Where did you grow up and when did you say to yourself: ‘’I want to be an Artist’’?
I grew up in a little town near Paris (France), where I studied and where I’m living now. I think I never really said to myself that I wanted to be an Artist, this idea has simply grow up in my mind during my studies. As a child, I was constantly immersed in art, at school and at home, thanks to my father and grandfather who were (and still are) passionate about photography and painting, as well as my mother who took me to visit museums, etc. As every kid, I drew a lot and I continued naturally, taking painting and comics classes after school, drawing everywhere in my notebooks. I really started to think about doing art for a living at the end of the middle school.
Have you always been supported in your artistic path or has it been challenging to let your family and friends understand your choice?
I’m lucky to always been supported by my family and my friends, who even encouraged me in this way as soon as they knew that it was what I wanted to do. The hard part was finding a (good) school, without really knowing anything about differents French schools in Illustration, Fine Art, Comics, Animation, … I didn’t even know which job precisely I wanted to do ! I realized very quickly that this path was clearly not the « high road » according the teachers or careers counselors. Many of them even strongly advised me against beginning my studies in the artistic path. Make your own way through this jungle can be very disheartening. It takes a lot of personal investment and motivation at the beginning, that’s why in my opinion, support of the entourage is essential.
What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
Unconsciously, I think everyone is influenced by every single thing around us, and I think any artist can say the same thing. Personally, Walt Disney was my very first artistic reference, and animated movies like Bambi and Pinocchio truly made a mark on me. Artists like Sempé or Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes), as well as the films of Miyazaki, or William Turner and Van Dongen paintings, are also big influences for me and take part (even if it’s not obvious in my work) of my culture and still influence me a lot today !
Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? What helped you prepare to become the artist we know today?
After middle school, I started literary studies but I stopped one year before the final exam. I knew that it wasn't for me, so I started a diploma specialized in Graphic Design, which led me to a 2-year degree in Illustration at Auguste Renoir School, Paris. Then, I passed the exam for Gobelins School, to learn all aspects of animation industry. It's quite difficult to say what exactly helped me to become an artist (I still have many things to learn today!). Even if you go to an art school, I think the most part of your knowledge and talent comes from your own motivation and constant reassessment of your work. I learned as much from my teachers as my classmates and the permanent stimulation proper to art schools. I think I wouldn't have been able to learn anything by myself, because the reviews and dialogues between students and teachers are essential to move forward and learn more every day. Constraints and deadlines are also good challenges to put the bar always higher and reevaluate your work (thing that would have been impossible for me, alone at home).
Did you have a favourite subject to draw when you were a child and do you still have one today? If you do, what makes it so special?
I always loved drawing characters (humans, animals, dragons, robots, etc.) and imagine their personal lives, stories or situations. I guess it didn't change today, although I admit that I have a preference for female subjects and children in my personal work. I'm also constantly trying to improve myself in backgrounds, props design and colors, because I believe that you can express as much feelings with a character than with a background.
From the initial client idea to the final work: what goes through your mind when you’re designing and what is the method you use when starting a project? Could you describe it?
I work a lot with references, as much for a personal work as a work for a client. In order to stay as close to the client's wish, I pick up some visual references such as photos or, sometimes, illustrations or concepts from other artists (which are often provided by the client himself). For me, it's essential to start with a well established base, then I can make the first sketches with this documentation as a reference. Then, my personal interpretation and my creativity take over !
What is your process in coloring your art and what type of tools and media do you use?
Today, I mostly use Photoshop for coloring, but a few years ago, I often used a combination of watercolor, pencils or pastel textures which I worked after on Photoshop. Now that I have discovered the brushes ( I bought an entire package of Kyle's brushes available on www.kylebrush.com ) and learned to use it, I can easily work and vary the textures. Right after the rough part, I always start with cleaning my drawing with a brush with a "pencil" effect, to make sure that I have a clean line but not too smooth. Then, I put the colors very roughly, just to chose the right combination, before fill the shapes more precisely and add details like textures, materials, shadows and light. And that's it !
What part of the creation process is the most fun and easy and what part is the hardest?
If it's a personal work or and illustration I do to relax myself, I would say that everything is fun, from A to Z. In the case of an order for an illustration or a work of character design, the fun part is probably the time of the researches and the first sketches, when you can be very creative and everything is still possible. When corrections come over, or more technical work, like a turn around (when you have to draw a character on every angle), the thinking takes over on the creation, which can be a little hard and less pleasing. But this job is always interesting, and even the hardest part will never be boring.
Is there something that you have designed that you are most proud of?
I'm not often proud of my work, but I'm always happy to do it. (It could be my motto !) Seriously, I think the work I'm the most proud of is the one I make for people I love, like an attempt of "Pinktober" I made last year, which is a series of drawings in black ink with a touch of pink, in solidarity for the people with breast cancer. A close relative passed away from breast cancer a few months ago, so those drawings, even if they’re not my best work, are part of what I love the most : to put a lot of heart and soul into my work.
What is your long term career goal and what would your dream project be?
My dream would be to write, illustrate and publish a children's book, while continuing to make backgrounds and character design for animation. I would love to work on different projects, and never do the same thing every day. I would like to continue working with interesting and funny people, be happy as today to wake up in the morning and go to work. And, why not, travel a lot and work in many different places !
Working for a company or freelancing: what suits you best? And why?
For now, I've never really worked long term in a studio, so I only know about being freelance. Being freelance has its advantages and disadvantages: you can choose with who you want to work, but sometimes job offers may be rare over long periods, and you can't choose when someone will have some work for you. It's also quite a lonely job if you choose to work at home, and I think it's important to find a way to be surrounded by other freelancers, to enjoy some feedbacks on your work or support when you need it, and the motivation of others, even if they don't work on the same project.
What advice would you give to an artist who is dealing with an art-block? How do you boost your imagination and keep yourself creative?
The art-block happens very frequently, especially when you work a lot. I had billions of art-blocks during my studies , even now , and it'll probably never ends. I think this is a normal reaction of the brain, which is completely full and says STOP. In this kind of moment , when I feel that the situation is unbearable and that I can't draw anymore, I take a real break and I do something that doesn't requires any "mind work", like go for a walk with my dog, make cookies, go out with friends , go to the cinema ... the worst thing is to persist in trying, when the inspiration and envy are just not there. As an artist (and as a human being) you have to be kind with yourself, and, sometimes, allow yourself to get out of your job. Inspiration comes back faster after that. Then, I often look at the work of people I admire to help me recover my motivation.
Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favorite designs?
There is so many artists that inspires me, but the ones that I can name without any hesitation are probably Lou Romano, Annette Marnat, Eyvind Earle, Aude Picault, Kay Nielsen, Amélie Fléchais, Mary Blair, Marc Boutavant, and many many others!
Finally, Where can we see your art online and get in touch with you? How can we buy your creations and support your work?
For now, you can see my work on my tumblr ( elenadupressoir.tumblr.com ), and I will probably create a website and a shop soon!
Thank you Eléna :)