Celine Gabrielle

"I create because it is fun, it challenges me and gives me energy. "

Inspired by ’80s and ’90s pop culture, fashion, design and architecture, artist Celine Gabrielle’s artwork does not go unnoticed.
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Celine Gabrielle

Inspired by ’80s and ’90s pop culture, fashion, design and architecture, artist Celine Gabrielle’s artwork does not go unnoticed. After a 20-year artistic break, she is back and ready to impress with bold neon colours. Learn more about her journey and inspirations in the next few lines!

DeSerres: Can you describe a key moment in your artistic journey?

Celine: Getting accepted into the Visual Arts Program at the Canterbury High School of Arts in Ottawa. I had to complete a life drawing workshop that I will never forget. Picture this: I am 14 and I walk into this large, warehouse-type space filled with big unfinished paintings, huge cement sinks, art supplies everywhere and paint splatters all over the floor—basically like those NYC art studios you see in movies. I am told to set up a donkey easel, grab some newspaper and get ready for class. I had no idea what any of that stuff was, but I followed along and did my best to pretend that I knew what I was doing.

I did not pursue any post-secondary art education and did not create at all after high school up until two years ago, but the foundation and skills that I acquired at Canterbury stayed with me.

D: How important is art in your life?

C: Art has always been a big part of my life. I grew up surrounded by art and design. My father is a writer and graphic designer and my mother is a talented seamstress, crocheter, and has a real eye for interior design. Art that I love makes me happy; being surrounded by art brings joy and life into my world, which is very important to me.

D: What inspires you? What is your creative process?

C: It has taken me over 20 years to finally pursue my lifelong dream of being a professional artist. I love very bright colours in big hunks and chunks. Beautifully layered light and shadows that come together to create something different yet recognizable. Zooming in on details. Alluring and intriguing, never boring. Always engaging. Right now, all of this comes out as oil paintings on large canvases; a style that is close-up and slightly abstract, but still incredibly crisp at the same time.

As an ’80s/’90s child, my style is greatly influenced by bold, in-your-face neon colours, big shoulder pads and the modern technology takeover, but it is also influenced by my baby boomer parents and my grandparents. I get inspired by pop culture, fashion, style, design, and architecture across many generations, dating as far back as the 1920s with their art deco and flapper girls, up to the 2000s with megastars like Lady Gaga and Beyoncé. I also love today’s haute couture trends.

As a self-taught artist, my style is also influenced by the well-known artists I had access to, many of which were popularized by pop culture like Tamara de Lempicka, Rene Magritte, Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso. I also have a few Canadian favourites like Mary Pratt, Lawren Harris and Alex Colville.

As far as my process goes, I start with an image or a piece of clothing that inspires me. It has to speak to me. I am slow, I work in many layers. I start with acrylic to block in main colours and shapes quickly, and then I switch to oils. I carefully study my references and refine my work section by section. I love that my paintings look realistic from far, but up close, they are just abstract colours and shapes—like an illusion. I create because it is fun, it challenges me and gives me energy.

D: What artistic accomplishments are you proud of?

C: In 2018, I started making art again after an approximate 20-year hiatus, to see if I still had it in me. By 2019, I felt I was creating art I was ready to share with the world. I applied to The Artist Project’s UNTAPPED Emerging Artist Competition and was thrilled to be one of the 20 accepted artists. The show was in Toronto, in March 2020, and it was the most wonderful experience. I got incredible feedback from so many attendees, sold a few pieces, and built a great support system amongst other participating artists. To top it all off, once the show was over, I received an email stating that I had won the People’s Choice Award. That meant so much to me, AND it also means that I will get to participate again in 2021.

D: What advice do you have for emerging artists?

C: In the beginning, I read a lot of books (still do). Daily Painting by Carol Marine really motivated me to paint every day. Austin Kleon’s series of books, starting with Steal Like an Artist, as well as Danielle Krysa’s Your Inner Critic Is a Big Jerk helped me let go of some self-sabotaging thoughts. There are so many good books—I wish I could list them all! I also took to Instagram and participated in a few challenges like #20DaySelfPortraitChallenge, #30PaintingsIn30Days and #100DayProject. Beginner artists might find these helpful, too. However, my simplest advice is to start and then keep going. Keep showing up, practice and make art that YOU like.

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