I’ve been interviewed by Jake Kobrin who asked me how I’ve come up with my style. I share it here because he’s not the first one who asked;)
J.K: I facilitated an email interview with Véronique Meignaud, a very amazing and unique artist from France. She kindly answered me with a fantastically insightful letter. I thought I’d share as it is good advice for any artist. She spoke heavily about how to overcome influences from other artists.
I wanted to ask you how you have come about your style, if that can be articulated? How did you learn to idealize the figure in the way that you do? Did it come about naturally or did you study particular artists or books that lent to that development?
V.M: It came naturally, starting a period while I stopped watching the “direct” influences.
At the time, I was 15-18, Manga books started to be a strong influence, I used to copy a lot of characters to learn the shapes, the anatomic codes… Around 20, all the characters I draw were typically “mangatized”, I was tired of this, so I stopped reading mangas or watching anything related to it. I needed to clean up my head to find my own style and subjects, and build a new univers in there. That happened after finishing school where I had the same problem; anybody could recognize the school’s style after taking a look at the students’s art. I had to “unlearn”. I also stopped watching the influences potentially close to what I was looking for. At that time, I was starting to work in a video game company as 3D artist. Beside work, I drawn and painted (photoshop) a lot for myself, like all the time. I posted my work on CFSL, a french forum community, where I received good advices too.
The life experiences usually influence me a lot and push me to create. Work, people, travels, routine, houses, cities, events… This is what my heart and gut are feeling/expressing, not because of the work of someone else, or because somebody told me to do so. Sad periods in my life in particular led me to big phases of productivity, it was an outlet to my anger, sadness, true love, etc.
J.K: I see influence from Mucha, Klimt, and Moebius.
V.M: Mucha, Klimt or Moebius are not influences compared to my past with mangas.
Moebius’s work is a good exemple of univers/sensibility I like, but I’ll step back on some parts of his work because too close to what I want to experience by myself. If I see too much of his work (of from any other artist I like), I know that it’s gonna take away my appetite of creating some specific stuff, or worse: I’ll loose the envy to create for a while. In this case, I experience this influence as a “parasite”, overprinted in my mind.
To clarify the idea: I enjoy the process of creation when it sounds new to me, evolving, and the fact that the result could be a surprise. So if I see something I really like, already created by someone else, I don’t see the point of “doing it again”, that won’t be experienced as a new feeling to me. There is nothing exciting about this. So I will do something else.
I know that can sounds extreme, but this is how I experience it.
My original influences would be the pictures I saw and watch again during my childhood in my father’s library: a lot of art history books, heavy books about roman, Greek architectures, a lot of magazines about architecture and decoration (my father is a carpenter, and used to build houses from scratch), a lot of things about animals, nature, sea/oceans, technologies (Life&Sciences magazines…), and minerals.. also european comics such as Tintin in the land of the Soviets, Asterix, Lucky Luke (old version), to name a few, others less famous. Also a lot of animated cartoons, 80’s movies…the list is endless. Those things are the most memorable as “influences”.
Otherwise, nothing doesn’t really last long in my mind since I don’t want to let fixed images/graphic universes be encrusted in my head, and consequently being influenced. My style moves because I need to see and experience new things. Also, the new tools I tried and the different jobs I had helped me developing styles, and creating new variants of my work (digital brushes painting, vectors, traditional drawing, screenprinting,…). While I cut all the close influences, I let get in indirect influences: design, fashion, architecture, photography…
J.K: I am also wondering if you went to art school and what advice you could give a developing young artist?
V.M: I have an “applied arts” degree, obtained in a technical high school in France, related to design, art history… Then I spent 2 years at the Emile Cohl art school, still in France. Private, but much less expensive than a lot of US art schools. I learned a lot about traditional art (different methods of paintings, drawings, sculpture, live and artistic anatomy, etc…), and finally comics and animation basics. I didn’t finish the program: I stayed 2years (4years of formation in total), because I had a training opportunity in a video game company. Afterwards I’ve been employed as a 3D artist (I learn during the 2months of training). I was 20 years old, and happy to quit school. I learned a lot while I was working, and aside the work, meaning I practiced digital illustration for myself.
- be curious, attentive about everything surrounding you, anything can become an influence/motivation, a good idea, to think, to draw…
- take notes,
- learn, practice! as much as you can, as soon as you want. analyze things, do life drawing,…
- open books of art history, blogs of architecture, fashion, design… documentaries, tv shows, movies… go for a walk in nature, travel…
- the more you see, the more you feed your brain. Let him do the brainstorming. What the unconscious can do is important.
- have a break, don’t reach saturation point. go see your friends or family, to keep a good balance in your life,
- diversify/start new activities, artistic or anything else,
- do not feel guilty because you take a break (because you need it!), or because you’re slow (everybody doesn’t work at the same rhythm)
- when you feel bored about it, just look into new things, activities…
- if you need to be productive, organize your days, sketch an ideal planning with reasonable goals…
J.K: I went to art school for two years and then left for a year break, but I am considering returning and assessing my options. Do you have any recommendations for art schools, or even just art books?
V.M: Any art history books is useful, but also any kind of images, documentaries about anything. However I would recommend you to read books about professional strategies, how to start your pro activity (as freelance for example), legal stuff about your country. go to workshops to meet artists and learn from their experience, they are all singular… you can also read advices from professional on internet; some of them have a Q&A section:
I can’t help you with art schools considering I’ve not studied in the US.