Fate put etching in my life. By a beautiful summer afternoon in Quebec City in 1976, I was waiting for an appointment at the café La Bastille on Sainte-Geneviève street, to rent an apartment.
I was studying cinema at Université Laval, I had understood that I would spend my life filing subsidy requests if I kept in cinema, but I was also fascinated by the promises of structuralism, by semiotics, and I was trying to find my way in these directions. So, I was at turning point in my life, and was waiting the time of my appointment. A young and pretty lady sitting at a nearby table stood up, walked to me and asked me to pose for her. She was an artist, we became friends. I had always been drawing, I had learnt to work steel in a factory, I could get by in chemistry, and throughout my adolescence there were paintings reproductions in my room, Impressionists, Dali, I believed I knew art history, I liked French cartoons and psychedelic drawings of the sixties and seventies, I believed I was ready for etching.
She helped me to etch my first plate: she varnished the plate, I etched my drawing with a point, we bit the zinc together, she applied and cook the aquatint, I masked it with a tiny brush and varnish, I wished several shades, she gave me the different bite times. I printed with her a few proofs, and later, I wished to rework the aquatint, so I followed her instructions to dust the plate, to cook it, to varnish it, and when my plate was in the nitric acid bath, I heard my friend answer to someone at the door upstair, I heard her name, Pascale. My friend had talked a lot about her, she was also an artist, to my great surprise because another unrelated friend, very different, also talked of Pascale with great admiration. So I went upstair to meet this beautiful visitor, leaving my plate in the acid bath. My friend introduced us, we exchanged a few words, spoke about etching, I told her I had a plate in the acid bath downstairs. But you should never leave a plate like this! she said, appalled. We went down to the studio, too late, the acid had already eaten the image, the plate was lost, I just had learnt an important lesson of etching.
I met again Pascale, I went to see her in her studio at Notre-Dame des Laurentides, north of Quebec City; two years later I bought a cottage next to her house from another artist, I made it my studio, I work here since. In the meantime, another artist from the Rue du Trésor, Jean Lemieux, gave me his wall, his exhibit space on the Rue du Trésor, I was doing etching full time.
Years later, I wondered why I had finally chosen etching. I had had the security of a graphic art civil servant, also a job in an ad agency, I had work in several jobs, but etching enabled me to be creative and autonomous. It is a difficult task, a hight tech of the last centuries, it stays a demanding discipline, but it is a way to create pictures of a great material richness, very precise, and to multiply them by printing while offering the possibility to vary them at will. The possibility to work with a great precision gives me the opportunity to concentrate in a small area a complex image, more precise than any other mean of drawing or printing.
A few years ago I remembered that the first images I saw in my life were from Gustave Doré, Les fables de Lafontaine, that my mother read me in an enormous and heavy book with a thick red fabric cover with gold embossings, she had received in excellence award for her studies at the Lycée in France. These are the first images I saw close, there was no television nor children books nor cereal boxes. These far ago images, all black and white lines, probably played an important but unconscious role in my choice of medium and career.