Instagram: @charlotte__lemaire

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

I’m a French illustrator and author; I’m 25. My work includes making picture books*, doing editorial illustration, and hosting workshops with kids. Lately, I’ve also been working for a theater play with projected illustrations as décor. I wanted to study applied arts after I was introduced to theater scenography back in high school. I like to think of a theater stage when I’m painting for an illustration.

* “William, la longue-vue et le tigre,” éditions Biscoto, “La maison-ski,” éditions Biscoto (will be released this November)

2. Tell us about your aesthetic.

Ah! This is a difficult question to answer. In a few words, my work aesthetic is squarish like building blocks, soft like a paste, colorful sometimes, nature-inspired more often than not, and very landscape-y. It’s sort of “naïve” too, although I don’t like this word too much.

3. What is your favourite medium and why?

My all-time favourite medium is acrylic paint because it is water resistant once dry, so I can build images by way of layers of colors without them blending together. However, acrylic paint can be a little frustrating when it comes to painting smaller details, because it is pretty thick on your brush. I sometimes use gouache if I need to paint tiny details and also if I want a more spontaneous, less controlled movement in my painting.

4. What is your artistic process like?

I grab things from reality -what I see, hear, smell, remember… This “material” all goes through the filter of what I like and want to keep. It can be, for instance, a detail on somebody’s clothing or the way a pine tree is aligned with a very beautiful house on my street. Those can either appear directly in an illustration, or if not, they are stored in my mind with other details, other memories. They can also appear later in a painting or remain in the “inspiration box.” I like to see it as a big box full of Lego or Playmobil pieces that come from sets of different themes. I search inside the box, and I find what I need for my landscape! Most of this process is unconscious, though.

More concretely, I usually start painting a small object or character, and then the whole landscape and décor grows around and over it. If I make a “mistake,” I fix it by painting over it, again and again, until I’m satisfied. I never -or very rarely- restart a picture from scratch. One consequence of the covering process is that it gives some depth to the painting. I make tiny, fast sketches of the future illustration for composition, but I never pre-draw with a pencil on the paper where I’m going to paint.

5. Who and/or what inspires your work? 

Other illustrators’ work, of course, but I don’t look at it too much. Paintings of all time periods, too. But places and objects inspire me the most. If I paint a lamp or a pair of slippers, I would usually borrow them from reality — either because I have a specific story with them, or just because seeing them sort of made an impression on me.

As for picture book painting, I often dig into childhood memories — the kind of blurry, hardly accessible ones. As for story ideas, I’m definitely inspired by some goofy longings that one wouldn’t pursue in real life — either because they’re too crazy or too repressed. My last picture book is about a character who decides to install a pair of skis under his house in order to carry it along with him. He is doing so with a lot of conviction; it is very serious!

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

Practicing a visual art probably makes you more sensitive to how things look, to unexpectedly interesting colors combinations, to curious space compositions. That’s what role art plays in my life.

7. Where did you study?

I did an art foundation year in Angoulême and a two-year “vocational advanced diploma” in graphic design in Toulouse, France. After that, I joined the very good illustration class of the Brussels Royal Academy of Fine Arts and then the graphic arts department of the Vilnius Academy of Fine Arts in Lithuania before moving back to Belgium to complete a master’s degree in illustration at the Ghent Royal Academy of Arts. Lots of moving places.

8. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Probably in a different place. Still in my workspace, though, wherever it is, and doing my things, but better. Also doing some more theater/scenography/set design-related projects?

9. What about in ten?

Being a very organized, confident illustrator person, painting books, still doing my things, but better.

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

Having a practice that’s always able to evolve.

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

Ravioli, all sorts.

12. Favourite book?

Among my favourite books is Jockum Nordstrom’s “Sailor and Pekka Buy a Sweater” (I’ve read the French translation). It’s a picture book.

And “Seta” by Alessandro Barrico, and all of Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir’s novels especially “Miss Iceland”.  “Anima” and “Visage retrouvé” by Wouajdi Mouawad, “Les tendres plaintes” by Yogo Ogowa. “L’Acte Inconnu” by Valère Novarina, “L’invention du Paysage” by Anne Cauquelin…

13. Favourite genre of music? 

Songs with solid, well written lyrics, good texts. Old and recent French songs. That’s probably not a genre. While working, I’d rather listen to instrumental music, usually classical. But right now, I’m listening to Blick Bassy.

14. What are your hobbies? 

Ballet practicing, radio listening, foreign languages learning. Also taking Google Street View tours of some very remote places of the planet.. I have also gotten into building portable 3D worlds out of papier mâché and cardboard !

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

I would be doing something linguistic-related.