Saatchi Art

From the Studio of… Ysabel LeMay

By Saatchi Art · March 14, 2013 · Inside the Studio

We are thrilled to share this peek into the (traveling) studio of Austin-based Québécoise artist Ysabel LeMay.


Favorite material to work with?
Nature of course! You can’t get more diversity than what you find in nature. Each plant I pick has its own life, its own story to tell. Nature has its magic creative effect on me.

What themes do you pursue?
NATURE’S DIVINITY. It is here, there, all around, living, transforming, and it never ceases to enthrall and inspire me. I let her lead throughout the rhythm of the seasons. By means of my camera, I attempt to capture her subtleties and beauty in its purest form as I interpret to you her divinity as I sense it. A leaf may appear commonplace at first glance, but when our eyes linger over it, the mundane becomes something of wonder. There is so much beauty in this world! We need only to take the time to surrender to the spectacle. My art is a tribute to Nature. It is an offering; a moment of contemplation.

Where is your studio?
Three years ago, when I changed my medium from painting to photography, I had one very important objective in mind which was to fit my entire studio in a suitcase. I wanted to work outside and travel.
So, my studio is located wherever I choose to create. I always have a small room where I can do my digital composition. I do spent a lot of hours in front of the computer. Presently I am in Austin, Texas. Tomorrow… I don’t know yet.

Art school or self-taught?
Self-taught! I haven’t learned much at school and being constantly driven by the desire to create, I was forced to spend long hours perfecting my skills. My early years as a painter were excruciating but so rich in acquiring knowledge, wisdom and understanding of the Self. I apply to my photography work everything I learned as a painter. I like to say, “If you can paint, you can do anything else.”

How many years as an artist?
I would like to count as well my years as a graphic designer. They were highly creative years that gave me also the necessary business skills to live well as an artist. Total years as an artist: 26.

What do you collect?
I collect photographs of organic matter, plants, flowers, branches, birds, butterflies, liquids, landscapes, everything which is. I am particularly attracted to images of plants that are desiccated by time.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
I always keep these pieces of advice on my desktop as a reminder.

How to get over your self sabotage:
1 – Never compare yourself to other artists.
2 – Know that your family is biased. Whether for or against, their views are skewed and do not represent an accurate reflection of your work in the world.
3 – Base your success on how your art has enriched your life and how you feel when you create it.
4 – Constantly push yourself to expend and learn.
5 – Remember, it is the job of the artist to create new culture, not simply to regurgitate what exists.
6 – Never expect your family to understand your art, but do your best to educate them about it, patiently.
7 – Whenever a client/gallery owner/patron offers their advice, smile and nod. Then create your art authentically.
8 – Remember what Dalí said: “Have no fear of perfection. You will never reach it.”



Prefer to work with music or in silence?
Because I spend so much time alone, I like to fill my working space with sounds. It helps me to create from the heart instead of the mind. During the day, I listen to interviews posted on several alternative information website such as Gaiam TV. I am passionate about metaphysics, science, self-empowerment and alternative medicine. At night, I listen to music. I follow several dj’s. I enjoy very much listening to KCRW and discover whatever is new in the music world.

Where can we find you outside the studio?
In the morning you will see me at a local yoga center, sweating my insanity away. It’s a discipline I must do daily to keep myself balanced in this over stimulating world. I also like to photograph early morning so a good hike is often on the program. At night, when I am not spending late hours in front of my computer I like sipping on a glass of red wine at a cool neighborhood spot or I am at a theatre enjoying a good play or movie. My Sundays are sacred. NO WORK! I bike around town, chill at a pool with a good book and connect with my loved one over the phone.

Favorite contemporary artist?
Peter Doig, Joan Mitchell, Alexander McQueen, Andy Goldsworthy, Edward Burtynsky…. and more.

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
It would be a painting by Joan Mitchell. Her spirit lives within me and I aspire to express with the same power as she does, the beauty of the duality within human’s Nature.

If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you do?
I would still be an artist but I would be a singer. I am very envious of the ones who carry this amazing gift. What a powerful tool to reach people’s souls!

Favorite editing software (if any)?
I am a big Photoshop lover. This software allows me to bring my ideas to life. It is a smart, intuitive software and, if well used, it offers the possibility to create visual magic.

Camera type?
My entire equipment consist on a Canon EOS 5D, a few good lenses, 2 Canon 580 EXII speedlite flash and a few backdrops for when I shoot inside. When I am lucky have a friend or an assistant to carry everything for me.

Natural or artificial light?
As much as possible, natural light. I love to shoot during overcast days or early morning to catch the crisp early light.