Before artist Frédéric Forest learned to write, he had already discovered his love of drawing. After growing up in the French Alps, his passion for drawing led him to Paris to study design, which then enabled him to travel around Europe to work for numerous luxury brands. Eventually settling back in Paris, Frédéric started his own design studio with interior and product designer, Clémentine Giaconia. While running the design studio, he has been simultaneously cultivating his career as an illustrator, for which he is best-known.
In his studio in the 7th arrondissement in Paris, Frédéric creates illustrations with his signature use of controlled lines and minimal yet evocative composition. His drawings are subtly composed, rich in beauty and strongly emotive. Frédéric’s work is consistently beautiful amongst his versatile subjects including nature, architecture and still life; however, it is his numerous drawings of women’s figures that I find fascinating and complex. Inspired by daily moments (which one might dismiss as mundane), his portrayal of women in various poses, moments and gestures, create extraordinary and subtle beauty. Whether his subjects are sitting, standing, resting or even waiting, Frédéric succeeds in creating captivating portraits of women. He tends to keep his figures anonymous, which gives the viewers the freedom to imagine a subject of their choice in the illustrated moments, giving his work a certain relatable intimacy.
We had the pleasure speaking to Frédéric about his work, his inspiration and how he feels about portraying women during the #MeToo movement.
En Ville. You have many creative talents such as industrial design and running your own design studio. How did you come to love drawing and how did you cultivate your career in drawing while also operating a design studio?
Frédéric Forest. Like many people, I started drawing before writing. However, my attraction to the art progressed and I fell in love with drawing. Drawing is an integral part of designing, but it has always meant much more to me than a design tool. To me, drawing is very personal. I often draw during the evenings, in accordance with my current mood.
Though I focus quite a bit on my design work, my artwork is focused mainly on drawing. In reality, I love both fields and do not have a favorite. Both fields encourage me to look at the other one in a different way, which nourishes me. Design and drawing are very different; for example, drawing stops on the paper, but paper is just the beginning of design. Drawing is an elemental part of being a designer. It is the first “word”, the starting point to the design, which in turn develops into a sentence, then a paragraph and eventually leads us to the answers for which we and the clients have been searching. Finally, we are then able to turn a simple model into the real, final product.
A notable part of the design process is that there are a number of people involved: the client’s team, our design team, partners, suppliers, retailers etc. However, when I’m drawing, I am unequivocally alone. All of the work has to come from ME. No matter the idea, I need to trust myself, go with it and let the process flow naturally.
EV. I am always interested to hear how artists spend their free time. What do you like to do as a break from making your artwork? Since your passion has also become your job, do you find that you still have time for hobbies or have the lines between free time and work greatly blurred?
FF. Exactly! The funny thing is that my “break” is drawing, which essentially turns these moments of free time into work (unconsciously). I try not to think about the fact that I might be working, so that my mind still separates the two.
Aside from drawing, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I’m also wild about skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, surfing and running. Mountains and waves make me feel at home.
EV. Women’s figures are a predominate theme in your work and I am personally drawn to the beautiful ways in which you draw them. What inspired you to draw women as eloquently as you do?
FF. Thank you for the kind words!
I grew up in a family that was predominantly female, which shaped my view of women and the fact that I am so drawn to them. I try to draw women as they are, not like how society (or others) might want them to be. Though I draw males as well, women have just always been my main inspiration. I tend not to draw faces to keep my drawings somewhat universal- everyone can think about someone they picture in their minds while looking at my drawings. Instead of faces, I focus more on attitude, poses, moments and gestures.
EV. Your drawings of women’s figures seem so minimal in stroke, yet so rich in emotion. I love how you portray women’s bodies with such careful curves, elegance and even respect. Your drawings of women, make me proud to be a woman and proud of my body. With everything that has been going on this year in the news, regarding gender inequality, female objectification and the #MeToo movement, do you see your work as an outlet or a way to speak to/inspire others on how women should be seen and respected?
FF. I wish that hashtags like #MeToo were not necessary, because women and men fought hard for their rights and some individuals are insidiously withdrawing those rights. Movements like this are a wakeup call that such behavior still exists in 2018. To me, this is one of our history’s biggest shames, along with environmental destruction. We live in a strange time where we have extreme technological progress yet many social setbacks. I am one of the men who are ashamed by the behaviors of such violent predators. With that said, I would be delighted if my drawings could help someone in one way or another. This way it would no longer be about art, but about leveraging my work for a movement that is both upright and important.
EV. What type of art do you enjoy to look at? Do you have any favorite artists?
FF. Art is so rich and encompasses so many fields and aspects. Sometimes, I focus on the artist and other times it’s only about one of their pieces.
My list of inspiration is quite long and never ends, but among some of my favorites are: the 1967 Jaguar E-type, the Malaparte's Villa, the Villa Cavrois, the architects Frank Lloyd-Wright, Carlo Scarpa, Auguste Rodin, Constantin Brancusi, Henri Matisse, Viviane Sassen, Jochen Gerner, Inès Longevial, Tilda Swinton, the choreographers Wayne McGregor or Angelin Preljocaj, dancers Dorothée Gilbert, Marie-Agnes Gillot, Lil Buck or Sergueï Polounine, designers Dries Van Noten, Martin Margiela, Pierre Hardy, Radiohead, Haruki Murakami, Moebius, Katsuhiro Otomo, snowboarders and skiiers like Nicolas Müller, Gigi Rüff, Pedro Barros or Candide Thovex, photographers Robert Mapplethorpe, Zoé Ghertner, Paolo Roversi, and Maud Rémy-Lonvis….
They all provoke and enable me to express new feelings and inspire new stories, no matter the type or scale of the project.
EV. Where is your favorite spot in Paris?
FF. There are so many places that I love to go to with friends and family or alone in this city. My list of favorite places changes quite often. Right now, I would have to say l’Orangerie where you can let yourself flow in the light of Claude Monet’s “Nymphéas”.