When was the last time you plunged into nature’s embrace?
Disappear into the forest of flowers or sneak into a party beyond the ocean waves, let nature’s hums cradle you before heading to your next dream stop.
Read on to learn more about how he discovered his vibrant style, his challenges in creating activist art, and more—
Hi Marc! Thank you for taking time out for this interview. To start this interview, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Marc, and I’m 28. I am a French illustrator and picture books maker. I live and work in Berlin. Besides drawing and painting, I love reading, taking long walks in nature, and learning about astronomy.
Both Wander and Dive feature tiny people towered by the flowers or aquatic creatures around them, and some of your other works seem to have this feature as well! Could you tell us why you chose to frame them this way?
We aren't really educated to respect and love nature. Animals are being killed or eaten, forests are being cut into pieces, seas are being emptied of fish, and even knowing that we are responsible for climate change only has a slow impact on societies. Perhaps a bit naively, I like to represent and fantasise about a gigantic nature and its diversity.
I grew up in the mountains near Switzerland, and I remember (also quite romantically) spending most of my childhood running in the forest with my cousin, going to the lake, and hiking.
My uncle would teach us the names of the berries and mushrooms, and we would take care of wounded birds. My parents also had a big garden filled with flowers and vegetables. Which, from my kid's eyes, seemed gigantic.
I am also deeply influenced and inspired by Hayao Miyazaki's movies, where Nature often has a central role, and is being personified and respected.
We noticed that both of your pieces highlight the wonders of nature. How does your relationship with the environment inspire the story behind them?
Oh, I feel I sort of answered this question in my previous answer.
For a long time, I was more interested in Nature from a romantic, idealistic and artistic point of view. But as I grow older, I’ve learned more about the environment, about climate change, and about my own impact and responsibility as a consumer - which often leads me to feel very uncomfortable and conflicted and not really romantic anymore!
But on the other hand, I’ve also slowly become more self conscious, and it has allowed me to make some decisions (going vegan, for example) that probably made an impact on my work and what I decide to represent.
Your works tend to subvert the mundane everyday through vibrant colours and raw strokes that give movement to the subject and its environment. How did your current art style come to be?
My style has quite evolved over the years. I’ve always loved painting, and I’ve always been interested in colours, but it took me some time to find a way of drawing that felt natural and more personal.
When I was drawing for myself, my style was always more energetic, looser, less controlled but as soon as I was working on a book or a picture that was meant to be published, I would get scared that this kind of illustrations would be judged as messy or not well executed, and therefore my style would all of a sudden become more controlled, quite stiff and polished. That was very frustrating for me!
It took me a few years to allow myself to actually enjoy drawing and express myself more freely.
As an advocate of telling activist stories in children’s books, what are the challenges you face in your efforts to bring up these issues through your work in children’s book illustration?
I feel that the children’s book industry nowadays is really open to activist stories and inclusivity, which is fantastic! A few years ago I was told that queer activism had nothing to do with children’s literature.
As a child, and especially as a queer child, having queer picture books and queer heroes would have been a real support. My upcoming book, Butterfly Child, (published Fall 2022 by HarperCollins) is a story inspired by my own childhood and my own experience as a queer child in the countryside.
Even though I was beyond excited to have the opportunity to make this book, it was very challenging for me and made me feel extremely vulnerable.
The challenge that comes with telling activist stories is also to not be too didactic. Kids usually don’t want to be told a lesson, and it seems important to find a balance between the message you want to convey and the kids’ own interpretation and imagination.
Can you name some of your creative inspirations that might surprise us?
I love documentaries, especially nature or space documentaries. They often leave me puzzled and amazed, and they inspire me to develop pictures and ideas to convey the same feelings.
Making a picture book about the Universe would be a fantastic challenge.
I also find a lot of inspiration in my daily life — friends, a camping trip, pictures I took with my phone, dogs in the metro, people who pass by. There is something magical about daily life that is an endless source of inspiration.
Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring artists out there?
There is a quote by cartoonist Lynda Barry that I hung above my desk that says, “There is the drawing you’re trying to make and the drawing that is actually being made, and you can’t see it until you forget what you were trying to do.”
This quote and the first page of Keith Haring Journals (too long to be quoted here) both became my mantras.
Trivia question! If gigantic flowers and aquatic creatures could talk, what questions would you want to ask them and why?
I would quickly ask the gigantic flowers if there were also gigantic bugs around, because… you know!
And I would ask the aquatic creatures what’s hidden deep down the abysses — which remains the world’s mystery!
Find great adventures in ordinary places— dive deep into every great exploration and watch as the world grows with the size of your heart.
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