Artist Spotlight: Antoine Renault Captures the Essence of Summer

Katie Carey | June 21, 2022 (Updated September 20, 2022)

Soleilleuse contre l’ombre by Antoine Renault. Oil On Canvas, 70 x 50 x 2 cm (27.56 x 19.69 x 0.79 in)

Featured artist Antoine Renault is bringing us into summer with his ocean-inspired paintings.

This self-taught French artist is based on the island of Noirmoutier and draws inspiration from nature—mainly the water and trees around him.

With his them of "invincible summer," Renault is best known for his surprisingly realistic paintings of water. He constantly plays with the borders of realism: photorealistic from distance and almost abstract when closer to the canvas.

Through this play, he experiments with how light affects water—and those reflections are captured in the flow and movement of his paintings. Each work captures a moment paused, a scene of summer that exudes lightness, of calmness, and joy. 

You can see more of Antoine Renault's work on his Discovery profile and read more about his work below. 

Kitrinos by Antoine Renault.  Acrylic On Canvas, 50 x 70 x 2 cm (19.69 x 27.56 x 0.79 in)

Has your work changed over time—do you find yourself understanding your art career through different periods of expression?

The themes have not changed much, but the style and technics have. I’m still looking for ways to express the “invincible summer”. Always close up to, on, or under the water element which is an endless source of inspiration.

But yes, certainly, there have been a few periods.

It’s only after 15 years of learning to paint on my own that my “career” kicked off with the first show in 2011. It accelerated a year later, thanks to a lucky collaboration with an Australian photographer, Mark Tipple, that gave me sudden global visibility. This was also my first underwater subject and a tipping point in how I “see” and paint water.

My 2016 solo show was another one. After years of working passionately on complex images around human postures and water reflections, I reached a technical level that required much more time on each painting, but it made me feel confident I could work on any subject too.

As of 2017, I felt free to experiment more. Finding a more singular and simple expression became my priority. With the lockdown period, came the exploration of trees in my work. It's a perfect subject for evolving towards simplification: it can’t be interesting if you paint leaves …

Do you have a favorite or most satisfying part of your process?

I like many parts of the process, but my three favorites are probably when I get started, when I know I’ve found the right path, and when I decide I should abandon the piece.

The first step is when I paint the values on an undercoat: with the darkest and lightest zones down, the whole personality emerges from the piece. It’s like a child: they will grow up and evolve, but the whole personality is already there under your eyes when they are two years old.

Usually, this first favorite moment is a joyful acceleration. But then come all kinds of challenges on this unpredictable creative path. There is this moment where I feel I’ve just cracked what I had been trying to solve for a while—this can be a color or contrast adjustment or a simplification of an idea.

This is a moment from which I can create more freely, with the comforting feeling of building something I will like. That’s the phase where, with good music helping, I get into the “flow." Sometimes, I will change it again afterward, but I sure had a good time in this phase.

My third favorite moment is when I decide the piece can be abandoned. Or rather, if I continue working on it, I will damage the interest or the strength of it.

This is one of the toughest decisions in the process, and one of the most important too.

This is when you accept that all the remaining imperfections are part of what makes the piece worth viewing. This means I can sign it. My brushes will never touch it again. It also means I can afford to start another piece and enjoy the first of my favorite moments!


"Phtalo Blue" by Jules Renault

What has your artistic education consisted of (formal or not)? If you did receive a formal education like an MFA, did you find it necessary for your artistic growth, or did you find that elsewhere?

I was self-taught during the first 25 years of my art career. From there, I decided it was time to learn from other artists.

As I live on an island, surrounded by remarkable trees, I recently got interested in painting trees. I went to the Moroccan Atlas with Thierry Lefort for a week. I love how he deals with simplification and shadows. Everything was new for me during this retreat. I learned a ton. I’ve planned another retreat with Mike Carson in Florence soon.

Which routines—art-making and administrative—are essential to success in your art career?

One routine that I have is that I always work on three or four paintings at the same time. I do this because I need to disconnect my brain from a piece after a 3-hour session. Then, I decide to come back to it when the appetite for that piece has risen again, and I come with a really fresh eye. I also don't start more because otherwise I’m tempted to start too many and things get out of control in my small studio.

Another routine is that I sketch in magazines when I travel by train or plane. I would usually buy a local version of ELLE magazine, pick a model on one page, and find another page where the sketch could play nicely with text and title. This routine got me started with ballpen doodling in sketchbooks. I always have one with me. It often triggers inspiration for new painting ideas. All my sketches can be found on my “Sketchingintheair” Instagram account.

I developed a super-simplified palette routine: just four colors and a titanium white.

I got used to capturing images of the creative process and would almost always make a short video format of it once the piece is finished. This helps me remember the path and the decisions I made. And, as my work looks quite photorealistic on a small screen, that helps the viewer understand what it is really made of—it helps feel the brushstrokes.

I have two critical admin routines.

Any time I finish a painting, I upload it on my Artwork Archive account first thing, with one signature close-up pic, three other close-up pics, and one roomset pic.

Any time I move a piece (to a show or gallery), I’ll archive the exhibition report and where the pieces are. Any time I sell a piece, I’ll archive the collector’s details. Those three routines give me peace of mind. I have many other tasks linked to my blog, shop, newsletter, and all the social media. But those three are the routines I know I need to stick to in order to stay organized.

Nothing but bubbles by Antoine Renault. Acrylic On Canvas, 50 x 70 x 2 cm (19.69 x 27.56 x 0.79 in)

Why did you decide to inventory and archive your artworks?

I began archiving my works because I started having too many pieces in too many different places and too many collectors to keep track of.

I realized there was too much critical information falling through the cracks of my old system, based on a combination of excel files and directories. I was wasting too much time remembering where a piece was or if a collector already bought a piece some years ago. 

I thought it was time to be better organized.

Also, although that’s a tiny business, it’s a relationship business. I thought it was time to operate it with a reliable CRM to treat my stakeholders (engaged followers, collectors, galleries, press) in a more professional way.

After updating all my works on the platform, I realized I made the decision to use it precisely when I reached painting #100, which is a funny detail that I had no idea about until I began archiving my works!

What advice would you give an emerging artist during this time?

  1. Make space in your agenda in front of the easel. Book studio time! There is no other way to enjoy and grow your practice. There is no better way to find inspiration either.

  2. Show your work. The more you show your work, the more you connect with great artists and art enthusiasts. It fuels the work in a fantastic way. Beyond the satisfaction you get from all those connections, this happens to be at least half of your success. In case you end up being copied by other artists, celebrate! It means you’ve developed your reach nicely and your work is singular!
  3. Enjoy the possibilities on multiple channels. No artwork can remain unseen today unless the artist decides so. Don’t complain about the too many tools and new tech. Learn to play with it, step by step. Enjoy learning with brick & mortar galleries or showing up at art fairs as much as you enjoy connecting with art enthusiasts across the globe through online platforms and social media. Life has become so much easier for artists today!

Create a visual archive of your artworks with a free 14-day trial of Artwork Archive


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