Sandrine Pelissier

North Vancouver, Canada

I grew up in France but have been living in Canada for the last 12 years, I am currently located in North Vancouver and work from a...

I paint because...

This is the latest post from my blog :

I was reading a post on the excellent blog Fine Art Views called “How versus Why” by Keith Bond ( that made me realize that when I talk about my art I almost all the time will be more comfortable talking about the how than about the why. Why is that? Is it a kind of modesty ? or is it because it is easier ? Or is it my geek side always keen about technique taking over?

This blog for example, I wasn’t sure how it would turn out when I started, it is about different things but mostly about technique, which is a good thing too if I want my audience to be other artists and I am fine with that.

The problem is I tend to speak about the “how” with everybody and even with potential customers when they come visit my studio, as they might be more interested in the why.
This little animation is an example of what can happen in my studio :

Anyway, I thought this realization was a good opportunity to think about my “why”.

A good way to start is to think about my subjects, the “what”. In my case that will be 4 categories : Portraits, cityscapes, still life and very abstract landscapes. I noticed some time ago that as much as I like to be precise and thorough when painting portraits I like to be non specific when painting landscapes. I am still not sure why trying to capture details of a leaf seems unbearably boring to me as trying to have the exact shape, at the 1/10 of millimeter of a shade on a face is fascinating.

I tend to think about my fascination for portraits in general as a compensation for poor people skills, and an attraction to difficulty as any small mistake is usually very visible on a portrait, and I am not saying here that painting landscape is easy, on the contrary, but you might have more room for interpretation than when painting a realistic portrait.

I also tend to relate the process of painting to a kind of meditation. I noticed that my thoughts tend to stop when I am deeply involved in the process of painting. This is true for everything I am painting, portraits or abstract landscapes or detailed cityscapes.

I sometimes think of painting as a way to better look at something. With portraits for example the process of studying and reproducing details of the face forces you to pay attention to those details. Without painting a face, I have the most difficulty making a mental image of a face in detail, even if it is a face I see everyday. With cityscapes, it is the same, I have to pay attention to details I wouldn’t even notice otherwise. So it is a way to force me to pay attention. Which I can’t help to relate to the fact of being add, and having focus issues.

If you are painting regularly, it is almost as if you are building a world of your own, your own painting universe, with your own visual vocabulary and most of the time a few obsessions that are recurring in your work. I am myself going through a building with tiny windows and reflection phase in my watercolor cityscapes.

Sometimes I am wondering also if I am painting because I like looking at the images I made, and being surrounded by them. In other words living in this universe I created.

All those considerations can seem self-centered because they only improve the life of the artist or compensate for some aspects, so are artists making art because they have to, to feel better? Is art always a kind of art therapy? So are all artists self-indulgent? How do you get other people interested in your art if it is related to yourself, how do you get a generalization that could be of interest to your viewers out of the particular?Art is also made to be shared and needs a public, some of the reasons for paintings might be related to this public.

Painting and art in general is a way to express yourself, but will be interpreted by the viewer in relation to their own experience and sensibility. I am always amazed at the different interpretations I make and my friends are making looking at the same work of art. So the artist is expressing himself but is not completely responsible for the interpretation of what he made. I noticed that sometimes people visiting my studio like to talk about their own interpretation of what they see, and this is always very interesting for me as it is sometimes far from my intention, my conscious intention anyway. So in a way everyone is looking at art ( and the world in general) through the lens of their own experience, projecting their own intentions, background, story, sensibilities on your work.

Painting is a way to stop time, to appreciate a moment in its stillness. Today we are used to images moving at a fast rhythm, painting allows us to enjoy the now and getting pleasure in the fact of looking at the same image over time, a reassuring presence, a routine. It could be a landscape or abstract that you learn to appreciate in its details and peaceful stillness, or it could be the portrait of a kid fixed in eternal childhood (even when they start to grow up they seem to be stuck in eternal childhood in the eyes of their parents anyway )

So in conclusion, the next time I have visitors in my studio, I think it might be more interesting for me to try to listen to what they might have to say about my work, their reactions and interpretations, and be more relaxed if there is a long silence, not trying to fill out the space with long explanations about technical details.

Journal Comments

  • Cindy Schnackel
  • Sandrine Pelissier