In the Studio with Marie-Elaine Cusson

Looking around your studio now, tell me about your setup.

I have two easels with canvases that take up most of the studio space with a very large table beside them that can take on a lot of paint, palette knives, tools, paper towels, a water container and maybe a cup of tea!  I also have my desk with a computer, drawing tablet and pictures of my kids for when a painting is finished and I need to scan it.  And of course my two dogs have their cushions on the floor, where they keep me company as I paint.

If you were to have people over, what type of art would they see displayed in your home?

All sorts! I have acrylic paintings, oil paintings and photography; as well as some pieces from my artist friends (originals bought at their “Vernissage”), reproductions of vintage art, or sculptures made from drift wood found in the Gaspe area by a local artist and lots of seashells!

Two of your recent works, Norwegian Bison and Basking Buffalo stand apart in your collection of artwork.  What was the inspiration for these pieces?  And how did you decide on using charcoal as the medium?

Drawing or painting animals is always a favorite of mine. The Highland [Norwegian Bison] is a beautiful animal with its long fluffy hair, which I find especially appealing when blowing in the wind. The inspiration for this piece came from a picture I had taken on a trip that was hung in my studio for years. I felt like it was there to remind me that, when the time was right, I wanted to create a big canvas of this magnificent beast. The charcoal seemed like the right fit since I wanted to work with details, and charcoal lends itself expertly to this task.

The Basking Buffalo came after this one and, having had such pleasure working in the details with the charcoal on acrylic, I decided to give it another try. The pleasure was renewed as I worked on defining the curly fur of this prairie animal.

How did working in this medium differ for you from using the palette knife and color?

Charcoal allows for many different ways to define details and also allows me to work backwards. After applying a thick coat of charcoal on the canvas, I can then start to remove it, by working with different size erasers, letting the light of the background come through. This technique lets me be very precise with all the little details I wan want to add (or remove).

What is one thing about you that most people don’t know?

I love to paint animals, but I also love to interact with them in real life. I do zoo-therapy after school where I bring my two dogs and my bunny to help young children suffering from anxiety see all the benefits of the human-animal relationship.

You’ve said that you wish “to bring the viewer into a universe of meditative emotions.” — did you have any particular emotions in mind with these two drawings?

Yes, a feeling of contemplation, a feeling that the animal is looking at you peacefully (or feeling calmly that you are there) while still doing was it is doing – not minding you, but instead accepting you, as part of its surrounding.  I’d like the viewer to feel that they are actually really close to the animal and connecting quietly. I believe humans and animals need each other, complement each other, and help achieve a sense of calm in total respect of each other. 

See more of Marie’s work:

Marie-Elaine Cusson Online Gallery