Illustrator and designer Genevieve Gauckler is at the top of her game and wonderfully modest. Her understated cool disguises the fact that she is highly successful in her field in both France and the UK – a field that stretches from advertising and corporate identity, to video, illustration and animation. Even if you haven’t heard of Genevieve herself, you are probably familiar with her bizarre black silhouttes that populate many of her funny and hectic illustrations. We caught up with this down-to-earth Frenchie ahead of her OFFSET talk…
In an interview you gave Varoom!, you say you don’t consider yourself an artist, that you like working for companies and magazines. It’s unpretentious and pretty awesome, can you explain it a little? I feel like a craftperson. I do the best I can. To me ‘artist’ means ‘genius’, someone who is above everyone else, who’s got a large range of skills with which he can change his world. For some reason I’d rather feel like a regular human-being who spends hours at my laptop trying to entertain myself by creating new characters.
Where did your furry silhouette figure come from? When was the first time you drew him/her? The inspiration came from different sources – Firstly, from a French animated TV series named Shadoks that I used to watch when I was little, during the late 70’s. The other source is the Hayao Miyazaki film My Neighboor Totoro. I started working on my first characters while I was in London. I enjoyed creating simple ones with Illustrator, I thought it was easier and quicker to use simple shapes. In a few minutes I could write a short story and communicate something thanks to it.
You’ve worked in the UK and in France – is there a big difference between the culture of the industry in each country? In the UK graphic design is more respected, it feels like lots of people in the communication industry are well educated and that the quality of printed or digital stuff produced in UK is much higher than it is in France. In France there are less graphic design studios, corporate identity stuff is made by advertising companies, and the result is usually not very good. But illustration is quite big, there’s a strong tradition of it.
You talk about taking inspiration from old design magazines from the 70’s and 80’s for your work – what work of yours reflects that in particular? Your question makes me realize that this source of inspiration isn’t visible in my work. I just love the look and feel of American advertising made in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. I’ve learnt many things about composition, framing, how to mak strong artwork, and how to mix typeface and footage, from studying these ads.
Your next piece of work is a comic – could you talk about that? I’ve been thinking about this book for many months now. It’s going to be about explaining the things of real life – like a scientific book but in an absurd way. “The sillier the better”, that’s my motto!
What comics did you read growing up? When I said comics I didn’t mean American comics but French and Belgian comics, the classic books that all chidren read (Tintin for instance) but also Moebius stuff – The Incal for example. Moebius is a genius, his drawings are amazing.
Your work combines lowtech and hightech – explain your fascination with combining the two things? I think interesting ideas and strong artwork are a good study in contrast. Trying to combine different styles, different sorts of elements, is the best way of coming up with something new. Mixing fun and not-fun, vector and photos, soft and rough, childish and grownup, etc.
What work have you come across of late that really inspired you? I always come across inspiring things ! I spend a lot of time (too much time) on the web looking at things happening in different fields – graphic design, illustration, architecture, photography and so many things produced amaze me. I’m impressed when a creative person expresses his personality within a commissioned work. It’s one of my obsessions, keeping my freedom within all the constraints clients give me.
Was there ever a moment in your career that you thought you should chuck in the towel? Absolutely not. I’m passionnate about my work, and as long as Apple keeping making computers and there’s an electric socket somewhere, I’ll keep creating new characters!
What was the last song you listened to? Cascadeur, Ghost Surfer. I used to find French music boring but things have really interesting, and I’m happy to hear lots of good bands now.
Last place you went to on holiday? In France, in Auvergne, to an extinct volcano.
What will you talk about in your OFFSET talk? I’m always trying to explain how I get ideas and explain what it is that I’m trying to say in my work. But it’s difficult to explain. My images express themselves better than I can…
Genevieve will be speaking at 11 am on the CYAN Stage on Sunday
Roisin Agnew @Roxeenna