Instagram: @annamaria.illustration

1. What’s your story? Where are you from?

I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to that! I spent my childhood in a bunch of different towns across France, but my parents are both immigrants ; my dad is Italian, and my mom comes from Mauritius. We moved a lot, and even lived abroad for a few years (Beijing, then Istanbul). At the moment I live in Lyon, a lovely French city that’s a 2-hour train ride south of Paris. After seven amazing years spent here it feels like home, so I guess I can claim that I’m from Lyon, for now.

2. Tell us about your aesthetic.

I’m not sure I have a particular aesthetic yet, I feel like I’m still working towards it. When I was a student, every new project was a chance to experiment, and determine what works for me or not. So every new project ended up looking quite different from the previous one, and I couldn’t put words on what could be defined as “my own style”. Now that I’ve been working as an illustrator for two years, I finally had time to create personal illustrations, and got to know myself a lot better too. Only then I was able to realize “this is what I love to do, this looks like me”. Now I like to think I have a more mature perspective on my work, and I can tell my aesthetic could be described as dreamy, warm, poetic, somewhat meticulous, and influenced by Eastern cultures. “Soft” is another word a lot of people use to describe it as well, but I think it sounds a bit cheesy or boring somehow, though it might be accurate.

3. What is your favourite medium and why?

At the moment I use Photoshop a lot, because it’s much more convenient than paper. You can start and pause and stop working from anywhere, without your desk being a mess, and improve your drawing as much as you want. I’m also interested in screen printing and riso printing, and working directly on a computer makes it easier to prepare the files for these special printing techniques. But if we put aside my laziness, my favorite medium would be gouache, colored pencils, or oil pastels. As I’m going through a gold phase, we can also add “gold marker” to that list, it works great with any black pen or graphite pencil. I agree with the many artists who say that no matter the medium, nothing can match the feel of paper.

4. What is your artistic process like?

There’s not much mystery to my process, I just sit down and draw. I make myself a good cup of tea, coffee if I’m sleepy, or hot chocolate if I really need that much comforting, and put my music on. Once all this is set, I’ll dive in head first, and enjoy myself as much as I can in the process. If the subject needs a little research, I try to sketch something before looking for references, so as not to be too influenced by it. But I don’t do a lot of sketching before starting the final illustration, probably for lack of patience. I like to get to the fun part straight away. As an excuse for my impatience, I’d say pleasure is the most essential part of the process. Like in any creative endeavour, I think the more your heart and your guts are in it, the better your piece will turn out, because people will sense the love, care, dedication and fun you put in it.

5. Who and/or what inspires your work? 

There are a lot of amazing artists that I discovered on Instagram, that’s definitely my daily source of inspiration. We’ve all heard it before but I’ll repeat it again : we’re really lucky to have such easy access to our peers’ latest work nowadays. There are a lot of contemporary illustrators on this platform that I really admire and who inspire me everyday : Vincent Mahé, Dan Hillier, Andrea Serio, Samantha Mash, Harriet Lee Merrion, Pierre Mornet… Along with artists from other fields like painters, photographers, embroiderers and tattooists. My more “classical” influences include late 19th-early 20th century art, from painting to sculpture, photography, and of course, illustration. Artists from this time period that I look up to as gods include Felix Vallotton for the atmospheres he conveys, John Singer Sargent for his realistic approach to impressionism, Leon Bakst for his gorgeous Russian opera costume designs, Henri Matisse for his evocative interiors, Nadar for his enthusiastic, pioneer use of photography, Hiroshi Yoshida for the sheer poetry of his landscapes, and the list goes on and on, full of artists from impressionism, orientalism, symbolism, and we could extend it to literature with people like Pierre Loti, Musset or Baudelaire. Can’t imagine how spoiled we’d be if women had shared the spotlight equally.

6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?

If we put aside the awesome fact that art is my job, and the very pragmatic role this implies, I think art is kind of like a language. It’s something you learn how to use, and ideally over time you can master it well enough to fluently translate your thoughts and feelings with it. But the comparison stops there because unlike language, anyone can understand it spontaneously. One of the sweet occupational hazards of being an illustrator is your sensibility growing more acute. By constantly being on the lookout for beauty and meaning you start to pay more attention to everyday details, insignificant things that are actually significant to you. I love it when I accidentally notice a satisfying fold in someone’s clothes, the graceful shape of a neck when it’s tilted, the gorgeous flow of milk spreading into a cup of tea, and so on. Then I try to include these observations in my drawings, how they feel, and hopefully they will echo with somebody else’s observations, and ultimately summon the related feeling. That’s when you know you speak the language.

7. Where did you study?

I studied in Ecole Emile Cohl in Lyon, France.

8. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Hopefully still thriving as an illustrator, taking on exciting projects for clients from different fields. Ideally my friends and I will finally work from the studio we’ve been dreaming about lately, it will be full of large wooden desks, wide drawers full of paper, shelves full of supplies, tall windows, carpets covering the creaky floor, comfy sofas, plants and warm teacups (even though my friends would rather have fresh pints). Oh, and we’ll have a screenprinting space, and a riso printer as well. Until then, I hope to pluck up the courage to go on an adventure and try my freelance luck abroad for a while. Italy, UK, Canada, or wherever the wind takes me.

9. What about in ten?

I hope I’ll be in a comfortable enough position to start thinking about buying a very old house, then dedicate myself to renovating it. Building a home is the next ridiculously ambitious life goal on my checklist, right under “making a living out of drawings” and “make a living out of drawings abroad”.

10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?

I never thought about it to be honest, I love doing it and I feel that’s already a lot to expect from your job. But on top of that, if my work can trigger the same emotions I put in the process, it’s a win. To me, the magic of any artistic piece is its ability to bring out what we have in common. When the artist and the viewer realize they share this familiar feeling or this intimate memory or this secret yearning despite being total strangers, I think we can consider it a job well done.

11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?

If it includes parmesan or burrata, count me in.

12. Favourite book?

“Soie” (Silk) by Alessandro Baricco, illustrated by Rebecca Dautremer. It really opened my mind about what illustration could be. The novel is illustrated in a very free way, sometimes with pencil sketches, sometimes with double spread gouache paintings, sometimes with collage comic strips, sometimes there are several illustrated pages in a row and no text… Mind-blowing.

13. Favourite genre of music? 

I don’t know the first thing about music, but according to Spotify my tastes are rather Indie Rock oriented. According to myself, as long as it’s moody, I like it.

14. What are your hobbies? 

Taking hot showers and naps.

15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

Hopefully something more useful.