The Depths of the Feminine Soul: Edith LeBeau’s Artistic Journey into the Complex Emotions and Fears of Women
Edith Lebeau is a Canadian artist based on the north shore of Montreal, Quebec. She spends most of her time painting in her studio with her Evil cat named Jack. For some time, Lebeau lived in the countryside, surrounded by fields, forest and a distant horizon line. Lebeau tells stories through the portraits that she creates. She paints strong female figures intricately paired with fauna and flora elements that are facing their own insecurities.
In her newest body of work, she is exploring through the eyes of different woman characters, the various fears and dark emotions that we have in the deepest recesses of our minds. These women are left alone with these feelings and fears that we ourselves try to forget and try to bury.
She draws inspiration from her own experiences as well as from nature, pop culture, movies, music videos, fairytales and various mythologies. Her works have been exhibited in Montreal, Berlin, Rome, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco and New York among other cities.
In an exclusive interview, Edith Lebeau delves into the significance of the recurring elements in her artwork such as beetles, houses, and fire. She candidly shares how her mental health struggles have become her greatest source of strength and inspiration for her art. Lebeau expresses her desire for her art to serve as a medium for women to convey that they are not alone in their struggles.
1. What special, meaningful symbolism do you find in the house and beetle figures that appear in some of your paintings, and how has this impacted your art?
Those symbols appeared after a while. When I first started to paint professionally my work was more centred on existing mythologies or fairytales. With time, after years my work focused on my own stories. I created my own symbolism, my own mythology. My portraits became about mental health awareness. I wanted other people that were dealing with mental illness to know that they were not alone. So I started creating characters that were dealing with their own internal, invisible pain.
Some symbols appeared, then became recurring and really important in my work such as the small house, the knitting fabrics, the fire, the beetles and the ocean.
The house has two meanings depending on the piece. It means either protection ( or the search for protection) or it means your core/ yourself, you.
The knitting fabric means the cocoon, protection and the need for protection.
Fire means pain. ( Often on the head meaning mental struggle).
The Beatles means mental illness. Often related to fear or disgust. There is an expression here in Quebec: « avoir des bébittes dans tête » / to have bugs in the brain. Meaning you’re crazy. That’s where the symbol comes from.
And finally: the ocean is the background for most of my pieces. The ocean in my pieces means fear. Sometimes characters are facing it, sometimes they are overwhelmed by it. This one is based on my dreams. I’m not afraid of the ocean but in my dreams I am. Every time I dream there is water there is something dangerous or unknown below. So I decided to use it.
2. What inspires you to create works that capture unique stories through your portraits? How does this serve as a form of personal expression for you?
My own experience with my mental health is probably my biggest inspiration I guess. A close second is my model. I could not do what I do without them. I like to start with a vague theme and to contact my model with poses to mimic for the piece and tell them the emotion I want to express and give them space to explore on their own too. I like to collaborate with inspiring humans.
Painting allows me to express myself. I’ve never been good with words.
3. How have you developed such an impressive eye for colour when it comes to your painting? What inspired you to pursue painting as your preferred creative medium?
The colour scheme is actually the part that is not calculated. The only thing I plan before starting the process is; Do I want to do a night painting or a day painting. That’s it. Sometimes I feel I’m thinking in black and white. Everything is ready to start the painting and I realize that I have no clue where to go with the colours. For the night painting, I know I’m going with darker saturated colours based on a piece I did once by instinct. I liked the outcome so I’m basing my night paintings on that one since then. As for the day painting it’s instinct most of the time. That’s why some are very different from others. It’s not something calculated it just happens as I’m painting.
Painting allows me to express myself. I’ve never been good with words. I find it hard to talk about myself. I have social anxiety, I hate confrontation and sometimes finishing sentences can be hard. The same goes for writing about myself and my work. Words just don’t come easy for me.
The reason I went with that medium is simple. It’s the one I like the most. Acrylics are perfect for me. I’m a very impatient person and the fact that acrylics dry fast is the best option for me so far. I work with a bunch of layers and washes.
4. What inspires you to keep going? How do you find motivation in your day-to-day life?
Painting and creating are a part of me it’s not something that I think I could just stop doing. So there is nothing in particular that inspires me to keep going. It’s there and won’t go away. Sometimes I do need to take a step back to resource myself.
The best way for me for a couple of years is to take breaks by doing something else in between art shows. I make myself a schedule. Sometimes burnout can come quickly if you push yourself too hard. I paint and when I need a little break or need a change of scenery I do something else that is still artistic. It’s easy just to become a painter and nothing else. With that job what use to be a hobby becomes your job. It’s an awesome job don’t get me wrong! But since your hobby becomes your job you might end up with no hobby. Well, that’s what happened to me. Painting becomes your full time and you may feel that you are not anything else than your art. So that is important to take a step back. Because you are more than just one thing.
The same goes for mental illness. Sometimes it takes so much of yourself that you feel you are your illness but you are so much more than that. I realised I needed to find another hobby which became my second job and I love it. I started to customize Blythe dolls a couple of years ago. It’s still creating and is a change of scenery. It creates a balance between painting and a need for change from time to time.
My portraits became about mental health awareness. I wanted other people that were dealing with mental illness to know that they were not alone.
5. Edith, you are an advocate for mental awareness and your art truly speaks so. Do you have any message for our audience, you would want to share?
If you are dealing with mental illness please know that you are not alone. For those of you who don’t, Empathy is always the key. Don’t judge, listen.
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