OUT & BACK

Arabella - - CLAUDE LANGEVIN - writ­ten by Mark Bla­grave

So­phie Levesque’s de­vel­op­ment as an artist has been char­ac­ter­ized by a se­ries of de­par­tures and re­turns that are both ge­o­graph­i­cal and aes­thetic. Her child­hood in the city of Ed­mund­ston, sur­rounded by the beauties of na­ture and a sup­port­ive fam­ily, rooted her firmly in that north­west­ern New Brunswick com­mu­nity. She re­calls as a child be­ing “al­ways pushed to ex­plore and dis­cover new things and I be­lieve that this cu­rios­ity that was given to us by my par­ents helped me in my con­stant re­search and ex­plo­ration in my art world.” That spirit of ex­plo­ration, along with calls of the heart, helped her at age 18 to leave fran­co­phone Ed­mund­ston for the nearby but very dif­fer­ent city of Fred­er­ic­ton. There the Beaver­brook Art Gallery, the pres­ence of many other artists, the uni­ver­si­ties, and a di­verse ar­ray of com­mer­cial gal­leries al­lowed her to broaden her hori­zons. Hav­ing de­vel­oped her skills in a sec­ond lan­guage and com­pleted her stud­ies in lib­eral arts and so­cial work in English, she has re­turned home at last to work and paint in her na­tive Ed­mund­ston. So­phie’s evo­lu­tion as an artist demon­strates a sim­i­lar pat­tern of de­par­ture and re­turn. Early in her teen years, show­ing prom­ise well above her years, she joined an adult art class led by Clarence Bour­goin. But self-cri­tique and a drive to achieve per­fec­tion in this group of much sea­soned artists led her to leave the class af­ter three years. “It she says. “It was sim­ple: a small horse in front of a white barn with a green tree. I have never spent that much time on a piece in my ca­reer. I be­came very ner­vous that I was not do­ing the right thing - to the point that I left the class.” A change of ap­proach work­ing along­side local artist Vicky Lentz for a year helped to ex­plore and loosen her brush­work to the point where she was ready to re­join Bour­goin’s class and re­fine her ap­proach fur­ther. Her “Cri­tique is the only way you grow and learn; if ev­ery­one al­ways tells you it’s nice you will never

back pat­tern. Her love of oils, dat­ing back to her dis­cov­ery of an old paint box be­long­ing to her mother, when the artist was seven, also took a brief de­tour. She re­calls her small apart­ment in Fred­er­ic­ton, which “had a room that I would use as my stu­dio, although it was also a stor­age room, a cat room, and a spare bed­room. I time and I quickly de­vel­oped an in­tol­er­ance for the medium. I had to change to acrylics.” Find­ing that she missed the tex­ture and colour found a way back to it and is glad to be home.

Places of Work

So­phie’s stu­dio is in her Ed­mund­ston apart­ment, with a door giv­ing onto a pleas­ant roof gar­den that Here, she sur­rounds her­self with re­pro­duc­tions of the works of the French Im­pres­sion­ists, draw­ings from Claude Pi­card, and many books. These join a col­lec­tion of English tea cups, and her grand­mother’s clovers to pro­vide in­spi­ra­tion. “Most of my still life’s,” she con­fesses, “are of things that I found in yard sales, so Satur­day in the re­gion.” Sim­i­larly, her land­scapes are of places she has seen and vis­ited. “I of­ten paint on site and ex­plore the re­gion I live in,” she says. “It her mem­ory is as­sisted by pho­to­graphs: “My dad also helps in the process as he sends me lots of pictures that he takes on the road as he ex­plores our re­gion like no other per­son.” Even in the of­ten harsh win­ters of north­west­ern New

woods with my mother where we have snow­shoe trails at my aunt’s. We bring our 10-year-old Ir­ish Set­ter who is also a source of in­spi­ra­tion. I have painted many paint­ings in those woods. It is a big ad­ven­ture to paint out­side in the win­ter. Not rec­om­mended in the spring when the snow is melt­ing and the trails are no longer sta­ble.”

The mo­ment that you paint

So­phie Levesque is quick to ac­knowl­edge her many debts to her early in­struc­tor Clarence She cred­its Bour­goin for “teach­ing me the the­o­ries, tech­niques and ways of look­ing that I art.” She con­tin­ues: “He of­ten said he was a land­scape hunter. That I had to al­ways re­mem­ber to keep my eyes open and truly see. This is when I started to see pur­ple moun­tains, blue snow, yel­low clouds. I started to un­der­stand colour.” She also ad­mires the plein-air artists of the

“that they spend whole days in canyons paint­ing rocks and com­ing out with mas­ter­pieces.” The smelling and liv­ing the mo­ment that you paint is very im­por­tant to me,” she says. Let­ting go of that mo­ment, and the paint­ing that rep­re­sents it, can some­times be a chal­lenge, but So­phie likes to re­mem­ber the ad­vice of fel­low artist Rosanna Mar­mont: “Your art is only yours on its own iden­tity and you have to let it go.” It is al­ways re­as­sur­ing, though, to know it has gone to a good home. So­phie points to a num­ber of col­lec­tors of her art with whom she has be­come good friends: “I am very happy that my art is on their walls be­cause I know it is well treated.”

Prac­tice and The­ory, The­ory and Prac­tice

Among the art classes she took at univer­sity, So­phie re­calls lov­ing the sketch­ing classes, but

above left, The Tiger Lilies, oil on board, 24” x 20” mid­dle, The Har­vest Bou­quet, oil on board, 12” x 12”

above right, The Golden Girls, oil on board, 18” x 16”

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