Béatrice Menuel is an illustrator and UX designer living in the French capital, Paris. Béatrice’s work is filled with mythical creatures and dynamic compositions, the illustrations transport you to another world! Below Béatrice discusses her love of folklore and her indecisive nature…
With bright and wondrous illustrations, your work is absolutely beautiful! Where does your illustration background come from? Have you always had pencil-in-hand, or did something else spark your interest in the creative field?
Yes, I’ve always had pencil-in-hand. I used to draw quite a lot when I was a child with a passion for objects wearing glasses. I slowed down drawing during the beginning of my teenage years, and then got back to it somewhere around 16 years old. At that time, I discovered Miyazaki movies and many mangas. I began copying artwork I liked and then began creating my own illustrations.
Still, I didn’t choose to study illustration after high school because I thought I wasn’t good enough. I did economy and management studies which has absolutely nothing to do with illustration. Then, I worked as a web consultant for several years. Meanwhile, I kept on drawing and attended several evening courses.
At the beginning of 2015, I finally accepted I wanted to do more than just draw during weekends and after work. So I decided to attend one year of study. I applied to the Ecole Nationale des Arts Décoratifs (ENSAD) in Paris, and, to my great joy, I was accepted there. During this year, I met very talented people, opened my mind to other ways of drawing and illustrating, learnt the importance of experimenting, and of course practiced and practiced again!
Since that year, I have spent my time half illustrating, half being a web consultant.
Your series of illustrations titled “Mondes” contain so much detail and transport you to another world! Each piece contains links to Japanese culture; do find eastern imagery to be a prominent inspiration in your work and something you are interested in?!
I do love Japanese imagery. I love samurais weapons, kimonos, armors, helmets, I love Yokais (a kind of traditional Japanese monster), everything that is weird and disturbing. I go crazy each time there’s an exhibition on about one of these things. I also recently re-discovered Balinese puppets and I would like to make something inspired by them.
I also love everything coming from folklore wherever it derives from; be it Asia or Europe. I am very influenced in many of my artworks by Charles Fréger photographs (check out his photos, they are so inspiring!).
With various elements and layers of dimension in your work, how do you go about your process and what are your favourite tools to use?
I don’t really have a standard process (which is maybe why I have a lot of “waste drawings”). However, the pieces I am proud of always have something in common - they derive from an urge to represent something or use a tool in particular. I need to have temporary obsessions, whims. That is really the starting point for everything. I go back and forth until I get something I like.
Once I have my starting point, I have several ways of proceeding. I can have a very precise picture in my head with a very precise idea of how it will be done. If I know exactly where I want to go, I do a very quick draft (only understandable by me) to get the composition right. I then draw the final image itself. After that, I spend quite a lot of time on digital “post prod” to get all the saturation and hue stuff right.
As for the tools, I use a lot of different things. I don’t have a real favourite, it changes regularly. Still, I love graphite pencils, colour pencils, ink (rotring, quill – even if I have not used this since several months), gouache paint, felt pens. I sometimes use Photoshop to bring in colour on ink drawings. In any case, I’m not able to stick with the same medium months on end. I love discovering new ways to work.
We absolutely LOVE your “Dans la Jungle” selection of illustrations. What was your thought process behind this series and do you find coloured pencils to be one of your favourite mediums to work with? (We got emotional when we saw the tiny bag hanging on the cactus!)
Thanks a lot! I went back and forth a lot with this one. I wanted to draw jungle, leaves, strange lianas. Simple as that. I started working with quill and color pencils. I did 4 big artworks but I was not entirely convinced. So I went on with something else (but being a very indecisive person, I still would like to do something with them).
Weeks later, I saw some wonderful graphite drawings picturing a jungle among other things. They made me feel like getting back to my jungle drawings, but only with color pencils this time. So that’s when I made the “river” one and the night piece. As far as the process is concerned, I just made a very very quick rough to get the composition right then did the drawings in A3. Still being quite hesitative, I erased a small character on the night drawing because I didn’t like him in the end. Then I began a long project as a web consultant. So I stopped making long complicated drawings for some weeks.
But as you may guess, I was not done with it! Sometime after finishing the consulting project, I ended up doing some random colour pencil sketches because inspiration wasn’t there. Inevitably, I began drawing some leaves and some nature things. It made me feel like going back to my good old jungle obsession
Detail ideas really come while doing the final drawing. That’s the case for the tiny bag. I must have thought something like: “I put a door and stairs in the cactus. Well if there’s a door someone must have entered the cactus. This someone let its bag outside before going in. Let’s draw this bag.” And so on.
Living in Paris, what is the creative scene like in such a landmark city? Do you find the area offers lots of opportunities for creatives?
Paris indeed offers many things for artists, at least as far as exhibitions and events are concerned. There are many artist groups and studios, independent libraries, there is always something to see, somewhere to go. And of course, many potential clients are located in Paris area.
Still, I’m not sure Paris offers more opportunity than any other European big city as far as artists and authors are concerned. This is a very expensive city (especially for housing) and at the same time, artists in France are very often poorly paid. I think the most interesting opportunities are now more around Paris than in Paris itself now.
Finally, the last question - What are your other interests other than illustrating? What keeps you going outside of the studio?
I have just begun to attend animated movie courses which I am very excited about! I have always wanted to see things I draw in movement so I hope cool things are going to come from it. I practice sport more or less regularly: I love fighting sports, high kicks and punching things (not people of course). And I watch lot of movies, go to concerts and visit many exhibitions.
I also love just walking around and taking bad quality pictures of each interesting thing I see. It can sound cheesy, but walking in nature or by the sea is one of the things that makes me the most happy (especially if the sun is out!).
Thank you so much Béatrice!
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