An Interview with Illustrator Maxime Lebrun

By Silver Dolphin Books on April 19, 2017
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1. Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your story?

My story starts in the country where we eat pain au chocolats and croissants every morning, escargots on every lunch, and frog legs and stinky cheese on a baguette every evening. I was born in northeastern France, in a small place called Nancy.

I’ve been drawing a lot since I was a child, always drawing whenever and everywhere. Literally watching clouds in primary school instead of listening to our math lessons. Drawing things in my books in college would lead me to be a complete disaster in mathematics.

Then I went to what we call a “professional Baccalaureat.” We had only half a week of general teaching (still with boring mathematics), and the rest of the week we learned how to make magazines in InDesign and QuarkXpress and do things in Illustrator and Photoshop. Every other week, we would swap and learn offset printing; it was really interesting to see how books are made.

After that I was lucky enough to enter in one of the art schools in my region, which specialized in publishing rather than contemporary arts. I spent 3 years in “Ecole Superieure d’Art d’Epinal,” experimenting in all different mediums. I grew artistically; spending time with other creative minds helped me to get better and challenged me every day. I spent 3 awesome years there, failed my degree, and decided to go where I always wanted to go: England. And here I am, a few years later.

2. When did you first become interested in drawing and illustrating?

It goes back to when I was little, my dad was the most creative person I knew. He used to work in a superstore, and sometimes they would ask him to create decorations to promote the big blockbuster movies that were coming out. He would work on it at home, and we used to have papier-maché sculptures of King Kong’s body parts here and there, bits of Star Wars spaceships all over our living room. As a hobby, he was doing comics, caricatures, and portraits. He would build us a shadow theater to tell us stories on a weekly basis and build us cars out of cardboard boxes and yogurt pots.

My childhood was magical, and I guess my dad inspired me so much that I fell naturally into this career.

3. What sparked your interest in illustrating children’s books?

While at art school, I wasn’t actually that interested in children’s books. I was reading a lot of comics by Claire Wendling, Philippe Buchet, and Régis Loisel, which were all drawn in a semi-realistic style. That was where I wanted to go at first. Over the years my interests changed, and I got more and more interested in visual development on movies made by Pixar, Disney, and other studios. Over the years in art school I progressively changed direction in what and how I wanted to draw.

4. What is your favorite medium?

As I’m producing everything with my tablet and my computer, my favorite medium to use on a daily basis is definitely digital, but using Kyle T. Webster’s brushes gives me the feeling of “real painting.” I really like the look that gouache gives to illustrations, the sort of traditional texture to it.

5. What is your creative process? For example, how many times do you draw a character before you decide it is a success?

I often do a lot of research about the places, the animals, the characters, etc. I create moodboards on www.niice.co for example. I think that provides the material we need to then create, shape, and explore things. So creating characters, for example, can be really straight forward. Or sometimes I can spend a long time playing with shapes and trying my best to do what I have in mind visually. I know my characters aren’t the best they could be, but they are the best I can do at that moment. I’m constantly trying to get better at it, to go forward and upward!

6. What inspires you?

What I love about inspiration is when it doesn’t come. At that very moment, when this happens, I can’t just sit down and wait for inspiration to come; I just need to chase it, and one great way of doing so is to go on social media. One thing I do a lot is this exercise — if you don’t have inspiration just do this, you’ll see it works magic! Go on Instagram for instance, look at the first picture/photo, look then the one under it. How can you link both of them to do a picture, what story does it tell visually? That exercise can work on Twitter and Facebook, too, I’ve used this as some basic ideas for illustrations.

7. Tell us about the creation of your favorite character (that you created).

A while back, I was doing the weekly Colour Collective challenge on Twitter. I wanted to get challenged even more, so I started to create one adventurous 8 year old boy and do a story from there, not really knowing what could happen next, considering the color would change the story in a way. To this day, I think it’s the character I most enjoyed going back to and creating a world of his own.

8. What is your all-time favorite children’s book that you think is a must-read for children now?

You always remember the books that introduced you to “reading for fun.” At school we were asked to read a lot of books, but I don’t think I ever enjoyed any of them as much as I enjoyed a book I read when I was 14 by Terry Brooks called: Magic Kingdom for Sale — Sold! A real page turner for someone like me who didn’t like to read much. But I equally enjoyed reading A Series of Unfortunate Events at that time, which I think is more of a children’s book.

9. If you could collaborate with one person – dead or alive, fictional or not – who would it be?

Every few months my answer would probably change; I guess it depends on whether it was about collaborating with a writer or another illustrator. If I had the chance to work with anyone, I’d love to work with Mac Barnett — such a funny writer. And I’d like to collaborate with Dice Tsutsumi or Chris Sasaki, my all time favorites from Pixar.

10. Explain the feeling you get when you are drawing.

Mostly tiredness, as I’m working weird hours and for a long time. Or frustration if I don’t manage to get what I want. But once that stage is over, it’s fun creating things and playing with the characters, coloring them and giving them their final touches.

Find Maxime Lebrun online: Facebook | Twitter

Up, Up, Up in the Tree

Illustrated by Maxime Lebrun

Join Squirrel as he climbs higher and higher up a tree in his quest for one big surprise! With flaps to lift and peek-through holes, there’s lots to spot, count, and discover along the way.

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