself ultimately, and that’s hard to do. I’ll often ask myself, when I’m finished with a part of a drawing, is it actually finished or can I make it better? Or if I have an idea that feels risky and I don’t know if it will work, but it might be really interesting, I always tell myself to try it! It’s important to push things beyond your comfort as an artist because that’s how you find the limits of what is working. That’s how you evolve. It’s so exciting when it does work in an unexpected way, too.
I try and do some of that experimentation in drafts, or in a forgiving or less time-consuming way. But every now and then, I ruin a drawing that I spent hours on. You start to understand that you didn’t waste any time because you learned something that will help you in every other work you make.
What’s your process of creation?
After the research that I do, usually I am focused on a concept that I’m interested in creating an interpretation of. My process is definitely more methodical or planned, and I’ll often do sketches and drafts to try out different compositions. Then I use pencils and drawing tools to start the actual drawing, before I go back with ink and coloured pencils. I’ll have periods where I’m making a lot of decisions on the composition and what elements I’m including. Then there are other periods where I am spending hours on a pattern or texture. I really love that I can go back and forth between these different modes depending on how I’m feeling.
In the past couple of years, my drawings have mostly been architectural landscapes and I’ve been using a consistent scale that’s about 7mm to 1 foot. I use parallel projection for the perspective, which can appear odd because it’s not the way our eyes see perspective, since things that are farther away get smaller. I’m interested in these sorts of limitations because they are used in design and architecture, as well as in model and miniature making, which I still do a bit in my art practice.
I find it interesting as a way to understand a space and not necessarily how an individual sees a space. I will look up the typical dimensions of things and consider how I can change them too. I’m starting to break away from these limitations more and more though, to try different things.
What do you like to do in your free time when you’re not working on your art?
I really love going on hikes in nature and just observing. It’s a replenishing experience and I sometimes can almost literally feel the stress and anxiety of the day just melt away with each step. I also find it’s a great way to understand and situate yourself within your environment. More and more I’ve started to notice the plants, trees, and animals that are continuously around me, and it’s like once I learn their names, I can’t stop seeing them everywhere.
Finally, for more information and to view Lisa Theriault’s marvelous coloured pencil fine artwork, you can visit this link to the Jano Lapin Gallery. Her detailed and vibrant pencil pieces will surely inspire you!
Founder/Editor-in-chief/Creative Director. Passionate about the city of Montreal, discovering its various cultural components as well as exploring foreign places. I am inspired by artists, innovative concepts, philanthropy, creative encounters, and cultural events. View all posts by Anne Jano