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Page 4B • The Weekly • Nov. 20, 2020

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France Jodoin strives to capture someone's mind, forget about the stressful things in their lives and and reach the peace in their heart for a few seconds. “I want people who view my paintings to take the time to take the time,” she said.

Canadian artist taps into her heart by Heting Liu Contributor

France Jodoin is a Canadian contemporary artist known for her maritime scenes. She has been exhibiting her paintings for more than 15 years in museums and galleries in Canada, the United States and Europe. Thanks to modern technology, I was able to interview an artist who is so far away, living and working in the Canadian province of Quebec. “I didn’t choose to be an artist actually, I think art chose me,” said France on why she chose to become a painter. Before her career in art began, France Jodoin had been an English to French translator for 25 years. In 1996, one of her sisters, who is also an artist, invited France to come to her art class in Montreal. France was shocked because she never painted, but she went anyway under her sister’s ardent invitation. On that Wednesday night, even though she had never been to that class before, the atmosphere of art felt almost familiar to her. She forgot all the stressful things in her life; she even forgot about time and herself. She found the experience so appealing that she attended the class every Wednesday night for three more years. Slowly, France began to enjoy translation less. She used a room in her apartment as an art studio and worked on her art one day a week, which soon became two days a week. Later, she took a whole month exclusively to paint, with no translation work. She didn’t make any money from her art until one day in 2005. On that day, she brought one of her new paintings to a framer. A gallery owner saw her work and wanted to meet her. She was still a translator at the time, and the gallery owner knocked on her door and asked to work with her to sell her work. That was the starting point of France's art career. Later through her website, a number of galleries expressed interest without her having to send her portfolio to them. “I was not so confident with my art career, because I started very late, plus I’m a self-taught artist who has no formal degrees in art, and there are so many good artists in the world already,” France said. “I was not sure if I would be successful and earn a living with my art; but as they started coming to me, it dispelled my self-doubt

About this series Helen He, director of Junior Art League, coordinates this series, which allows youth in eighth through 12th grades to interview members of the Waxhaw Arts Council. She sees this as an opportunity for students to learn from artists while giving artists more exposure in the community.

and let me become more confident with myself. I’m really grateful for that.” This confirms a statement: If you are good enough, the beautiful things would come to you automatically. Like a Chinese poem says, “if the flowers bloom, the butterflies come.” On the journey of developing her art style, France has tried painting realistic portraits, but she did not find the results satisfactory. After exploring and practicing, her style was developed as a semi-abstract and impressionist style. “I believe that art is meant to be intuitive and instinctive,” France said. “I would let my feelings guide me when I paint. I usually start my painting with a very abstract landscape, when I see a mark on the painting I would turn that into something such as a boat, a figure in a dress, or a port city architecture. That’s why I call myself an abstract-figurative painter, you can recognize the main subject of the painting, but at the same time, it’s also abstract enough.” She never forces anything to happen on her canvas. That’s probably why she continues to enjoy painting after about 20 years. Every day is new and every painting is a new experience to her. France has faced challenges as an artist. In addition to knowing when to stop painting and to take time to think, she believes the biggest challenge and the most important thing for an artist is to keep a beginner's mind. “It’s necessary to go back to the place I was, where I went to that first art class that took my breath away and allowed me to truly enjoy myself.” Most of her paintings are about water and ocean, but surprisingly, she is very terrified of water. “I almost drowned twice in my life. However, for some reason I love water,” she explained. “70% of our bodies are made up of water anyway. We are born with water. We know water. To me, it is one of the most unpredictable

elements. It can be very violent, but it can also be very gentle and peaceful.” There isn’t a specific reason for her to have water in her paintings, it’s just there. As France develops her semi-abstract art style, she often starts her paintings with two elements – the sky and the water. Then, other elements and objects come in between the sky and water. France told me that this is where the idea of her paintings, “above and below,” comes from. The reflection of the sky in the water creates a spacious feeling in her paintings, as well as an atmosphere of the painting as a whole. Every other year, France leaves her home for one month to live in a different place, and it has to be near water. During this time of exploring, she brings many art supplies and leaves everything else behind. This year, she was supposed to go to Scotland, but unfortunately, she was forced to cancel her plans because of the coronavirus. “When I travel, I rarely take any pictures,” France said. “I just use my heart to feel and think. And when I come back from the trip, some of the memories and feelings come out again years later, and affect the style of my painting. “For example, many years ago I went to India. On that trip I rode an elephant and went to a jungle. The most impressive part of it was not the elephant, it was the height. I was so high, and everything was so small. “You see, we all have a head and a heart. When I have too much in my head, I don’t do the best, but when I go deeper in my heart, to where my feelings and happiness are, unexpected surprises will happen. Artists are very sensitive beings, some are over-sensitive. However, it’s very important because emotions and feelings are our spiritual sustenance, our food and a source of inspiration and creativity.”

I usually start my painting with a very abstract landscape. When I see a mark on the painting, I would turn that into something such as a boat, a figure in a dress or a port city architecture.”

• France Jodoin


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