As promised, this week’s Hooked on Fridays post is an interview with Canadian abstract artist, Matt LeBlanc. Thanks to Julia at Hooked on Houses for hosting this great weekly blog party :-)
At the end of the interview with Matt, I’ll announce the winner of our giveaway. Yes, I’m making you wait till the very end again. Mean, aren’t I?! :-)
And if that isn’t enough to keep you reading to the end, Matt is also offering a very special deal for DesignTies readers only :-) You know what you have to do… keep reading!!
Not the Friends dude
This Matt LeBlanc lives in New Brunswick, Canada. He’s an advertising guy by day, but his real passion is painting. I think he should quit his job and paint full-time, because he’s awesome!!
I discovered Matt’s work a couple of years ago. Since then, I’ve bought four of his paintings, including one commissioned piece and the purple painting to the right called Simplicity. And I somehow let him rope me into editing his newsletter for him every month ;-)
One of my first DesignTies posts was about Matt and his work. You can read it here.
Say hello to Matt…
How did you get started with painting?
I was painting when I was very young, but never did anything for years until my wife started buying art online. When the first couple of pieces arrived, I told her I could do this kind of stuff and she laughed at me. That’s all it took. One night while she was at work, I went out and purchased all the necessary material and painted what I consider the first original Matt LeBlanc. I pulled a little prank on her by taking a picture of the painting and placing it in an eBay template and showing it to her. I told her I had found a great painting and that we should buy it. She responded by saying that it was a good idea. The rest is history!!
Do you have a process that you follow when you paint, or does each painting evolve differently?
When I work on a commissioned painting, I have to follow a process and stay in a certain frame of mind because I have agreed to a look & feel with the client. When I’m free to paint as I please, I typically let the brush lead the way. I paint with acrylic paint, which is known to be a fast drying type of material. So I’ve really trained myself over the years to paint at a fast pace. I would say that 9 times out of 10, I almost feel like a surgeon who’s losing his patient on the table. There’s a moment in every painting that nothing is working and I feel like I’m going to lose the piece. There’s typically a little panic moment, but it always works itself out as long as I keep working on it.
I love texture. I paint with pallet knives and use heavy body paint, which has a very thick buttery consistency. I also use an extra-wide brush to create different effects with the paint.
Do you have a favourite colour that you like to use?
I love the earth tones but I think that red is my absolute favorite color to use in a piece. It just screams energy!!!
You recently started naming your paintings. What made you decide to do that?
I’ve debated naming my pieces since I started painting. I knew I was going to get there at some point, but I was afraid to run out of names. And I was afraid that it would consume too much of time to come up with a name for each painting.
Then one day, I received a very warm and touching email from a good client of mine. This Ontario woman had commissioned me to do a large 6’ wide x 4’ tall painting for her living room. I had worked very hard on it. Her mother got very ill in the meantime, and was stuck in bed because of it. When my client got the painting, it really changed the mood in her home. She was extremely happy with the painting. Her little mother insisted on getting out of bed so she could see the painting for herself. She then had her picture taken in front of the painting so she could wave to me and thank me for my hard work. That really touched me. I decided right then and there that I would take the time to name my paintings, and that I would name the first one after my client’s mother… Chizuko.
What's the reasoning behind giving your paintings one-word names?
I like to keep things simple, but also be different. Most artists use 3–4 words for the name, and I just think it’s too much. I’m a straight-to-the-point kind of guy. That’s my style.
What inspires your artwork?
I feed off people. I’m not the type of artist who’s going to see something somewhere and run to my canvas to paint it. I just paint when I feel like it and it comes to me right then and there. Some nights, I go into the studio and it’s just not working out so I close everything and do something else. You can’t force art… it has to come to you!
Do you still have the first piece that you painted? What do you think when you look back at it?
I do. It was 16” x 20” and done on a stretched canvas. It was mostly brown with a little bit of texture. Not too fancy, but not too bad for the first one. I still have it in my studio and show it to clients occasionally. I like going back and looking at my earlier paintings. It keeps me focused on getting better.
How has your technique evolved since you started painting?
I’m 100% self-taught, so it has evolved quite a bit since I started. When I enter my studio, I typically have in mind what I want to do. I sometimes tackle a commissioned piece or paint something for my inventory that will either go in a gallery, on my site, or onto an online portal. However, I do allow myself some time to experiment. Those are the fun times. I allow myself to just play with different mediums and colours and see what happens. Sometimes it’s a total bomb, but I’ve created some of my best pieces this way. That’s how I evolve!!!
Wrapped pre-primed canvas, acrylic paint, water, 15 different brushes, 7 different pallet knives, a few props, and lots of paper towels. Don’t ask about the paper towels. (OK, I’m intrigued!!)
Do you have a favourite brush or tool?
I do. I have a favorite brush that’s very wide and long. I also have a favorite palette knife that I use 80% of the time.
They are still very young; 18 months and 4 year old. The oldest has shown an interest — but like everything else, it doesn’t last more then 10 minutes and then off he goes to do something else. They always want to draw or play with Play-Doh, which definitely brings out their creativity.
I won’t be missing my old studio at all as I didn’t really have one. I didn’t have a dedicated room for the art, so it was living among us. It wasn’t the best situation, but I did well with what I had. My new studio was well planned and it will have everything I need in one big room. I’ve decided to incorporate my working area directly in the studio, as I find that my clients are curious about how I work. I can blend the two together and show it to them when I have a viewing. The hardest part will be to keep the working area clean so the studio still looks professional. I like to make a mess when I paint!!
What attracted you to abstract art?
I like to do things differently. I always think about how can I do something different. Abstract is all about seeing objects differently. I like that I don’t have to follow any rules.
Do you have any interest in painting portraits or landscapes?
None whatsoever. Next question!!
Do you hang your artwork in your home?
I do. They are a key part of the tour when I have clients over for a viewing. This helps my client see a piece of art as part of a room and it helps them visual the end product.
How do you work with a client to create a commissioned painting?
About 75% of my clients have a wall to fill. They don’t purchase art because they are collectors, but more because they want to fill an empty space. I usually request pictures or go onsite to view the room the painting will hang in. We then discuss colors and style. I get them to choose their favorite paintings from my portfolio and then I recommend the appropriate size. Once we agree on a design, I provide a mockup of the painting they like based on the picture of their room to help them visualize the final product. Once I get the go ahead, I paint a piece and show it to them upon completion. I never ask someone to buy a piece that they don’t like, as they will have it for a long time. I can always find another buyer. Simple as that!!
Where have you exhibited your paintings?
I’ve been in 4 different galleries in two years but it’s not something I really pursue. The mark up is high and I find that there’s not a lot of foot traffic. Gallery visitors are rare in my area so to me that’s like trying to reach niche market which is very difficult to do. My strategy is to keep my cost lower and attract a greater clientele which has work very well for me so far. I use a lot of online tactics and I also have a few retail locations that carries some of my paintings.
Any famous or interesting clientele that have your work hanging in their homes?
One of my paintings was bought by an interior designer in Toronto and was featured on a home renovation show airing across Canada on The W Network.
I also painted a 9’ wide x 5’ tall piece for a new hotel in Nova Scotia. My number one collector has 13 pieces hanging in his home. To me, that’s way better then a famous person!!
You don't live in a big city or a place known for its art and artists. Do you find it difficult to connect with other artists because of this?
No I don’t. It’s true that Moncton is a bit behind in the art scene in comparison to bigger cities. But the Internet has opened up so many doors for me. I’ve met over 20 different artists online all across the world via different websites. We keep in touch — most of them are fans of my work and I’m a fan of theirs. Three of them actually purchased my art, which is one of the biggest compliments an artist can get.
What’s does the future hold for Matt LeBlanc Art?
More paintings!! I’m also working on a few projects to raise money for cancer research. I’ve pitched a few crazy ideas like painting 500 paintings in six months with all proceeds going to the cause. Not sure if it’ll go somewhere, but that’s just me .... trying to do things differently.
Where can we find out more about you?
Visit my website or Facebook page:
10 things about Matt...
Favourite food: Nachos ….
Favourite kind of music: Anything that has rhythm. I usually listen to very energetic music when I paint.
Dream vacation: Some place hot with the family.
Favourite sport: Basketball. Go Lakers !
Favourite season: Fall — I’m a runner, and fall is the best time of the year to run.
Proudest moment: It’s a tie between the birth of my first child and my second child. Don’t make me choose!!
Most embarrassing moment: I don’t remember, but don’t call any of my old classmates.
If I won the lottery, I would invest half of it, and then retire from everything except family time and painting time.
And finally… our painting giveaway!!
I actually paint a lot of bright paintings — in particular reds —but it seems that I can’t keep them for long. I would say they are by far my best sellers. I think it’s because people are really married to the earth tone colours, so they seek energy and colours and they typically fall in love with the red.
For this particular painting, I used a different technique that I developed during one of my “fun nights” by mixing fluid paint together and brushing the different colors together. It demands practice, but it’s totally worth it.
What do you see when you look at this painting?
Good question, but I will never tell you!! I never tell my clients what I see in my work because then they will see it as well, and that defeats the purpose of abstract art. You should be able to see what you want in a painting and come to your own conclusion.
And the winner is…
I asked Matt to select the winning name for his painting. There were a lot of great entries —DesignTies readers are a creative bunch!! :-) Thanks to everyone who participated :-) But we can have only one winner, and the lucky new owner of Matt’s painting is…
*** Donna at dh designs!! ***
With the name
This piece of Matt's work reminds me of spicy food, warm countries, and fire. Sooo, I'm going with the Italian word for flame — Fiamma.
And Matt said:
I like the sound of Fiamma, and it fits with the painting. I’ve never named one of my paintings in a language other than English or French, and I think this name fits the painting really well.
And a special deal from Matt for DesignTies readers…
Matt is graciously offering a special deal to our DesignTies readers. During the month of August, Matt will give you 25% off the price of any painting for sale in his online gallery. That’s a pretty sweet deal!! When you order your painting, just tell Matt that you read about him on DesignTies to get your discount.