“If I can paint my subject so it looks most like itself, maybe it will help us see not just the painting, but ourselves in it.” – Laureen Marchand
Laureen, I’m delighted to have a chat with you! I feel connected to you, although we’ve never met. I so appreciate that you often find my comments funny!
Q: Let’s start with you telling us about someone who has mentored you or whose work you have followed or someone who has guided you in some way.
A: I’ve been a working artist for 30 years, and I’ve been really lucky in the people I’ve met and been influenced or helped by. So it would be easy to come up with a “Thanks to the Following” kind of list that included so many names it would be totally unfocused! But the person I keep thinking about is the Canadian watercolourist Catherine Macaulay. Catherine is a masterful painter, with a deep understanding of her chosen materials and a lifelong commitment to really seeing, and I’ve benefited from her advice since we met at the beginning of my career. But maybe more importantly, she’s the person who showed me that generosity can be at the heart of the artist’s life. There’s a real pressure in the art world to choose sides, to laud some styles and denigrate others, to club with artists who are more “successful” and disassociate from those who aren’t, to hang onto what you have. From both Catherine’s teaching and her example, I learned instead to give back what I’ve been given.
That is a wonderful piece. The lesson of generosity is thought-provoking.
Q: What is your what?
A: I’m an artist, a painter. I make oil paintings that consider how we perceive beauty and what we think beauty is, and also the relationship between what we see and what is really happening. I decided a long time ago that if I could paint someone or something so it looked the most like itself, it might help us see not just the painted object, but ourselves in the object. So that’s what I try to do.
I think painting is the reason I was put on the earth. It’s the way I try to understand the world around me. Even though I’ve been painting for a long time, it never feels like I know what I’m doing. So you mix an uncertain, oily medium, pick it up with a stick that won’t completely let you direct it, and place one slightly transparent brushstroke next to or on top of another until something exists that didn’t before. And you never know until you’re finished whether it’s all a big mistake or not! Just like life. And you hope it makes sense.
I love this piece. I’m so attracted to how you capture that stage just beyond fresh–if that makes sense. I always feel I want to know what happened just before: Were they picked for a dinner party? To brighten the room? Because they had a special meaning? This feels the way I feel. So much has happened, but there is still so much I want to do. So obviously you did what you set out to!
Q: Tells about your Where.
A: My studio is the place where I feel most at home. I have a nice small cottage-y house in the tiny village of Val Marie, Saskatchewan, gateway to Grasslands National Park, one of Canada’s most remote and beautiful locations. What would in a normal person’s house be the dining room has been turned into my studio and office, and that’s where I spend most of my days. It’s not huge but it’s bright and sweet and all mine, and everything I need to work with is there. Though sometimes, especially when I’m figuring out some new idea, the studio can spill over into the living room, dining area, and kitchen.
I think artists of whatever kind have their place of creation that is so important to us. Of course I’m leading with the cat, who looks well cared for and comfortable.
Where will your work take you over the winter? I keep thinking about Richard Ford’s book Canada, probably because I have only the vaguest sense of Saskatchewan and he made it a fairly haunting place. I swear he mentioned Val Marie, but short of rereading the book, I can’t be certain.
What always seems most exciting to me is the next painting! Each one takes a week or two or three, depending on size, and one of my ongoing projects is to help them go faster. I’ve just begun something new, and this period of exploration always feels scary and at the same time like a path is stretching out in front of me, that if I can see it, all I have to do is follow.
I sell my work in galleries and am currently looking to expand my gallery representation. There are actually several of them, including the Backporch Gallery that I operate out of my studio, but all except one are regional and I want to operate in a wider sphere. The galleries are listed on my website at www.laureenmarchand.com
And winter is on its way. Which on the Canadian prairies can really have meaning! For me winter means a time to gather ideas and create new things, to hunker down and have even more good reasons to stay in the studio. And to look forward to our days beginning to get lighter again, in only another month. So there’s lots to be joyful about.
Well, as my mother would say, “On that happy note . . . “. Thanks for sharing and doing beautiful work.