Featured Interview: Bastien L. D.
We recently had the pleasure to interview world-class freelance illustrator and instructor Bastien Lecouffe Deharme and asked him a few questions about his impressive career. Bastien was born in France and is currently teaching digital art in the United States when he's not busy producing stunning art pieces.
Be sure to check out his Cubebrush store where you'll find some awesome brush packs and read his answers below.
Q. When did you first realize you were going/could to be an artist, how did you get started?
A. It is a complicated question.
First of all, I never intended to do anything else. Aside of being Indiana Jones or a private detective (my childhood answers to the question "what will you want to be when you grow up?"), drawing is the only thing that stayed constant. I grew up with a pencil in my hand, drawing on every supports (walls included).
So I always knew what I wanted. But making it happen is a completely different game! Ten years ago, I started to work with a graphic tablet, creating some composite pictures full of photo-collages and drawings. I was happy enough with the result to decide to put it online and show it to publishers. And then it went by steps! From little publishers commissioning some covers sometimes, to big ones commissioning a lot and often today. There has been many years of struggle, and I guess I just never gave up. I never did because somehow I knew I was getting there. During those ten years, my techniques evolved a lot as well. Today I try to stay in touch with the core of my work, but I definitely took a serious painting/drawing turn.
Q. If you absolutely had to switch careers, what would you do?
A. As odd as it might sound, I would apply to the FBI. I have been thinking about it several time.
Considering the amount of hours I stay stuck at my drawing table or my computer, without a break and fighting short deadlines, if I had to switch, I would go for something that alternates brain process and physical, office and outside world. Something with implications other than "fantastic stories". It's a part of me that I didn't listen to: a career as investigator, facing the dark side of humanity, hands in the dirt. But don't get me wrong, I do exactly what I always wanted to do.
Q. Art school is cheap in some places and extremely expensive in other places (US), do you have any recommendations for artists who can't afford it where they live?
A. I have a foot on both sides! I went to school for nothing (France), but I teach in a place that is expensive (US). I have a master of Fine Art, but I didn't learn illustration or digital painting at school. I am totally self-taught in what I do today. Illustration was very despised in the school I went to. So no, I don't have any recommendations. I know that my students learn a great deal from my classes at school, but I also know that I got where I am today all by myself, from practicing night and days for years, and still doing it today and tomorrow. I usually tell my students that taking my classes can give them a boost, but that the artist path is something they will have to take alone.
Q. What do you define as "success" in the art world, and when did you achieve your definition of it, if you did?
A. To me, it's all about your self. The expectations you set for yourself.
"Success" as an ideal in itself is quite dangerous, and unfortunately a very common idea. That leads people to try to copy the trends in the industry rather than following their own path.
I like to call "success" the moment when you realize you can make a good living with your art without having to modify it along the way. When your work is recognized for its uniqueness. When you are being called by a client because "you" are the person needed, and no one else. All those are signs of a deserved success. When I look back, there are obvious signs of success in my career, from the cover of Spectrum, to the list of clients that I didn't dare to dream about 10 years ago and for whom I work today. But never along the way did I think in term of "success". I just always did what I loved and wanted to do.
Q. Aside from practice, what would you say is the most important thing an artist can do to be successful?
Okay, seriously, one of the most important thing is to go out!
Out for a run or a hike, to get a little bit physical and not only be a drawing machine. Physical exercise is totally necessary to maintain a balance with the hours spent working on images, sitting in the same chair everyday.
Out to spend time with friends and talk about anything but art!
Out to meet clients, other artists, art directors! There is an entire community out there and it's great to be part of it. Also, the relationship with your clients and partners is something to take care of. We can forget an email, but we don't forget a face. The internet seems to make communication easier, but it will never replace a real handshake and a smile.
Q. Light or dark side?
A. I am the night!