Words and photos by Jennifer Walker
Linda Gallant still has her childhood wonder at being ‘in the moment’ creating art. I learned this when visiting her at her studio in Neguac recently. Linda has spent her life creating and teaching art. She explains her creative process like this; “Art happens in the moment when you are in the ‘zone’ because the zone shortens the distance between the hand and the brain. This is how I experience art. I’m never sure when it will occur, but it always does!”
Linda has found that the more art she creates, the more she wants to do. She explained that art is the type of thing that a person works on in isolation but needs a group of like-minded people to be in contact with for encouragement and sharing of knowledge and ideas. This need was the catalyst for the Miramichi Art Core; a group of artists from the area. Presently she is the president of the group.
When teaching art, Linda encourages students to find this creative zone and there are techniques that she has learned which help. She never teaches painting technique although she will point out the shadows and reflections on the subject, that students are working with.
I asked her a few questions about herself and her work.
How did you get started in art?
I never took art seriously until I was in university.
Growing up in Montreal, I was always good in art, although, there was no art program in the schools. I had earned a certificate in teaching and was working when I started taking evening classes.
I went into the sciences when I started attending Concordia University in Montreal because I knew I could draw anything I saw under the microscope. The way my courses worked out, though, I took a studio course and learned that I could draw better than most of the other students so I changed from sciences to fine art.
After graduating with a Master’s degree in Fine Art from Concordia, I went back into teaching in Montreal but found I didn’t like the job, so my husband and I packed up and moved to Neguac. I started teaching art and music at Esgenoopetitj First Nation School and says never looked back. I became a specialist with the local school division; a Fine Art teacher.
What mediums do you work with?
I work in acrylic, as the colours are bright and they dry quickly. I have done some watercolour, charcoal and pastel, but not often.
Who has been influential in your life as an artist?
I think the Group of Seven. There was an art Gallery in Montreal, which specialized in their work, and I used to visit when I lived there. I also love the work of Vincent Van Gogh and the posters of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
What does your studio space mean to you?
For years I didn’t have a studio. I was raising kids and had no time anyway. Now my studio is my cocoon. It is so convenient with beautiful ambient light and closets for storage and a laminate floor. My studio is a visual diary. When I look at my pictures I remember being there and painting that picture but I don’t work in my studio very often.
Where do you work?
I do most of my work outdoors. I work quickly because I do everything on site from the initial drawing to the finished product. The only time I work in the studio is when I am painting a still life.
How has your aesthetic changed over the years?
When I started I said ‘let’s see if I can do it’, and now I can do it, so it’s ‘let’s see what I can do with it’. I like another viewpoint. When you take another viewpoint, you get another point of view. I can’t do creative work and talk. I feed the muse with the mute.
What are you most proud of?
When it was going good in classes when I was teaching, it was excellent. I didn’t have to do art for the kids because I got the kids to do it. When I see them 20 years later these kids who are now adults, will cross the street to say hello and introduce me to their kids. I don’t think they remember the art so much as they remember the experience of art. That is was I am most proud of.
I still have about 30 pieces of my student’s work. Some students would throw out their work as soon as class was over and the work was marked. I would go through the garbage cans and keep their work. They didn’t know how good it was and they didn’t care but it meant something to me.
What do you see for the future?
I would love to illustrate children’s books. I illustrated an article for Wayne Curtis, a local author from Blackville for the Atlantic Salmon Journal and that was fun. I painted a series of pictures of an angler on Riviere de Caches. I like making art to suit someone else’s purposes. They give me the context and the colour scheme and I have the freedom to create. I would also like to do more painting in the city.
Linda is not on social media but can be reached through the Miramichi Art Core website.