Artist Chantal Dupuis - AIC Interview

I try to capture nature’s essence or the charming character of some of the subjects that I pains.  When I started loosing my vision, there is this drive that developed in me where I felt like I had to try to capture everything I saw just in case I would never see it again. I was lucky and was a good candidate for a cornea transplant and, after my very successful surgery in 2017, I was able to go back to a normal life. Now my goal is to capture the critters in action of some sort but never to fix them permanently in their environment. I love to keep them free and to give them room to breathe by keeping my backgrounds abstract as I feel that they need that space to be.”

Question:
When did you realize you had the need to create and develop your skills?
Answer:
I picked up painting in 2015 when I was diagnosed with a rare corneal dystrophy which started to affect my vision and forced me to spend most of my time in perpetual dusk. I saw a small acrylic kit for sale for $3 at a craft store and started looking up at YouTube tutorials. As I progressed I quickly realized that there was a whole world of information on painting out there so I started to look for local teachers.

Question:
How do you know when your art is complete?
Answer:
When the animal on my page feels "at peace". Sometimes I am quickly able to get to that point and I know that I can stop and feel comfortable that I have captured my subject. Other times, I just fiddle either until I mess it up and I have to restart or until I give up!

Question:
Where do you gather your inspiration from?
Answer:
I try to capture nature’s essence or the charming character of some of the subjects that I pains.  When I started loosing my vision, there is this drive that developed in me where I felt like I had to try to capture everything I saw just in case I would never see it again. I was lucky and was a good candidate for a cornea transplant and, after my very successful surgery in 2017, I was able to go back to a normal life. Now my goal is to capture the critters in action of some sort but never to fix them permanently in their environment. I love to keep them free and to give them room to breathe by keeping my backgrounds abstract as I feel that they need that space to be.” My goal, through the company The Silver Birch Project which I founded with my family, is to do fundraising to help wildlife animal shelters and/or rescue centres.  The changes in climate have affected everyone, especially the creatures on our planet which cannot cope as easily with habitat changes.  As such, I donate parts of the sales I makes to the organization that I sponsor by the SBP or through the Artists for Conservation Foundation.  In 2019, I was accepted by the Artists for Conservation Foundation as a Signature Level member.  As such, my fundraising work continues along with my exploration of nature and my rendering of it. 15% of the sales of my original artwork go towards the support of wildlife sanctuaries or rescue shelters.

Question:
Where do you typically create art?
Answer:
In 2015, the year my daughter moved out, I told her that she could not come back because I would take ownership of her bedroom. I kept my promise! I now have a beautiful cozy (aka cramped) studio in my home. I also love to be outdoors and will always carry a sketchbook with me on day trips or a mini-studio when we go on our camping trips. I don't travel light!

Question:
Right now, what is your medium of choice and what is your favourite subject matter?
Answer:
I am absolutely in LOVE with watercolours! Water-soluble graphite is in there too and oils are 3rd place. When I use the water mediums, I am mostly always painting animals or imaginary landscapes (fields of flowers, mountains...).

Question:
All artists at all stages of their career want to try something new, what other medium or subject matter do you see yourself experimenting with?
Answer:
I am not ready to try anything new yet, I started painting in 2015 so I need to ground myself better with my current mediums but I can see myself experimenting with clay at some point.

Question:
Continuing education, do you partake and if so what did you learn?
Answer:
I hope to learn until I am too old to do so. I try to keep myself going by researching subjects, methods, activities related to painting as much as possible. Not having had any formal education, at this moment, my favourite topic is the master painters. Who are they, what they did, how and what is their life story.

Question:
Have you ever taught a class or done an artist talk? If so, what did you talk about or teach? Can people sign up for your workshops and how?
Answer:
No.

Question:
Have you ever painted en plein air? What was the biggest hurdle for you? Environmental challenges, wildlife, people, weather?
Answer:
I love en Plein Air painting. My biggest challenge... getting out the door. Going to paint in remote areas alone is not wise. I try to pick places that are public but the attraction for me is not as much as it would be for an urban sketcher for example. I do a lot more en Plein Air painting when we go on vacation every Summer and I am hoping to be able to do more in my retirement.

Question:
Do you do commissions? If so, what is your process?
Answer:
Original painting commissions begin at $80 (based on size and medium type). Once a reference photo and size have been agreed upon, a 50% deposit will be due before the work begins. Square (Credit card) invoicing and payment processing system is available but also accept eTransfer (Canada only). When the deposit has been received the order will be added to calendar. Artwork creation can vary between 1-3 months. Reference Photos Good references photos are so important to the success of your painting. Multiple photos under different lighting can not only give good resource material to the artist but also give a sense of the personality of your pet which is what the artist strives to capture. All reference photos should be sent in high resolution. Photos should be of the animal in light, 3/4 profile or frontal and in the mood that the owner would like represented. If a photo is blurry or does not represent the animal in a way that can be comfortably represented then you may be asked to send additional reference photos. The artist reserves the right to decline a commission if adequate reference material is not provided. ​ Wrapping up ​Once the artwork is completed a photo will be emailed to you for acceptance and review. If you accept it then an invoice will be issued which will include shipping and the remaining of commission costs. If you do not approve of the final results you do not need to pay the balance but the deposit will not be refunded. ​ Shipping/Delivery ​All artwork is sold unframed (but shipped well protected), if you would like to discuss framing options please let us know in advance and we can coordinate this for you (cost of framing will be added to final invoice). Residents of the Ottawa region can pick up their painting at the studio.

Question:
What is your favourite art related quote?
Answer:
"We don't make mistakes, just happy little accidents." - Bob Ross

Question:
Do you have a favourite artist and what do you like about their art? Have you ever met them?
Answer:
Elizabeth Vigée-Lebrun. She had an ability to capture light that fascinates me every time I see one of her paintings.

Question:
Did they inspire you to pursue a career as a professional artist?
Answer:
No. I only saw her work last year, before that I had never even been in an Art gallery.

Question:
What is most challenging to you when starting a new project?
Answer:
Time. Planning the work can be challenging, not always because of my calendar but just the mood. This can be especially true with commissions as they are always animals or landscapes that I like but they have more pressure attached to them and I want to make sure I am doing my best at them.

Question:
What advice would you give to an artist starting out?
Answer:
Just paint. Don't compare yourself to anyone else and if you want feedback, ask someone who understands your passion and has a style that compares to what you do. For example, for me, asking a friend (abstract visual artist) never worked as we had such different styles that she couldn't grasp what I was doing and I couldn't understand what she was saying!

Question:
What keeps you going forward with your art in this very competitive industry?
Answer:
I do not do it for the industry. I paint because that is where my head can rest, where I can just be and not feel anything other than what the paint, the paper and my subject are making me feel at that moment.

Question:
In your studio, right now, what is your most important tool that you would be lost without?
Answer:
My iPad. I could live without a tablet but it simplifies my life when using photo references especially with commissioned work.

Question:
What is your favourite piece of work you have created, thus far?
Answer:
Kibo, my elephant. He was one of my first elephant, endangered animal, and he started me towards my goal now.

Question:
What is the most well received piece of art you have created?
Answer:
Kibo. Everyone loves him!

Question:
Do you have a favourite gallery or museum that you visit?
Answer:
The Kanata Civic Art Gallery in Ottawa, Ontario is by far my favourite. I am a bit biased as I am a member of that gallery but it is artist run and I just love to see all of the works that are exhibited there every month or so. It is a source of calm and inspiration to me. The Canadian Museum of Nature (Ottawa) and the ROM (Toronto) are my favourite but I do have to admit that the National Gallery of Canada is getting up there too.