Marie has initially studied fashion (and was also very passioned about jewellery) and she quickly realised she is more attracted to the look of things than anything else. So she became an art director in fragrance advertising.”Nevertheless I always kept drawing, and lately directing great fashion illustrators for some of my advertisings has itched my pencils… so I started a personal portfolio made of all the things I love and which compose my universe: fashion, beauty, fragrances, jewels, flowers, women faces and bodies”, she says.
That’s how she started her own portfolio of illustrations. She is now in the very beginning of her career as an illustrator, but her passion and work pay off. She sometimes gets her inspiration from existing photos taken by her favorite photographers, which she mixes with her own ideas.
About her technique, she mentions “always doing a detailed pencil drawing, then adjusting contrasts and chromie digitally – sometimes I bring a hint of colour – digitally as well. I try to keep compositions quite simple and graphic to balance the detailed treatment.”
What comes out is a mix of beauty and sensuality, sometimes discreet and subtle, others bold and sexual. Enjoy the interview! 🙂
I have been an art director for more than 5 years now. It takes lots of work, mostly, and persistence
You’ve had a very interesting evolution so far. You’re in your twenties, work in the perfume industry and live in Paris, the home of perfume. That could sound like quite a dream, for many people. What does a day in your life look like, is it as glamorous as it sounds?
In fact the advertising industry has changed in many ways during last past years, and it’s still changing. We live in a world of competition, and that’s also true for luxury brands of course. It’s not always easy to build strong brand identities and tell good stories in such a context. Besides, and everyone working in advertising can tell, lots and lots of great ideas never come to life and end up in the trash.
Yet, it has many good and glamourous sides indeed : working with illustrators, great directors, photographers, and many other talented people inside photography and film industry (flamists [ed. note: the guys who do the special effects on a video], film editors, stylists…). It’s also about getting to know more the fashion houses, their history, and the fragrance universe in general.
How did you become an art director?
I have been an art director for more than 5 years now. I started like everyone starts a job, with an internship. Afterwards I was hired in another agency for a first job as an assistant – then I became an art director. Lots of work, mostly, and persistence. Persistence is highly required to succeed in advertising!
When the client settles on an idea, I recommand some directors and photographers whom I think would fit well for this specific creation
What are your responsibilities as an art director?
Every work starts with a brief, for a new fragrance launch for example. I search for global creative ideas, then express them with storyboards and print layouts. When the client settles on an idea, I recommand some directors and photographers whom I think would fit well for this specific creation. The client chooses one. I supervise shooting and post – production (retouching, editing etc…). Finally, we get our client’s approval and we can deliver the final movie and print.
Same process with illustration. The concept comes usually directly from the brand, though. I recommand a range of illustrators, who each proposes one artwork. I direct them through every reworking phase. One artwork is selected to be edited. Then I work closely with the winner to develop the campaign tools.
How much time do illustrators actually spend on a proposal, up until what stage do they work, before proposing the first idea (sketch, advanced artwork)?
Illustrators do rough first, which I check and direct towards a finalized colored image (1rst round). There are about 3 rounds of reworking for each illustrator in a pitch.
It takes at least 5-6 months to go through the rounds (not full time of course). That’s a lot of work – especially for the winner, who has to work on developing print formats.
I am often told that what I do is very sensual. Maybe. Sensuality brings emotion, too
What is your biggest challenge?
My challenge is illustration now. Of course, I have always had many dreams, who hasn’t. But when growing older, you get to know that you cannot be everything you want to be. I am also a musician, but now I know music has to remain a side passion – it can’t be my whole life. Or maybe in another one, who knows?
I started this portfolio last autumn, while I was in love with someone in Rome. The romance has not lasted for long, but the passion for illustration remains
Have you also studied art, or did you learn everything by yourself?
My dad taught me when I was a kid. He used to buy me art books, and would always encourage me to go further and to improve every artwork I would do. My parents have been very supportive about this passion of mine. I even had a little painting workshop inside my room at the time, with dirty paintbrushes, rags stained with dry paint… but they would let me live free inside my arty mess 🙂 I would spend hours and hours in my room, sketching, painting. I could not say how much time in my life I have been with a pencil in hand!
Then, when I was a student in fashion, and later in visual communication, we had of course lessons that implied sketching. But I always felt it was important to keep on drawing personal stuff, not just doing it as ‘homework’
How long have you been doing these illustrations?
I started this portfolio last autumn, while I was in love with someone in Rome. The romance has not lasted for long, but the passion for illustration remains 🙂
In fact, I had been searching for myself for many years, trying techniques, differents styles and atmospheres… It never worked. I couldn’t recognize myself into anything I would do. But last autumn, something in me got unlocked. I don’t know. I guess I was just feeling good. I started to draw my own way, without forcing myself into a style. I let go, and it has allowed me to explore more sensitive things. Those illustrations are really what I do. I like details, flowers, feminine shapes, delicate faces, meaningful expressions. I like to bring emotion inside my work. I am often told that what I do is very sensual. Maybe. Sensuality brings emotion, too.
What is your process, when creating a new piece? What steps do you follow?
Regarding my process of creation – for the last past months – I first have an image flashing through my mind. An idea, a vision of something i’d like to picture. It’s always related to fashion or beauty. I then search for a few photographs I need in terms of reference (animal, attitude, lightning on a face, jewel…). And finally I draw from the references I have.
What tools do you use? (both traditional and digital, if any)
I like to have very sharp pencils, to get very fine lines. I use several types of pencil, from very light to very heavy grey. I work a lot on contrasts. When it’s done, I take a picture and finalize it with photoshop. I may add some colours, sometimes.
That’s what’s exciting when you have a passion – going deeper and deeper into it – and that’s not just about art, of course
What is the most challenging thing about drawing, for you? What are you having a hard time with, or feel like you still have a lot to learn about?
I am not a patient person, and I draw quite fast. Sometimes I rush into finishing an artwork, just to skip to another I have in mind. Or just to see how it looks when it’s done. Then I get to think that if I had taken more time, my artwork could have been better. I must learn to be more patient 🙂
In fact, I still have a LOT to learn. The more you learn, the more you see there are new things to explore. That’s what’s exciting when you have a passion – going deeper and deeper into it – and that’s not just about art, of course.
You mention feeling inspired by certain photographers you love. What are some of your favorite photographers?
To name just a few… Nick Knight, Solve Sundsbo, Bruno Dayan, Ellen Von Unwerth, Chris Heads, Coppi and Barbieri, Lachlan Bailey, Felix Lahrer… I started my illustrations by drawing some of their photographs – as a starter to launch myself 🙂
But I’m getting away from it now – I imagine my own images. Some pictures appear in my head, while walking on the street, chatting with people. I do a layout with parts of photographs as a reference, to pick details and global attitude. Then I draw.
Are you also inspired by certain illustrators? If so, who?
I admire many, but I don’t think I get inspiration from them. I try to stay close to my own intuitions.
Good advertising touches something deep inside those who look at it. Something that cannot be defined, like waking up after a dream – quite undescribable, something floating… like a fragrance
What do you think makes a good perfume ad? What directions do you give illustrators who work on such projects?
There are no specific rules, but I think the most important thing is to bring a strong universe filled with emotions. It can be dark, dreamy, seductive… But in any way, a good advertising touches something deep inside those who look at it.
Something that cannot be defined, like the feeling one may have waking up after a dream – quite undescribable, something floating… like a fragrance 🙂
Illustration recquires the same abilities as photography and film direction. It’s about understanding what the brand is, which kind of dream they want to share with the world. It comes with color choices, with an attitude, a mood… I found out that some illustrators can adapt their style very well to a brand, yet keeping their own touch. Some don’t. It’s about keeping an open mind about the brand they work for, and that might be a tricky part.
To be true, there’s often a gap between my own taste and the client’s recquirements. But it’s part of my job not to take it personal, and to direct them the best I can towards what the client needs.
What are your future plans, regarding illustration? Do you want to turn this into a career?
Yes, definitely. I know well one side of commissioned artwork, and I’d be thrilled to dive fully into the other. I’d love to bring my vision about beauty and fashion to brands and magazines. There are so many beautiful stories left to tell. Doing a commissioned artwork doesn’t only emphasize a beautiful product and it’s brand’s assets, it also allows to share dreams with people. And we need to dream those days…
I’d love to collaborate with brands that highlight women’s beauty
What are your dreams, what type of projects/collaborations are you hoping to do, in the future?
I’d love to collaborate with brands that highlight women’s beauty. That includes perfumes, fashion, skincare… Also, I have a very special love for jewels. Since I started my portfolio, I found out that this is a never ending subject for me. I’m not really focusing on specific brands. Each brand might have a lovely story to tell.
There are many people who discover their passion for drawing, even when they already have a job in another field. What would you tell them?
Never let go. Drawing recquires a daily practice. Sometimes it’s hard, you may draw bad stuff for weeks, for no obvious reason. Sometimes it’s thrilling, you find yourself awake in early hours, grabbing your pencils and sketching through the night.
Then if it really is a passion and you need to go further with it… jump ! Try to connect with agents, other illustrators, creative crews… If you try you may fail, but if you don’t, you’ll never know – and that might be the biggest fail in life.
Drawing requires a daily practice. Sometimes it’s hard, you may draw bad stuff for weeks, for no obvious reason