Featured Artist: Zoé Lab

Who are you?

My name is Zoe, and I grew up in the South West of France, lost in the middle of fields and vineyards. I read a lot of comics when I was a teenager, especially 90s comics by L’Association [a French comic books publisher], and it got me interested in visual storytelling. I think that illustration is about stripping a story down to its essence. It is an economy of means and form. When I was studying graphic design, I was lucky enough to collaborate with Monoprix and Mint Magazine, and this led to other commissions. 

How would you describe your aesthetic?

Clear outlines, very little perspective, and an ornamental aspect. My aesthetic is inspired by engraving. Creativity is born from necessity, so I chose to go back to black to simplify my illustrations’ shapes and composition.

How did you find it? How has it evolved since you got started?

I developed my engraving practice through my professional collaborations. I was an assistant to Didier Mazellier in his studio Bon Caillou, and to Evelyne Mary, who illustrates children’s books. I discovered how to print in small or medium series, the crushing of paper fibers at the end of the printing run, the smell of ink, the grain of uncoated paper. All of these techniques opened the doors to a new world that now feels very familiar to me. 

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

I’m inspired by artists like Hokusai, Félix Vallotton, Matisse, Kiki Smith, designers like Charlotte Perriand, Ettore Sottsass, Irma Boom, but also sculptors like Brancusi or Valentine Schlegel, and 1970s fashion.

How do you work? What are the different steps that go into the making of an illustration?

I work with traditional mediums. I start with pencil, then Indian ink, creating downstrokes and upstrokes with my calligraphy brush. My challenge is to make the abstract and the figurative coexist in the same piece. I like to create ambivalent images that offer several levels of interpretation. 

What does a workday look like for you?

Lately I’ve been taking a course to learn how to teach design and it has taken all of my attention. It has sometimes been difficult to manage both my classes and my job, but I feel like I need change to reinvent myself and find my daily life more inspiring. 

Have you ever wanted to experiment with other art forms?

I started working with ceramics two years ago, in a workshop in Dordogne, modeling more specifically. I want to keep experimenting with this pure craftsmanship. Ceramics is one of the first “fire arts”, clay is a matter that evolves with time, and contrasts with the instantaneity of my digital environment. 

What was your favorite experience in your career so far?

In 2016 I founded an underground fanzine called Comic Soon for amateurs of unfiltered paper and images. It was printed with a risograph printer, and its three issues featured a dozen of contemporary artists such as Louis Granet, Hélène Jeudy, Adèle Beaumais, or Camille de Noray, among others. The editorial project itself was interesting, and the creative rush during the launch parties was thrilling.

What would you like to accomplish through your work?

Maybe to animate a short film, illustrate a children’s book, or be an artist-in-residence along with other artists and designers.

What would you like people to feel through your work?

Having a following that resonates with my art is already very fulfilling, even though I don’t know what it is exactly they resonate with. 

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

My interests are changing all the time, it would be difficult to answer in only a few sentences. 

What is next for you? 

I will soon start teaching applied arts to tomorrow’s designers, and I will keep pursuing creative collaborations in associative and independent sectors, and maybe even for activist organizations. 

Is there a question you wish I had asked you?

What secret satisfaction do you derive from drawing women ? 😉

Zoe Lab is an illustrator and graphic designer based in Paris. She creates images for brands and magazines about art, culture and fashion. Creation and a slow, artisanal process are indissociable to her, and her favorite mediums range from linocut to screen printing, and from ceramics to self-publishing. 

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.