The Story of Naïf Lollypop
In nineteen nighty nine, I was painting in every style hoping to please to a largest public than sell a broader choice of art. A day, a customer said to me: You don’t paint for you, you paint for others! This hurt me deeply and I decided to promise to myself never touch a brush again and to burn everything, instead of selling at a ridiculously low price. I promised myself that never paint for the rest of my life!
Everything went in the fire: suitcase, frames, paint, pictures. I kept nothing except a painting of the Mona Lisa and the portrait of Lady Di. I also got rid of my furniture, put it on the sidewalk, sold some, and kept only what I needed and would fit in my van. And thus I set out on my path to nowhere. I didn’t want to be dependent on the society around me because for me that was like to putting myself in prison. So I hopped in my van and left for the USA, thinking that the misery is lest hard to endure in the sun. I was ready to sleep under a bridge if the road brings me there. As it happens, I was stopped by a car trouble in West Palm Beach, Florida. Needed an obscure part for my four wheels drive Toyota Van, which was considered a rust-bucket by most peoples. I was sure that nowhere in Florida would they have replacement parts. So I live in my van in the garage parking lot while they waited for the part to be delivered from Arizona, which was expected to take a week.
During that time, it was a must to keep myself busy and take care of my mind. So I explored as much as I could on my bicycle but after three days, I had enough and decide to go to a Barnes & Nobles to drink coffee and read, spend the less money that I can. But every time I went into the store, a display of calendars in naif style, keep my interest and intrigued me. I like this style but I felt there were too many details, lines too small and straight and perfect for my level of the patience. So I bought an art pad and some compressed chalk, installed myself in the Military Road shopping center which is between the garage and Dunkin Donut shop and start to draw various things to pass the time: Renoir reproductions, Boggles ballerinas etc…. Several passers-by stopped to talk to me, and a man asked me if I was there for the art festival? Replying ” Certainly No”, I told him where I came from and what I had paint in my life. He told me that he was the president of that festival so that it would be a pleasure to invite me for the event and he would find me a sponsor for all the materials I would need. I accept his generous offer because it would keep me busy for two days while I waited for my van part to arrive. So I told him that I would make a reproduction of Mona Lisa because everybody recognizes the painting; I didn’t have any pictures with me to show him this Mona Lisa.
They gave me eight feet by twelve feet l on the ground in Lakes Worth beside of West Palm Beach. It was the biggest festival in Florida with four hundred artists participating whom came from all over the world. I arrived at eight am and began to draw with a certain frustration in my heart because I knew that I’m very talented and I was aggravated not to make my living with. Artist in crisis, frustrated woman, I answered people’s questions while I drew on the ground. I didn’t mind having my picture taken but I didn’t want anybody to look into my eyes-afraid to reveal the sadness in my heart. And all day while I painted everybody wanted a picture-of me with them in front of Mona Lisa. That was a little crazy, I think because nobody in USA knows me. Nine hours after my Mona Lisa was completed.
That evening I tried to find a place to sleep on someone couch someplace, but I couldn’t find anyone willing to let me; I was thinking that perhaps people are afraid of something ….I don’t know. I was very dirty because I worked on the ground all day with colors chalks and may be they don’t know I am an honest person and also someone who don’t drink or smoke. I don’t know but it’s not written on my face unless I ‘m very dirty that day etc. So with my bicycle passed over the bridge and I settle in beside the canal and fixed my hammock under a big tree for the night where I could hear the sound of the waves and I watch the big night sky full of stars just for me. It was February twenty six two thousands. So I can tell I slept under a bridge in a warm place one time on my life. In the morning, I headed to the little French restaurant and the French man who speak English with a certain charm. I asked to him if I had enough than five dollars for one coffee, one toast and one egg for my breakfast. He makes a turn and I thought he was step on me as soon he saw me and yelled out: ”You’re my star this morning” I stepped back for a moment and said: What’s the matter with you? Then he show me the front page of the Palm Beach Post of twenty seventh February two thousands and I saw myself working on the ground painting Mona Lisa.
I was shocked, surprised, mouth closed and thinking that I was receiving a huge message that I have an amazing talent if I was select out over four hundred Americans artists but still could not make a living through my art. I was in angry! So at the first time that I had a chance to be alone, I turned toward the sky and said to God: Show me the way or I won’t believe in you anymore; my faith will cease!
Following that, I did various jobs, to survive, inside and outside of Quebec, traveled all over the world, but I had to return to Quebec at the march two thousands two; my Mother had passed away and I had to go even I really didn’t have any money to return with. It was then that everything began to fall into place. When I landed in Lennoxville I met Kristina in a newspapers store who put an add on the wall in the board needed someone to take care of her dog and home while she teach Reiki to pregnant women. Wouaw. What’s the luck! I said ‘, Yes but I needed to buy something to take care off my hair in the pharmacy beside. At the pharmacy I met France, an hairdresser of my mother and she tell me that she was looking for me since a long time to order a paint from me. So she kept an appointment at the next morning day to take care of my hair and talk about the paint she wanted.
Finally I arrive at the house of Kristina and I think we struck a good deal and I was happy to take care of everything for her. One evening we talk about my future and the paint for France, about art, and she tells me: “Usually when you do what you like, your life works out just fine. Do you have I style you prefer?” I confided in her that I like Naive art but it’s to small, too many details and perfect straight lines and the little’s faces have blank expressions most of the time or maybe just a dot for eyes. I don’t have the patience for that. So she said to me: “If you don’t like small naive, do the big naive.” That sentence spurred me to research, hopping to find something that would set me off .I didn’t find anything on the internet or art magazines and curiously that was the style that France want when I met her the next day and sit her chair while she take care of my hair . After some discussion she gave me three hundred and fifty dollars to paint a naive painting for her, because she loves that style very much. I was surprised, I tough that I was staring at a big nothing – no idea what that style is really supposed to look like and here she commissions me to paint one!
So, one night, I was in my bed, looking the ceiling, talking to my Mother’s spirit and giving her ultimatum: “Bring me somewhere to find a job or give me a picture that I can earn my living with.“ So the next day I checked everywhere -newspapers, job centers, etc., by the end of the day, I went back empty-handed job-wise but with some new Rembrandt paint tubes , brushes and a small canvas. In the evening I laid back and went to sleep. Curiously my mind bring me in childlike thinking-picture asking a child how to make a sky, a house and then it’s simple: curved lines, take color with brushes and do it…., same for the ground, trees with the candy form with spirals colors. But for the face, for me it is essential to make it bigger. I have done portrait all my life and I believe that we can touch the soul when we look in the eyes. I want to make eyes in that little face and have the intention to make real nose and mouth.
But at the same moment I put the brush on the canvas to make the first dot for the top of the eye line, Kristina enter in my room very quietly, in a hurry to see the picture without I hear a sound and she shouts : ”Wow, it ‘s amazing, very nice!” Startled; I slipped and the brush make a coma for the first eye! ” What’s an amazing eye, it seem it talk to us” she said. So the dot, turned into a comma, gives the face the expression it needs and the naive Lollypop style was born. My body was full of goose bumps and I realized that I had captured the magical expression with that comma! I didn’t know at that time that I’m the first artist in the world to give an expression to the little faces in naif style that we can catch a feeling of each faces. I leaned that when I met Mr. Mennyel who was the director of the International Naif Museum in Magog in two thousand two. I’m sure that my Mother is the one who guided me to this way of approaching my art. So I gave the painting to France and she was very happy, dance with and we were quite proud.
Afterward, I went to Témiscouata, where I born to leave by the shore to Témiscouata Lake and I thought that my life was finish, no work, so I would be on welfare for the rest of my life. But two days later, France’s husband called me and asked for a larger piece and he send me a check in advance for it : four hundred and fifty dollars. So I thought these people were crazy apparently having more faith than I had in myself! So I painted a farm scene like he suggest to me, with cow, barn and shipped it to them like he told to me. One week after, his neighbour who is the director of the local school board called and told me they give a two hundred and fifty dollars gift to each retirement and she asked me to make five framed pieces of a size to correspond to that price .!!!Wow, I was filled with joy at that moment and thank my Mother because I was sure she had answered my wish. So I told them, it would take me two weeks to make all five pictures, but with starting early in the morning and working late into the evening I ended up to make eleven paintings during those two weeks.
As it turns out, they were unable to choose and ended up buying all eleven paintings. Amazing! Thanks to my Mother, would it be possible that I could make a living as an artist? Two week after, the same thing happened with another school board and the marvels began multiplying. So, I started to accept and believe that I can earn my living with my art. My Mother is my guide, I’m sure and every day I give thanks to her. I realize that she loved to look at her nine children and captured our essence in many situations in photos in nineteen fifty. At those days it was expensive to get pictures developed, we didn’t have a lot of extra money. Dad worked far away in the mine or up north in the woods, but she took the pictures anyway because that was a priority for her to capture her children when they were young. An aunt told me she took all the coupons on the Sears catalogue at that time to pay all the camera and pictures. We have a lot of black and white pictures and many with a funny soul.
My dad, another angel for me, had a funny sarcastic side and loved to tease us every day when he was at home and I think that I have this funny side too. I have also in the heaven, my first child who past away in nineteen seventy two, who is another angel. So, they left me a nice heritage to play with the paint and do something to make people laugh and smile, with a peace of happiness. Thanks to my angels: Kristina, France, brothers and sisters, friends Martha, people of Packington, my village where I was born. Thank also to the people who accepted me to the contest where I win the first price for the Christmas card in two thousands three. Thanks also to these people who gave me the opportunity to appear to the biggest festival in Florida in Lake Worth in two thousands.
Since then, my work has been on display in Jeannine Blais Gallery at North Hatley when I met her asking to evaluate my art hoping she told me the true ” Continue or burn everything ”. She chose eleven pictures at the first time; so that’s talking enough to me. Also IO enter to the International Museum of Naif art in Magog, witch is recognized all over the art world. A group show in Belgique and France, add to a maximum of groups and solo expositions throughout the year. I am proud to say, that I am able to earn my living with my painting talent. When I make my painting I cannot say where the pieces will wind up, but it will be to travel all over the earth from my hands to put smiles on faces around the world. I am playing like a little fairy with a magic wand to touch the heart of everyone I met to give them a piece of love. I am very lucky because I sell smiles and happiness, it doesn’t exist nothing better than that to make my living with. Since at that time I bought a little house, a small camper to make my work more easy on the road and now I Keep me busy with many projects until I have hundred and five years old……..to be followed…
First edition 2002, Revised edition 2015 ©