Last week, a print by the wonderfully talented Maria-Inès Chevallier was added to Grafik Editions' online store. She took a moment to talk to us about her inspirations and working process. Maria draws beautiful emotive bodies, and as she spoke to me about her Guatemalen ancestry, it made that Central American inspiration plain to see. In the colour palettes and shapes of her work there is an air of celebration and joy, with a refreshing, tactile authenticity. From a look through her Instagram, it feels very clear that she loves what she makes. There is a certain happiness that just radiates from her illustrations and it's a delight to behold.
Tell me about the process of your illustrations: what inspires them, what materials do you like to use, and what do you do, step by step?
I must say I do not have one way to dig into my work. It comes very spontaneously. Sometimes I have a word or an emotion in mind that I want to represent. Sometimes it can be just a feeling I am experiencing. And other times, it can be just a picture I found. I especially like watching people dancing or doing yoga. There is so much coming out from them. I create a lot of Pinterest artboards with dancing or yoga postures which I sometimes use as a basis for my drawings. I start to sketch it first on paper quickly, and then I switch to Procreate on iPad. I always create a digital form of the artwork because I find it easier to play around with the colors. And then depending if it is a painted commission or not I go into choosing the material (paper, paint, brush...). I have to say it is all very much work in progress! I feel I have not yet found the one way to do my work. But one thing is very constant, I always choose carefully the music I am listening to while creating. I even sometimes create playlists especially for the moment. Each of my drawings have actually a specific song I like to link them to. Music is one of the most important things to me and my process.
What made you want to go into visual arts?
During my studies, I was never so good with writing and speaking. And counting was always a real pain. But one thing I always loved to do was to tell stories. Whether it was to myself with my teddy bears or by drawing tales or comics during the chemistry class. I liked to create a world where I could dive into with my own rules. I guess it always felt safe and more fun! My mother's family in Guatemala was very artistic. My grandmother actually founded the University of History of Art in Guatemala city. So I grew up surrounded by it. Since I was little, I have loved to go to museums and watch all those great paintings and the stories they were telling us about a certain time. I find it only fascinating and I guess I always wanted to be part of this world and the discussion! My parents wanted me to have a "safe job" so I studied graphic design where it opened me to a completely new field but also as inspiring! I realised then that there are so many ways to tell stories whether it is for commercial purposes, to inspire, to revolutionize or to make think! I guess this is what is so attractive and powerful to me about visual arts and why I cannot think about not being part of it.
How has the pandemic affected your artwork (if at all)?
I feel I am quite lucky. In terms of amount of work, this year has been actually one the busiest. But I guess it is also because it gave me a lot of time to focus on other topics or to start new things I had postponed until now! But in terms of input, this has been very hard. Not being able to go to an exhibition, or any type of cultural event is really tough to me as this was always where I found the most inspiration. I also used to have this ritual on Sundays where I would go and sit at my local coffee at the corner and observe the people with my iPad. I really miss those moments and I can feel that I get a little more inspiration blanks then I used to because of it.
How do you choose colour palettes and what inspires them?
This is a tough question, I have actually a Pinterest board for colors. I used to think I should always use the same color tones. As I am a big fan of minimalism, I wanted to only play with a few color tones. Mostly earthy ones. But it got a little boring and I recently decided to go more wild. So I am now looking into vibrant colors inspired by South American art.
Tell me about an image you are proud of.
Actually the one picture I am proud of is the one I have shared with you, where I am standing next to my big painting "Towards New Horizons". For me it is very difficult to put myself in front of the camera and present my work! But for women's day, I decided to overcome my uncertainties! This first big painting I am standing next to was also a real challenge because I had to learn how to work with so many new materials (paint, canvas, size...). I see this picture and the painting as representing the fight of myself against myself in a way and the empowerment led by overcoming your fears!