Excerpt from the feature by Deborah Secor, The Pastel Journal, February 2009

“The icebergs are born in Greenland and then travel slowly down,” he explains. “The shapes are unbelievable. Picasso could have painted them without changing a thing,” he quips, adding, “You can’t paint the place in a weekend.” After immersing himself in the place over many weeks in the summer, Champagne ends up with hundreds of digital photographs, but it’s painting on location that most accurately records his vision. “When I see what I want to paint, there’s no time to make sketches,” he says. “Outside, there’s not a second to lose. I don’t drive miles and miles or spend time preparing a drawing. I go right into the painting when I see it.”

For the initial stage, he uses Nupastel P-253, a cocoa brown, on a small sheet of paper. “Outside I move fast but I need to get the composition smack on before I come in with color,” Champagne says. “If I paint too much color, I can’t change it and that can throw things off. Try to put all the odds on your side at all times, but especially at the start, because when something is off-balance, it will drive you nuts as you work.” He usually finds a good dark to start with, putting in just a touch, especially in the foreground—“something to grab on to,” he says. Then, he works all over the surface, in no particular order other than by what moves him. “I’m looking to find the heart and purpose of my picture, trying as much as I can to work toward the ultimate unity of the whole thing,” he says.

“Remember, the soul of the artist must be free, forgetting all the rules, letting the painting speak.”