Art News

Claire Desjardins

How did you evolve into a painter?
I started off working as a graphic design in a mobile app shop, in Montreal. When it got bought up by a large company, I got shifted around to the marketing department, and after a year or so, I got laid off.

Just before I was laid off, two very good things happened to me. The first, was that the company that I worked for had been kind enough to let me take 4 weeks off in a row, so that I could attend an artist residency that I had gotten a grant for. In return, I agreed to give them a special price for a series of paintings, in order to cover the walls of one of their new offices (where I happened to be working). Yessss.

The second good thing that happened to me, was that a week or so before this happened, I received a visit from a number of buyers from Anthropologie. They had expressed great enthusiasm for my art work, and I knew I would have to be making a decision, insofar as the direction of my art went. I was leaning toward my art, but was reluctant to leave the security of a regular paycheque.

I suppose you could say that I had a third very good thing happen to me: I received a package settlement from the company I worked for (a windfall, as far as I was concerned!).

I was happy, and my art career was launched in full capacity.

What has your experience selling your work on Saatchi Online been like so far?
My Saatchi Online experience has been great… and virtually effortless, insofar as making sales goes. The fact that they fill out all the paperwork (customs, duties, etc), makes my life very easy. I just have to paint and package my art. Anyone who has tried shipping, especially across borders, knows how complicated all the paperwork can be!

When starting a new painting, which do you start off with form or color or is it more of a back and forth process?
I paint colorful forms on my canvas, usually, so I guess the answer to that would be “both”.

Favorite material to work with?
Acrylics, mostly.

What themes do you pursue?
Abstract all the way! If something starts to look figurative, I usually try to undo it!  Colour, of course, is a very important theme. I enjoy the way colour can create a reaction in people, including me.

How many years as an artist?
I have painted all my life, but as a full-time career, it’s only been since August 2011. The years preceding that, however, I was painting (and selling my work), but only a day or so, per week.

Most important tool you use?
Colour. Can that be considered a tool? I find it very exciting, and I love to create that sort of tension on a surface. My second most important tool: my eyes!

Where is your studio?
My studio is located in an old industrial part of Montreal, near the old canal. The building I’m in is an old Simmons mattress factory, and you can really feel the ghosts of the past when you walk down the long, wide, hardwood floor hallways. There are large freight elevators at every turn, and big, bright windows. The complex is now houses many other artist studios (apparently, a whopping 45% of this massive old building is artist studios). My studio faces an industrial parking lot, but it is shrouded by poplar trees, so I can pretend to be in the woods. It can get a bit noisy here, at times, but that’s part of this place’s gritty charm.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
Do your art, but don’t forget to market it, afterwards. If you don’t tell people, nobody will know it exists

Process> Concept or Process<Concept?
Really, a bit of both, most of the time.

Why do you make art?
It makes me happy. It’s the only thing that I can do that I can truly lose myself in. I can start something (or several pieces), and before I know it, hours have passed by.

Art school or self-taught?
My mother was the single most important influence in my art career. She was an art teacher at my elementary school. Besides that, she taught me the art of life and survival.

Favorite font?

Prefer to work with music or in silence?
I like to listen to good talk radio. It’s like listening in on a good conversation.

What’s around the corner from your place?
Atwater Market. It used to be a farmers’ market, but now houses a sushi bar (do real farmers’ markets have sushi bars?). Still, they have a fabulous bakery, butchers, and other vendors (can you say cheese?). Yum.

Favorite sound?
The key turning in my front door (my boyfriend’s home!).

Favorite smell?
Freshly ground coffee.

Where can we find you outside the studio?
On my bicycle.

What could you not do without?
Salad made with Boston lettuce.

If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you do?
Graphic design.

Day job?
I’m a full time artist.

Food or Sleep?
Sleep, I can never get enough.

Greatest achievement?
I’m pretty proud that Urban Outfitters sells my art under their Anthropologie banner. It was a major coup for my career. That, and being represented by Muse Gallery, in Toronto!

Would you rather be able to make a living as an artist now or become famous after you die?
I’m a pretty practical girl: I’d rather make a living doing what makes me happy, living in the present

Were you popular in high school?
Not particularly. But I don’t think I was all that unpopular, either. I was just never that “cool girl”.

Would you rather see your art on a t-shirt or on a billboard?
I’ve already seen my art on a t-shirt, so I guess a billboard would be more exciting.

Astrology or astronomy?
Astrology. It’s easy entertainment.

Would you ever figure model naked?
No way, I don’t have that kind of confidence!

Religion or pop culture?
Pop culture.

Traditional or conceptual?
I’ve always wanted to say that I’m conceptual, but really, I think I fall most comfortably into the “traditional” category.

What do you collect?

Favorite contemporary artist?
I don’t have just one fave. There are several: Franz Kline, Emily Mason, Mark Rothko. There’s also this Moroccan guy whose art I’ve been following, off and on for the past few years: Yassine “Yaze” Mekhnache. His work is awesome.

A piece of art you love?
So many of them. Helen Frankenthaler’s “Causeway” always takes my breath away.

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
Only one? Seriously? I think you have to have a piece of art for every mood, so I cannot imagine just having one single piece.

Use anything other than paint?
Sometimes I paste things only my canvases. I haven’t done so lately, but I’m due.

Photo references?
Hmmm. I guess so. I sometimes like to check out Pinterest. I have added a bunch of paintings to a pin board that I’ve called “My Inspiration”. When I get stuck, I sometimes look there. I’ve collected so many beautiful pieces into one place, and it’s hard for me to leave that, and not be inspired again.

Is painting dead?
Not at all.

Favorite brush?
Big, fat, el cheap-O brushes from the hardware store.

What do you wear while you paint?
A smile.