ART IN A FEMININE PERSPECTIVE /
There are so many different ways to describe Gail Descoeurs that it is difficult to know where to begin. Determined and disciplined fit the bill as does the seemingly contradictory coupling of mystical and spritely.
Descoeurs works in the field of contemporary realism. Her paintings are almost all landscapes and a fair number of them feature water and impressive skies. "My favorite things to paint are skies, trees, landscapes, marshes, wide open spaces, water. I love the light, even in my dark paintings there is some light."
A good example of this is Breathing the in Between, a 30 x 40 work that leads you down a lake and then up into the mountains. On each side of the lake there are tree covered hills which rise in the centre at the end of the lake to become mountainous.
In the foreground the tree covered hills are reflected onto the lake. There is a clear center stripe running down the lake which then moves upward to become translucent clouds. It's almost as if we are looking at a series of Vs going down the lake, a V formed by the flanks of the hills and then another V formed by white clouds rising up set off by darker golden clouds on each side. In reading the painting the viewer takes an upwards or spiritual path, communing with nature.
Gail Descoeurs was born in 1962 and grew up in the Montreal suburb of Pincourt on Ile Perrot. "We lived at the end of Pincourt before it was developed, surrounded by woods and the woods were my favorite place to be and they still are."
"I grew up in nature. I fell in love with drawing and painting when I was very young and that creative process has brought me a lot of joy. I'd look at landscapes and appreciate them and think to myself I'd love to do that and I started and it just became who I am."
Descoeurs is largely self-taught. Her father was a Sunday artist and she started by going sketching with him. When she was 17 she used his kit to start her first oil painting. She tried watercolours but didn't like the unpredictable nature of the medium. For quite some time she has worked exclusively in oils. "I love oil for the luminosity, the texture, I love how they blend."
Like many another painter Descoeurs had to bide her time before devoting herself to it fulltime. For 22 years she worked as a mechanical draftsman but all the time she was also working on her art, exhibiting and joining artists' groups. In 2002 she began teaching because people would approach her at exhibitions and ask her to teach them how to paint. By 2006 she was able to devote herself to a combination of teaching and painting.
At the moment she is teaching four classes and spending about 30 hours a week painting. She started teaching by driving to her students' homes. Now she teaches in the basement studio of her home on the banks of the Ottawa River, outside of Hudson Quebec.
"I'm happy if I can get two to three good paintings done in a month, depending on the size. I paint very fine in thin layers. I'm somewhat of a perfectionist as well. I want the paintings I do to be unique and special. I don't want to become repetitive and I don't want to be dictated as to what I paint."
There is something very traditional about some of Descoeurs' landscapes and that can be seen in Breathing the in Between, where perspective seems to be somewhat flattened and the forms are simplified. At the same time, in some of her work, there is almost a touch of magic realism as in Come Away, 10 x 20, and Symphony of Light, 30 x 30.
Come Away is a wonderful piece and plays with the way we look at things. At first glance it is a lake painting but really it is more like two paintings in one. On the top there is a standard view of lake, trees and sky and then there is the reflected world of trees and sky in the lake. However, there is a thin band of water that separates reality from the reflection and this effectively divides the painting into two.
Symphony of Light is an homage to the splendour of fall foliage showing a magnificent explosion of orange trees, once again some of the trees are mirrored in a lake to great effect.
Descoeurs can see the Ottawa River from her kitchen and says that she needs to be outdoors every day. She runs marathons and when she needs a break will put on her running shoes and go for a spin, frequently running on nearby Rigaud Moutain.
She mixes her own colours, "I'll sit there in my workshop mixing colours and I will see what I am attracted to for the mood I'm in and then I will stick to that palette for the painting. I want to paint what I want to paint and sometimes I don't know what I want to paint. I just start and it comes out. It takes on a life of its own."
"Because I do a lot of landscapes and wide open spaces I tend to work in a horizontal format. I find that now I'm expanding the size because the bigger they are, the more I can get into them. I find that the bigger they are the more people tend to stay in front of them and get lost in them."
Descoeurs describes herself as being a studio artist as opposed to plein air. However, she also takes advantage of her outdoors time, "I do some sketches, take photos. I do some rough little paintings."
She says that in the past her work was more realistic, one of the results of working as a mechanical draftsman. Her work is looser now. "It took me a while to break away. I respect artists who work in impressionism but that's not me, I can't paint like that"
The odds are that Descoeurs will continue to work in the field of contemporary realism. She has a wish list of places she would like to paint. "I love travelling. I want to go back to Europe, the Saguenay, Newfoundland, Sedona, Arizona. I feel drawn to Ireland. I'd like to see what would come out of me by going to those special places."
Gail Descoeurs is a member of the Lakeshore Artists Association and an Associate Member of the Society of Canadian Artists. She has won numerous first places in competitions. Her work can also be seen on her website www.gaildescoeurs.com. She is represented by Galerie Iris in Baie St. Paul and the Westmount Gallery in Toronto.
Breathing the in Between, 30 x 40 in
Wind Beneath My Wings, 48 x 60 in
Symphony of Light, 30 x 30 in