“Every portrait I paint, you can find me in it”: Roxanne Sauriol’s subjects are all derived from her past

The Montréal-based painter talks us through her inspirations, which include making “fun connections” from Instagram and looking back on the depersonalisation episodes she had as a teenager.

11 October 2021

A woman adopts a stern pose, adorned in a shiny leather jacket, with silky auburn hair. Her eyes are glaring directly at you as she holds an iPhone; the image repeats into an abyss. Another depicts a woman sporting yellow Marigold gloves, a veil and a loaf of seeded bread cradled in her arms; and another sees Britney Spears carrying the head of her dad Jamie (an allusion to the #FreeBritney movement and her conservatorship). This is the handiwork of Roxanne Sauriol, an oil painter born and raised in Montréal.

Growing up, Roxanne briefly went to a Cégep – a publicly funded school in between college and university – to study art, but found it unfulfilling. She dropped out to pursue fashion design, but the same thing happened once again. “I decided I’d be better off out of there,” she tells us. Roxanne then got pregnant with her daughter, worked two jobs selling clothes and sewing in a store, and waitressing at a fondue restaurant. “I’d work double shifts and from there, when I was on maternity leave, with a baby in one hand and a paintbrush in the other, I decided it was worth the try and gave it a shot – painting every time I had the chance to.”

Roxanne decided to make her dreams a reality and, ultimately, proved that practice does indeed make perfect. She taught herself the basics of illustration and excelled at her new-found craft, later exhibiting at her first set of solo exhibitions in her hometown. Four years down the line and she’s now a full-time artist, heading to the studio six days a week to “work relentlessly” and to get rid of some of her “limiting beliefs” with regards to the work-life-art balance. To help with the workload, she makes sure to only paint things that she’s truly passionate about or that make her laugh. “I’ve had very positive feedback since and I think it’s working OK so far.”


Roxanne Sauriol: Abyss (Copyright © Roxanne Sauriol, 2021)

A typical day, then, involves looking at the news or Instagram (“not gonna lie”) to see what exists out in the digital sphere. Then, she’ll make some “fun connections” between these different worlds. After an idea has spawned, she’ll contact some models and get them to sit for her; they can be friends, friends of friends, or even total strangers. “Sometimes, they reach out to me to offer to pose and that humbles and flatters me every time!” she says. In a past life, Roxanne also worked as a hair and makeup artist, which is a skillset that certainly helps when it comes to prepping for the shoot. The final stage of the process involves toying around with her iPad until she’s happy with the result, which will later be used as a reference point for oil painting.

Roxanne’s paintings are incredibly personal, and often she will draw from her past experiences – the good and the bad. She sees this as the easiest way to form a subject and navigate the process of making art. “So in a sense, every portrait I paint, you can find me in it, personality-wise,” she says. In order for her to feel pleased with a painting, she has to be honest with herself and what she’s marking on the canvas. The Scream is a good example of this, which is a piece inspired by both Edvard Munch’s The Scream and by the depersonalisation episodes she had as a teenager. “They’re basically a really unpleasant out-of-body experience where you don’t know if you’re even real or if you belong in your own body,” she explains. “It’s the worst and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”

Roxanne eventually realised that the episodes were related to her weed-smoking habit, so she was able to prevent them in the end. Yet, at the time, in the early 2000s, coupled with the fact that she wasn’t able to talk to her friends or mum about her experiences – nor were there answers available on the internet – it was a challenging time. It’s also something that can reappear at any time. “It’s such a vicious loophole situation, it’s hard to snap out of,” she says. “So long story short, I feel it was worth talking about.”

You’d be hard pressed not to feel moved after learning more about the story behind Roxanne’s artworks. And equally, she hopes that you – her audience – will feel some emotion while observing her pieces, because “that’s what every artist wants”, as she puts it. In her case, though, it’s not all about hardship and the past; she also hopes the viewer will have a laugh, too, or experience a “moment of introspection”. Clearly, she’s doing something right, and the future is looking busy and promising for this hugely talented self-taught artist. She was recently commissioned to create four pieces for the rooms of a new hotel in Montréal, and soon she’ll be showing some pieces at the affordable art fair in Hamburg with the gallery MeetFrida. Keep your eyes on this one!


Roxanne Sauriol: Portrait of an annoyed lady (Copyright © Roxanne Sauriol, 2021)


Roxanne Sauriol: Lady with a tardigrade (Copyright © Roxanne Sauriol, 2021)


Roxanne Sauriol: Luke 23:34 (Copyright © Roxanne Sauriol, 2021)


Roxanne Sauriol: Revelation 21:4 (Copyright © Roxanne Sauriol, 2021)


Roxanne Sauriol: Saint-Lucy (Copyright © Roxanne Sauriol, 2021)


Roxanne Sauriol: The scream (Copyright © Roxanne Sauriol, 2021)


Roxanne Sauriol: Waiting for Godot (Copyright © Roxanne Sauriol, 2021)

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Roxanne Sauriol: #Freebritney (Copyright © Roxanne Sauriol, 2021)

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.

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