AIP: How would you describe your style of work and what is your preferred medium to work in?
PLM: Whimsical wildlife, cartoon realism, funny looking animals, critters with personality…there are plenty of ways to describe my style of art, most I’ve lifted from things people have said to me, none of which lends itself to being taken too seriously.
As for medium, I’ve been a digital cartoonist, illustrator and painter since the late nineties and aside from pencil and paper; it’s my medium of choice. Because some people have preconceived notions about digital art, and my work is very detailed, I often have to add the caveat that no photos are ever part of my art. I only use photos for reference, most of which I take myself.
AIP: What were you first steps toward selling your art and what type of setting was this in, a gallery, art & crafts show, market, on-line or elsewhere?
PLM: My first sale of art was to the Banff Crag and Canyon newspaper. I was 27 years old and they were advertising for an editorial cartoonist. I liked to doodle a lot, but I wasn’t very good. Since nobody else applied, however, I got the gig and for a few years it was $30/week for beer money. That was twenty years ago and now I’m nationally syndicated with newspapers across Canada.
While I’ve done a lot of different illustrative work for magazines, private and business clients, dabbled in some animation and a few other things, the animal paintings are now the other half of my business. Those started in 2009. A gallery in Banff that is now closed offered me a chance to sell limited edition canvas prints of my first three paintings back then and it’s now the work I love to do most.
It seems odd to many people that I had never wanted to be an artist, hadn’t even entertained the idea when I was younger. Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else.
AIP: Why do you choose Art Ink to print your reproductions, and what products to you order from us?
PLM: My digital prints used to be done by a company in Calgary and while those folks were great to work with, they became a victim of the downturn in Alberta and I had to find somewhere new. I have long admired Kari Lehr’s artwork and was impressed with the prints you do for her. So while I auditioned other printers while making the transition, I chose Art Ink not only for the great quality, but you also won me over with your excellent service.
AIP: If you could look back in time and meet yourself when you first started making an income as an artist; what would be the most valuable piece of advice you would give yourself?
PLM: I would anonymously buy my younger self a beer while he was doodling at a local pub in Banff and wouldn’t say a word to him. Any advice I’d offer might pull a thread that would unravel the whole tapestry and ruin everything.
All of the mistakes, failures, false starts, worries about money, illusions about the meaning of success, frustrations with promotion, sales, being swindled by some people, helped by others, and all of the wonderful happy accidents…these all had to happen at the right time in the right order to deliver me to where I am today.
He probably wouldn’t have listened, anyway.
Owl Family by Patrick LaMontagne
AIP: What are your favorite methods for marketing yourself as a self representing artist?
PLM: Over the years, I’ve tried a lot of different things that have largely been disappointing. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, Behance, Art Forums and Collectives, there hasn’t been one that has ever felt just right. I’ve closed up everything but Instagram and am still frustrated that some people with weird social media fame can post a picture of their cat’s litter box and get thousands of likes, but a post of a painting that took me many hours and years of developing my skills gets very little.
Even though I make a very good living from my art and know that social media fame is an illusion, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype and think you’re failing when you’re not.
So marketing myself is a constant struggle, as it is for most artists.
If I had to pick a favorite, I’d say the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo because I get to meet people face to face, see repeat customers year after year, and get to hang out with other creative types in what can be a real festival atmosphere for four days. It’s exhausting, but that event has always been well worth my time.
AIP: Can you tell us an event or occasion which excited you the most, with regards to getting your art ‘out there’ for people to see?
PLM: I’ve had a few flash points in my career that I think kindly upon that seemed to take my art to a new level of recognition. It’s hard to pick just one.
The event that probably did the most for my career was winning the Illustration category and Best in Show Award at the 2010 Photoshop World conference in Las Vegas. I won the Best in Show again in 2014, but that first event was the game changer.
That introduced me to the folks at Wacom and for a number of years, I worked with them off and on with promotional projects, webinars, videos and training. I’ve been using Wacom tablets and displays for twenty years, so that was the company with whom I most wanted to work. That opened a lot of doors for me with the right people.
Sadly, the people I worked most closely with at the company have either moved on to other things or are in different positions so I don’t really have a relationship with Wacom any longer, but such is the ebb and flow of any career.
AIP: Where can our followers and your patrons find your work, and keep up to date with your new creations?
PLM: While I am undergoing a rebranding later this year, my current website is www.cartoonink.com and even after I change domain names, that address will still direct to the new site. I have a regular newsletter to which people can subscribe, where I share new paintings, plans in progress, editorial cartoons and thoughts I’ve been thinking. The link is on the site under the Blog tab. And I’m on Instagram at @LaMontagneArt
AIP: Any other comments you would like to share?
PLM: Be kind to those you meet in this life and also to yourself. None of us is perfect. Some hide them better than others, but we’ve all got struggles, and a little empathy goes a long way.
There is no such thing as overnight success. You want it; you got to work for it, and it’s a long game. There are no shortcuts.
And be kind to animals.
Thank-you so much Patrick for sharing your story with us, your cheerful images are always a joy to print as they brighten up our day!