It’s HERE!!!!! Issue 034 is now out, available online and in print — get your copy today and dive into eight fascinating speculative fiction short stories by female authors! AND while you’re at it, take a moment to lose yourself in the incredible cover: “Fancy Meerkat Portrait” by Lâle Favre. It is divine. We were lucky enough to chat with Lâle recently about her art. Read what she has to say below!
LSQ: Please tell us about Issue 034’s cover art, “Fancy Meerkat Portrait.” Who is this character? Does she have a story? What inspired you to create this? What was the hardest part about creating this piece?
Lâle: It was more of a personal exercise than an original character. It is based on a Sargent painting, a young woman’s portrait in a dress. I just turned the study into something more fun and changed the woman into a meerkat.
LSQ: The bio on your website states you specialize in character design. What do you hope to capture in the characters you create? What are your favorite characters to create and why?
Lâle: I’ve always loved stories and I grew up surrounded by comics and fantasy books. Storytelling is still what I consider the most inspiring and important thing in art. I think the best characters are the ones designed in a way that gives enough information for you to have a good idea of who they are and what their personality is. We need to be able to guess what their background and their motivation is. For the past year, I’ve gone through a lot of different stages in my artistic growth, and I realized, recently, that storytelling was missing. The very same thing I loved to see in others’ work was never in mine. My images seemed dull and weren’t engaging. So I started focusing more on adding that extra touch of story to my images. I think and prepare more before I start something new and make sure I know who the characters I’m depicting are and what is going on in the scene. As a friend advised me, most good stories in illustrations are the ones answering one of these two questions:
- What is just about to happen?
- What has just happened?
This creates expectation, tension, or relief. I feel like it is something that is a little lost in the sea of digital art nowadays. We have many amazingly skilled artists in this community but I feel like most images I see, as beautiful as they may be, don’t tell much of a story. I sometimes compare it to blockbusters: there is a lot of action, explosions, light, and special effects . . . but there’s not much actually going on. My favorite characters to create are usually strong, evil, or fierce women. Warriors or half creatures. I love mermaids for that same reason and used to draw them so often. But I am now trying to push myself out of my comfort zone with each new piece, adding more males and different types of characters in my work.
LSQ: Can you describe your creative process? How do you start, how long does a piece take from start to finish? How do you know when you’re finished?
Lâle: I usually start with a few thumbnails and sketches. Then, I pick one I’m happy with and start refining it. I like to have a clear sketch before I start laying down flat colors and then paint over. Usually from dark to light. When it comes to the length, it depends completely on the kind of topic, level of details, etc., but anywhere from a day up to two weeks! I know I am finished with a piece when I’m able to look at it and imagine showing it to other people without cringing (too much).
LSQ: Can you tell us a bit about your background — experience, education, how you got started?
Lâle: I was born in Switzerland and grew up surrounded with my crazy dad’s Disney figurine collection, which he started when I was about 7. New Disney and Pixar movies were sacred too and we’d always go and watch them as a family. I’m now 28 and my dad’s collection is approximately 12,000 strong ! And I think I’m infected with the same taste for pretty toys . . . I’ve always loved drawing and spent most of my time doing just that. But high school made me forget about that passion and I went full circle before going back into art. In Switzerland, illustration is little to not known at all. And, back when I was 20, I had no clue what to call the career I wanted to pursue. The closest career path to illustration there is graphic design. Which, I learned later on, had pretty much nothing to do with being an illustrator.
After high school, my plan was to become an art history and French teacher. Fortunately, I lived in Manhattan, NY, for half a year, and my love of art came back roaring. Next to my English classes, I got the opportunity to take photography and art classes, where I’d draw and paint a few times a week. That was the time I first started using Photoshop, got my first tablet and started listening to Bobby Chiu‘s livestreams (who now runs the famous Schoolism). When I came back to Switzerland, I started working as a freelance photographer. I liked it but, later on, realized the only times I picked up my camera was when I would be making money with it. Whereas I would never spend a day without drawing.
After that, I entered an art school (in Switzerland) and went there for about a year. I was 23 then. Unfortunately, it was a private school, very expensive and far away from home. I even spent 8 months living with nuns who rented cheap rooms, so I wouldn’t have to travel for five hours every day! The school was also quite lame, to be honest. The teaching was terrible and I felt intellectually and artistically frustrated, constrained. I didn’t feel like I was learning much and I was surrounded by teenagers who had no drive whatsoever. It wasn’t a place to grow.
So I left. And I started over. I tried to freelance and worked on the side as a hostess/waitress for fancy events while trying to get better at art. I was slow at it and had a hard time focusing properly on my own. The artistic community was also pretty much non-existent as well, so it was hard for me to live there and feel inspired. I had very few friends and people I could relate to. I didn’t feel like I belonged. And finally, in 2017, I moved to Berlin. Since then, I’ve been much more productive, happier, and I realize how important it is for me to be surrounded by like-minded people, artists who try and work hard and who I can be inspired by and rely on. The jump was scary and I postponed it for years. But it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
LSQ: Are there any ways in which you’ve changed as an artist over the years?
Lâle: I probably answered this question a bit above. But yes, of course I’ve changed. Like every human, I’m never going to be a finished product, but a forever ongoing process. It’s hard to describe how but I guess I was very dissipated in terms of my artistic and professional goals before. I didn’t know what to focus on or what I wanted to say or do with my work. I felt very stressed and pressured about it as well. And lately–this past year especially–I’ve been dedicating a lot of time thinking about and discussing my doubts and feelings in that regard, and the answers started coming up. I felt like I found one key after another, slowly unlocking many locks inside of me. I’ve slowly started to experience a freer side of my creativity. I am still searching and trying (and failing!), but I feel more at peace when it comes to what I draw or paint. There’s less pressure and I feel like I’m slowly narrowing down my path to what really matters to me, what I truly love to do, instead of what I think others expect of me. It’s still a struggle but my friends and my partner have helped me tremendously in reconnecting with that side of mine.
LSQ: What would you like to do that you haven’t done yet artistically? Can you tell us about any upcoming projects you have, or your plans and aspirations for the future?
Lâle: I’d like to attend an art convention as a speaker some day. I’ve spent an important amount of time on stage when I was younger and I feel comfortable in front of a crowd (but I can’t make phone calls to strangers, ironically!). Maybe teach as well. But for now I’m mainly focusing on improving and am still struggling to get client work to be honest. Gotta keep trying!
LSQ: Among all your pieces, do you have a favorite? If so, which is it and why? If no, why not?
Lâle: Lately I’ve been doing this short character design series and I’m having a lot of fun with it. They’re the only pieces I can look at without cringing too much. But otherwise, no favorites, no, simply because I always end up hating what I do! Sounds bad but don’t get me wrong, I love doing it!…Most of the time! Haha!