Interview with artist Emmanuel Laflamme

We were recently introduced to the art of Emmanuel Laflamme, an artist based in Montreal, Canada. He is a self-taught artist with a background in animation, and our interview with him provides some insight as to how his career as a working artist has evolved.

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Pictured below: Emmanuel Laflamme in his studio. His painting "Adam + Eve," a 48 x 36" acrylic on canvas, is seen on the easel behind him.

Artist Emmanuel Laflamme, photographed by Fred Dupere

Photo credit: Fred Dupéré

Artsology: You describe yourself as a self-taught artist; can you tell us something about what got you interested in art, or when you first started to pursue art-making and taught yourself how to visualize your ideas?

Emmanuel Laflamme: My first contact with art was drawing with my father when I was very young. I would sit on his lap and he would take my hand holding a pencil, moving it around a piece of paper for me to draw characters, houses, trees, cars, etc. I guess it gave me some kind of advantage early on, because I could draw many things from my imagination shortly after. I never really dreamed of becoming an artist however ... growing up, I wanted to create a cartoon series for TV.

After high school, I couldn't attend the animation program of my choice because my grades were too low, so I joined a visual arts program. It wasn't my first choice, so I quickly lost interest. A fortunate encounter with my cousin's husband, a professional cartoonist, inspired me to follow another path. Being a self-taught artist, he suggested a few books to study from and I went on to teach myself how to draw and paint over the next few years. I did a lot of life drawing, and studied the works of famous artists in addition to the basics of cartoon animation.

After that, I sent portfolios to local animation studios and began a year later as an assistant, before getting a job as a character designer. Only then, I realized how complicated it could be to create a cartoon series. You have to sell your idea to a producer, and then get a broadcaster and maybe then it will go into production. I didn't like to depend on so many people, so I asked myself how could I create with my own means? Painting came naturally, as it was affordable and easily available.

art by Emmanuel Laflamme

"The Good," 2003-2013, 10 x 10" acrylic and markers on wood panel.

Artsology: What can you tell our audience about the art scene in Montreal? How have you gotten your work into gallery exhibitions there? What can you advise other artists about approaching galleries for exhibition opportunities?

Emmanuel Laflamme: There's a big and active art scene in Montreal. I started to exhibit my work around 2010-2011. One show led to another and I met many people this way. The first two shows were group exhibits in which I had to pay for my wall space, but I wouldn't recommend to pay for showing your work, unless it's to rent a gallery to make a first solo show. It can be difficult to get a first exhibition experience, so I would suggest to start with group shows organized by other fellow artists as they are a great way to meet new people and are often free to get in.

Painting mashup of Gustav Klimt and Clint Eastwood by Emmanuel Laflamme

"Klimt Eastwood," 2013, 24 x 36" mixed media on canvas.

Artsology: How would you describe your work? For example, do you consider yourself a Pop Art artist? Mixed media artist? Appropriation artist?

Emmanuel Laflamme: It started with digital mashups, appropriation if you will. I would use famous artworks and add contemporary elements to provoke the viewer, tell a story and comment on aspects of society. As I started doing shows, I begun to paint and print pieces from this series. My ideas evolved and I made them into installations, sculptures and performances. These days, I am more and more into sculpture and 3D objects. I like to play with different materials and see how they can fit together to make a statement.

Artsology: While you said that the collaborative nature of the animation business led you to work independently as a fine artist, you did remain involved in animation, is that correct?

Emmanuel Laflamme: Yes, I have been working in animation for more than ten years now. In between contract work for the animation studios, I continue to work on my own art production extensively, and then I'll go back to work on a new animated series when new jobs become available. It has allowed me to pay my rent, finance my projects and not having to rely on fine art sales.

Emmanuel Laflamme, continued: I find it a luxury to be able to create whatever I want, whether it's going to sell or not. This year, however, I am going to try something new. I will give workshops and presentations about my work in schools. I'm thrilled to see how it's going to work out!

Artsology: You had mentioned being more involved with sculpture and 3D objects now ... let's take a look at some of those:

paper mache Star Wars stormtrooper helmet by Emmanuel Laflamme

"Stormtrooper Helmet (Occult Edition)," 2013; paper mache, acrylic and markers.

sculpture by Emmanuel Laflamme

"Ficticious Hieroglyph," 2016; sandblasted piece of marble.

To learn more about Emmanuel Laflamme and to see more of his work, check out his website here.

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