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Our Lady of the Fresco
Agathe is definitely not your everyday artist. Her projects are gigantic frescos, full of details, and handmade. A impressive work inspired by both mythology and pop culture. We really needed to know more about her, so we asked her a few questions she was kind enough to answer. Enjoy !
1/ Hi Agathe, could you let us know a bit more about you, your professional path ? What decided you to become an artist ?
Hi ! Well I never really enjoyed school. I was always drawing during classes, and making up stories with my friends. When I was in high school, I remember having been asked by a math teacher what I was looking for as a job later. So I asked myself : “what could I do 8 hours a day without being bored to death ? I looked at my maths notebook, full of drawings, sketches and comics thumbnails. There was the answer ! From this day I did everything I could to be able to make a living out of drawing.
2/ How would you describe yourself as an artist ? What is your philosophy about art in general ?
Art and drawings really take a huge part of my life. I feel bad when I spend a day without creating something, wether it be through drawing, writing my RPGs scenarii or playing music. My philosophy about art is that whatever the medium, an artwork should be inhabited by the one who created it, so that it can vibrate with her or his personality and life experience. And I try to do that everyday I create, even if somedays I kinda lack inspiration !
3/ We can definitely feel your inspirations in your work : mythology, fantasy, old frescos… Can you tell more about it ?
I’m a geek ! All my studies were focused around contemporary art, with all the usual requirements : history of art, of modern history, literature and cinema). I also spend a lot of time in “alternative places”. That’s a lot of background to get inspiration from ! I also have lots of friends from lots of different horizons, it helps me to be openminded to the world !
4/ How do you imagine your newt piece ? They are so full of details, ideas… Can you tell us more about your creation process, the path that leads you to your first sketch ?
In general, the idea comes from a book I read, a movie I watched, or a discussion I had. It usually takes a few month to grow in my head, I take lots of notes, I watch lots of movies, and I read everything that can be related to it. Then I usually get the main idea, the one that every other pieces of the drawing will lead to, like the roots of a tree that seem to be heading to the trunk. I don’t make lots of sketches : my drawings are so long to make, I usually write directly on my main sheet of paper. If I need a cat to be there, I write “cat” instead of sketching it, it saves me lots of time. Once the pencils are done, I ink, and I use gold leaves. The gold part I usually got someone who helps me out!
5/ There are a lot of symbolics in your artworks, what is your personal experience with them ?
My drawings are full of easter eggs ! They come from everywhere : books, history, mythology, pop culture… Some are obvious, others are a bit more complicated to find, references to history of art, classic literature, and even some very private stuff that only people that are close to me can understand. I also love to draw people I know in my drawings, without them noticing it !
6/ The way you work is simply astonishing, so many details, so much patience and precision needed during hours and hours… Can you tell us more about the way you work ?
I already answered a bit of the question in the last one. But the first thing is research. I spend hours gathering informations, pictures, stories about a piece while working on another. While working, I always put documentaries and podcasts on, you never get overcultivated !
7/ Did you any artistic encounters that have an impact on you ?
I worked during 4 years on the story of many Latino-American gangs. I thus had the opportunity to meet some people with this kind of background, and it allowed me to produce the most interesting pieces of my career. I also had the chance to exhibit my work along with some paintings of Jérôme Bosh, and I’m still touched by this indirect encounter. And of course every encounter I make in the world of contemporary art and illustration is always interesting !
8/ Who is the artist that inspires you most ?
No hesitation : Bosch, Bruegel, Durer. I also love illuminations and wood carvings, especially when they are a bit crazy and naive. I also love Persian miniatures and Buddhist / Tibetan and Indian paintings.
9/ What is your favorite piece in your portfolio, and how is it so important to you ?
I may have a few ! The first one is Game of Crowns, an artwork based on the story of the Latino-American gang Latin Kings. It gave birth afterwards to many more artworks based on the Latino-American gangs. It also allowed me to meet members of asociacion Ñeta, a gang from Porto Rico.I created Oso Blanco, an artwork telling their story. It was really captivating. I also loved working on my Viennese Judgment Day, a piece that was exhibited alongside Jérôme Bosch’ Judgment Day. This one was a really hard one to create, but I was well supported by the gallery staff and the curator of the exhibition.
10/ What would be your relationship with pop culture ?
I was raised in a very geeky environnement. I had an uncle that was probably one of the first nerds in France, he was playing D&D in the 70s with my parents ! He had a small room in his house that was literally filled with RPG books, comics, PC magazines and video games. He is the one who gave me the love for video games. I also grew up with manga and anime, and I loved watching underground art and culture TV shows. I remember one in particular, that was showcasing short movies from animation schools and cinema schools. It really made me want to become an artist. Today I’m still reading comics, watching TV shows and movies, attending conventions, playing RPGs… It is a big part of my life.
11/ Can you tell us more about your latest project for Medium Aevum ? How did you end up working on such a project ?
As I told you, I am a Dungeon Master since 2008. I even adapted Morrowind as a RPG 10 years ago ! I have been practicing role playing game since 2003. The artworks from those books are fantastic, and always fascinated me, the ones from John Blanche, Gary Chalk, Vincent Dutrait… I really wanted to work on a RPG once in my career, to be part of something I really love. I began working for RPGs in 2018, by illustrating Les Chants de Loss (pub. Matagot), and meanwhile I sent my portfolio everywhere I could in the industry. I finally was contacted by publisher XII Monkeys, and I created this screen for Medium Aevum !
12/ What can you say about your Runequest* project, what does it mean to you ?
This was the biggest surprise of the year ! I had been contacting RPG publishers for a time, as to get an opportunity to mix my work as a contemporary artist and my love for games. Last April, I contacted by Jeff Richard from Chaosium : he asked me if I wanted to collaborate on a Runequest project ! The challenge was high and the licence fantastic, so obviously I said yes ! I can’t tell more for the moment, but it opened many doors to me and my craft…
*Runequest is one of the oldest fantasy role playing games with Dungeons and Dragons. Chaosium is its historical publisher.
13/ What does a typical Agathe Day look like ? Do you have any habits you couldn’t get rid of ?
Typical day : I wake up early. I listen to the news during an hour and so, and then I begin drawing. My habit is that I’m alway timing my worktime. I force myself to draw a certain amount of time per week, and set up a number of drawing to do as a goal each week. I’m very busy and I can’t watch movies otherwise, so I always draw while watching a movie or a TV show, just to be “pop culture relevant” ! Also, I always try to watch or listen to documentaries or science / historical shows, so that I can lear something new while working. Then, at night, I go out, go see some friends. As I told you my inspiration also comes from my relationships with people. I also have began practicing walk as a daily routine. It helps me thinking !
14/ What would be your dream project ? On what license would you love to work on officially ?
On the field of contemporary art, I would love to make an “answer-artwork” to the piece of a big artist, no matter who or when. That is what I did in Austria during my art show when I had to create a piece to “answer” Jérôme Bosch. I would also LOVE to paint giant epic battles for Games Workshop. If I could work on Warhammer 40K and meet John Blanche, I would be delighted. Also, I would love to design some music album covers for the kind of music I love, and thus making a step into the music industry. And last but not least, my real fantasy, working for the making of a video game.
15/ What are your ongoing projects ? And the future ones !
What is happening right now, with the pandemia and the virus, is really touching me. I am currently writing on a giant fresco about the fight of patients and doctors and nurses fighting it, with a spirit of historical war in mind. I’m also gathering info and culture of the the hard music, so that I can work on pieces for free parties, and maybe a tarot. That is a LOT of work, research, meetings… We were talking about artistic encounters that touched me, well I really had amazing moments with DJs and producers.
I’m also working on a violent fresco about nature and ecology. That is for the contemporary art theme. As for the “pop culture” side of my work, I have a rad piece in mind about the history of Internet… And another one about cats. As for 2021, let say that you will probably see more RPGs with pictures from me ! Stay tuned !
16/ Could you tell us about your relationship with galleries, the way you sell your art ? Are those all unique artworks ? Have you ever thought making multiple pieces ? What about commissions ? How do you make money with your work ?
The gallery I work with is my agent, and sells my work in their Madrid location, but also during big art conventions. They take care of the sales, the framing, and shipping and everything, so that I can only focus on my art. People can contact me for commissions, but I only accept if the subject interests me. And I already had multiples available in the past !
I make a living out of my work as an artist in the contemporary art sector where I can make my own creations and universes. Sometimes, I also get the chance to work for the game or music industry !
17/ Last but not least, do you have any advice for young people willing to make a living as an artist ?
You really have to try to find the best equilibrium between having fun (art must really be enjoyed) and always being hard on yourself, and demanding. Also, alway be curious, and never let a chance to be more cultivated than the day before slip away. An artist is, before everything else, a unique personality. So read history, science, philosophy, play music, go out, watch movies, meet people. Let your life become a glutony of knowledge !
It is a path where you need to love working, and believe me you will have to work, and work HARD. Sometimes you will even hate your job. So you also really need to have a healthy life and be able to get some rest. Live like an athlete, but in the arts. Also do some physical training, because when you have lots of work to do your body must be ready.
Be brave, never give up !
Pictures by Thomas Celaries