Studio visit: visual artist Yvon Gallant

"Yvon Gallant, shut your big mouth and draw." - Yvon`s childhood drawing teacher

*This interview was made possible thanks to a grant from artsnb. Thank you artsnb!*

Yvon Gallant is a visual artist from Moncton, NB. His inspiration comes from what he sees, the people around him, moments in time, the culture of his city. He can not help but take ideas and shape them with paint, using bright colors and simple shapes that communicate joy and a sense of humor. Even when the subject is dark, such as a relative dying in the hospital, he manages to find beauty and to communicate hope. He has been painting for over 40 years, and today he is a well-known NB artist. Yvon’s paintings are found in collections all over the world. He has participated in exhibitions in Paris and the Dominican Republic, and in 2011 he won the Lieutenant Governor’s award for the arts. But when you get down to it, for him, the important thing is to be creating.

My mother and I really enjoyed our visit with Yvon. He welcomed us warmly into his home and pampered us with tea and stories. He served us Earl Grey, "the same brand the Queen of England drinks", in beautiful porcelain tea cups. He has collected them for years. "I had a collection of about 300 cups and saucers, but I had to get rid of most of them when I moved here. I kept the most beautiful ones." Yvon’s thirst for beauty shows in his tea cup collections, the art around his home and right down to artfully placed flowers.

Yvon’s space is small but warm, filled with clues that an artist makes it his home. Brushes live next to onions and the fruit bowl, acrylic paint tubes sit on the counter next to the coffee machine, and of course there is art in every corner.

Yvon regaled us with anecdotes and stories from his career and kept us in stitches with his wry sense of humour. Among the "highlights", an internship in Baie St-Paul, exhibitions in Paris, his time as director of the No Name Gallery in Moncton ... Beyond all the adventures, the ups and downs, his love of painting has never changed. With his honesty and jokes, he is a character to get to know. His personality shows up in his paintings. He illustrates his thoughts with simplicity and a true eye for color and balance. Yvon is a part of a generation of artists who has managed to navigate the cultural and technological changes of the last several decades while continuing to pump out relevant work. He has kept his artistic voice, always looking forward and pushing his art to the next level.

Tell us about your creative journey

I never thought I'd be an artist. At school I was not really good in math and all that, but one of my teachers noticed that I was creative and encouraged me in it. So I was a part of the first class to complete the visual arts program at Universite de Moncton in 1976. When I graduated, my father thought I was a house painter! He said, "Yvon, well at least you know how to paint the walls." I had to explain to him. One day I sold a painting, and it changed to "My son, the artist!"

What materials do you use?

I used oil paints for 20 years but now I use primarily acrylic paint. I used to make my own paints and everything but I found that the odors were too strong. I experimented with different kinds of paint, sometimes with success, sometimes not. There was one kind that would not not stay glued to the canvas. There was one case where the gallery went to hang the painting and the paint came off in a layer: the city of Moncton just peeled off! One day I’ll do a show called "Gallant’s gaffes"...

How would you describe your style?

My style is naïve, which means a simple, childlike style. Each piece is inspired by a memory, which often has a domino effect and makes one think of another related memory, and another and another... Also, I'm not afraid of colour. I just jump in!

And your process?

I love painting all at once. I think and think about ideas, and then one day when I feel inspired I sit and I paint a dozen canvases at once, often along a theme. I do blue, blue, blue, on several different canvases, then green, green, green, each colour in turn. I wait, and when it's time something happens and then bing, bang, paintings appear.