With a name like his, it would almost be a shame to not become an artist. Enzo Pérès-Labourdette is an illustrator with an academic mind that is concerned with the future of our planet. His illustrations, mainly made of ink and watercolours, explore the relationship between humans and nature. We wanted to know more about the inspiration and thoughts behind his work and talked with the 25-year old about his creative journey so far. 
Seeing your work, I expect your doodles in kindergarten to already be impressive. When did you realise that drawing was not ‘just’ a thing for during play hour?
I only started realising that around the end of high school. I grew up being surrounded by art and drawings, my mother is an artist and my grandfather is an architect. My little sister is actually studying to become an illustrator as well right now. Drawing is just something we do; it seemed normal to me. Around the end of high school I became second in a national art competition, that’s when I started wondering if I should make a career out of drawing.
You did a BA in Communication Design at Academy Minerva in Groningen. In what way did this study help you to form your own signature?
I’d actually say that I didn’t really find my signature at all at the academy. Art school is a great place to learn how to learn, if that makes sense. You develop an understanding of colour, of looking carefully and of storytelling. It was only during my internship with illustrator Olaf Hajek in Berlin that I started finding my own signature style. He encouraged me to explore further with some sketches I had done. But I’m still discovering and growing into my signature style, it’s an on going process.
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Which art movement would you say your work is part of?
I’m not sure if my work is part of an art movement, maybe that’s something we’ll only be able to tell twenty years from now. I think I’m part of a large group of young designers and artists whom aspire to create work that’s concerned with the future of our planet.
Are there specific artists you get inspiration from?
I try to get all of my inspiration from outside of the illustration realm; once you’re colleagues with other illustrators, you can’t really look at their work anymore to be inspired. I love looking at the work of photographers who have a kind of poetic approach to their subject, such as Charles Fréger or Tim Walker. I also tend to read a lot of nature-related books by authors like Sylvia Earle and Frans de Waal.
During your studies you already exhibited your work at various exhibitions and gave lectures in different cities throughout the Netherlands. How did you get these opportunities at such an early stage of your career?
When I was still in high school I actually wanted to study biology or medicine, but at the last minute I chose to go to art school instead. I decided that, since I was picking a career path that is a lot more uncertain, I would take it very seriously and worked hard to find as many opportunities as I could. The best thing you can do as an entrepreneur of any kind is to really love what you do and share that enthusiasm with anybody who will listen. I think if you do that, it will rub off on people around you and opportunities will present themselves.
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When was the first time your work got published in something outside of school?
The first time something was published outside of school was when art director SooJin Buzelli published a work I had made earlier that year in Plansponsor magazine. My first commission where I really had to create a new piece was for Alexandra Zsigmond from the New York Times. Both times were incredibly exhilarating, nothing feels as amazing as earning money by drawing pictures.
What is a typical Enzo illustration? 
I usually work with a mixture of materials such as inks and watercolours. I like my work to have a slight poetic or melancholic feeling to it, so I tend to use a limited palette of earthy, watery colours.
You just finished working on a collaboration with Mission Blue, which was presented at the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven this year. Mission Blue is an organisation that ignites public support to protect places that are vital to the health of the ocean. How did you approach a project like this, in which your art has to communicate their message whilst still staying close to your own style?
This collaboration was one of the results of a grant I received from the Creative Industries fund here in the Netherlands. I received the grant to further explore the meaning of my work, in this case, the relationship between humans and nature. I wondered why we’re so good at showing our grief when bad things happen to other countries and I noticed that in situations like these we often use flags as symbol for our solidarity. I wanted to create similar symbols for places in nature. Then I reached out to Mission Blue, they pick Hope Spots all around the world and ignite public support for those spots. Together we chose a number of Hope Spots that I would design flags for. I wanted the flags to look like actual flags, so I decided to let go of notions of what my style should be. It felt really liberating to work on a project without being worried about a certain set style, it’s a great way of working that I want to explore further in the future.
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You also work for major clients like the New York Times and the New Yorker, how did these collaborations come into being and why do you think your illustrations fit these papers?
I approached both publications with my portfolio, telling them I’d be excited to work for them. They tend to commission me with articles about the natural world, or slightly sad stories about the animal realm. I think my work fits the feeling of those articles and I genuinely love working on that subject matter, so they might be picking up on that. But the most important thing, I think, is to be friendly to your art director and to never miss a deadline. I believe that in any kind of project, it’s always best to be nice and give all you have. 
You are now working on a project called modern interpretation of a medieval book, could you tell a bit more about this project? 
This project is so much fun! I’m one of the 3 winners of the Fiep Westendorp Stimuleringsprijs, curated by a Dutch foundation that stimulates and helps young illustrators, and I am tremendously excited to have the liberty of working on something I love while being funded by this Foundation. For this project I was inspired by medieval illustrated diaries of explorers. In particular one called Het Behouden Huys, a book about a journey to the North Pole to find a sea-route to China. Sadly the crew of the ship got stuck in the arctic ice for six months. One of the crewmembers kept a diary with illustrations of their adventures; I was wondering how that area changed due to climate change. To try and emulate this experience as best as I could, I travelled to a scientific settlement called Ny Ålesund on the island of Spitsbergen in the Arctic Ocean. I assisted a biologist named Maarten Loonen with his research while he showed me all the secrets of the island. It was an unforgettable experience and it’s the closest I’ve ever been to feeling like I’m on another planet! I’m currently working on two illustrated books inspired by this journey. One of them will be a short story for children and the other one will be an illustrated journal of my experiences for adults. Both of them will be published in the Netherlands around the summer of 2017.
What piece of advice would you give to other young artists? 
I would say that the most important thing to do after art school is to keep your overhead costs low. Moving to a large city might seem enticing, but it’s best to live in a cheap area where you don’t need multiple day-jobs. Spend some time getting small commissions, build up a strong portfolio and grow confidence, then you can always still move to the big city if you feel like it. An artistic career is more of a marathon than a sprint. If you keep at it long enough good things will start to happen.
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