Last month I interviewed Parisian artist Lucile Prache for our inaugural issue of Celebrate Home Magazine, which Barbara Kelley and I launched just two weeks ago. I found Lucile’s illustrations on etsy.com and had her store bookmarked because I love her sketchy, whimsical illustration style. I contacted her and she agreed to be interviewed for our magazine. Click on the link below to download the magazine to see more of Lucile’s lovely artwork.
When did you first discover your creative talents?
I have been drawing since my early childhood and found it quite natural to express myself in this way as I grew in a family with an artistic mood. I was very shy and I guess it was helpful to draw instead of talk.
Did you go to school for art?
Yes, I studied at the ESAG art school (also known as Penninghen) in Saint Germain des Prés in Paris and graduated—a long time ago.
Did you inherit your artistic talents from your parents?
Yes, I surely did. My father is an architect and my mother has always been making pottery (both are part of the flower power generation!).
When did you know that you wanted to be an artist (illustrator)?
I didn’t really feel like a fine artist because at art school we learned to be illustrators. Plus, I had been working for magazines, the fashion industry, and in advertising for such long time, I didn’t feel like a fine artist.
I still do these types of projects, but I love painting for my Etsy world-wide customers. Having a large audience is important for me—I don’t think “real” artists need that. Knowing that someone in Japan and someone in New York is looking at my artwork at the same time just makes my day!
How long have you been working as a freelance artist and illustrator?
I have been a freelancer for almost 25 years.
I love the fresh, loose, sketchy style of your illustrations. Did the evolution of this style come easily to you?
Thank you so much! I think I have always sketched in this style because I love travel journals (specifically Cy Twombly and Jean Michel Basquiat art). I have been very interested in Chinese calligraphy and started to learn with a Chinese teacher. He always told his French students that they never would become Chinese even after 100 years, but this could be helpful for our very Western style; I believe this is true—my work has become looser and fresher since I began studying Chinese calligraphy.
How would you describe your illustration/painting style?
I want my paintings to look carefree and happy. I have been studying ballet since my childhood, and I believe that my illustrations are just like dance pieces—everything appears to be easy. Dancers are always smiling on stage, but there is a lot of work behind the stage.
Your illustrations are unique and full of energy. Where does your inspiration come from?
My inspiration comes from real life—typography on labels, dirty papers on the sidewalk (yes, I am a Parisian!), kitsch postcards of Brooklyn, a vibrant green top on a girl in the street, vintage books of English china, figs at the market—almost any image can inspire me!
What mediums do you work in other than watercolor? Do you have a favorite brand of watercolor paint? Favorite brushes and paper?
I work a lot on my Cintiq Wacom pen tablet with Photoshop when I get jobs for fashion, magazines and advertising clients. When painting with watercolor, I love Windsor and Newton because of their amazing fresh colors. I am painting with Chinese brushes on French BFK Rives paper.
I decided to leave my Wacom tablet and my computer for a while and went back to colored pencils, gouache and watercolor again. I missed the “real taste” of different papers and pigments. The printing process means CMYK colors. Original paintings allow gold, silver, fluo paintings and this just makes my day!
Do you create still life set-ups of fruits and vegetables from which to reference? What is a typical work day like?
Sometimes I stumble upon beautiful fruits or vegetables at the market and paint them before cooking them. Most of the time I reference photos or browse online for inspiration when I don’t have time to go to Chinatown and purchase Asian food for a still life set-up.
Do you do any computer illustration?
Yes, I do. It is exciting to use several devices. I work in Corel Painter, Illustrator and Photoshop on an old Mac Pro. These software programs allow me to paste labels, type and photographs into my illustrations.
What do you like most about being an illustrator?
Illustrators have freedom—this is what I like most; but we know that we sometimes have to pay a huge price to keep this freedom.
Has illustration as a profession changed over the years?
It has. Computers and the Internet changed everything. I started my career before the Internet, and I remember I had to go to Marie Claire magazine and deliver my orders in person. It was quite fun because I could talk with the art director and the redaction team. We knew each other quite well. I loved to walk in Paris from my studio to my clients, but it was time-consuming, too.
We are now networking and it is completely different, but I really enjoy the friends I’ve met around the world because of Etsy. I am meeting them sometimes in Paris, or more recently in New York, and I love this!
How long have you been selling on Etsy? Has it been a good way to get your work out to buyers?
I started selling on Etsy more than two years ago and it completely changed my life! It is always very exciting to add new paintings, communicate on Facebook and blog about the process. I am absolutely thrilled to get many buyers from all around the world—mainly from the United States. It is a delight to keep in touch with so many open-minded, cool and positive people.
Do you pursue other creative endeavors?
I like screenprinting and can’t wait to work on new designs but I need time and energy—and not to be too hungry because my screenprinting studio is my kitchen.
You are surrounded by amazing museums, which must be an inspiration to you. Tell me a little bit about life in Paris and your family. Did your children inherit your talent for art?
My children are geeks and creative ones! Please come to Paris and see how we live. After spending two weeks in New York City, Paris seems to me like a small village of farmers, But I definitely love Paris—I get inspiration from the street equally as from the museums. I plan to go and see the Gerard Richter exhibition in le Centre Pompidou tomorrow. I always forget how I can be stunned by painting in a peaceful place like a museum. I am in love with my city, but I am always dreaming of elsewhere…and I swear I will try to improve my bad English. But luckily, the language of images is international.
I noticed on your blog that you also are an avid gardener. How does gardening influence your love of illustrating food?
My garden is located on a wet and sunny island, so I only see my garden four to six weeks a year and it doesn’t take much care. I wish I had a vegetable garden and could watch it grow but it is impossible for a Parisian work addict. Too bad, because it would be very inspiring. I paint fruits, vegetables, cakes because of their beauty, but also because I enjoy cooking.
What are your influences? What artists inspire you?
I was first influenced by rock music and pop art artists such as Andy Warhol, Basquiat, Jasper Johns, Rauschenberg, French artist Hervé Télémaque, Tadanori Yokoo, Joan Mitchell—I love them all.
What are you working on now?
I just finished a collaboration with a French publisher on a cookbook about Italian food. It is a very exciting project.
I will be working for a fashion agency in late October, but currently I want to add new prints and paintings in my Etsy shop. I would love to publish my own recipe book and make it available for Christmas, but I am sure I won’t have time this year.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be?
I would be a (bad) dancer.
Any advice for aspiring illustrators?
Keep your eyes wide open unless you are asleep.
Describe yourself in three words.
Still always curious
No interview would be complete without this requisite question—You’re stranded on a deserted island. What five things must you have?
Five cards of Raoul Dufy flowers, then find a way to make tools and do mineral painting—let’s get to work!
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