Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 14, 2019

Illustrator Saturday – Maëlle Doliveux

Maëlle Doliveux

Maëlle Doliveux is a French and Swiss illustrator who has lived all over the world, from New Jersey to New Zealand. She obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the University of Nottingham in 2008, and graduated from the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program at the School of Visual Arts in 2013. In her spare time she enjoys chess-boxing, loose-rope walking, and making up fake hobbies for herself in her biographies.

She is also the co-founder, along with editor Josh O’Neill, of Beehive Books – a boutique publishing company focused on comics and illustration. She is the company’s creative director and in-house designer.

awards & recognition:

Society of Illustrators Gold & Silver medal, SoI 55, SoI 57, Art Director’s Club Silver Cube, American Illustration, CMYK Magazine, 3×3, Creative Quarterly, Visual Opinion magazine, Illustrative Young Illustrator’s Award Nominee.

Her work has also been shown at the Korea Society of New York, the Monmouth Museum, the Mehu Gallery, Direktorenhaus (Berlin) and as part of the Society of Illustrators gallery at MoCCaFest 2013.

HERE IS Maëlle SHOWING HER PROCESS:

INSPIRATION RESEARCH:

Polish Pagan costumes that accompany the end of winter/welcome the beginning of spring: (Photography by Charles Freger from his book Wilder Mann)

STEP 2: CHARACTER SKETCHES & DEVELOPMENT

STEP 3: COLOR STUDIES & CHARACTER TESTING

STEP 4: PAGE SKETCHES / LAYOUTS

STEP 5: CUTTING & GLUING

(sorry I dont’ have any images of this! It’s hard to hold a camera and use a scalpel at the same time…)

STEP 6: LIGHTING & PHOTOGRAPHY

STEP 7: POST-PRODUCTION EDITING
Halfway through photoshop :

After Photoshop:

Finished art:

FINISHED DOUBLE PAGE SPREAD (Below)

BOOK COVER:


Interview Questions for Maëlle Doliveux

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been working professionally as an illustrator for about 7 years.

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

When I was in art school I was drawing some buildings in Madison Square Park, and someone who lived on the square asked to buy it from me, as it was of a building they had a view of from their apartment. I charged next to nothing for it, but it was such a big deal for me at the time.

The first professional illustration assignment I had was for the New York Times Letters section- the amazing Art Director Alexandra Zsigmond gave me a piece to illustrate on end of life care. Illustrating for the New York Times feels like the illustration equivalent of driving a Formula 1 race car, and that first time around is always memorable.

You mention that you lived in New Zealand and New Jersey. Were you born in New Zealand and now live in New Jersey?

Neither one! I was born in France, lived in New Jersey when I was younger until I was twelve, and lived in New Zealand much later when I went there on a semester abroad when I was in architecture school. There were a whole bunch of countries in between and after those places, but I’ll try to keep things simple, and to hang out to my thinning veil of mystery.

What made you want to go to University of Nottingham for architecture?

When I was in high school, like almost all teenagers, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I loved art, and had always wanted to spend my time drawing/sculpting/making, but I was also good at the sciences and math. Unfortunately my guidance councilors at the time perceived the pursuit of a creative profession as both financially risky and a waste of ‘science/math’ talent. As in- if a student was ‘intelligent’ enough to pursue a science-related career, than it would be a waste to send them to art school. Though I completely disagree with the insinuation that artists are less intelligent or less important than scientists, this may only have been practical advice for high schoolers, as it may be easier to transition from a science major to art school than vice-versa. Who knows. In any case, architecture seemed like a good middle ground between all the things I was interested in, though I had never been that interested in architecture in itself.

How did you decide to get an MFA in Illustration with Visual Essay program at the School of Visual Arts in 2013?

The way the British architecture educational system works is that after three years of undergraduate theoretical study, one must complete 6 months to 1 year of practical apprenticeship. After I completed my 6 months in this great little Swiss firm, I needed a break, and was reconsidering whether I wanted to pursue architecture at all. The architecture that I was interested in making (theoretical architecture, paper architecture) I find to be very insular and elitist to me in its academia. The architecture that I thought was valuable (ecologically friendly with well-engineered material use and a strong consideration of its users and function) was not the architecture I was interested in making.

With all that in mind I decided to take a break from architecture, and thought ‘illustration’ sounded fun. I had only the vaguest of notion of what ‘illustration’ was. I was extremely blessed that my parents were incredibly supportive both financially and with their patience during this time, and I went to the School of Visual Arts in their undergradute illustration program’s sophomore year. I chose SVA because I also wanted to sneak in some comics classes on the side, and wanted to be in New York so I could also take comedy improv classes. Looking back I made the decisions I thought would be most fun at the time, thinking it was only temporary, but when I realized illustration was an actual, viable profession, I stayed longer than a year and was able to keep going with all my passions. I interned for two amazing illustrators – Sam Weber and Chris Silas Neal, who encouraged me to apply to the MFA program at SVA instead of finishing the undergradute program. So I did so and very luckily was accepted!

Did art school help you get work when you graduated?

Yes! A thousand times over. But I also don’t think one needs to go to art school to get work. I think what you pay for when going to art school are two things: time and connections. You pay for time and hopefully some physical space to make your work. To think about your work critically, develop your voice, take risks, and make things you are excited about making without the expectations of a client. And the second thing you pay for are connections- your fellow students, teachers and (hopefully) visiting lecturers become part of your work network. Several of my teachers and fellow students have recommended me for jobs (and I’ve recommended many of them as well), and fellow students have become art directors in some amazing institutions, and I’ve been hired by guest lecturers as well. I’ve also gotten work completely outside of this network by pursuing hobbies I was interested in, like improv comedy, which had a need for visual/designed material.

Art school is not a necessity, but it is a definite time-saving boost.

Did you ever take a job using you architecture skills?

As mentioned above- I worked for six months as an architectural assistant doing some model making, but mainly detail technical drawings. It was not my cup of tea.

But I still use a lot of my architecture skills in the work that I do. Especially when it comes to the very three-dimensional pieces that I work on, or any model-making projects, whether for my own paper ‘sculptures’, or for client fabrication projects. I also learned how to speak about my work and present my work, as well as to think critically and have clear methodology. Sometimes I worry that my process is too architectural/methodical, and I get jealous of colleagues who just begin a drawing without overthinking it a million times. But I think that is how my brain works, more than my education, and I’ve come to embrace it.

Was the architecture background influence you to use cut-paper in your illustrations?

Yes! Definitely. Thinking three dimensionally is a huge part of how I make my work and think about my work. And the technical aspects of model-making are also part of my art.

When did you decide to illustrate children’s books?

It’s the first thing I remember wanting to be when I was little. That, and a veterinarian. But very quickly I thought that illustrating children’s books wasn’t a ‘real job’. I have no idea why I thought this. Nonetheless when I returned to art school many years later (and realized it was indeed a real job!), and I knew that illustrating a children’s book would be a dream project.

 

Was Four Fables your first illustrated picture book?

I guess so? It’s very short, so I’m not sure I’d consider it a picture book, more of a nicely printed zine or short story.

‘Good Night, Wind’ (written by Linda Elovitz Marshall) is my first ‘official’ children’s book, and first one that was not self-published. (Holiday House is the publisher)

How did the contract come your way?

Those art school connections! An amazing teacher of mine, Chris Couch (who taught us History of American Comics), recommended my work to his daughter, Mora Couch, who is one of the incredible editors at Holiday House. She asked me to come in and show my work and pitch them some of my ideas. I was working on a cut paper picture book on the Arctic explorer Louise Arner Boyd at the time, which I showed them. They asked me to keep working on my pitches a bit more, but asked me if I was interested in illustrating “Good Night, Wind” until my pitches were more developed. Of course I said ‘yes’.

How excited were you to be chosen for the SILVER MEDAL – Society of Illustrator’s Comics & Cartoon Art Annual 2014?

Over the moon!! I did not expect it at all. I remember getting the call from Anelle when I was in Richard McGuire’s studio (I was one of his assistants on the incredible book, “Here”). I was definitely both shaking and jumping up and down afterwards.

Did they want to see a few a few completed pages before you signed the contract?

No- I was so lucky that they were so trusting. I could not have asked for a better team of people to work with for this first book. My editor, Kelly Loughman, was incredible. She was very kind and supportive, as well as giving me some fantastic notes which made the book all that much better. I’m truly thankful for having worked with her on this. And Kerry Martin, the art director, as well! She designed the book so beautifully.

Do you have an agent? If so, how long have you been with them and how did they find you? If not, would like to find representation?

No agent at the moment! I’d definitely love to find representation- I think especially in the world of children’s books it can be tricky to get your work considered by the right people. I’ve gotten some very positive and encouraging responses from agents recently, but haven’t found the right fit yet. I’d ideally love someone who’s willing to discuss my pitches and ideas with me, and to work with me creatively on developing my work. If you’re an agent reading this- do reach out! – maelle@maelledoliveux.com

How did you come up with the idea to start Beehive Books?

I met my business partner and the other half of Beehive, Josh O’Neill, when he was still working as an editor and partner of Locust Moon Press. I had worked on a strip for their gorgeous and huge (in every sense of the word) anthology tribute to Winsor McCay’s ‘Little Nemo in Slumberland’ (the book is titled ‘Dream Another Dream’). Eventually, when the three people who ran Locust Moon went their separate ways, Josh wanted to keep working as a small publisher, and asked me to come on board as a designer/art director/creative director. We realized straight away that we are a perfecting work-fit, in that we have very opposite skill sets, and are both very admiring and respectful of one another’s skillsets. I could never do what Josh does, and am always thankful and inspired to work with him.

In terms of the direction of the company, we wanted to create projects that traditional methods of publishing couldn’t tackle, as we do all of our fundraising through crowdsourcing (Kickstarter). It means that we can make much ‘riskier’ projects in terms of production value, content, choice of artist, everything. We can do those weird special projects artists dream of creating but can never find a publisher for, because we aren’t spending the money on printing before we are assured that we can find an audience who is excited by the project. And it means we aren’t reliant on book store distribution to fund projects, which means we can have individuals from all the world support the books we create.

How many books has Beehive published? What does the future look like with them and you?

We’ve published/are about to publish/are working on publishing 10 books and 2 issues of a newsprint magazine. We are very small, so at the moment we can only handle about 4-6 books/projects a year, but hopefully in the future we can expand that.

We’re nearing the end of a really special Kickstarter at the moment- a graphic novel biography of the Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi. The book is very near and dear to my heart, as I think it’s so important to recognize and honor the roll of women in art history. Gentileschi’s work is on par with Caravaggio and Rembrandt, yet her name isn’t half as recognized. The book was created by two amazing women comic artists, Nathalie Ferlut, and Tamia Baudouin, and I will be translating it from the French to English for the edition we are hoping to fund. It feels especially good on a personal note that contemporary women artists are the ones to work together to bring this book to life. I’m really hoping it’ll happen. Please check it out here if you have the chance and help spread the word in the last days of the campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/beehivebooks/artemisia-the-original-painter-of-women-in-power?ref=8exr8v

And next up we have a VERY exciting deluxe Dracula project that I can’t share too much about… but believe me, it’s going to knock a whole bunch of socks off.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate a book?

Yes! A thousand times yes. I’m currently working on a couple pitches and dummies. Fingers crossed these will turn into real books in the near future! (Again- editors and publishers and agents- drop me an email!)

How did United Plankton Picturesconnect with you to do the comics SpongeBob Squarepants in “Bubble Park”?

I met the editor, Chris Duffy, (who is amazing and lovely!) when we were both jurying for the MoCCA comic arts competition. He asked me whether I was interested in contributing a comic to SpongeBob Squarepants comics, and I said yes!

Do you have a studio in your house?

No. Well, a little bit. I used to work from home half the time, but found I was far less productive and more prone to distraction. So when I moved a few years ago I made sure there wasn’t room for me to work from home in my new apartment. Forcing myself to have a place of work where other creative people are around me, and to have certain hours during which I work has been tremendously helpful in keeping me both happy and productive.

So now I just have a ‘craft bookcase’ at home, where I keep all sorts of fun crafting supplies. So I only work on non-client work or random crafting/sewing projects.

Would you illustrate a book for an author who wants to self-publish?

It would depend on the project, author, timing and all the details.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines? Which ones?

No, not yet, but again- I’d love to! Send me a message, art directors, I’m all ears.

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

My first two self published comics/picture books were wordless, and I definitely love the genre. I was starting to worry that I was working in this way because I was worried about writing dialogue/text, so I’m trying to push myself beyond my comfort zone at the moment. But I love wordless stories! It’s a completely different challenge when you don’t have any of the words there to explain in between moments, and to play off of.

What do you think is your biggest success?

Having a great relationship with my family and amazing friends who love and support me. Also the best dog in the world.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I love working in lots of different mediums and am regularly scared that I’ll be pigeonholed into only working with one medium. But at the moment I’ve been doing a whole lot of cut paper and I do love it. I love thinking about paper spatially, and challenging myself to push what I can do with that medium and how I photograph it, and how all of that can work together to tell the story in a more interesting way.

Has that changed over time?

I’ve always loved paper, but I also always love trying new materials, or returning to materials I used to work with. I love experimenting and think its’ important to keep my work interesting to me.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

No- it takes the time that it takes!

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

Yes! As much as I can. Getting good reference is very important to making a project feel specific and authentic. Obviously even more so when it’s nonfiction.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes, but I think it’s just the nature of how doing business as an illustrator works in the twenty-first century. Overall though, I think I’ve gotten more work connections from meeting people in person- I think I present myself less formally and more relaxed in person than online. I’m sure I also lack a little of an exhibitionist streak to be great at social media.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

I pretty much always use Photoshop at the end of my process to tweak or edit my photograph or the scan of my artwork. I try to do the least amount of post-production possible, but Photoshop is definitely vital in making the art that extra bit polished.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

I got a nice iPad pro recently which I’ve been messing around on. I’d love to do more quick work on it, but don’t think it’ll ever be my primary medium.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I’d love to write and illustrate and finish my own children’s book! Ideally more than one, but you know- one step at a time.
I’d also love to do set designs for theatre one day. And do more comic books. And puppetry comedy shows… And….But I’m trying to reign in all my different passions at the moment, as sadly there are only so many hours in a day.

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on two dummies and pitches for two different children’s books (nonfiction with loads of silly animals!). I’m also in the middle of working on a book of cut paper comics short stories that will be published as a novel next Fall, hopefully. The book is titled ‘I WILL LIVE FOREVER’ because my ego knows no bounds.

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

Paper cutting tips:

You don’t need half as much glue as you think you do.

Use archival glue if you want your work to last and not yellow the paper you’re working with. I love Tombow Aqua double tip glue, personally, but look around. Nori is great too, though slower drying.

Change your scalpel/x-acto blades frequently- as soon as you feel yourself apply too much pressure to the paper to make the cut. You are FAR more likely to cut yourself with a dull blade than with a sharp blade. (Because you apply more pressure with a dull blade, and it’s at higher risk of ‘skipping’…)

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Don’t measure your success by how many books you’ve published/who published you/what your advance is. It’s still hard for my brain to function this way, but I really try to have it be about enjoying the process of making and working on a book.

Thank you Maëlle for sharing your talent and expertise with us. Make sure you share you future successes with us. To see more of Maëlle’s work, you can visit her at: https://www.maelledoliveux.com/

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Maëlle. I am sure she’d love to hear from you and I enjoy reading them, too.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Fantastic! It’s amazing what you do with paper, the different styles and looks. Fascinating art! Best wishes!

    Like

  2. Love your work. Can’t wait to see more!

    Like

  3. Thank you for interviewing Maëlle, Kathy. You bring such interesting people, information and ideas to my laptop every morning!

    Maëlle, I admire how you’ve incorporated the different parts of your life into your illustration so beautifully. Of the ones in Kathy’s post, I especially like the Holland/America Mural, Caustic Love, the Asssscat cover, Dr. Mirage and Icewalk.

    Good Night, Wind looks excellent—can’t wait to see the whole book!

    Like

  4. Wow. This is amazing work. How interesting to have studied architecture first. That certainly shows in her work.

    Like

  5. So gorgeous! Love the multi-dimensional quality of the illustrations.

    Like


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