Friday, August 3, 2012

Tales from the tent...Fresh Air Fridays in Lowell, MA

Ah...there is nothing quite like pitching a tent in scorching 95 degree weather at a street art festival that makes an artist want to jump in the Merrimack River faster than you can scratch your lottery ticket. Such is the wonder and joy of Fresh Air Fridays in downtown Lowell.

This is my second month of sweltering mill city magic and I must say, for a start up art festival, it has it's perks.

The locals are a trip. Last week I had a lady bring her art to me for critique (because she thinks I'm Van Gogh reincarnated) and the week before I had a lady slam on the brakes in front of my tent because she wanted to look at my paintings. Not to mention my teenage fan club stemming from the little girl who comes into my tent every week and spins round scream-singing "I love your art!" to the skateboarders and college students staring oddly at my chromatic daubs and wondering where I learned to paint (Ah-ha! If only they knew I didn't!)

Also...apparently my paintings are "sick" and "dope" and this is positive feedback. Who knew?

The remarkable thing about art is that no one is immune to it and everyone responds to it - whether it's good or bad, a response is always an almost sure guarantee. And especially in Lowell where the locals are graced with an enormously affluent art community.

Fresh Air Lowell, maybe the air is not so fresh but the people sure are and we love them for it :)

I will be here, sweltering in my lovely tent every Friday from 3-7 PM for the rest of August, so of you're in Lowell, please stop in and say "Bonjour."

Friday, June 8, 2012

I love painting animal portraits!!!

I love getting commissioned to do animal portraits! Animals have so much character and beauty and are simply a pleasure to paint as is the project of planning the composition to reflect the animal's demeanor. Below are two samples of my pet portraits. The top one is Molly, a wonderful black lab with big sad eyes and floppy ears and the bottom one is Harley - an exquisite feline who rules his house like a king. I am always open for pet portrait commissions year round no matter what other projects I have going so just shoot me an email if you or someone you know wants to immortalize their furry friend in paint. Check out for more info or email me at
"Portrait of Molly and her muffin," by Tracy Levesque, 20"h x 20"w, acrylic on canvas

"Harley the Great," by Tracy Levesque, 20"h x 24"w, oil on canvas

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Everyone loves Sunflowers!

Started a new series of sunflower paintings this week. March is Vincent Van Gogh's birthday and so it is only fitting that I paint sunflowers this month in homage to that brilliant man and his work. I don't know what it is, but everyone loves sunflowers. I read in Greek mythology that there was once a water nymph who fell in love with Apollo (the god of the sun). She was so in love with him that she sat on the ground and stared up at him endlessly all day long. The tragedy is, Apollo never noticed her. But the other gods noticed and they took pity on her so they turned her into a sunflower. That is the reason why the sunflower always follows the path of the sun across the sky - she never wants to lose sight of her lover. 

Ha, and people think roses are romantic! Sunflowers have them beat, I'd say :)

"Red Sunflowers" 20"h x 16"w, acrylic on wood

"Sunflowers in Vase" 20"h x 16" w, acrylic on wood

The Journey of a Painting: the Creation of "Apple Orchard" by Tracy Levesque

Painting is all about the process, but often, as an artist, I don't get to share that process with the viewer. They only get to see the finished piece. So, with this new painting, "Apple Orchard," I decide to document my process from sketch to finish. Enjoy.

The sketch.
A bunch of tall trees. I originally planned for birches, but that changed during the process when the shapes and colors redirected my inspiration. As you can see from the notes, everything evolved.

With the outlines laid in and the sky beginning to create the atmosphere, the painting started to take shape. The outline really is the core of my painting from start to finish it is always visible.
A soft cornflower blue sky and purple Berkshire Mountains added.
Green trees come to life with brush and palette knife work, permanent green and indian yellow - a delicious combination. Still wondering what my trees will be - definitely not thinking birches anymore.
My signature color blankets painted in at the trees feet. Trees still an unknown species. LOL
Outlines start to take shape in the angles of the brushwork. So much fun.
Square apples discovered in the trees and painted red. Reflection appears in a water pool at the bottom of the painting. More detail added. Things are starting to materialize magically.

Later that night I watch "The Wizard of Oz" and awake with a vision of my Apple Orchard as I want to paint it - like something from an enchanted forest.

The finished painting.
"Apple Orchard"
30"h x 40"w x 1.5"d
Acrylic on canvas
Everything comes together. Knotty tall apple trees with smaller ones in the background, red rocks, the reflection the water complete and the textured Berkshire Hills.

An Apple Orchard is born!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Q&A with Tracy Levesque - 10 Questions everyone asks me about art and my candid replies

Q) Where do you get your subject matter for your paintings?
A) The Muses have a direct line into my subconscious and I take really good notes ;)
Seriously though, I also am a hopeless voyeur of the human race and cannot remember names to save my life but I never forget a face, a tree or a pretty flower I like. I am a student of Mother Nature and I keep my eyes open as not to miss anything that would make for a good painting. This world is overflowing with good subject matter and I'm always breathing in the details. The ideas are always there, I just need to reach in and pull them out.

Q) Who's your favourite artist?
A) Norman Rockwell. Yes, it's true and no, I don't really paint anything like him but he is honestly my absolute favourite artist in the whole world. I grew up in Western Massachusetts in the Berkshire Hills (only about 12 miles from Rockwell's old stomping grounds) and was raised on the mythological lore of this brilliant illustrator. All throughout my childhood I admired his work and I always loved what he said about becoming an artist because he didn't want to work like regular folks, he just wanted to draw all day. He was a comic and an incredibly competent draughtsman and I have so much respect for his talent and his work.

Q) What is your favourite painting that you've created?
A) I'd say it's a toss up between "The Letter" and "Last Smoke." I painted "The Letter" back when I first started oil painting and I love the mystery behind the meaning of the painting. It's of a very forlorn looking man posed in an awkward gesture as he stares vacantly ahead holding an opened letter as a rose wilts close by. To this day I still wonder what is written on that letter. Then there's "Last Smoke." This painting is a self-portrait completed several years ago and it literally was the last cigarette I ever smoked. It was an interesting phase of my life and I wanted to commemorate it's very timely conclusion. If ever a painting captured a state of mind, this one hit the jackpot.
"The Letter" by Tracy Levesque, 2000, oil on canvas, 48"h x 48"w

"Last Smoke" by Tracy Levesque, 2005, oil on canvas, 18"h x 14"w

Q) When did you decide you wanted to be an artist?
A) When I was  little girl but ironically I spent my whole youth and most of my adulthood fighting it. I always loved to draw and paint but I took it for granted until I realized I couldn't live without it. There is nothing greater in this world than creation, in any form, and true happiness really does come from sharing your vision of the world with others in any way you can. For me, that's through my paintings. I've never felt more passionate about anything in my whole life and all roads lead back to it.

Q) What do you call your style of painting? How do you describe it?
A) A tricky question. I used to call it "Depressionism" because it seems to be a mix between expressionism and symbolism and intentionally relies heavily upon emotion to convey subject matter. That title stuck for a while, but now I like to call my work, quite simply, "Paintings of Existence" because that's really what they are. My work is my philosophy on life and draws a fine line between beauty and the grotesque, the real and the unreal and the truth and the fabrications of what we see. My colours and textures do push the limits of reality and extend deeply into the imagination. My lines are important to my work because to me they do quite literally impose the limitations of human existence directly on the canvas. The painting is trapped on a two dimensional surface just as much as we are trapped in the limits of our consciousness. The key to setting us free is through our imaginations. What we think and feel elevates us and lifts us out of the realities imposed upon us. I feel paintings need to be that catalyst - they need to be part of that process of finding imagination in this world and through it, inspiration. 

Q) How do other people describe your work?
A) Common consensus is that my work looks a little bit like stained glass, almost like it's illuminated from within. I've had a number of people say it reminds them of colouring books too - which I love because I was raised on colouring books. But most of the time, it's the colour itself that speaks to people the most. I use very vibrant and passionate colours in my work and I know that is a rarity amongst painters. My landscapes tend to stretch reality a lot as do my portraits, but hey, that's how I see it and so that is how it must be painted. 

Q) You started out as an oil painter, now you're an acrylic painter, why the switch?
A) I adore oils, but I made the switch for health reasons. I spent years working with cadmiums and cobalts and became very concerned about the ultimate consequences that might have on my health and so I decided to change over to acrylics. I now use the Golden Open acrylics which are smooth and buttery like oils and have an extended drying time. I'm glad I made the switch but I will always miss those toxic and beautiful oils - there's nothing quite like them.

Q) Did you have any formal artistic training?
A) Not really. I took an art class in high school that met 2-3 times  a week, but that's it. I never took any art classes in college or trained with anyone so I do consider myself self-taught. I worked in art supply stores for years and met hundreds of artists and learned everything about painting from books and conversations. I am was, am and always will be a consummate painter and I produce a lot of work. I think work itself is the best teacher. No one can really teach you what only you can do. The process is the progress and you learn from that. Good technical reading is essential and experimenting with different mediums and styles too. As with any artist, it took me a while before I found my own signature style but when I did it was a revelation and well worth the hundreds of "studies" and "variations" I had to do to get there.

Q) Do you have a favourite colour for painting?
A) Yes, payne's grey. It lives in all my outlines and blends with all my oceans and my skies. Essential. It's my Earl Grey of the paintbox.

Q) How often do you paint?
A) Everyday. Sometimes all day, sometimes for a few hours, sometimes for a few minutes. But everyday.