1. What’s your story? where are you from?
Hi ! My name is Cécile Metzger, I am 22 years old and I am from France (from a tiny town very close to the Swiss border)! I post my illustrations on social media under the name “Coucou Illustrations”. “Coucou” is a French word I always use to say hi (it is a bit childish, but I love it!). I find it kind, and warm, and comforting. I really wanted my illustrations to get this feeling of friendliness and happiness, so I decided to use this name.
And then, let me think, what else can I tell you… ah ! I’ve been working in an art library for 10 months last year. This is an amazing place, where you can borrow pieces of art (yes, the real one, not reproductions !) just like books, see beautiful exhibitions and take a lot of different art classes! I think that is what started me to work more on my illustration skills (even though I’ve always been drawing, I never really worked hard to improve, so it was time to !). Then, I left to go to Edinburgh where I lived for the past 10 months (I came back to my hometown a few weeks ago). I took an illustration class with the illustrator Kasia Matyjaszek at the University of Edinburgh, and it was amazing. I learnt so many things about creating a book, from the beginning to the end – I actually even created one! It was like an impossible dream to me, because it seemed such a big thing only other people could do, but I managed thanks to this class. So that was definitely the thing I needed to push me and try hard and (maybe) live from illustration – I am not there yet, but working on it!
2. Tell us about your aesthetic.
I really enjoy faded colours, simple shapes and patterns – though, once in a while, I like to let aside my watercolours and use my coloured pencils for a bolder, more colourful drawing. I also like to play with black and white drawings and add bits of colour here and there, to let some elements pop out. I like to think my drawings can sometimes look like old pictures, with these greyish colours. At least, that’s what I try to create most of the time!
3. What is your favourite medium and why?
My favourite medium is definitely watercolour! I love its transparency, the fact that you can let a shape show through another and play with colour layering. I really enjoy mixing it with a pencil. Plus, as I said before, I love faded colours – thus, watercolour is perfect for me!
4. What is your artistic process like ?
I am very bad using sketchbooks! I think it happens to a lot of people, that thing when you want your sketchbook to look just perfect, beautiful and full of great pieces of art. Well, I have this problem – I’m so scared to mess up my (lots of) sketchbooks that I barely use them and end up doodling on random pieces of paper! If you come to my desk, you can encounter 10000 blank beautiful sketchbooks, and two million messy little papers around. A bit dumb but I can’t help!
But I’ve been trying to push myself using more sketchbooks lately actually. So, if I have to talk about these days, I try to get different sketchbooks for different themes (animals, plants, objects, characters). I just doodle what makes me happy there. And then, sometimes, from one of these little things comes a bigger idea – then, I can start working on a drawing. I would first work on a small-scale to figure out the composition a bit, and then (I am too impatient to sketch properly and get a clear idea, I know, that’s bad), I go ahead and start the drawing on the good paper! (Not always a good idea, believe me, but well…). Yes, I think that’s it!
5. Who and/or what inspires your work ?
Of course, my inspiration comes a lot from the numerous talented illustrators and artists I follow on Instagram, as well as the beautiful children books I own/or see in the bookshops. I created my Instagram account a bit more than one year ago, and I feel so happy I did ! I remember I was very scared at the beginning, but I discovered so many great illustrators and creative people accounts there, it is such a beautiful opportunity to learn more 🙂
Also, as I am from the countryside, and my region is especially green and full of vegetation, I am surrounded by beautiful flowers, trees and bushes, and that is probably why my drawings are (most of the time) full of flowers and leaves. I must say I started to draw more and more plants when I was living in Edinburgh some months ago, maybe because I missed these colourful flowers I can see everywhere here!
A big part of my ideas also come from observing people. I like airports for example because they are like a magical place where you can encounter any kind of people, of any nationality, any age, any gender, any language. I find this really interesting, and I love to just sit there (I used to take the plane a lot this last couple of years, as I was living abroad), and look at the people walking around, with their suitcases, their stories. I like to try to imagine where they are going and why. I love seeing all these different body shapes, different clothes, different styles. I think the people themselves, those you see around you, carry already so many stories… it is a beautiful inspiration.
6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world ?
I think art helps me focus more on the beautiful things around me. Not everybody or everything is absolutely perfect and beautiful, but I think there is (almost) always a beautiful thing to find – and that’s what art helps me to do. Although I do not go very often to galleries and museums, I feel happy every time I do so, and it always makes me feel so small compared to everything that’s done (and to be done) in the world. It is a bit scary, but really motivating at the same time. I like it when I look around and see everyday little things, thinking that they could perfectly become the central point of a whole story. I hope I explained myself properly… or does it sound strange?
7. Where did you study ?
I have always wanted to work as a full-time freelance illustrator, but I was so scared to give it a go and enter an art school after I finished high school. So I convinced myself and went for a more “reasonable” choice, thus I ended up studying French literature at the University. I had the chance to study the last year of it abroad, in the city of Leicester, England. It was an amazing experience and really helped me gain some self-confidence. When I got back to France after that, I started studying a master degree to work as a publisher. But during the whole first month, I was feeling so frustrated because I knew I wanted to be on “the other side of the desk” and publish books as an illustrator! That was my dream. After few weeks, I stopped that master and decided to finally give illustration a chance! It was time.
8. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Working in an agency ?
Hopefully, I can be a full-time freelance illustrator! That is my main goal at the moment, so that would be great if I can be there already in five years! Let’s see how it goes.
9. What about in ten ?
I never really thought about that I must say. As I said in the previous answer, I’m just trying to do things little by little, like, already if I can live from my illustration work, that would be really nice. Once I do that (if I do one day !), then I’ll give myself another goal. But for the moment, one is enough, and let’s see what comes in the future!
10. What do you hope to achieve with your art ?
I just hope that, when people look at my work, they can travel a little bit in their imagination, invent stories and see the beauty in what is around. I do not know if I manage that really, but some people told me sometimes that when they look at my work, they feel calm, a kind of serenity. That made me really happy to hear. Imagining the stories or things I’m drawing makes me feel happy, so I hope to share that feeling with others.
11. What is your favourite food ?
Oh, what a difficult question! So hard to choose… I would say, anything made of melted cheese. We eat so much cheese in my region, especially during winter. For example, something really good is potatoes with melted cheese and cream – not healthy at all, but so delicious! I have so many other foods I love, but let’s make it simple and stop it there!
12. Favourite book ?
I read it not so long ago actually… I wanted to read it for so long, and only did it last year… and was not disappointed at all! It is “The unbearable lightness of being” by Milan Kundera. The characters and story really touched me, and there are some paragraphs I found really beautiful and some thoughts I could totally relate to.
13. Favourite genre of music ?
That’s a difficult one as well! I listen to a lot of different kinds of music, but I really enjoy pop rock, and also music scores.
One thing I can say is my favourite band ever is the Beatles.
14. What are your hobbies ?
I took piano classes for 10 years – I stopped more than 4 years ago, but still, try to play regularly. I also love watching films. I do not read as much as I used to, but still really like taking my book and stay in the garden (when the weather allows it) for 1 or 2 hours, not thinking about anything else ! I should probably do it more.
15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
When I was 8 or 9 years old, I really wanted to be a florist. I am really bad at keeping plants alive and knowing their names – guess that’s why I only draw them now instead!
But nowadays, I would probably say a librarian or a bookseller. That was my first plan when I went to study literature!