“The greatest rewards always came from the scariest leaps.”
Charming portraits, floral reverie, and human connection are just a few ways to describe Claudia Tremblay’s paintings. Inspired by her travel and wholehearted passion, the painter creates truly entrancing images. In a recent interview with Bidgala, the Canadian artist kindly shared a more personal side to her work.
At just 17 years-old, Tremblay left home to begin a life of travel and discovery. Lively and hopeful, she made her way through North America, all the way down to Central America. Going from one job to another, hopping from one place to another, she has always pulled through for herself. Guatemala was her home for 14 years, and this is where she began her path as an independent artist. Although she has returned to Canada, the road seems to call her time and time again. Through her art, she solidifies and documents the countless faces she has passed on her wonderful adventures.
Tremblay’s pieces emit a powerful presence, a result of her own bravery and hard work. Many young artists struggle to go out into the world and take risks. This painter is truly a testimony to trusting your intuition and diving into what you love.
You left home to travel by yourself at a very young age. That kind of decision takes a lot of courage! What have you learned about yourself through that experience and how does it affect your art?
Being alone at such a young age taught me resilience. I discovered that I could go anywhere and start a new life with only what I was. By just being myself, I could find new work, a new apartment, and new friends. It gave me a sense of power. It also showed me that fear was a necessary power, but only in moderation. The greatest rewards always came from the scariest leaps.
Do you think travel is the key to making great art?
I think you can make great art in many different ways. Some people have never left their hometown and make great art. It’s about passion and a need to express something — no matter the location. Anything is possible, but in my case, travelling lit the spark.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as an artist on the road?
If I’m being candid, my greatest challenges arose when I returned to Canada. I had to reinvent myself and try time and time again to make a living as an artist in Montreal. Such a change of context forced me to use my intuition more than ever before. Looking back, I can’t believe I didn’t give up! I had to do work that didn’t light my soul on fire, but at least I was making art and raising my son. As things picked up and I improved, I started saying no to the projects that didn’t resonate. This was true freedom.
Your portraits are heavily focused on young women. What pulls you toward female portraiture? Are these real women that you have connected with?
The women depicted in my paintings are all one and the same, in a way. They are that teenage girl that was lost and so desperately wanting to connect. I’d find refuge in Japanese animation, and I was moved by their big eyes full of soul. The stories were usually about orphans or children that made it on the road alone. These tales of strength resonated. I try to capture that same resilience in my work. Who knows, maybe some women out there feel towards my paintings the way I did towards those stories.
What changes in female portraiture trends have you noticed throughout the years?
Not much. Their essence can be found throughout time and trends. It’s as if every time I discover an artist, I see where they took their influences, and brought their energy to it — just like I do. We are all tapping into that same well of inspiration that precedes us.
Would you describe your art as feminist art?
I don’t purposefully give myself that label, but can see how it applies. I hope to transmit women’s strengths and sensibilities, which in many resonates with the feminist movement. Still, people are free to see whatever they choose in my work.
Who are some women that inspire you?
Georgia Okeffe, Coco Chanel, Audrey Kawasaki, Rebecca Dautremer, Unskilled Worker, and Nicoletta Ceccoli.
Do you have any words of encouragement for artists who are just starting out?
The path to success is discomfort. I remember getting a quote from a friend before leaving for Canada which read “Your comfort zone is killing you.” This has become extremely true in my case. If you aren’t collecting failures, you’re probably not collecting many successes. I think you have to be willing to do almost anything, while respecting your values of course, for it to work. If your heart isn’t beating quickly while shaking the hand of a gallery curator or when pressing “Send” on that course or contest, you need bigger goals.