Many Artists claim that having studio space in art school was more valuable to them than the actual lessons. You have become immensely stronger in style and technique over the past three years. Are the lessons you learnt in art school valuable to you now as a working artist? Or have you become stronger on your own?
I was taught very little technical skill at OCAD. The schools focus was much more on the academic and conceptual aspects of our work, which wasn’t so much a problem for me. I did take figurative life and portraiture classes that gave me some experience painting from a model though, and were probably what I enjoyed the most in all my classes. I’ve always learned more on my own, but you always will in practice! Even with OCAD as a 4 day schedule, it was still such a small percentage of my painting time. It’s the same with every art though – the lessons only go so far if you don’t practice at home.Mother of Pearl, 18x24", Oil
Could you walk us through your creative process, do you ever use photo references or live models
I work almost entirely from my head, drawing anime/cartoon like girls in my sketchbook, and then transferring them on the canvas to paint. I’ve used photo references before, not of life models, but from magazines or the net. I’ve even used myself at times when I get stuck – though not to confuse, as most people think my work is self-portraiture based – these aren’t auto-biographical paintings. Rather, I think of them like alter egos or putting on a character. Usually I’ll be working on a piece for 2-4months, depending on the size and working on 6-8 of them at a time because of the drying delays with oils.
So did you just graduate.?
Yeah. Went through all four years and earned my BFA... Though I did stay an extra year for a 0.5 credit course.
Can you explain why the name of your upcoming show is called “Siren”?
Well, I’ve wanted to make a music themed body of work for awhile now, which may not be so surprising. The title felt suitable as this show is about the seduction and romance of music, as well as linking to my usual subject matter of dark, solitary women. I wasn’t entirely certain that this would be my direction in the beginning, but after starting on a couple pieces – a dancer and a quiet geisha holding a guitar – everything else just flowed out naturally and without hesitation.
The women in your paintings often possess a sort of seductive, smoky-eyed facial expression that reminds me of old Hollywood actresses, do you ever have any actresses or films in mind, for example whilst working on the piece, “western eyes and serpents breath”?
Cinema has been a large influence on my paintings, more specifically noir. I’ve never painted with a celebrity in mind though. I just love the drama and mystery of film and how they use lighting and shadow to create mood. I also enjoy that my girls can be confused as actresses, playing a role – it gives them that power of voyeuristic knowledge, like they know their being watched. At the same time, they look as though they’re ignorant and unaware, caught up in their own world. It’s an interesting tug-o-war!
Who would you like to collaborate with, do your have any such plans for the future?
I haven’t really thought about that one, to be honest. I’d want it to be someone I got to know well enough to feel comfortable painting alongside though, and someone whose work I enjoyed. No plans for one yet!
Seeing as women are the dominant subject matter in your work, who, as you’ve said, “mature with you”, how do you see the subject matter of your work evolving, would you ever move on from women?
I don’t know! That’s the beauty of it though, you just keep painting and they keep changing. I may get tired of the girls once I’m older, and I may not. I do know that whenever I paint on paper, the works are completely different though – I seem to turn in a more Ralph Steadman kind of way…. But, we’ll see!
Can you explain the relationship between the women and their environments in your paintings, for example in your piece, “Lingering”
The environments are just meant to compliment the emotions and atmosphere of the women in my paintings, as well as give more understanding to why she’s feeling that way. If they seem sad or lonely, the room encasing them might be bland or alienating. In ‘Lingering’, this is what I was going for - the generic-ness of the room, geometric and ‘empty’, the solitary light beaming downward…
What was growing up in Canada like, what kind of kid were you?
I don’t feel like my childhood was anything out of the ordinary, but not a day goes by that I don’t wish I could go back! I had a great time as a kid, mainly because I had a brother and sister to play with back then too. I was a pretty shy/quiet kid, kept to myself a lot. Already knew I wanted to be an artist back then, too.
How do you want the viewer to feel when they look at your work?
Inspired would be the best feeling, at least it’s the feeling I enjoy getting from artwork the most… Like you just want to run home and grab a brush yourself.
Night owl or early bird? When’s your favourite time to work?
I can do both, but I like the night more than the day. I often paint during the day though because that’s when I get the most time to myself, uninterrupted.
A day in the life of Sarah Joncas. What is your average work day like?
I sleep in till about 10am, feed the cat, get myself cleaned up, answer emails, then start painting at around noon. Then I’m painting for about 6hrs till my boyfriend gets home from work. After that, it’s all relaxing, going out or getting other chores done. It’s pretty awesome! No other jobs needed right now.Above ) Lingering, 18x24", oil on canvas