Nicolas Gremaud Illustrator Interview

Nicolas Gremaud

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Can you recall the first time you realized you were going to be an illustrator? What were your earliest impressions?
I started drawing when I was a kid. I used drawing as a way to express myself. It was easier for me to show my true character through drawing.
I found I could reach another world, a creative one, by drawing.

Who or what influenced your art when you were young?
My inspiration came from a patchwork: several American television series from the 70s and 80s, cartoons, cinema, funk music, Jacques Tati, Hanna-Barbera, and others.

Do you remember what your first artwork looked like? Do you still have it?
Yes. It was for a French telephone company. I drew portraits of people using a public phone, for a phone card collection. I was so proud to have earned my first commission. I took a second job after that. I was an artistic director by day and an illustrator, by night.

Why did you choose illustration as your life’s work instead of, for example, filmmaking, law, or even medicine?
I never thought I had a choice. Most of the members of my family work in artistic sectors. I always knew I wanted to have an artistic life. It was natural for me to take this route. I worked for advertising agencies, at first, as an art director, then, as a creative director; all the while, continuing to draw.

Did you study art in school?
I studied fine arts and graphic design for six years in two national art schools in Paris.

Where does your inspiration come from; your impulse to make art? Do you have a source for your ideas?
Everything around me inspires me to create. A film, an idea, a word, a color, an atmosphere, music, even sleep. It’s a bit like a reflex now. I draw all the time. I also like to paint, sculpt, and work in 3-D.

How would you describe the process of creating art?
When I receive an assignment, I think about the brief for two or three days. I live with it, then try to forget about it completely. Ideas come naturally, and I start drawing. When I work on an image, I always put myself in the place of a reader. I try to surprise readers.
Do you have a favorite illustrator? What is it about that illustrator’s work you like?
I love the works of many illustrators, but René Gruau, Robert McGinnis, Earl Oliver Hurst, Kiraz, and Jean-Jacques Sempé, are a few of my favorites. They knew how to observe. Their images go back to the basics yet feature design at the highest level.

If you could do something else, other than creating art, what would it be?
I’d cook, travel, or become a musician.

Do you remember your first set of paints, pens, or markers?
Caran d’Ache colored pencils: a large set of many colors.

If you could give a viewer clues to understanding your art, what would you say?
Art shouldn’t need any explanation. The feeling you get is what’s important. There is no key to understanding an illustration. I just try to be as fair as possible; to represent expressions, attitudes, characters, and when possible, add a note of humor to make an image fun.

If you could look back or forward a hundred years, do you think the life of an illustrator was or will be better than today?
It’s difficult to answer this question. The life of an illustrator has changed. Is it better today? I don’t know.
Technically, yes, things are better. It’s easier to produce images that can be sent and seen by almost anyone, in a second. Work can be commented on, and shared.
Images have become indispensable in our lives. We need to see more and more of them to be satisfied. In that sense, perhaps, images have lost a certain value but what a beautiful time to create.