Léa Maupetit is a young illustrator currently resides in Paris. She wants her drawings to survive time and thinks there is nothing better to draw than a fruit salad. We met her through her super funny and inspiring blog. Her illustrations have a childish aesthetic which is quite rejuvenating for the viewer. Other than that she loves working with clay. Both her activities enable her to define the shape, the color and the material her work is going to have, a freedom she trades for nothing else in the world.
Léa, could you tell us a few things about your studies?
I’m currently achieving my master’s degree in type design and publishing in Paris.
So I am doing illustrations on the side. I have studied cinema and art history, too. It seemed natural to study graphic design because this is what interested me the most. I’m still interested in it but I don’t feel like I want to be a graphic designer. There is nothing that makes me more excited than thinking about a picture and then grab my colors. I also do ceramics in a workshop. I love choosing shapes, materials, colors... This is a really great medium.
When did you decide to be an illustrator?
That’s a tough question! I felt like an illustrator but I never really decided to be one. I've been drawing since I was a child, so I knew I wanted to do something with pictures. Children's books, is something that I always dreamed of. Back at school, I often borrowed the same books more than once. I didn’t really get what the library actually was meant to be (laughs). There are pictures that I‘ve been looking at since I was very young, that made me dream. I kept some of them in my flat in Paris. Sometimes my friends come across these books and say "Oh, I loved this book!" while smiling, as if they were surprised that the book still exists. I love to hear that, because it means that images and stories are important. I like to develop this childish side in my illustrations but I'm also into something more abstract sometimes.
Do you remember your first drawing ever? Have you kept it?
No, I do not remember it, but I wish I could see it now. I guess it's hard to define the first drawing because at the beginning, a child can barely hold a pen. It is difficult to know from when a form becomes significant and from when a drawing comes to talk to everybody and can be recognized. Last winter, a child gave me a picture. No matter how much I looked at it, I just couldn’t guess what it was about. Then, he told me it was an artichoke. It was obvious for him. Anyway, I used to draw cats a lot, so my first drawing was probably a cat.
What is the thing you draw the most today?
I have a particular taste for fruits and plants. There is nothing better to draw than a fruit salad! Last summer, I designed a fruit pattern for a cookbook that just came out. Sometimes, I'm going to abstracts shapes for patterns and I focus on the colors. I really want to do something on textiles. I draw many things in my sketchbooks. Sometimes it remains in state of sketchbook and sometimes it evolves into a true illustration. I also file hundreds and hundreds of pictures in my computer. Tools like Pinterest or Instagram make all this research easier, but it's hard to find your own forms without hearing someone say "It makes me think of something I have already seen”.
Do you draw when you are on the phone while talking with friends?
No, I don’t actually draw. Though I’m often writing things like my shopping list or other stuff, but not important things.
Are there any significant collaborations you’d like to share with us? Have you released tote bags with your drawings? cause I saw something like it on tumblr…
Last summer I made some painted illustrations for t-shirts for a creative agency. It was cool to see people wearing them. I would like to continue this kind of work. I also did a series of three tote-bags that a customer ordered. In one of them, the caption was “BE YOURSELF” and I choose to put a stegosaurus wearing a pink cap.
Where would you like to see your illustrations?
Like I said, clothing would be great to keep on. I would love to do a figurative illustration or a pattern for that. Books would be great too. Last year I found an interesting story about a zoo that I started to illustrate.
How is life in Paris for a young Illustrator?
It is great! I love Paris because we have a lot of museums, galleries, bookshops, gardens… Of course, it is not like Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris set, but I am never tired of walking along the Seine and take pictures. Maybe the only disadvantage I’d point out is the noise of the crowd all day long, which is not that romantic. For now it’s a pleasure to be here.
What do you usually do after work?
Most often, I go back to work on my illustrations or my school projects. If I have the time, I see friends, I go to the cinema, etc. I don’t read books on the evenings but I do read almost every morning in the subway.
Do you use only markers or are there any other materials you enjoy to create with?
I often use felt pens but I also paint. A few months ago, I painted a swimming-pool and I wanted to make prints to sell. For this project, I choose to use risograph. It is a printing technique similar to screen print or lino cut : you have one color by layer. It is good for bright colors and interesting blends can be achieved, but you have to be smart and think overlays. In general, I find it rewarding to discover new techniques because it determines the illustration. And like I said, I really enjoy ceramic courses, so I like working with clay too.
What are your great inspirations?
I love Paul Cox’s book covers, a few paintings of David Hockney and also the giant book installations of Guy de Cointet. Of course, I’m also thinking about Matisse’s cut outs and paintings. In fact, I do not really know someone who wouldn’t like his work, but I still find it very inspiring and amazing. Sonia Delaunay did wonderful patterns for textile. I definitely don’t like Robert Delaunay’rings, but I love Sonia Delaunay’s patterns. I also adore Viviane Sassen’s pictures. Lights, composition, colors, subjects. It is her pictures that I made me look at fashion in a different way. Fashion pictures are a great inspiration.
What would you answer to someone who would refer to the way you draw as hipster?
It would be bad news because it would be like my work has an expiration date in a way. Are hipsters not dead already? I hope I will survive to this name. It seems to me that the principle of the hipster is to get something that everyone laughed at before and turn it into something cool, but it's never for the long term. There are some illustrations I found on the internet three years ago which I liked but I now find uninteresting because I find they are too marked by a period. Like, they are "sooo 2012!" (laughs). On the other side, there are pictures that I still love despite the years because they just seem so timeless. That’s the path I want to take.
Describe to me what you feel when you pick up a pencil and you are about to draw.
In general I am very excited! When the first shapes are good, I keep going. But sometimes it sucks from the start and it's hard not to get discouraged. There are days when it really does not work, but there are also very nice surprises. There are drawings that I do not like and others which I am very proud of.
What are your plans for the future?
Who knows? Painting, painting and more painting! I am supposed to open my Etsy shop in four months. I am thrilled to meet new people and start new projects.