Artist: Elise Imbeau
She was born an artist and critters catcher. The many dubious pottery and drawings on the walls of her parents' house as well as the anecdotes of snakes and frogs that escaped from her terrariums can attest to this.
Catching birds and counting salamanders as part of her university studies in Biology in Sherbrooke (Qc) was only the logical continuation of her passion for the living world.
The artist in her woke up again through scientific communication during her master's project in Chicoutimi (UQAC). Her studies on the boreal and arctic lake ice made me discover an exhilarating world, the Arctic, which she instantly falls in love with.
Pursuing my passions, she now lives in Ikaluktutiak (Cambridge Bay), Nunavut, where she combines the worlds of science and art in a land of breathtaking beauty!
What is your professional art form?
I have always liked to explore and try several art forms, but my main professional ones are graphic design and handmade jewelry. My projects are widely diverse, from science outreach material and paper figures, educational and cultural material, company seals, landscapes drawings, personal orders like portraits from photos of loved ones (including 4-legged little friends), to stationery (just because I am in love with colors and paper material... I can’t explain it, but it makes me so happy!).
How and why you ended up with polar regions in your art? What was the triggering point?
Artist in my heart since I was a mini human, I made my studies in science, keeping art as a hobby during these years of formation, until both worlds met. During my master's degree on boreal and arctic lake ice (UQAC), my supervisor Milla Rautio once asked me to create outreach posters for projects that she wanted to present to members of the community of Ikaluktutiak (Cambridge Bay, NU). That was a hard work! I wanted to find the perfect illustrations that would represent the projects, without the need of any other text than titles. I selected bland pastel colors that I thought correspond to the magic of the arctic, looked for traditional clothing and accessories to be sure to well represent the region and even looked at Inuit traditional art to get inspired. At the end, my work was really well received! That is when I realized how important it is for science to be communicated in visual ways. I started to draw material for all of my further presentations and I just stuck to arctic illustrations. I used every sampling trip as an opportunity to bring back pictures to draw later and now, I live here, in Ikaluktutiak and the land keeps inspire me every day.
What are the main polar themes you generally focus on?
I am passionate about the living world and it is well reflected in my art! Living organisms are recurrent in my illustrations, from large mammals to zooplankton and lichen. Life is wonderful and I love to be inspired and use the treasures that nature offers us.
Have you ever shared your work with an audience, as in-person or online exhibition?
My outreach projects were share with the community and science material for presentations and papers mainly reached scientists. I also do sell material online, that I share via my Instagram account (instagram.com/eliimbeau) and my Facebook page (@Eli.Imbeau.Illustration).
I recently focus full time in my art and with the actual Covid situation, it was hard to share in-person my material, but I can't wait for the moment when I will be able to show my creations!
What was the most interesting reaction to your art?
I had such great reactions to a poster I presented at the 2018 Arctic Net annual conference. People were amazed by how well the message was clear and how pleasant was the reading. A few even mentioned how calming it was to look at my poster (that's the secret to bland pastel colors!). It was science work, but I still consider it art.
Another project that was way much more appreciated than I expected was a series of arctic animal coloring pages I shared for kids at home during the first weeks of isolation last winter. I was thinking about sharing 3 or 4 to the community and I ended up sharing over 15 in 4 different languages that were shared from Baffin Island to Alaska!
What is your opinion about the challenges being faced in the polar regions?
There is a lot happening. People see the differences on the land. There are drastic changes and it is hard to predict what will happen. As alarming as it is, I am glad to see that there is a marked interest and research effort in the northern regions as well as an increasing collaboration with traditional knowledge. It is important for everyone to do everything in our power to try to understand and find solutions and above all, not to be overwhelmed by the situation. We must stay positive and have hope in what can be done to try to lessen the consequences of these changes.
How did you benefit your art during the current pandemic?
I am really lucky to be here in Nunavut, as so far no cases have been detected in the whole territory. I am also lucky to be self-employed and to have been able to work on different contracts during this difficult time. I wasn’t able to present my work to the community because of social distancing measures, but I prepared material that I will be really happy to share in due times.
Do you have any person/figure that inspires you?
Every living world passionate I met, those with sparkles I the eyes, are inspiration for me! Studying in science allows you to meet a multitude of brilliant people who are passionate about even the smallest and strangest creatures ... it's great!
What would be your advice to the polar enthusiasts & researchers who like to use art as a tool to share their research?
Please do!! There are not enough people using art in science communication. We all know how boring, unfortunately, a presentation could be... even on a so exciting subject! The important thing is to use art to tell something, not just to make a presentation or a poster look good. This is where art might not be well received. Every illustration or art material need to help deliver the science content. Science communication is an art in itself and it's worth practicing!
© All pictures created by Elise Imbeau