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Question 1: When and how did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
It’s when I started hearing about painting, because I was at Collège Saint-Joseph during the 1940s. There weren’t any painters around, no one really that could give you the idea that a career in painting was something possible, and that is why I chose architecture, possibly, because it was the closest to painting… I went to the Beaux-Arts in Montreal to study architecture, so that meant that there were painters, sculptors, ceramists and so on, in the same building. And I was spending as much time in the other studios as in the architecture studio, but I didn’t realize that I was particularly attracted to painting. It took quite a while for me to get to that point. Even after a psychological study with a professor from Université de Montréal who wanted to research the type of qualities required to become either a painter or an architect. I had been among the ten students chosen from each of the two schools, I was one of those chosen from architecture. After he had done his analysis, he told me: You’re in architecture but you have all the attributes to be on the other side. I still didn’t connect. Even when I got out of architecture – I was first in the school so it wasn’t that I lacked the talent for architecture – it was only when I got to Paris in 1964 and saw Notre-Dame de Paris, and with my training in architecture, I knew how it was possible to build a cathedral, because I knew how that worked. Close by, there was a little gallery, and I saw a small red painting in the display window, and I said to myself: Dammit, I can’t do that! I can build a cathedral but I can’t do that little painting. That was the beginning of my decision to change direction a few years later. In 1964, I travelled through Europe, on a camping trip with my wife, and the cold edged us down to southern Spain where we spent three months in a small apartment. That’s when I said to myself: If I’m going to become a painter, I’ve got three months of freedom in my life, I’m going to see what I can do. So I bought a bottle of India ink, a jar of red gouache, a small brush and I carved a pen from a piece of bamboo I found in a nearby stream. I said to myself, There, I’ll work with just these elements, and see what I can do. One of my friends, a French painter, came to visit us. I asked him: Do you think I can become a painter? He answered: There is no problem, you have everything it takes to become a painter. That’s when the idea took hold of me and five years later, in 1970, I spent 18 months in Aix-en-Provence in a painter’s studio to work on the whole gestural component in art. I did about twenty exercises, multiplied by 20 paintings, so 400 paintings over the 18 months, which were exhibited at the Centre culturel in Paris; this was my first official exhibit in an interesting location. And that was the beginning. I left architecture and I’ve devoted my whole life since then in a painting studio, eight hours a day as far as possible.