Phil Leith-Tetrault is a digital artist specializing in landscapes. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland and graduated RIT's New Media Design program in 2007. He has worked for 10 years as a digital designer, and more recently, a digital artist.
"Since childhood, I've always been fascinated with arctic nature. To me, it is both beautiful and lonely, peaceful and haunting. My work expresses the experience of being in locations such as Greenland's fjords, Labrador's coastline, and Northern Quebec's Boreal forests.
I attempt to vividly convey the experience of being in remote, northern environments, providing a mental break from the confines of our modern surroundings and society. Using digital illustration software, I draw organic shapes in the form of houses, mountains, trees, rocks, and flowers before filling these shapes with colour. During this process, the landscape begins to suggest physical and emotional feelings associated with its location."
What initially drew you towards becoming an artist?
I wanted to express myself visually outside of a corporate design environment. I love nature and collage, and have wanted to explore these themes for a while.
How would you describe your own personal style?
It’s Digital Collage – Colour, Shape and Photographs.
What pushed you in that direction and how can you see your work evolving in the future?
I’ve always loved arranging things on a canvas in a loose, expressive way, and I think my collages will continually move in this direction. I’m also adding more detail into the landscapes and so I expect them to look more realistic and tactile in the future.
What inspires you in your work, is there a driving factor that draws you to the easel?
I love nature, the outdoors, especially in remote places. I guess being in New York City for 12 years fills me with this sense of wanderlust. Here, everything is populated and structured. Places that I’ve visited like Newfoundland and Greenland provide an escape, at least visually, from the urban environments I’m accustomed to. They are untouched, pristine, and free of society’s grip.
Are there particular individuals who have encouraged / inspired you along the way, friends, family, teachers, maybe even other artists?
A friend convinced me to start making prints back in April, and I’m thankful for her advice. My mother has also told me I could make it as an artist at times throughout my life.
When it comes to creating your work, do you have a preferred medium, certain types of brushes or tools you love to use?
I like using Adobe illustrator. It’s convenient, easy to use, and prints nicely. I’ve also had years of experience using it as a graphic designer, so using the software feels almost second nature to me.
When it comes to the subject matter of your work, what draws you to those themes?
Old weathered Newfoundland coastal villages are haunting and mysterious to me. There’s a forbidden element to the land as well, because of harsh climate there. The same goes for locations such as Northern Quebec and Greenland. When I visited those places, I felt overwhelmed by their remote loneliness, but also their natural beauty.
Could you describe the process behind your art? How do you get from concept to execution?
I look at other landscape and collage work for inspiration. Then I create a scene that interests me based on my memories of these remote places. I begin with simple shapes, then add colour and texture to them until they feel finished.
Could you describe your normal day as an artist? Have you set routines and rituals or is it more a case of when the moment is right you work?
I intend to create 1 new piece a week if possible. I also update my artist Instagram account regularly and apply to art open calls and opportunities wherever possible. This I do most of these things earlier in the day, as I’m a morning person.
When you work, do you focus on one piece at a time until completion or are you working on multiple pieces at the same time?
Usually one, though I will sometimes put unfinished work aside and revisit it later.
How has your art evolved to be where it is today?
I began creating these landscapes minimalistcally. I used flat, coloured shapes to express simple mountain and seaside landscapes. I then used more shapes to give the scenes more depth and realism. Recently, I’ve added photographed textures into some of the shapes to increase this effect.
Which of your artworks are you most proud?
I’m most proud of pieces such as “Darby’s Harbour Before the Storm” and “Cape Spear,” where I first used photographic imagery and went in the direction of collage.
What advice would you give to a young aspiring artist currently studying art?
Keep practicing, keep creating, and trust the process.
Many people see artists as storytellers or advocates for a cause, do you believe that it is an artist’s responsibility to shine a light on a particular subject / theme, or do you create purely for the sake of expressing your creative nature?
I think art is whatever you want it to be. Whether it’s advocating a cause or simply someone’s creative energy, art is art. Although I have certain political views, my work isn’t political, at least not yet. It’s more about expressing natural beauty of loneliness in contrast to urban, crowded environments. I want to see where this theme takes me, and perhaps my work will evolve into a more political commentary in the future.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m about the start a new piece this week. I want to take a simple, mountainous landscape and bring it to life as a collage with lots of colours and texture.