This article was originally published online in 2014.
He’s sitting across the table from me in a local fast-food restaurant, having a lunch consisting of a chicken sandwich and fries. Young, slim, polite, clean-cut, dressed in a polo shirt the color of the autumn Alabama sky, he is an easy conversationalist. He smiles often and speaks in a soft, calming, and mellow baritone that is pleasant to the ear. His name is Lamarre, and he’s been an artist since the age of four.
You’ve probably seen him if you’ve recently purchased a battery, carburetor, fuel pump, or some other auto part for your vehicle. Four days a week he is one of the friendly customer service representatives behind the counter at Auto Zone on Highway 78 in Jasper. Although he’s lived here for 6 years, Alabama has not always been his home. Lamarre Beauvais was born in Pahokee (from a Creek Indian word meaning “grassy waters”), Florida, a city located on the shore of Lake Okeechobee. His family is originally from Haiti, but there is no trace of an accent in his speech. He began doing sketches at the age of four, inspired by watching Joy of Painting with Bob Ross on PBS. When one recalls the soft, calming way Ross spoke, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if perhaps young Lamarre was influenced by that as well.
For a while, Lamarre drew cartoons, like The Simpsons and Superman. Once he reached high school, however, he graduated to realism, beginning with a self-portrait. He was encouraged to continue by his art teacher, Mr. Shanahan, who often gave him advice on his technique. He now uses graphite, with paper stumps for shading, because he says it doesn’t leave thumb prints. He doesn’t use live models, preferring photos instead. He spends an average of three hours doing a sketch, but he says it can vary anywhere from one to ten hours. While he has done a painting from stamps, he says he really needs a photo of at least 3×4 to provide enough detail for the image to look right.
In addition to art, he also took Piano 1 in college and plays the keyboard in his spare time. He often listens to film soundtracks while he sketches; his musical tastes range from Johann Sebastian Bach to Hans Zimmer, composer of the film scores in the Dark Knight movies, to Nujabes, a Japanese hip-hop producer and DJ.
But Lamarre’s interests are not limited to art and music. He also enjoys gaming and says he would like to do some artwork for a Bruce Lee game. When asked about which artists have inspired him, he quickly cites the work of Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball Z), as well as Hirohiko Araki (Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure) and Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear).
Lamarre also comes from a rather active family. His brother and godfather, Jean, is a Birmingham firefighter who also works with Regional Paramedical Services in Jasper and trains bodybuilders at a local gym. His sister, Martine, is studying for a degree in Fashion Design at SCAD in Atlanta. His brother Dachy, who lives in Birmingham, is also a bodybuilder, and his sister Synthia is a model.
These days Lamarre balances his art with school and his day job, limiting his time to do sketches. He currently is studying drafting at Bevill-Sumiton, after switching from engineering because he struggled with understanding the math. Although he does admit to spending less time now with his sketching, due to school and work, he still accepts side projects for extra money.
While listening to his calm, soothing voice, one can easily imagine Lamarre perhaps choosing another vocation, such as psychology. He has a way of putting one at ease, of erasing the tension of a stressful 9-5 work week, bumper to bumper traffic, and financial struggles. I can almost feel my blood pressure slowly decreasing a few points as he speaks in that low, mellow baritone about his passion for art, his love of music, and his family. He has not shared his thoughts on life, the universe, or why we are all here on this planet. He has not spoken of his belief in a Higher Power. Yet as I sit across the table from this talented and soft-spoken young man on this crisp, beautiful October Saturday morning in this small town, I believe I sense something deep within him–a deep love for family and friends, a respect for Life and the Creator, a burning desire to learn more, and to create something wonderful that can be appreciated and enjoyed by many for years to come. He has not spoken of these things to me, at least not specifically. But there are times when what is not said speaks louder and resonates longer than what is actually spoken aloud.
Though his voice would not be heard by anyone ten feet away from this table, Lamarre Beauvais has spoken loudly and clearly. 78
For those interested, Lamarre’s artwork is available to view on his Facebook page, and on Instagram under lamarre_b.
Photograph above by Al Blanton