An afternoon with artist and spirit godfather Lucas Beaufort

We talked love, life and art with the inspiring French painter.

If you’ve walked the streets of Old Montreal, sat down to order some pizza at Fugazzi or been on social media lately, chances are you’ve come across the art of Lucas Beaufort. His unfathomably clean lines, bold colours and friendly monsters have been ubiquitous in recent years, in Montreal and beyond.

Born in France, Beaufort first started painting at 27, quickly establishing himself in the skateboarding community as their prized artist. He’s since worked his way to galleries, restaurants, hotels and streets around the world, sharing passion and love through his pieces. 

More than an artist though, Beaufort is kind of a spirit godfather, guiding others to say “fuck it” and follow their dreams, obstacles be damned. He’s the kind of person that in a single cab ride can convince the driver to pursue his dream of teaching kung fu, or land a partnership painting for W Hotels as a way to get out of paying for rooms on a trip with his wife.

His local art includes a six-storey mural in the heart of Old Montreal, the interior of Pointe Ste-Charles pizzeria Fugazzi, exhibitions with the Yves Laroche Gallery and previous skatepark murals for Empire AM Getting Paid. He is also the creator and organizer of the Art Camp, and a documentary filmmaker with Devoted.

Between painting a new mural for the offices of Republik and meeting fans of his work for coffee and a chat, I spent an afternoon with Beaufort exploring his work, Montreal and his mind as we talked about his favourite things about the city, his creative process, how he hopes to die and making things happen.

On starting his art career at 27 years old:

“When I first started to paint, I had no goal. I didn’t think about it. It was like, first drawing for my brother, then my uncle, then one guy on Facebook, then one show. After one show, when you had a good success, it was like, okay, I’m going to really focus on this. So I had my Facebook page, Instagram, it was like I was on top of a mountain and I launched a ball.”

On gaining recognition for his skateboarding magazine covers:

One of Beaufort’s magazine covers

“I’m from the ’90s, so magazines, tangible things, mean a lot to me. I had a lot of skateboard magazines and I decided to paint on a cover of a magazine. No goals, just let’s paint a character on it. I emailed the magazine about it and they loved it, wanted to share it and said do you want a subscription? Fuck yeah. I did the same with like 35 different skateboarding magazines all around the world. They gave me a subscription and shared it. So from nothing, like let’s say three months later, I jumped from 500 to 20,000 followers. 

“I understood that if you want to make it happen, you have to have projects, real ideas.

“It’s amazing because this project gave me a lot of recognition, and also [revealed] how much I love skateboarding. 

On what skateboarding means to him:

“One thing you need to remember about me is that skateboarding gave me everything. The life that I have, the power of ideas, concepts, how to meet people, learning how to speak English, for example. It wasn’t school, it was travelling, meeting skaters trying to communicate. Skateboarding: best school for me. The way I am now, it’s because of skateboarding. You do skateboarding and you do better.

“It’s cool that as a skater, you can bring your art into a different scene. My DNA is skateboarding, but I want to expand. I want to touch museums, different types of people, the world.

On his start in the Montreal art scene:

“The name was Gueules de Bois. Wood face. It was a group show. Each artist had to cut on a wood panel and we made faces. The guy from Yves Laroche came and said, ‘I love your stuff, do you want to do a project with us?’ And a year later they flew me here, gave me a studio, and for three weeks I had to paint 30 canvases. Insane. 

“The first week I didn’t go out, I stayed from like 6 in the morning to midnight painting like 16 hours a day. It was one of my craziest experiences. 

“The year later, they proposed me to do the mural.”

On what makes Montreal so special:

Beaufort with his Montreal mural

“Montreal is the nicest city in the world. One of the nicest in the world, I’ll tell you. Everything is perfect. The energy here, the culture, the mural festival, it’s insane. People are going outside, meeting the craziest artists. And Osheaga and all the circus projects in the city — it’s not happening everywhere. 

“Montreal, for me, is a good example of what cities should make. Music outside, pianos everywhere, you know what I mean? We need to follow what they do. And I’m not even talking food. It’s growing everywhere, the foodie scene, the art scene, skate scene, a lot of entrepreneurs.

“Maybe winter time it’s hard, but I never go in winter time, only summer. It’s somewhere I could live for sure.”

On his Montreal must-try’s:

“First of all I go to St-Viateur. A classic, I know. I’m crazy in love with bagels. You don’t know how much. I know the people and I can smell things, go behind. I’d love to make designs for bags and stuff, for sure. St-Viateur is my thing.

“Yokato Yokabai Ramen, Schwartz, so classic but a good sandwich there.

“I didn’t eat any poutine, it took me five trips to Montreal to try one because I was like, it looks awful. Then one day I was like, ‘I love this.’

On his creative process:

“Most of the time, the company I work with always asks for sketches, and I say, ‘Fuck no.’ Because if you see my sketches, people think it’s the final thing. And I don’t want them thinking, ‘Oh no this isn’t what I thought.’ So it’s like if you want me, you have to trust me. If you invite me because you like me, then why do you need a sketch? 

“I have to touch the wall, people thought I was crazy at Republik, dancing with the wall. 

Then I step back and see exactly what I want to do. It’s like I see this strip, and I see the lines on top of it. I like to let my feelings go.”

On the importance of music to his work:

“So you drive a car, music is like the gas. Same for me. If I work, I need to listen to music because the music is giving me so much love. I love sad music. ‘Cause for me it’s not sad, it gives me ideas, it puts me in different moods. Listen to this music, you will know me, you will know everything about me.

“My favourite right now is Bowerbirds, David Bazan, Patrick Watson, Explosions in the Sky, This Will Destroy You, ambient crazy music. I love rap music as well. More famous I love Arcade Fire, Beach House, Radiohead.”

On what he wants to share with his art:

A painting for the Yves Laroche Gallery

“I don’t know what you feel when you see my art, but I hope that you feel love. I have a lot of love to give, I love people. I love to spend time with people, I hate to be alone. Even when I work, I have calls all the time, I love to talk. I love the idea of spreading my ideas, and my ideas are not selfish.”

On his need to help people pursue their dreams:

“My philosophy in life is to push people to do what they love. You don’t need money, you just need to find people. You can sing in the streets like, ‘Oh nobody wants to invite me to a bar to play.’ So go outside, sing. Same for art. You think you need a gallery? No, go outside, paint, show your work. Instagram, show your work.”

On making things happen:

“People always find an excuse not to do it. I’m always trying. I’m not forcing you to do it, but if you have something strong on you, just do it. All my life is based on this idea. I want to go to Australia, I go to Australia no matter what. In 30 years, I will maybe be too old to do anything else. And people work hard until they’re retired, but when you’re retired, you don’t have the strength you have right now. Enjoy now.”

On taking a different path:

“When I see my life and my friends’ life, I feel like I was already different because I didn’t want to be a lawyer, I wanted to run a different life, and I have a really different life. You have to make it happen, you have to have ideas and knock on doors, you have to come with projects.

“When I was young, the teachers would say you have to do your homework and I wasn’t doing it, I was doing stuff that I love, I was skateboarding. The next day he was like, ‘Where’s the homework,’ I’m like, ‘I didn’t do it,’ he asked why, I was skateboarding. That’s not what he wanted to know, but what I want to do with my life is enjoy it doing what I love. 

“I knew that I wanted to do something special, I didn’t know it was art. But maybe in five years I won’t paint anymore, maybe it’s going to be music, another documentary, it could be whatever.”

On life without art:

“I can’t paint without music, and I can’t live without painting. Painting for me is like an addiction — if I don’t paint for one day I start trembling, like I need to create. Don’t be surprised if we go out to eat somewhere and I start drawing on the table, like, ‘Sorry I can’t resist.’”

On dying:

“I work too hard, people are like you’re going to die. Maybe I’m too crazy. It’s crazy how art can be so intense how I feel it. I hope I won’t die too young. 

“If I die painting I would love to be in a special project. If I could pick a time, it would be for the biggest mural ever. A challenge. On the last line. I would be bummed to die painting a small canvas in my house.”

On The Art Camp:

“I always thought that together we’re stronger. Myself, I do what I do, but if you’re with me, we are bigger. 

“The Art Camp was the first experience of having 20 artists from around the world in one place in the French Riviera. We were painting around a big pool at a resort. And we were kind of in paradise, painting under palm trees covered with water, cocktails all day, food, painting. After the first day painting we went together partying. After five days we were the best friends in the world. Like Friends the show, the same thing. 

“My goal with The Art Camp is to reach one day 1,000 artists in the same place and becoming the most creative place in the world for one week. Kind of like the Woodstock of art, where music could be part of it, a crazy experience. People can do whatever but with respect. You want to do what you love, do it, but respect each other.

I’m building the army.”

On his next project:

“I love skateboarding, but I love snowboarding too. Last year, I didn’t ride a day because of my crazy schedule. And in May, I said this year, I’m going to snowboard a hundred days. So thats the first thing. The second thing is like, how? How do you make it happen?

I decided to connect with resorts. I brought together artists [with The Art Camp], what about bringing together snow resorts?

The idea is one resort tells their story, print photos from the very beginning until now, 25 photos, big scale, and I paint on it. And I put all the photos all around the resorts. It’s like mixing the story of the resort with my art.  Do the same with all the resorts, but one same project. So someone can go to this resort and it’s happening somewhere else.

It’s coming from when I realized I want to snowboard. Maybe next year I want to do three months on an island, I’ll make it happen because I’ll find a way. ■