Dominic Laporte has always been an industrious kind of guy. As a student at an arts-focused high school in Ottawa, he routinely produced and sold more paintings at the school’s annual art auction than any of his classmates. It’s probably not surprising then that Laporte, now in his fourth year of Sheridan’s Bachelor of Illustration program, earned one of two coveted, independent studios at the Trafalgar campus, giving him a dedicated space to further explore and hone his creative abilities.
Laporte invented a challenge for himself. Use the space to paint portraits of people in order to make his brush strokes loose and energetic. “I had been working on big portraits up until that point,” he says. “Those are really tightly rendered and they take months to finish. They’re really satisfying to have in the end, but they’re a lot of work and can stop being enjoyable along the way.”
Knowing the project was a self-imposed exercise, Laporte didn’t want to invest a lot of money up front. “I went to the dumpster behind the school and gathered old cardboard, illustration board, foam core and particle board,” he says. His only hard cost was paint, something he shrugs off as a staple in his life.
Laporte set out to create eight portraits, experimenting with palettes and colour. “When I put them up in the studio, I realized that 30 would be better and 50 would be really cool and then that turned to 80. It kind of got addictive. The more I had up there, the more rewarding it got.”
“I’d rather see someone’s sketchbook than a painting they’ve worked on for five months because you can see how their mind works” – Dominic Laporte
What started as a self-imposed exercise resulted in an exhibition at the Fall Down Gallery in Ottawa in December. Faces include those of family and friends, famous actors like Viggo Mortensen and Uma Thurman, and musicians like Aretha Franklin and DJ Premier. The self-critic in Laporte claims that of the 80 portraits “10 are great and about 20 suck. But I think it’s important to see the good with the bad because I’m promoting the show as a study.”
In Laporte’s mind, it’s the process that’s compelling. “I think people like to see what artists are thinking” he says. “I’d rather see someone’s sketchbook than a painting they’ve worked on for five months because you can see how their mind works.”
As for his big take-aways from the exercise, Laporte experimented with a technique in which he painted 10 portraits at once. “First I’d do the dark tone on all 10, and then the next tone, sort of like a conveyor belt. I wanted to be quick and gestural.” Depending on his mood, it would take him approximately two and a half hours to finish a series of 10.
“With portraits, it’s all about likeness. Each individual had an impact on the way I painted” – Dominic Laporte
“With portraits, it’s all about likeness,” he notes. “Each individual had an impact on the way I painted. If it was an older guy, I’d use more chunky brush strokes, but if I was painting a picture of a beautiful woman, I’d be more crisp. If the person had textured skin, or focused on a certain type of music, I tried to take that into account in how I applied the paint.”
While Laporte isn’t sure why he likes painting people so much, he is firm on the idea that “illustration is about communicating an idea through an image. Everything has a specific meaning. When you look at a painting of a portrait, even if you don’t know who it is, you should be able to get a feeling from it – like their expression, or intensity.”
For now, Laporte is thrilled that this “happy accident” of a project is making its way out of the studio and in front of an audience. “I really want to keep creating work and putting it out there,” he says. “It’s just who I am.”
Pictured at top of page: Mural of portraits painted by Dominic Laporte.
Written by: Christine Szustaczek, Director of Communications and External Relations at Sheridan.