ITW – Jean-Michel Tixier, the moderne irony…
Jean-Michel Tixier was born in Limoges, France and now works from his shared studio in the heart of Paris. His illustrations encapsulate the traditional French “ligne claire” style seen in the works of Hergé for example. His characters could have stepped fresh from the pages of Tintin comics, right into the present day. “I mix the old retro ‘Ligne Claire’ style with modern and adult spirit,” Jean-Michel says.
Hello Jean-Michel! You are a freelance illustrator and have worked for publications such as M, Le Monde newspaper’s magazine, but you have never had any formal training. How did you go about making a name for yourself as a self-taught artist in the world of illustration?
It wasn’t easy, but I met people along the way who helped me progress quite quickly. Like Record Makers, for example, working for Sébastien Tellier and AIR. I started out by creating lots of album covers until the day an agent contacted me.
How long have you been drawing for? What ‘drew’ you to illustration?!
It’s a bit cliché but I started out as a kid. I used to copy drawings I liked. I would recreate them exactly as I saw them.
You are a fan of the “Ligne Claire” style, a black outline that is always the same width; why use this technique in particular?
It happened progressively. My style was totally different when I started out, more like freehand with hatching, a bit like Topor who I used to like a lot. I started using the ligne claire method a lot later, maybe 7 or 8 years ago. It happened just like that, without really knowing in which direction I was going, and then it seemed obvious to me to follow that art movement I had loved since I was young. I just had to wait for it to come out. I could have thought about it slightly earlier I guess! I have a great deal of admiration for Hergé obviously, but also those who used the ligne claire style in a more adult way, like Chaland, Serge Clerc, Joost Swarte…
What other illustration techniques do you enjoy?
I have to say I really love the ligne claire style and rarely look at other types of drawing. I really enjoy work by Pierre la Police, Mzryck et Moriceau, Joan Cornella, etc. I admit that I don’t really pay attention to what others are doing to continue to believe that my drawings aren’t that bad! Not loosing confidence in yourself is already a full-blown job in itself.
What do you like about doing editorial commissions? Or clothing brand ones like Olow for example?
The freedom to express myself, the freedom to offer my own vision of things. It all depends on the publication and the brand. With M Le Monde I have been completely free to do what I want for three years now, and I will never get tired of that. I have just started a collaboration with Monsieur Magazine to do their covers. I can express myself freely there as well. As for Olow, I got on really well with everyone working there. We had fun talking about the work, and I really like the collaborations they have already done, Jean Jullien’s one in particular.
What is your creative process to illustrate a particular subject? Where do you start?
I was dreading this question. I think that I find inspiration in things I saw in the past, not necessarily what I see today. I will be illustrating things in 2020 that I saw in 2017. But obviously if I’m sitting at a café terrace and see a guy with a deer head walking by I won’t be waiting for three years to draw him.
Why do you like portraying people in incongruous situations?
My only goal is to have fun. I don’t like serious subjects.
When you draw for yourself, what do you draw?
I unfortunately rarely draw for myself because I simply don’t have the time. But I often find myself doing portraits.
You must be working on new projects at the moment, can you tell us about them?
I’ve been thinking about doing something in 3D for the past year. A sculpture I hope to share with you soon.
Thank you ?