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Secteur 19: creating intricate illustrations with a touch of humour

Sylvain Pfister, aka Secteur 19, is a graphic illustrator and artist who creates playful Art Nouveau-inspired illustrations with a modern twist.

After practising drawing and painting for many years and exhibiting his work regionally, he began training in graphic design which opened his eyes to the digital world. Here he tells us more about his creative journey from traditional to digital and how Affinity Designer for iPad has revolutionised his vector illustration process.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Sylvain Pfister, I live in Vevey, Switzerland. I am the father of four little kids, the husband of a wonderful woman and I am a freelance graphic illustrator.

How did you get into vector art?

I got into vector art quite naturally. From my first artistic creations, I liked to create playful compositions, mixing letters and illustrations.

After training in graphic design I started to replace pencils and brushes with a graphic tablet and this was a great addition to my technical skills. That being said, I almost always start my creations on a sheet of paper with a pencil before moving on to vector art.

But now with Affinity Designer and the different Personas, I can make my sketches directly in pixels and then use them as a base instead of handmade drawings.

How would you describe your style?

If I have to describe my style I would say that it is a very ornamental style with a lot of details and a touch of humour.

My artistic universe is shaped by influences oscillating between Art Nouveau, graft calligraphy and more contemporary artists. I like to use this abounding style and its references and apply them to a more contemporary subject.

When did you discover Affinity Designer and what interested you about it?

I discovered Affinity Designer about two years ago. I was looking for an alternative to certain competitors who offered either expensive subscriptions or vector design software that was not very successful.

I first took a trial version of Affinity Designer to try the program with fairly advanced vector design criteria, then, after a few adjustments, I was completely convinced by this program that has everything I need for my artistic work.

One of the other reasons that pushed me towards Affinity is the fact that the price is very attractive and the license is a one-time fee.

What is the most important lesson you have learned in your artistic career?

One of the lessons that I retain in my artistic process is to keep my creations in constant evolution and not hesitate to leave my comfort zone to experiment and approach new ideas.

From experience, I think that renewal is necessary to stay inspired and offer fresh creations where you can feel the passion and involvement of the designer.

Your vector work is very complex, how does using Affinity Designer help you and how long does your usual project take to finish?

Affinity Designer for iPad has revolutionised my way of working, saving me tons of time and increasing precision in my work as an illustrator. Having the different Personas is a huge asset because it is possible to work from the first sketches in Pixel Persona to a finished vector packaging in without leaving Affinity Designer.

For someone like me who mainly uses handmade drawing as a starting point, Affinity Designer for iPad is the ideal software. I’m able to sketch, vectorise, and colour at the tips of my fingers and my Apple Pencil.

“I’m able to sketch, vectorise, and colour at the tips of my fingers and my Apple Pencil.”

How much time do you usually spend on a single piece of work?

For a work filled with figurative subjects and ornaments, I can count about 20 hours of work. This is quite variable depending on the requests.

Do you prefer to work with a strict brief or with a lot of freedom?

I prefer freedom to create even if sometimes more freedom means also more time to get lost in creative alternatives that sometimes don’t go anywhere.

A strict brief can also sometimes be beneficial pushing to look for solutions and pushing me to be more structured and efficient in my work.

However, creativity cannot be expressed to its fullest if the demands and the framework set up by the client are too strict and the deadline too short.

You enjoy reading in your spare time. What’s your favourite book and why?

I recently read Georges Orwell’s 1984 one more time and the subject seemed surprisingly current, almost predicted by the author.

I always find a lot of inspiration in the book of Proverbs in the Bible which is full of good philosophical and concrete pieces of advices.

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