Dominic Bourbeau doesn’t realize what a great painter he is.
Soft-spoken, Dominic is Minnesota nicer-than-nice. His unassuming nature shows up in his humble view of his work, which is colorfully geometric and stunning.
During last year’s Arizona Fine Art Expo in Scottsdale, Dominic’s artwork was tucked into a corner with little traffic flow, but I saw his work and was stopped cold by it.
In fact, his mid-century modern-style paintings intimidated me. How do you approach a genius? Especially one who is always painting, canvas lying flat on the table, head down? But it turned out that Dominic is highly approachable and generous with his time in explaining his supplies and techniques.
At this year’s Expo (January to March 2018), Dominic’s booth was in a high-traffic area near the cafe so his wall of art could be seen from the main hallway. Again this winter, Dominic kept his head down and painted constantly, but was as approachable and responsive to visitors as ever.
Hopefully, after hearing so many folks see his art for the first time and say “Wow!,” Dominic will realize how special his painting is.
Dominic’s Aubrey Hepburn-esque painting ran on the December 2017 cover of Modern Luxury Scottsdale magazine, and his sassy mid-century portrait of a well-dressed woman in red was used on all the Expo passes.
During the Expo, Dominic had to paint all day, every day, seven days a week, because everything he hung on his booth wall sold. Instantly.
Or, he was asked to paint one of his classics, like Frank Sinatra’s Living Room, five times. Maybe six. Maybe seven.
“This was the year of commissions,” Dominic says, laughing. “I finally lost count.”
Luckily, not every client wanted to take possession of their painting before the Expo closed on March 25, allowing Dominic to return to Minneapolis and complete all his unfinished commissions.
One day at Kinko’s in Scottsdale, Dominic was scanning his painting of Frank Sinatra’s Living Room when an architect from Palm Springs saw the painting and asked about it. Dominic told the guy he painted it and the man instantly pulled out his check book and commissioned the painting for his home.
“That was unbelievable,” Dominic says to me the day it happened, and he’s shaking his head, like it shouldn’t have happened.
But it’s totally believable that someone saw his artwork and instantly wanted it. Dominic’s style is infectious.
His brother, Martin Bourbeau, is also an artist at the Expo. Martin uses cake frosting tubes to pipe paint onto magnificent landscapes on huge canvases, layering and layering the lines of paint to create 3-D art. They’re gorgeous and impressive and expensive.
“I originally struggled with how to price my paintings,” Dominic says, echoing every other artist. Pricing is always tricky. With advice from his fellow artists, Dominic has charged slightly more for his work lately, particularly when a subject is selling well, but psychologically it’s still hard for him to increase his prices.
This winter, he began to paint cityscapes depicting well-known landmarks, making them smaller than his usual paintings, and they all sold.
He painted a cat, then more cats, and the paintings sold before he could even hang them on the wall.
Gouache is Dominic’s medium of choice. Pronounced “gwash,” the medium is another type of watercolor, though it remains opaque rather than translucent and it dries matte. It’s fitting that Dominic uses Gouache because the medium was first used in creating Medieval Illuminated manuscripts and then became popular with French and Italian painters in the 18th century.
Also, before digital design, gouache was commonly used by Mid-20th century commercial artists because the medium made crisp images and letters possible, and it photographed well.
“I draw out the design in pencil, sketch over it in pen,” Dominic says, “and when all the details are done, I’ll start painting, which is the fun part.”
He smiles big.
His technique is to texture different blocks of color by adding wavy or squiggly lines, or dots. His dots are amazing and appear to be machine-made, but he produces each one with absolute focus and precision.
While attending a boarding school in Michigan, Dominic studied iconology and followed the tradition of mixing his own tempura paints, including using a beetle to produce red.
In Iconology, every line has a purpose, nothing is used simply for the sake of being ornate. The strong geometry and symbolism of iconology are present in Dominic’s style.
Dominic’s artistic experiences also include throwing pottery, drawing portraits and painting murals for Shakespearean stage sets. He greatly admires artists such as Eames, Frank Lloyd Wright and Charley Harper, and is captivated by their use of simple, yet bold, design based on sophisticated, yet minimalist, geometry.
“I was able to pull from each of my past artistic experiences a segment of its beauty and technique,” Dominic says. “The geometry of iconography, the simple shapes of pottery, the puzzle-like composition of stained glass windows, the details of a portrait drawing, and the intensity especially in color of a mural painting.”
- Frank Sinatra’s Living Room
Dominic, at 38, is the oldest of 11 children.
“All eight boys are artistic,” Dominic says. “My three sisters are not artistic. One brother, Peter, has a Master’s in Art and teaches art in a boarding school.”
Their mother, a school teacher, always brought art projects home for the kids to play with.
Dominic almost completed his Master’s in Art, so he could teach, but decided against teaching when he noticed students were using it as an elective and weren’t serious about learning.
Instead he got a degree to be a Surgical Technician and for 12 years now has specialized in assisting orthopedic surgeons in mostly hip and knee replacements.
With his “casual” employment, Dominic is hired to be the personal assistant of a physician and can work when he wants. That’s how he’s been able to take off three months for the last three winters to exhibit at the Expo in Scottsdale. Being a surgical assistant is a great gig; as long as Dominic is attached to a surgeon and keeps his medical qualifications current, he gains seniority in his position with the hospital.
Fours years ago, Dominic’s artistry was discovered by his hospital co-workers when he was drawing on sterile paper towels in the operating room. He then received commissions to create pen and ink portraits of his colleagues’ kids and families, or portraits of pets wearing sunglasses. Dr. Santos, a co-worker, asked Dominic to create anatomy illustrations for a book, including sketches of a spine and spinal implant.
At home in Minneapolis, Dominic paints in his kitchen, which does double-duty as his art studio.
Dominic is on his careful way to ultimately making a living solely as an artist.
In the meantime, he keeps his head down and paints for hours every day, in addition to doing all his own marketing and accounting… when he isn’t assisting in surgeries or exhibiting in Scottsdale.
I predict he’ll hit it big one day.
Maybe then he’ll realize just what a great artist he is.