From heart attack to art attack: an awakening

Art Attack will show their latest works December 11-13 at The Senior Times, 4077 Décarie Blvd. Vernissage: Fri. Dec. 11, 5-9pm and show Sat. 12 & Sun. 13, noon-5pm; with a second show: Feb. 12-14, 2016.

medieval gardens of love albert cormierThe gardener and the artist have much in common: The euphoric joy in colours, the almost monastic experience of silence, the freedom of moving, breathing, working with your hands at your own pace, and glimpses of a sometimes astounding creative power permeating the universe, yet coming from within.

“I’ve always loved gardens,” says Albert Cormier, 56, who just completed his first published work, Medieval Gardens of Love, a book to fill with colour, suitable for all ages.

Cormier’s dearest childhood memories are of working with his family, in his mother’s large vegetable garden during the harvest season. During the long winter in New Brunswick, he kept warm with paints and pencils, drawing away into the night. But he did not think of himself as an artist and did not know what he wanted to do in life.

Coming to Montreal at 19, he became a professional graphic designer, taking art courses now and then. “One course at college that I loved more than any other was Illustration,” Cormier recalls. “We had to create illustrations for a fairy tale.”

But there was a nagging sense that something was missing.

Suddenly at 50, a heart attack forced Cormier to face the reality that time is finite. Shortly after, the loss of his house and his beloved garden devastated him. But it was also a time of reckoning. His will came into force. “After a heart attack, that’s when you decide what you want out of life,” he says. “It’s a serious wake-up call that life is fragile.”

He enrolled in the École des Beaux Arts in Montreal and worked as never before, creating works in pastel, watercolour, charcoal and oils. “For the first time I felt as if I had found my place,” he says.

A chance meeting with publisher Andrei Kelner bloomed into an exciting opportunity. Kelner asked Cormier to create
drawings for an adult “anti-stress” colouring book, suggesting several themes. Perhaps because of the intrusive onslaught of technology, these types of books have become the top 10 bestsellers internationally this year across all categories.

“As soon as I heard the theme ‘medieval gardens,’ I knew this is what I wanted to do,” Cormier says. The work called upon all his talents, which had so far been germinating quietly. “It’s very different from anything I’ve ever done before. I’ve never created a book from beginning to end,” says Cormier, who did both drawings and the graphic design, including the cordons of flowers inspired by medieval illuminations framing each image.

On each page, there is a relationship between human beings, or between humans and nature. The drawings, inspired by Tacuinum Sanitatus, a 15th-century book on health, capture the character of medieval engravings; the figures gazing at something beyond their immediate surroundings yet staying close to the comfort of nature’s bounty. Though meticulously drawn, there is plenty of free space, creating a sense of expansion and inviting the reader into the world of magic and memories of their own inner gardens.

Cormier and fellow artists Barbara Moser and Danielle Dubois recently started meeting for a shared art experience, playfully dubbing their get-togethers “Art Attack.” However, artists are never so serious as when they are playing, and they have been producing works of various sizes they will share with the public.

Albert Cormier’s Medieval Gardens of Love can be purchased for $15 at The Senior Times office by
calling 514-484-5033 or by visiting

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