“You can say I’m doing illustration part time because my true dream is to make cheese and wine.” So goes a typical conversation with Gerard Dubois, a charming mix of wit, charm and self deprecation. I’ve known Gerard for about 15 years and it’s been like this all along. He is one of my favorite artists, and one of my best friends.
Gerard’s work and career is the epitome of what many of us aspire to—to create poetic work that communicates, informs and transcends, all while maintaining the integrity and timelessness of a true work of art. Time and again, Gerard creates images that turn the mundane into the ethereal, and it’s always quite a thrill to see. From a host of topics that he is asked to illustrate, Gerard is able to illicit paintings that feel current and timeless, all at the same time.
Gerard was born in France in 1968. He grew up in the suburbs of Paris, but as a child never went to the museums in the legendary city nearby. This all changed when he moved to Paris to study graphic design and found new friends and perspectives at the city’s bars and cafes—experiences he’s remembered all his life. He graduated from college in 1989, accepted a job as a designer in Montreal with the French Ministry of Cooperation, crossed the Atlantic, and never looked back.
This was when I first came across the work of Gerard Dubois. I was the art director of TIME magazine’s Canadian edition and began to notice the work of a young artist working in Montreal. Gerard’s work stood out for its strong impact and delicate touch, a combination that is very hard to pull off. Much of his early work was dark, on cardboard, slashed throughout. His early paintings were also very large and carried the strength of art that wanted to make a big statement, which it did.
Slowly, his work began to appear on the covers and interiors of American magazines for a variety of stories. I soon began to work with him on a regular basis at TIME and loved every minute of it. As an art director, one usually tries to match the artist to the assignment, but with Gerard, I would ask him to create illustrations for articles that had nothing to do with his style just so I could sit back and watch how he would climb out of the trap I’d set (which he would always end up doing with pure innovation). Naturally, he would call me, angst ridden, never sure his ideas were coming together. We would talk on the phone, sometimes for hours, one topic moving on to the next, and we would both learn so much from the process. Anyone that knows Gerard well loves his conversations, he is one of the sharpest artists I know.
In time Gerard would work for most major American and international publications, and for corporate clients, too. Profiles about him are plentiful, as are awards from the top graphics organizations, including Communications Arts, Print Design Annuals and the Society of Illustrators, which has awarded Gerard Gold and Silver Medals—and now its Hamilton King Award.
Throughout my career as an art director I was often asked who my favorite illustrators were, whom would I recommend? Gerard Dubois was always at the top of my list. His sheer brilliance and touch always seems to slow down the viewer. He makes the viewer stop, notice the light emanating from his paintings, contemplate the poetry, and take in the subtle power of his images. In this fast paced and distracted world, having something like Gerard’s work to slow us down, look, study and contemplate, is a treasure.