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AppliedArˇs

Crash!

The economy tanked. Crumble! Barriers between professions fell. roar! The Net dominated the marketing landscape. Is this the end, my friend?

V25 #01

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$8.95 | VOL 25, NO 2 | May | 2010 [ CaNada’s VisuaL COMMuNiCatiONs MagaziNe ]

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forte F O R T I N’S

by Wendy Helfenbaum

AS A YOUNG MONTREAL ARTIST AND DESIGNER, ANTOINE FORTIN MAKES NO ATTEMPT TO REIN IN HIS DAZZLING ARRAY OF TALENTS, TACKLING AS MANY DIFFERENT KINDS OF PROJECTS AS HE CAN. HIS RESTLESS ENERGY IS ALWAYS LOOKING FOR THE NEXT NEW OUTLET.

There’s a strange rabbit with rabid red eyes in the portrait of Montrealbased artist Antoine Fortin, part of the contact page of his Website. “It’s an old doorstopper from my grandmother’s house that terrorized me when I was a child, but when she moved, I had to have it,” explains Fortin. “It’s got a funny vibe about it and today it inspires me.” Juxtaposing wildly different emotions, textures and visual imagery only begins to describe Fortin’s method of becoming a modern artist, one who has branched out in so many directions, he pretty much defies description. As a child, Fortin loved to draw and paint, and became increasingly interested in photography while attending the Visual Arts program at Collège Lionel-Groulx, in Sainte-Thérèse, Que. “I loved the spontaneity that photography allowed me, and it soon began to complement my expressionistic side,” recalls Fortin. After completing the program, the 28-year-old says, “I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I heard about the graphic design program [at Université de Québec à Montréal], but had no idea what it was. I enrolled anyway, then found out I also didn’t know what Adobe Illustrator was, or anything about fonts. But I guess it worked out pretty well.” Fortin did more than simply muddle through UQAM’s celebrated design program, notes Frédéric Metz, the iconic founder of the school’s design department. “Antoine was the most brilliant student in my Introduction to Design course. When he presented his projects, his versatility really shone through,” says Metz, now retired. “Through his work, I discovered his uncanny photographer’s eye, or should I say image manipulator or photo-illustrator?” Metz played an influential role in developing Fortin’s talent. “He opened my eyes to what design was all about, and I was so passionate about his courses that I quoted him sometimes,” recalls Fortin. “I was completely hooked on design. What I especially loved was how I could blend the precise aspect of design with my own expressionism.” Unlike most of his classmates, Fortin never focused on just one discipline. “I refused to specialize or to categorize myself,” he says. “As much as I enjoyed doing logos and typography, which is intensely detail-oriented, I also loved illustration. My passions didn’t compete with each other.” Between class assignments, Fortin exhibited his photo-collages at two gallery shows. His work sold out both times.

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Metz wasn’t the only UQAM professor dazzled by Fortin’s raw talent. Just before graduation, in 2005, design professor Lyne Lefebvre introduced Fortin to Florence Noyer, owner of contemporary literature publishing house Les éditions Héliotrope. Fortin has been the art director ever since, designing and photographing edgy yet elegant book covers for award-winning Québecois authors, as well as handling branding, advertising and other creative visual tasks. Fortin’s quirky, multidimensional art quickly received prominent industry recognition, snagging awards from Quebec design magazine grafika and Applied Arts. This in turn opened more doors for him. In 2008, he expanded his Web-based knowledge by joining Montreal digital agency and design studio BLUE. “Now, I’m equally passionate about Web design. With all the work I also do for Héliotrope, I manage to squeeze it all in by doing lots of double shifts,” he says with a laugh. Fortin acknowledges that while his multitalented leanings do pave the way when it comes Antoine Fortin to pitching his services, versatility works against Montreal him sometimes. “I’ve been turned down and antoinefortin.com told I was too creative, too ‘out there,’ and that 514-663-0204 I’d quickly get fed up if I were ‘just’ a Web designer or ‘just’ an illustrator,” he explains. “It makes me ask myself where I belong, but in the end, I prefer to be autonomous. No matter where you work, you need to integrate yourself within the company you’re working for, which might specialize in a certain type of client. So you’re not going to be able to explore all your talents in one place.” From his loft in the arty Plateau area of Montreal, Fortin sees inspiration all around him. “I love architecture and urban life, which shows up a lot in my more artistic, photographic work,” he explains. When he’s not redefining design for Montreal’s hippest creative, Web and communications firms, Fortin likes to cook and spend time with his partner, Jérémy, a self-taught artist and musician. “We head out together with our cameras around our necks, take photos in our neighbourhood, and work on our motion-graphics and music projects,” says Fortin. At home as at work, the young artist can’t help striking out in many different directions at once. Wendy Helfenbaum is a Montreal-based writer and television producer (www.taketwoproductions.ca).

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Drogue et criminalité, 2007: This cover illustration was for a non-fiction book about drugs and crime. “This drawing definitely reflects my expressionist side,” says Antoine Fortin. “This was left over from my journey through the arts as a student. My paintings looked a lot like this. I really like the combination of images and illustrations, and I worked with pastels, India ink and photo-collage.”

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1 Book covers for Les Éditions Héliotrope, 2007-09: Fortin won several industry prizes for the vibrant photo-collages on this series of novels, two from grafika and one from Applied Arts. “Each cover has its own identity, while still feeling like part of the publishing house’s catalogue. They’re appealing and attractive, but not overpowering or heavy.” Fortin’s favourite book cover in the series is for author Olga Duhamel-Noyer’s novel Destin. “This book talks about destiny being a spirograph that you keep coming back to, like that old Spirograph toy, a predetermined destiny that follows a certain arc. The author loved the image, thought it was perfect way to illustrate her story.” 2 Manhattan Restaurant, 2008: The upscale restaurant is located in a stately art deco building in Old Montreal, catering mainly to businesspeople. “For the menu, I wanted to capture the style that the place evokes: old style, art deco New York,” explains Fortin. “To decorate the walls, I used a series of 12 very large photographs that I took of real buildings in Montreal, which I then modified to give them an art deco flavour, showing how Montreal would look if it was in art deco Manhattan.” Besides the interior design, he also took care of the restaurant’s business cards and menus.

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1 Morocco, 2009: While touring Morocco for three weeks last spring, Fortin shot hundreds of photographs, and is currently preparing a photo-essay book. “The [top] image was taken in Chefchaouen [a city in northwest Morocco near Tangier],” he says. “I was up on a balcony of this public square, and had a great view of the plaza. It was strange; no one was there. I took this one on the fly, photojournalism style.” 2 Future Now, 2007: Done as part of an internship with Nelu Wolfenshoh at CRIN (centre de recherche en image numérique), Fortin created this series of posters to advertise an upcoming student art exhibit that was ultimately cancelled. “The posters were shown at the Biennial of the Poster in Mexico,” he says. “It’s a series of images based on the idea of creating futuristic buildings from ordinary or low-income ones, to show that we’re actually in the future right now. ” 3 Personal Research, 2005: As part of a UQAM photo-collage project, Fortin photographed ordinary things and “created new realities with simple transformations,” including this frame of the Quebec National Library, when it was under construction in 2005. “I moved it to the oceanfront, because on the second balcony, there’s a construction worker who seemed to be contemplating the horizon, even though he’s in the middle of downtown Montreal,” explains Fortin. “The architecture was so wonderfully bathed in light, and I had some fun taking him to the place he seemed to be thinking about.”

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interview Applied Arts Mag  

my interview in the Applied Arts Mag

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