Earlier this summer, Pier Five had the pleasure of meeting up with Montreal based artist David Bicari, aka LeBicar, for a jam packed day of art, music, food and great conversations. After a wonderful visit to David’s studio in the Mile End neighbourhood and a skate sesh out back, David was kind enough to show us his lay of the land and what started as a plan for a quick meet up turned into a full day experiencing some of the best spots and events in the city. From salmon tartare avocado toast to one of Montreal’s coolest new galleries, multiple Aperol Spritz stops and VIP at the Mural Festival BBQ and concert, there was no shortage of good times and we can’t thank David enough for his hospitality.
A little bit about LeBicar…
David has been at the forefront of the Montreal art scene for quite some time. With a unique style, David’s black and white continuous line drawings can be seen all over the city, from gallery displays to storefront walls, murals, home goods and on the bottom of skate decks being ridden down the streets. David is a big advocate for getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things and while his style is consistent and recognizable, he isn’t afraid to take on new challenges and this has led to a flourishing career and many incredible relationships along the way.
Hey David! It’s great to be in your studio. Tell us about the space.
Great to have you guys. I just recently moved into this space and am loving it. I share it with some awesome creatives and brands which helps us all create better work. There’s a ton of space in here too to work on all of my different mediums; canvas, decks, paper, etc. I like doing different mediums every day to keep things interesting and keep me out of my comfort zone.
So much great art here and it’s really cool to see the behind the scenes space. You’ve talked about being inspired by contrast and duality, which can be seen through the stark black & white palette of your work. Can you talk about this inspiration a little bit more?
I like to think about the spectrum of people in the world and how stark the differences in lifestyles can be. The black and white in my work is my representation of both ends of that spectrum. The contrast, while simple, is very meaningful to me. This idea of black and white also stems from my early days as an artist in which I started with simple pen on paper drawings. It’s all like a bit of a dance on the paper for me.
A lot of artists with simplistic styles sometimes get criticized for a “lack of creativity” (which we do not agree with). How would you respond to this statement?
There’s something beautiful about mastering simple design. Just because it’s simple, doesn’t mean it’s easy or bad. You wouldn’t tell Jack Johnson to play heavy metal. When he is only playing a ukulele and singing his songs are still incredible [laughs]. I am a big fan of the “less is more” ideology and I know not everyone likes that but it doesn’t mean that less equals less creative.
Great answer! Do you ever miss colours?
I feel like I have something to say with black and whit but my door isn’t closed to colours. I’ll often save the colours for my client work when I have to work with their brand colours. Ultimately for me though, storytelling is the most important thing. If the story needs colours, I’ll use it.
My series “Imparfaitement Special” (Imperfectly Special in English) was inspired by fruit at the grocery store that was marked on sale for its imperfections using an orange sticker. I still saw the beauty in the fruit and the imperfections and brought that into my work so there was colour there. Again, it always just has to be about the story.
Speaking of clients, you’ve also done a number of collaborations, from shoes and apparel to skateboards and drink brands. How do you choose which brands to work with and which to say no to?
I’ve been lucky enough to reach a place recently where the phone has been ringing which is a great thing. I love collaborating as I feel it makes me a better artist and most brands that reach out to me have done their research and know me so luckily I don’t have to say no to many people. If I don’t feel that there is a natural connection I might say no, or I’ll work to educate them about my work to try and make something work out.
I also have gotten hit up in the past for free jobs or ones that pay in “visibility” which I don’t like. Exposure or visibility is nice but I can’t pay my rent with visibility. I’ve worked hard to understand my value and I know I can bring exposure to other people as well. I don’t need to be making tons but mutual value creation is important.
That’s a great mentality to have. What would you say to a new artist that is looking to determine their “value” or what they should maybe be charging for work?
One thing to remember is that value doesn’t always equal money. That doesn’t mean work for free but there are other ways to gain value for sharing your work. It could be trading time, services, ideas, etc. I can’t really say how much time or what services you should get in return. That’s up to you but just remember money isn’t everything.
That being said, I do think it’s important to charge when you can, even if only a little, to build your negotiating skills.
Lastly, above all else, I always say that the first person you need to sell your work to is yourself. Be confident in your work and that will take you everywhere.
All great points but that last tip is definitely key! Let’s talk about skateboarding! How long have you been skating for and how does it influence your day to day style?
Skateboarding is a huge part of my life. It is responsible for opening my eyes to so many different things within music and art. I used to always go into skate shops and just admire the skate decks on the wall. I was so enamoured by the art aspect without even knowing it. Now when I’m creating work, a lot of the stories are inspired by the skate scene.
The best part about skateboarding though to me is that it allows me to connect with more people. I have my crew of guys that I go skate with at night and when I’m out there, my mind is completely cleared of stress and I just focus on the skating. It’s like a form of meditation and the people that I’m with create such a positive vibe. It’s also taught me to persevere. Some of these tricks take months to learn but you keep trying until you get it. Art is that way too.
What’s a trick you’ve been working on for a while?
I was just out in Vancouver with some friends and had a small line of a nose slide and then into a backside 50/50. Nothing crazy but felt good.
Besides skate culture, flowers or floral elements often seem to make their way into your creations. Why the flower and do you think it is important for artists to have a symbol or shape that is a recurring theme in their art?
I think whether it’s a symbol, shape, colour palette or line style, having something consistent throughout your work is important for recognizability. It allows you to take the people that love your work with you as you grow and progress through your journey. That doesn’t necessarily mean never changing, but having something, even if it’s small, be consistent will do a lot for your long term growth.
That makes a lot of sense. Lastly, what are 5 tips you’d give to aspiring artists looking to “make it” as an artist?
Don’t keep ideas in your head. Put things on paper so to speak and don’t overthink it. Even if it’s not perfect, that’s ok.
Don’t be afraid to share your work with others and collect feedback. It’s ok to feel vulnerable but if you open your work up to people, for the most part they will be excited and try to understand what you’re doing.
It’s ok if others have their own interpretation of your work at first but have conversations with them and fill them in on your vision. Let them know the story of your pieces instead of just putting out a design and letting it sit.
Think about what you want to accomplish with your art. Do you want to just make your own art? Do you want to design for others? Having this understanding will guide you in the right direction.
Have fun. Art doesn’t always have to be that serious, even if it’s your full time job. Just enjoy it and your best work will come out.
Make sure to follow LeBicar on Instagram to get updates on all of his new work and releases and don’t forget to keep it locked to Pier Five for more interviews and stories with the coolest entrepreneurs, designers, artists, activists and more.