Having worked with Vincent on several occassions, we were delighted to chat with him about how his career first began, the things that inspire his work and how Affinity Designer has streamlined his illustration process.
Vincent, please tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
My name is Vincent, I’m a French freelance artist and I’ve been working under the pseudonym Small Studio since 2007. My practice covers various fields from graphic design to mural design, self-publishing and illustration.
I am very involved in the field of publishing and printed images, but I also develop many mural projects. I have a particular interest in the relationship between graphic design and architecture. The placement of an image in a space and the resulting dialogue is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for me.
How did your career begin?
I started my professional career with salaried jobs in communication agencies and printing houses. These different experiences taught me a lot, especially on the technical aspects. I had the opportunity to set up as a freelancer in 2007, and at this time, the majority of my projects were graphic commissions, mainly for communications agencies.
I continued to develop in parallel less “commercial” projects, especially in the field of music: gig posters, album covers etc. I was experimenting with screen printing with several friends, and we were printing our own posters for concerts or personal projects. It was a very rich time!
But if we want to go further back, I think it all really started with my first graffiti in the 90s. It was a starting point for everything else that made me want to study graphic design.
What things inspire your work?
My work as an illustrator is very influenced by artists such as Saul Bass, Paul Rand, Fredun Shapur or Tom Eckersley. For a long time I’ve been inspired by the work of American graphic designers and illustrators from the 50s and 60s. This type of creation continues to influence me today, even if my work is progressively evolving towards a more abstract approach, notably on mural works. This very rich period continues to influence me through artists who are, for me, at the limit between art and design, such as Barbara Stauffacher Solomon or Karel Martens.
More generally, I am quite attentive to the architectural environment and the urban universe. Probably a legacy of my adolescence painting on walls…
“My work has always been shaped by the way I use colour with a limited colour palette.”
How did you develop your bold, minimalist style?
My work has always been shaped by the way I use colour with a limited colour palette. In my graffiti days, the colour charts offered only had a limited range of colours, even though things were already evolving very quickly.
At the end of my studies in graphic design, I discovered the technique of screen printing and found many similarities in the way of using colour: direct and flat tones, simple shapes… It immediately resonated with my practice of graffiti and the constraints imposed by screen printing have gradually shaped my way of conceiving images.
Even today, though all my projects are not destined for silk-screening, this printing technique influences almost all my productions, notably by the overprinting of colours which is something central in my work.
You’ve been using Affinity Designer for a while now. What attracted you to it, and why do you continue to use it as a tool for your illustration work?
A designer friend of mine once told me about Affinity Designer, which combines vector and pixel in the same application. I was immediately seduced by this logic because I saw the possibility of developing new creative perspectives, especially through the use of texture, which I am very attached to in my illustration work.
“Affinity Designer became an essential creative tool when I started using the iPad version. The compatibility between the iOS and desktop version has really streamlined my workflow on illustration jobs.”
Affinity Designer became an essential creative tool when I started using the iPad version. The compatibility between the iOS and desktop version has really streamlined my workflow on illustration jobs.
Could you tell us how your initial sketches transform into the final artwork we see?
Everything always starts with a sketch, by hand, in a notebook. Even though I have now integrated the iPad drawing into my workflow, I need to go through this paper/pencil step—it’s essential for me.
Rather than working on the whole composition of a sketch, I tend to draw a multitude of small elements that I then gather and assemble to get closer to the final visual. It probably comes from my graphic design background.
When work on the form and composition is complete, I approach colour and finally add the texture, which brings the small finishing touch.
We love the screen printed works in your portfolio. What is it about seeing your work printed in this way that appeals to you?
For many years, the practice of screen printing has influenced my work and my way of conceiving images. Since I moved to Besançon, a small French town, in 2011, I have joined Superseñor, a micro-publishing workshop focused on silkscreen and Risograph printing.
There are about fifteen of us in the collective and we are very lucky to have all the necessary material at our disposal to edit our own work. We are both artists and printers. The workshop is also open to the public and we accompany people who wish to print their own projects.
Beyond the interest I have in the printing technique, I feel the need to “concretise” my work to make it tangible. Whether it’s by printing or painting it on a wall, I need to experience my creations with ink or paint to give them another dimension.
As soon as the project allows it, I try to make a silkscreen or Risograph version, which explains the number of printed works in my portfolio.
Could you tell us more about the creation of your Danube film poster? Is there anything specific you need to bear in mind when designing a piece of artwork for screen printing?
From our first exchanges with Bertrand Vinsu, the director of the film Danube, we imagined the possibility of publishing a silkscreen version of the poster. Bertrand had contacted me because he knew my work. He’s also sensitive to printed images and artisanal printing techniques, and my minimalist approach to form and colour interested him. The visual was naturally enough designed to be adapted to screen printing.
I had to be careful about the amount of colour used in the visual. In screen printing, each colour corresponds to a printing frame. The more colours there are, the more technically complex the print. So I chose from the beginning to work with a limited palette, as usual.
The colour beige being the dominant colour of the visual, I chose to print on tinted paper rather than printing this colour on such a large surface. It is quite complicated to print large, clean areas in screen printing. Choosing a tinted paper was, therefore, the assurance of an optimal result.
Bertrand has made a video of the print run where you can see the whole process:
We also love the artwork you created for Prix Littéraire des lycéens. Could you tell us more about it and how it was made?
When I designed the artwork for the Prix Littéraire des lycéens, I had to imagine a visual system that could live and evolve for several years.
The client wanted to create a family of illustrations that, as a whole, followed each other in a coherent way. So I imagined the principle of open books letting particular universes appear, which evoked, in a very simple way, all the possible literary styles: detective novel, adventure, science fiction… The principle was continued for three years while being renewed with each edition.
For this particular project, the use of Affinity Designer’s isometric grid was invaluable!
Could you tell us what you’re working on right now?
I just finished a new poster for Bertrand Vinsu, which I’m unveiling exclusively. It’s called L’interdite and is also a documentary film based on the same principle as his previous film Danube. So it seemed coherent to create a visual very close to the previous poster, in its composition and graphic codes.
A third collaboration will also soon see the light of day, but for a totally different type of film this time. The graphic approach will probably be a bit different too.
I am also working on several mural projects that should be completed in the coming months.
And in the very near future, the most important project on the horizon is the summer vacations! :)
Lastly, what are your future aspirations? What would you like to achieve in the next five years?
There are so many… but in terms of the things I wish to develop that I am already working on, there is the outcome of my research into mixing mural anamorphosis and augmented reality. I’ve been able to experiment in this sense this year, and you can see the results here:
I still have a lot to do to make the device fully operational, but it requires a lot of time for research and to surround myself with very technically qualified people. So it is a long term project.
I also aspire to be able to develop more experimentation and personal research, and succeed in alternating commissioned projects and pure research phases. For me, the two are closely linked and mutually nourishing, so it seems essential to me to devote time to both.
And lastly, in my wildest dreams, I would like to paint a mural in the bottom of a pool!