Patience, an eye for detail, and nimble fingers are just a few of the qualities that Maëlle Doliveux must have in abundance.
Her skilled hand and care over the tiniest scrapings of materials help her create beautifully realised 3D paper illustrations.
Her careful consideration over all the elements in her work starts from the earliest concepts, continuing through to thoughts on lighting the final pieces.
While the cut paper ‘drawing’ and amount of detail she goes into is impressive enough, the thought that goes into the way the sculptures are shot adds just that extra bit of finesse.
With the time-constraints that working in this way must have, it’s understandable that Maëlle likes to also find other ways to work through her creative ideas. She talks to us about the paper work she does as well as working in other materials and reasons for doing so.
I’m a French and Swiss illustrator, animator, cartoonist and fabricator currently residing in New York City. I share a studio space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in the Rope Factory with a bunch of super talented illustrators/designers – Molly Brooks, Rebecca Clarke, Rebekka Dunlap, Isaiah King, Andrea Tsurumi, and Lior Zaltzman.
I enjoy working with different mediums on a wide range of projects, and have therefore developed several different methods of working.
To me the most important and interesting part of a project is the concept – how to solve the ‘problem’ at hand, and I hope that having more than one way of working is able to support different kinds of problems in more specific ways.
One of the mediums I make illustration with is cut paper and photography. I cut mainly Canson mi-teintes paper, with a surgical scalpel, and when the pieces get below thumbnail size I use tweezers to glue things down. I started working in this way to try to develop a stronger sense of color.
I like choosing a limited palette before I cut into the paper- it makes it easier for me to separate the ‘color’ process from my work, as opposed to something like painting, where color and drawing are intertwined.
After the image is constructed, I set up some lights and photograph it. I try to integrate the lighting into the concept, and the way the piece is lit is an integral part of the final image. The ‘finish’ for me isn’t the cut paper ‘sculpture’, but the photograph of it.
Another way that I work is by doing etchings, or ‘fake etchings’. I like the line quality that an etching needle gives, along with the texture of the plate, but obviously a printing press is a huge and expensive tool, and the constant exposure to acid and chemicals wasn’t all that appealing to me.
The time-intensive process of etching was also a downside for editorial work with quick turn-around times, for clients such as the New York Times. So I’ve developed a way of inverting scratchboard that closely mimics the way etchings look, and still allows me to use an etching needle to draw.
I then add strong blocks of color to these images to add a second ‘layer’ of content. I enjoy this style because it’s all about the quality of the drawing, and the simpler it is, the better the image.
Recently, I’ve also been working in gouache and colored pencil. This came about because of some experimentation in my sketchbook after I became a little frustrated with how time-intensive my other processes were. I wanted to create an image ‘in real time’, through drawing, with the least amount of post-photoshop work.
As someone who’s moved around a lot, I was also getting worried about working in ways that really required a lot of equipment, and wanted to develop a process that I could do ‘on the go’.
I picked up some prismacolor pencils I had lying around and got some acryla gouache and played around with pencil line and gouache shapes, and have really enjoyed recent projects I’ve worked on like this.
In addition to these ways of working, I also work with silk-screening, which I enjoy in a similar way to the cut paper work, in the sense that the color process is separated.
To me, the most enjoyable part of being a visual creative is still the problem-solving/idea-generating aspect of the profession. I aim to create images that are elegant, and emotional, and are relatable on a small, human scale.
© Maëlle Doliveux, 2015