Ce que j'ai appris à Montréal

Palais de Congrès is my favourite building in Montréal
I’m now back from my two weeks of self-created artist residency in in Montréal, which turned out to be more Molly Maid shift/extreme home makeover/language school. Nevertheless, I did have a great experience and I wanted to share what I learnt.

How come this cat can speak French and I can't?
I learned French

While I was in Montréal, I took a four-day course at the Musée des Beaux Arts called “Stimulate Your Creativity.” It was for all levels of artists, and I really had no expectations going in. But the class proved to be challenging in a whole new way. It was all in French!
My French is okay since I grew up in Ottawa, but living in Vancouver I don’t practice often. And given that art vocabulary is very specific, it was tough to understand what the heck was going on; however everyone was extremely nice, and I muddled through. My French got better, but my English got worse, and at one point I seemed unable to make a correct sentence in either language.
What I loved most was the joie de vivre of the class, there was a lot of joking, conversation and admiration. And after brutal art school crits, listening to crits that were completely positive was a joy. Everyone’s confidence seemed to be building up and there was so much laughter and chatting by the last day. I have to say, I think French-Canadians, and Montréalers in general, are having more fun than most Canadians. They are quicker to smile and make jokes, and I loved being in that milieu.

I learned I’m online too much

Due to circumstances that seemed to be too complicated to solve by texting, I could not get the internet going in the apartment. So I had to lug my trusty laptop to the corner coffee shop where the French-Canadian guy was completely charming (see lesson above) but the Anglo guy kept saying, “Just the mineral water?” as if nobody on the planet had ever ordered only a drink before. Readers of the blog may not have noticed I was online less, since I was blogging more. I would write up blog posts at home and then use my hour at the café to post and get caught up on my social media. But I quickly realized how much more I was getting done when I didn’t watch hours of video on Maru’s new roommate or the latest red carpet fashion disaster. I wrote more constructive things (like posts), and I did more painting and home decorating. And I had all that time for walking and searching for free furniture. I’ll admit, I did get bored occasionally and took naps, but in general life was way more productive. I’ll be keeping that up.

Could I become a minimalist too?
I learned how much I like a simple life

Every time I take a vacation I think the same thing: life is easier with less. My life in Montréal was simplified with fewer clothes, possessions, duties, and friends. I didn’t even have a car, so many decisions rested upon walking distances. I was alone a lot, which rarely happens in Vancouver, but I enjoyed it…for a while anyway. Basically, my life was based on creating: art and writing. Everything else fell away, and it was all quite enjoyable.


I learned that you have to question everything

During my course, two issues came up. First, my instructor kindly told me to let her know whenever I didn’t understand something. The problem was that sometimes I did think I understood but when I asked questions, it occasionally turned out that I had completely misunderstood. Secondly, because I had to paint on paper and not panel, I found out that that the brushes I’ve been using for years are probably too stiff for the kind of painting I want to do.

These two separate issues made me realize that regularly painting is a routine, where I do what I think is right, and never ask questions. I assume I’m doing the right thing, because I’ve been successful in the past. But I could be better. I need to regularly shake up my routine, and challenge every part of the process to see how things could be better.  Besides, I get to buy new art supplies now, which is one of my favourite activities. You can see why living the minimalist life is a problem for me, so I'll have to throw out stuff when I buy new stuff.

I took the text from one of his favourite books.

I learned that art can make a huge difference in a home
While Sam’s apartment is still not done, it’s way better now. I didn’t add a ton of new furniture, but the addition of two large canvasses­­–above you can see the one I did for the living room–makes the rooms look modern and minimal rather than bare and sad. Of course, it’s long been my philosophy that art makes life better, but now I’ve seen that a little art can transform a room completely.