For this month, the Winnipeg River Arts Council features visual artist Julie Lavoie, a life-long resident of St-Georges. After raising their two children, she and her husband now live by themselves in a comfortable house on the community’s large rocky hill.
Lavoie loves trying new methods and finds it hard picking just one. Right now, she enjoys experimenting with different pencils. She said, “I gravitate toward graphite, pastels, and my new favourite, coloured pencils. They’re versatile and can mimic other medium. And they’ve come a long way since our high school days.”
Lavoie likes applying multiple layers with her pencils and then using a safe workable solvent, to achieve results that resemble oil paints. Even though the repeated applications take time, she has doesn’t mind investing days or weeks to complete one painting. She is self-taught and has been working on her arts practice for years. Even as a child, she liked making art. She said, “If homework involved art, it was just fun.”
In high school, she took art classes, with many opportunities to experience different mediums, to complete projects that inspired and challenged her, and to work on her drawing skills, increasing her knowledge of composition and perspective. She said, “Every year, I learned something new, building on skills from the previous year.”
In her twenties, she discovered the joy of art books. She used them to improve her skills and mimicked the artists she saw in these books, such as Pencil Drawing by Gene Franks. Another influence was Claudia Nice, a well-known instructor. Lavoie said, “Her techniques are easy to follow; she breaks down all the steps. In her books, she teaches about watercolours, pen and ink drawing, sketching, and other techniques. She’s still one of my favourites.”
She also uses the internet to explore new medium. For example, she discovered Lisa Clough, from Lachri Fine Arts, who creates work in oils, acrylics, graphite, a medium called Inktense, and, most important, coloured pencils. Lavoie said, “Clough’s styles range from realism to surrealism, and even contemporary.”
She also found Alyona Nickelson, an artistic pioneer who creates new products that change the way how coloured pencils react on paper. Lavoie said, “They are like pastels, but no smudging. You get vibrant colours; you can finish a painting in half the time.”
She has also learned a lot from local artists, taking watercolour classes with Nancy-Lou Ateah and Jo-Anne Thompson, watercolour and mixed media with Roberta Laliberte, and drawing with Leah Boulet. When asked for inspiring words, Lavoie said, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which one to keep.”