Christelle Bilodeau

“If a day goes by without me drawing, I’m always eager to start again.”
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As a child, Christelle was already drawing all the time, “like all children, but a little more intensely”. It was with hyperrealist painter Clodin Roy that she took her first painting lessons, after having begged her mother to enrol her. With him, our young budding artist learned to draw animals and landscapes. Then, in her spare time, she learned the art of portraiture by having fun recreating photos of faces in magazines. She made her first portraits at the age of 15/16, mixing painting and drawing. Among her favourite subjects: actors and musicians. Later, an experience in her art class at CEGEP confirmed that she preferred realism to abstraction. As a self-taught artist, she continued to improve her technique over time, specialising in graphite portraits:

“I’ve been doing portraits ever since. I’ve gotten better just by doing them, I’ve never taken a course for that.”


HER RELATIONSHIP WITH ART

When she talks about her relationship with art, Christelle uses the word “profound”, referring to her strong daily need to spend time at her drawing table. “If a day goes by without me drawing, I’m always eager to start again.” Music, cinema, physical works: art envelopes her, inspiring and accompanying her in her creative process. Music from the ’60s and ’70s and movies play an important role in her studio: “It’s a good source of inspiration and always have something playing in the background keeps me focused.” When it comes to visual arts, Christelle prefers modern art, but also great classics: she marvels, among other things, at extremely detailed antique portraits from the 18th century, their fabrics and textures richly worked with the tools of the time:

“It amazes me to think that an artist was doing this in real life, with a person posing. There were no photographs in those days. I find it extraordinary!”


HER TURNING POINT

Her career as an artist took shape spontaneously and naturally, under the gaze of those around her who constantly complimented her creations. Later on, special requests began to pour in: “Can you draw this person? Can you draw my daughter?” She answered all these questions with the precision of her pencil stroke.

“People seemed happy with the result. It’s encouraging to see how people react when you offer them their portrait.”

Christelle will draw anyone, but one person in particular marked one of the most beautiful moments in her life: in 2011, during a concert at the Bell Centre in Montréal, her teenage idol, Paul McCartney, asked her to come up on stage to sign a portrait she had drawn of him - which she proudly held up to the crowd. This moment was instrumental in motivating Christelle to focus full-time on her art, while building her popularity. The autographed portrait, carefully displayed in her studio, reminds her of this inspiring memory every day.

HER CREATIVE PROCESS

Before she puts her first pencil stroke on a blank page, Christelle starts with a photo and then takes many measurements. First, she draws rough outer lines to place the shapes. Then the eyes, the details of the face and the rest. “I really like working on the eyes. The nose is more difficult. It’s easy to miss.” If she doesn’t like something, Christelle erases and starts again. In this case, her trick is to leave the portrait aside and come back to it: “You see it differently. You take a step back from what might have annoyed you.” Although she is hard on herself, Christelle does not want her designs to be 100% accurate. She believes her creations should always have a raw edge. On average, it takes her about 200 hours to produce her favourite format: 18 x 24 in. Her favourite medium is graphite, which she has been specialising in for over 15 years. Portrait commissions fill her days, as well as personal projects that she keeps to herself: people she admires, but also more recently objects, especially musical instruments.

HER CREATIVE SPACE

Over time, Christelle felt the need to design a space just for her art: a private space where she could enjoy some peace and quiet and concentrate fully. Her advice: a good work surface, a comfortable chair, materials within easy reach, and a portrait of Paul McCartney not too far away.

Check out this video for Christelle’s tips on the importance of a good workspace, and how to set up an art studio:


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