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Lionel Darian: ‘each illustration elicits a different emotion in me’

The modest yet fantastically talented illustrator Lionel Darian joins us to share his thoughts, inspirations and drive behind his art.
Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Lionel. I grew up in the southwest of France, where I still live today. As a child, I was rarely bored. I was always tinkering or creating something (drawings, models, paintings, modelling, huts, costumes…), and the days were never long enough.

I am a rather discreet person, and I am not very talkative. The perfect profile for an interview!

La Dame à la Valise
What made you want to become an illustrator/artist?

I never really wanted to be an illustrator, in the sense that, it was not a career plan. Illustration has naturally imposed itself in my daily life over time. Drawing has been part of me since I was a child. So I had never considered it as a profession. A few years ago, I had another job in which I did not flourish at all.

A very dear friend then suggested that I focus on my passions, and then illustration became obvious.

Can you remember some of your earliest influences? Were you raised in a creative environment?

I did not grow up in a creative environment, but my parents always encouraged me and gave me the greatest freedom, even if sometimes my projects could be overwhelming…

If I had to tell you about my earliest influence, I would cite two films that deeply marked the child I was: Batman and Batman Returns by Tim Burton. I do not know if this universe still influences my work today, but these films opened my mind.

La Maison au Bord de la Mer
What motivates you in your work?

Curiosity. When you start a project, you cannot exactly know what the end result will look like. During the creative process, the project will feed on several elements such as your knowledge, your experiences, your culture, and your ability to imagine new things. It is this part of the unknown, which follows you throughout the project that motivates me.

Which of your projects would you say have been most important to developing your personal style?

There is a first project which played a leading role, a kind of click/stimulus in the treatment of the characters and the light. This is illustration is named “The Other World”.

The second project that has been important in developing my personal style is the “Circles” series. It is a little story told in nine illustrations and with two tones of colour.

Circles series
Can you tell us a bit about your “Circles” project?

I had wanted to work on a personal project cut into several illustrations for a long time. It took the form of a short suspense story, with a sober and quite figurative aesthetic.

Strangely, the first image was the one with the telephone. I do not know why, but the image of this phone from the 40s had followed me for quite some time, and I had to do something with it. Then, little by little, the story built up.

The title of the series simply comes from the framing of the illustrations. A circle, as if we were observing the scene through a spyglass. This puts the viewer in confidence, and it also makes him or her a little complicit in what is happening. It creates an immediate connection.

The man on the plane
Where do you gain inspiration for the subjects or themes of your work?

It is not very original, but my inspiration comes from everywhere. Literature, cinema, photography, advertising, other illustrators, archives (I have a passion for the 20s, 30s, 40s and the 50s).

When and how did you start using Affinity?

I started using Affinity in June 2020. I had known Affinity Designer for a long time and followed its news. But it was difficult for me to leave Adobe Illustrator because I was used to using its tools, and I thought some of these tools were missing on Affinity.

At a time when I wanted to make my style evolve and explore new creative techniques, I realised that Affinity Designer, with its dual interface (Designer Persona / Pixel Persona), was the ideal tool. So we became best friends!

Dame à la Fenêtre
How long do you usually spend on a project from concept to finished piece?

Of course, it very much depends on the project. It can go from a day to several weeks, although I do not like projects that go on forever. I find that after a while you lose the energy you had at the start, even the motivation. The project will still be completed, but it may lose its flavour. Either because it no longer interests me (I know this too well), or because other projects have stolen the limelight from it.

What’s your goal as an illustrator? Do you have a particular dream that you’d like to achieve in your career?

I do not really have a goal or a big dream in illustration. I just want to continue to live from this passion and multiply the creative experiences. Of course, there are mediums that interest me like animation and comics. But I do not want these desires to become goals to be achieved, with the challenges that this entails. If that happens, I will be happy, if it does not happen, I will have other equally exciting projects.

L’Autre Monde
Do you have any advice for illustrators just starting out and looking to develop their style and identity?

I do not think I have lived and practised this profession long enough to give any advice. But as far as I am concerned, I make sure not to betray the one I am deep down in order to fully assume what I create.

What project is your personal favourite to date and why?

Difficult question. I do not really have any preferences for any of my projects. I love all the illustrations I create for different reasons, because they all elicit a different emotion in me. Sometimes it is the composition, the colours, the attitude of a character, the subject. Sometimes all of that at the same time.

The writer
The Photographer
Finally, do you have any self-enforced rules or mottos you work by?

Eat chocolate! More seriously, I try to play down the act of creation as much as possible. Missing the mark on an illustration happens to everyone and it never stopped anyone from continuing. Sometimes it is easy, sometimes you must agree to work more, to start over certain parts.

You can view more of Lionel’s captivating work on his website, Behance and Instagram.