By RENE J. ROY
PORT AUX BASQUES – It’s small, cramped, and cluttered beyond belief. Visible from any spot in Jeff Musseau’s basement studio/workshop are about 15 paintings, 30 artifacts from the local area that one might even call junk, countless frames, hundreds of paints and even an old school alarm clock. When you look around his 15-square foot studio, it’s rather amazing Jeff can get much work done in here. His canvasses are huge, some bigger than most dinner tables. But he makes it work, with easels in one corner, a framing table in the back, a couple of computers and an awful lot of canvas.
The alarm clock is something Jeff found while out on a walk one day, and he hopes to incorporate it into an artwork in the near future. If only he can find the time as easily as he found the clock. From his home in Mouse Island, Musseau says he has always had a strong attraction to art. He says that he “might not have won first prize in elementary school, but he always won the best colouring contests.”
Musseau is self-taught, having had no formal training whatsoever, which makes his ultra realistic work all that much more impressive.
“I started out doing pen and ink. I loved that, and then I got into using oils.”
Oil paint was not something he enjoyed because of the time it takes to dry, as well as the strong smell of the paints.
“Then I tried watercolours, and I couldn’t control it. Watercolour has a tendency to spread, so then I picked up acrylic, and I fell in love with it.”
Off the top of his head, Musseau estimates that his self-training took him at least ten years. He has an infectious laugh, and is more than happy to discuss his evolution as an artist, although he refers to himself as a multi-media artist and not just a painter.
“I guess I’m a one-stop shop. I’m a visual artist, a digital media graphic artist, a commercial artist, anything in that field.”
If he had to categorized his artwork, he’d say Realism. It’s easy to see why. Musseau’s paintings take usually him weeks, if not months, to complete. When finished, his canvasses look like a photograph. Every stroke of the brush is slow and deliberate, seemingly fully thought out long before he touches the brush or the pen to the canvas.
His studio is in his basement, but the painting he creates spends just as much time upstairs as Musseau does. He stares at it while eating a meal, or while watching television.
“The lighting up there is completely different, and I can see things that might need to be there.”
As for subject matter, Musseau tends to lean towards scenes of the outdoors, although anything that catches his eye is fair game for inspiration.
“A lot of my style is that I see things that the average person might walk by, and I can see it as art. But a lot of it we are losing.”
As an example of what he means, he refers to old fishing flakes and wharfs.
“The old stages now are gone, every house is vinyl now. We’re losing all that, so I’m trying to capture as much of it as I can.”
Musseau is capturing so much of it on canvas and acrylic that he is building a studio on his house. The planned addition will not only display his work, but will also give the public an opportunity to come in, chat with the artist, and purchase any or all of the pieces he displays.
Musseau’s artwork has been featured on the cover of Arabella magazine, Acrylic Works magazine, and hangs in the Ducks Unlimited offices, as well as in several coffee-table books about styles of artwork. This kind of high-profile prolonged exposure has helped to put his artwork in very high demand.
Clients will call him from just about anywhere, including right across Canada. They are either buying Musseau’s works or commissioning him to do something specific for them. Some of his pieces sell for as much as $8,000.
With Musseau being so busy, he keeps his fans involved in all of his projects with a newsletter via his website, and frequently puts a few “sneak previews” on his Facebook page.
It seems to tickle him to tease his fans with a quick five-second video of a huge painting, but it once again demonstrates how Musseau is a savvy entrepreneur who utilizes different forms of media to attract fans.
He may be in high demand now, but Musseau first started out as a sign painter, “way back”. Most in the region have likely seen his work on the highway via the sign coming into Port Aux Basques.
“That Shark Cove Suites sign is mine. Thats been there I’d say 15 years,” offers Musseau.
But the artist never really loved being a sign painter, and decided to move into original works, painting what he wanted and what he saw.
Musseau hopes to have his studio built by next summer, having already completed it in his mind’s eye. He easily envisions exactly how it will look, and he has someone lined up to help him with the professional style lighting that will be needed to display his artwork properly.
“Right now, I come down here, and the lighting is terrible, so that’s why I take it upstairs, to study it,” says Musseau. “But when I get that studio built, I’ll have my office on top, and I can step right out into a brand new room with so much more light.”
If Musseau can get so much done now in such a tiny little basement corner of his home, then it should be pretty fun to see what he might accomplish in a full sized studio.