Art student encaptures the homeless through painting

Third-year visual arts student Jamie LeBlanc took an interest in art after one of her teachers noticed her knack for drawing and painting. (Aaron Sousa/AQ)

St. Thomas University third-year student Jaime LeBlanc uses her art to tell stories of the overlooked people in society.

She’s known for an art series called The Art of Social Change where she painted the faces of various homeless people who she formed a bond with by talking to them. This series came from having positive and negative experiences with the homeless through friends and family.

Growing up in Moncton, the visual arts major was always told not to talk to the homeless by her family. When she spoke to homeless people, the stereotypes homeless people being drug addicts and the homeless being lazy melted away.

“Just because they are in that community doesn’t mean the stereotypes are true,” she said. “Their homelessness came upon them from a stroke of bad luck.”

LeBlanc noticed the growing homelessness problem in Moncton, where 300 people are chronically homeless. Based on her experiences with family and friends, she saw that people often stigmatized this community.

LeBlanc said she hopes to bring attention to the homelessness problem in New Brunswick through her art series. She said her art shows they’re like anyone else and they shouldn’t be stigmatized.

One of her favourite pieces is titled, Andy. She said the painting shows the face of an eccentric man LeBlanc said he dances, sings, does art, loves to travel, meet new people, and is covered in tattoos.

Third-year student Jaime LeBlanc said she hopes to bring attention to the homelessness problem in New Brunswick through her art. (Submitted: Jaime LeBlanc)

LeBlanc lives in Fredericton as a visual arts major. She took an interest in art during Grade 12 after one of her teachers noticed her knack for drawing and painting. She decided to take it seriously and pursue visual art at the university level.

“My teacher basically told me, ‘You have a gift … if you don’t make a career out of this, I’m going to be heavily disappointed in you,’” LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc said she chose to focus on visual arts after planning to major in psychology… She realized she didn’t enjoy psychology like the arts. As she continued pursuing her studies, LeBlanc said she started receiving requests from friends and family to buy her art after seeing them around the house. This led to her starting her freelance art business, ‘Jaime LeBlanc Art.’

LeBlanc said pursuing art is a matter of perseverance and having the talent to make things work.

“I find when you look into fine arts stuff … those are the [skills] you need to have,” she said. “It’s not something you can learn like you would have [with] science.”

LeBlanc said she finds that the job field for fine arts students is difficult. She said artists would need to be prepared to settle down with whatever job that is handed to them She said it’s something that many people find hard to do.

“That’s why people are so judgmental about it because it’s not a degree that’s guaranteed a career,“ she said. “It’s a degree that goes on the side of your characteristics and your skills that you already have.”

With COVID-19, LeBlanc has had more time to focus and reflect. She started ‘Jaime LeBlanc Art’ after the pandemic started and in the next five years, she hopes to continue freelance art alongside a payable job that allows her the time to balance her business.

“If you’re a go-getter and you have the skills and the wants and desires, you’re going to go far,” she said.