Mystical and enticing big-eyed characters, ranging from the classical to the contemporary. Fantastic creatures and colourful accents over moody backdrops, then suddenly sweet in unexpected places. This is the magical world of French author and illustrator Benjamin Lacombe, one of the unequivocal leaders of contemporary French illustration. Benjamin’s artwork has been exhibited in Paris, Rome, Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo, and his books have been published and translated all over the world.
1) When and why did you decide to become a professional artist?
I’ve always drawn. It is the most natural act on earth; it comes from prehistoric ages! I was only able to do so! At a very young age I started my first professional work in advertising and animation (when I was 16 years old).
2) Were you a creative child growing up?
I’ve always been a creative mind. I created stories, drawings, re-dressing dolls of my sisters, etcetera.
3) How would you describe your personal style and aesthetic?
I don’t describe it. People in my country (France) love to put you in boxes. I think that’s reductive. I want to change and evolve. My only concern is to create deep emotions in the viewer or readers. That’s my goal!
4) Do you have a medium you prefer to work with?
I love to change it, but mainly I use a weird technique of gouache and oil that allows me a lot of possibilities and textures.
5) Where do you find inspiration?
In nature, people around me and more widely in life.
6) The characters in your drawings are very intriguing! Can you tell us about them?
I’ve always thought about a real living person when I draw a character. It allows me to know how the character should move or talk. But I never use photos as reference, only the idea of the essence of the person.
7) How is your work a reflection of you?
An artist that is true to his work is always talking about his way to see and understand the world. So, the work of an artist is always a reflection of himself.
8) You have written and illustrated several books. Do you prefer the writing or illustrating side more – or do you feel that they work hand in hand?
I like both of them. A good illustrated book is a book where both text and illustrations teach us the story and play their part and become almost insatiable. The image never has to retell the text but to help it go further. The image narration is very strong, very connected to emotions.
9) Any advice you would like to share with aspiring artists?
It’s always hard to give open advice like this. There is not one way to become a good artist; everyone has to follow their own way!
10) Are you working on any new projects you would like to share with us?
Everything is a little upside down with this terrible virus that is all around the world. Some projects are postponed and so winter will be very full of projects I am very excited about. I have three books and a series that were scheduled to be out next winter. I’m also preparing three big shows in Switzerland and France, and a last one at Daniel Maghen Gallery in Paris, the gallery I have been working with for a long time, which will take place in December.
Our thanks to Benjamin for joining us for this interview. We have loved this collaboration and hope you will, too!
Featured image by Alyz. Courtesy of Benjamin Lacombe.