Thursday, November 12, 2009

Out today: Yves Tessier Q & A

Yves Tessier makes curious, colourful little paintings, often of everyday scenes, that tend to remind me of storybook pictures for grownups. Last week, I got to chat with him on the phone on the occasion of a show of new work at Projex Mtl. Today, the National Post published a condensed version of our exchange. Here's an excerpt:

Q You make your own paints from scratch, which must make the process longer. How and why do you do this?

A When I was younger, I did art restoration as a day job in Montreal, and I helped restore the Notre-Dame Basilica. So I learned ancient techniques like egg tempera. Now, I have a great pigment supplier in New York, where I live, and I work with casein, which is a milk paint. Some of my pigments are ground from semi-precious stones, like malachite. Some were used in the Greco-Roman period, like caput mortuum, which means "dead heads" -- it's an earthy violet that was used a lot in Pompeii. So I do spend time mixing pigment, often in shells. But even if I was working in oils or acrylics, I'd have to spend time mixing colours anyway. I don't have shadows in my paintings -- another tendency from ancient art -- so I need certain colours to show where the light is.

Interestingly, Tessier also told me that one reason he likes to keep his paintings small (max 11 x 17, unless it's a special "enlarging" commission) is so that he can scan them as soon as they are done and send them off to his friends and colleagues. So that's a little more of this era...

Image of Tessier's Cocktail Hour 2009 from Projex Mtl.

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