Featured Artist: Noémie Klein

Noémie Klein is an emerging French illustrator, whom we discovered by chance on Instagram. Her work is inspired by spirituality, nature, and ancient philosophies, and has been gaining more and more attention lately. Noémie is an illustrator of the inside. She wants to make ideas into images, and her illustrations translate abstract concepts into shapes through delicate black and gold lines. Noémie is also a writer, and both these practices are tightly woven together in her work. Her illustrations start from the many pages she writes everyday, in an effort to clear her mind, making them incredibly personal, but still universal. Noémie took some time to answer our questions over email, and told us about introspection, Jean Cocteau, and her favorite albums.

Who are you?

My name is Noémie Klein, I’m 25 years old, and I live in the south of France. I have a Master’s degree in Visual Communication, and I’m a graphic designer and an illustrator. 

How would you describe your aesthetic?

I would say that my current aesthetic is refined, minimalistic, light, feminine, poetic, and mystical.

How did you find it? How has it evolved over time? 

It has evolved a lot over time! At first I consumed a lot of other artists’ work, like most people who want to start making art. I tried to understand what I liked in these people’s work, what resonated with me, and then I created my own vocabulary of shapes. My aesthetic evolved and grew with me, with my interests and my way of thinking. When I started drawing, I did it because I wanted to make beautiful things. This is not what drives me anymore, even though the visual harmony of my illustrations is still really important to me. Now, I’m looking to translate my ideas into images, those little pieces of insight that I have on certain abstract subjects. The more I focus on the message I want to communicate, the clearer and simpler my lines are.

What inspires you? Which artists have influenced your work the most?

There have been too many for me to name or even to remember all of them! The two artists that immediately came to my mind when I read that question were Frida Kahlo and Jean Cocteau. Not really because of their aesthetic but because of their ways of thinking and the intention behind their work. Frida and the way she extracted a life force thanks to the expression and exteriorization of her pain and feelings through her art. Cocteau and the way he explored metaphysical concepts through creation.

How do you work? What are the different steps in the making of an illustration? 

When it comes to personal illustrations, they are all birthed from words. I write everyday and when I want to explore a particular idea more deeply, when I want to understand it on an emotional level and to print it in my mind, I try to translate it visually so I can really understand it and remember it. To achieve this, I take some time to really identify the feelings, the sensations and the emotions that are associated with that idea, then I try to find universal symbols that will allow me to communicate this emotion to the people who will see my illustration. I also make moodboards to guide me in my composition choices or to help me with the representation or the stylization of certain elements. Once the detailed sketch is done, I redraw it with Indian ink and gold-colored acrylic paint!

Can you give us an example of one of these ideas and explain how you translated it visually?

For example, for one of my recent illustrations, I started from the word “pilgrim” and the definition of a pilgrimage as a journey that allows for “the shedding of old skin”. It represents the idea that we have nothing to add to ourselves, nothing to improve, but rather that we can get rid of all these heavy layers of protection which filter and distort our essential qualities into flaws. This idea is not new, but it feels new in that moment when it becomes obvious to me, and it makes me see reality through a new perspective. It is in that moment that I feel the need to make that idea into an image so I can seize this new understanding and absorb it before I can move on to the next one.

What does a workday look like for you?

The first thing I do when I start my day is write a few pages to structure my thoughts. I also like to wake my body up with 15 minutes of yoga every morning. I try to organize my days the day before so that I can start working right away when I sit down at my desk. I like little rituals, like lighting incense, listening to music, using a timer,… These small habits help me focus. The longer I can focus, the easier I can find a flow that makes my working sessions energizing. During my lunch breaks, I try to make some time to go on a walk. I like my days to be structured. If I know precisely what I will do and when I will do it, I feel relaxed and confident, and I’m more creative that way.

Have you ever wanted to experiment with other art forms?

Yes, all art forms can interest me if they feel like the most efficient way to express what I want to express! I don’t have a precise example in mind, it depends on what would be appropriate for a given project. 

What was your favorite experience in your career?

I recently started giving illustration classes at my old school. Being able to teach and to share what I love has been the best opportunity that was ever given to me. Each student is unique, and it’s fascinating and exciting to be able to contribute to the construction of so many different ideas, universes and aesthetics! 

Is there anything you’d like to accomplish in your career? 

I would like my work to heal others at much as it heals me. People say that we heal when our perception of reality heals, and this is what I hope to achieve by asking myself everyday : “How can I see things differently? How can I see this situation in a way that creates stimulating thought and gives me agency instead of in a way that drains me and puts me in a passive position?”. It’s a lot of work but it helps you maintain a healthy emotional balance! It is the result of this work that I want to share through my illustrations and my writing. Everyone is free to identify what resonates with them in it and to make it their own depending on what they need.

What would you like people to feel through your work?

I would like for my work to make people feel connected to each other. I think that if I am honest and vulnerable enough, I can reach what is universal in every one of us. 

What have you been watching, listening to, and reading lately?

I haven’t watched a lot of movies or read a lot of books lately. But I’ve been listening to a lot of music. The albums Nightsong by Yael Naim and How Beauty Holds The Hand Of Sorrow by Ane Brun are otherworldly. They feel like a soothing balm for your heart, especially in the current climate. If one day I could convey that kind of softness, strength and beauty through my work, I’d be happy with what I’ve achieved on this planet when I go.

What is next for you?

I’m currently illustrating a book of poems by a young emerging poet, which will be published at the end of the year. I would also like to start selling prints of my illustrations soon.

Is there a question you wish I had asked you? 

I think that an interesting question to explore would be : “ What was your most important realization concerning creativity and inspiration?”. And my answer comes from my old drama teacher who would always tell us : “Relax! Let go, be open, pay attention!”. I know it sounds simple but it’s really difficult to do! Yet the more you try to be present in the moment, to be impermeable to stress and to outside stimulation, the more you’ll find yourself able to remain calm and receptive, and inspiration will flow through you naturally!

Artist Noémie Klein draws much of her inspiration from her ever-enduring interest in human sciences. Endlessly fascinated by the insights derived from both ancient philosophies and spiritual practices, Klein enjoys imbuing her art with mystical and psychological components that ask her audience to enter a state of deep introspection or meditation.

You can see more of Noémie’s work on Instagram.

Vagabond City Literary Journal

Founded in 2013, we are a literary journal dedicated to publishing outsider literature. We publish art, prose, reviews, and interviews from marginalized creators.