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After spending several hours painting, and hundreds of dollars on supplies, Serge Dubé feels no remorse in destroying his own artwork. As an artist who produces 300 to 400 paintings a year, cutting up a few is just quality control, he said.
“There’s been a lot of paint that’s gone down the drain,” Dubé said.
“Ten, fifteen thousand dollars in materials because it didn’t work. And I can’t do anything about it except try again, so it’s taken me a while to master this technique.”
But all that wasted paint has been money well spent in that Dubé has developed a style very different from most artists.
He doesn’t use any brushes, for one, and also prefers to dump an entire container of acrylic paint onto the canvas — to get the brightest, strongest pigment possible — than use just a few dabs.
He calls it a “happy accident” that happened about 10 years ago while he was experimenting with new ways to use paint.
“This is not abstract, it is very impressionistic,” Dubé said. “I can control the dripping and the fluidity of the paint more easily.
“There are two special formulas that I put into my work, and if I push the formula to one side then I get a lot more movement in the paint, or I can keep it really sticky and really thick. “Every painting here, to get this colour impact, I would need to go 10, 15, 20 times over with a brush. But when I pour the paint, it’s like pouring 35 per cent cream onto the table. You know how thick it is? That’s the same thing. When it dries and all settles it gives it that powerful palette.”
Dubé estimates that he spends close to $7,000 a year on paint, which has translated into more than 11,000 pieces sold over the last 30 years.
“I never run out of ideas,” he said. “I don’t have the white page syndrome. I don’t have to think twice about what I’m doing. I do something and then figure out after what it means. I just go and then let the public figure it out.
“That’s why I do a lot of quality control. There’s some pieces in there that are at the end of their life expectancy, they haven’t grabbed anyone, so I’ll either destroy them or keep them as a souvenir.”
Prior to developing his impressionistic acrylic technique, Dubé did all types of work — spray paint on plexiglass, watercolours, oil, surrealism.
“Anything to make a living,” he said.
Dubé first moved to Vancouver from Montreal in his early 20s with $35 in his pocket. A friend found him a job in Vancouver as a postman, but a visit to an art studio in White Rock quickly changed all of that.
“There was a call for me with the art, I quit my job, and I became an artist,” he said.
He has had many studios over the years, and has largely been based out of White Rock, until a recent move to Salt Lane in downtown Langley last April.
Art lovers who are planning to take the annual Langley Art Studio Tour this year will be able to watch Dubé at work in his ‘Oxford Street Studio,’ named for the small building he formerly occupied in White Rock.
No matter where Dubé is situated, his paintings always finds their owners, he said.
In one case, someone asked him for a painting he had done 10 years earlier and, remarkably, he still had it in storage.
“I’m just the gatekeeper here,” he said. “I keep my paintings until they go away to their owners. A lot of different paintings mean different things to different people.”
But don’t expect him to create the same thing twice.
“Each painting is a moment,” he said. “There’s always a few where I’m like ‘how did I do that?’ I try to get back into the mood and try to redo them, but it’s difficult.”
One of the most memorable paintings Dubé ever did was a commissioned piece for a couple in Calgary. Their 19-year-old son had recently passed away and they wanted a piece of artwork to commemorate his life.
“When I delivered the painting to them, the emotion from the mom, from everyone, you become a part of that,” said Dubé.