René J. Lanthier

René Lanthier was born in Winnipeg in 1963 and grew up in Windsor Park with his parents, brother and two sisters. He is the youngest. René was brought up in the Roman Catholic faith, and attended mass with his family on a regular basis. He has fond recollections of growing up. René's mom was a stay-at-home mother who was artistic in her own way: she enjoyed singing, painting and drawing, although not at a professional level. She liked the arts all around, from dancing, music and the visual arts. His brother liked music and the guitar, and one of the sisters loved to dance and the other loved arts and crafts as well as music. "And all of our OWN children seem to be similarly gifted", says René.

Although his father passed away when he was 11, it was he who was probably René's biggest influence artistically as a youngster. He was mostly a commercial artist, and René still has some of his father's old sketchbooks. Back then, there was lots of work illustrating fliers and brochures for Eaton's and numerous other clients. This was at a time when photography hadn't completely yet taken over from artistic renderings of merchandise. Companies back then used artists almost as specialists that drew, say, only shoes or only clothing; but René's dad was sufficiently versatile that he could do it all, and draw anything- a full bedroom suite for instance. "I remember my Dad passing me different mediums to try like chalk pastels, oil pastels, and let me dabble with oil paint, acrylics, pencil crayons and regular pencils. He taught a few workshops too which I attended. He belonged to the Winnipeg Sketch Club so once in a while I would tag along. For the most part I remember doing my own thing on page after page- mainly in pencil."

Thus, there was an overall atmosphere in his home that was conductive to the development of creative expression. Even at four or five years old he was drawing on a daily basis. "I can't remember a time where I wasn't drawing with a pencil as a kid and getting black hands from all the carbon from my pencils and rubbing on the paper. I'd always be told to go wash my hands!"

He'd often go with his family to the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and René's eyes were opened in the ways of modern art, the old Masters and the whole range in between. He therefore developed an appreciation at a very young age for a broad range of art and not just one particular style- a phrase that well describes René's overall portfolio today: "I don't particularly seek to have a certain style. I enjoy drawing different things. Lots of artists will tell you that they enjoy the PROCESS, and I can't imagine always doing the same process. People may have a favorite style or medium and stay with it for a period of time; but I think that those that enjoy art to the fullest will try different things at will and develop different modes of artistic expression. It's that child in me that makes me want to try different things, and what makes it fun."

René attended French elementary schools in the Windsor Park area and in Southdale, and then attended Louis Riel and then St. Boniface College for high school. During those school years, art was not really emphasized in the curriculum to the extent that he would have liked; the emphasis was instead upon academic studies. Lanthier then entered the workforce right out of grade 12. His first job was for a box manufacturer. "To this day that was probably the worst job I've ever had not so much because of the work but because the people there were so negative. I've never worked in such a negative atmosphere in my life." It was enough to make him move on to other things less than a year later.

He attended Red River College and graduated from a two-year Advertising Art program there in 1986. He majored in illustration. "It was a very good program. It taught us to get down and get to work. You had to be on your toes and ready to work; it was a very loaded program. I enjoyed it very much. The drawing teacher I got the most out of was a well-known artist in the city, Luther Pokrant. "He opened my eyes to so many different possibilities. He would bring in examples of many styles and demonstrate them to us while we were doing our own drawings and encourage us in new and different directions. He took away our inhibitions from trying something novel or unfamiliar and made us WANT to try things. His own work is both technically superb and imaginative at the same time."

Although the Red River program was very good, it was designed for advertising art. Lanthier came to realize that working and rushing with constant deadlines in a commercial atmosphere was just not his mindset. He needed to be closer to nature and painting and the expressive arts. He still does illustration, such as for a storybook or a historical theme that he can research- something that is more enjoyable for him than renderings of merchandise that is for sale.

He did work in the industry for about a year however, at a French newspaper, La Liberté Graphique. They had a design in-house studio there where he did display advertising, pamphlets and brochures. It gave him a taste for doing graphic design and illustration. Not wanting to get trapped in the advertising world, René does his paintings and illustration on a full-time basis as much as possible; while at times holding down a variety of jobs.

Was there a time in his life when he realized that his career was going to be in art? "I'm STILL not sure it is!" quips René, grinning. It's certainly been a major force in his life. At times he has several projects on the go simultaneously: landscapes, sculptures, illustrations, children's workshops in schools, and snow sculpture. He loves working with children. "In their formative years they're always open to things you suggest to them and you can make it exciting for them. They haven't become too biased yet and like to be hands on." René has given workshops on such topics as drawing, cartooning, illustration, wind chimes, henna,and stone sculpting, amongst others.

Lanthier moved to old St. Boniface after he got married. For a time, he lived in St. Pierre Jolys on a five-acre property; but other than that, he's resided in St. Boniface for all his adult life, and the reputation of his work has widely spread by word of mouth through the community and beyond.

René enjoys his Mural work very much. "A Mural is a large open space; and the artist comes up with a way to treat that space. It's an exciting and challenging and fulfilling in that it's such a big canvas in which to express yourself." His first experience working on a Mural was on the south wall of the St. Vital curling club (see 286 Regal (1)) helping artist Denis Savoie, a friend with whom he's maintained a close association since childhood (the two have worked together on numerous snow sculptures for over 10 years, with Denis as the lead artist). The Mural is a tribute to the Red River flood fighters over the years. Since that time René has designed and rendered his own beautiful Murals in Windsor Park and St. Boniface, including a beautiful indoor Mural on the second floor of the St. Boniface Library. "It's a pleasure to work on something that beautifies the community," René says. "When you're working on a project like that, I get in touch with so many people in the community who stop and make comments and chat, including old friends with whom you haven't been in touch with so much. Suddenly, you're visible and you find out they're still around too, and there's the opportunity to reacquaint! Working on a Mural is almost like working at a coffee shop! "

René has a fond attachment for the city in which he's lived all his life, and in particular the bonds and numerous friendships that he has with others here. "There is ample opportunity here for an artist to develop himself," maintains Lanthier. In recent years, René has abandoned his car (which he described as 'an environmental disaster') in favour of cycling and walking, which he sees as healthier and more enjoyable. He doesn't miss the car or find it as necessary as he thought he would; and finds himself actually LESS rushed than he was when he WAS driving. An avid outdoorsman, he also enjoys hiking and canoeing in his spare time. He also enjoys the use of the city's many parks, especially those by the rivers, and will sometimes do some sketching there. "When I am allowed the time for my landscape paintings and that of nature and wildlife, and I have the opportunity to go out and explore this nature, there are often times when I am overwhelmed with the greatness of what is out there."

An intelligent, level-headed and well-spoken man, René is quite modest and has both feet on the ground when he pauses to check the stage of life he's at and in accessing his own artistic talent. "Talent is a pursued interest. I'm still pursuing it! I'm still evolving and changing and challenging myself. There are those that say that the final result is the important thing, but to the artist it can be like a form of therapy. It's like life: sometimes it's challenging sometimes it's fun, sometimes it's aggravating. But it has to be kept interesting!"

René Lanthier lives in Old St. Boniface.

Contact René at

Click here to view René's Winnipeg Murals.