France-Amérique: What is the process behind the magazine’s covers?
Léa Morichon: Every month, the publication director and the art director send me a brief based on the magazine’s content. For example, the February issue will feature an article about the Matisse family in the United States and another on French-American couples for Valentine’s Day. I send them a pencil sketch to present an idea with a few lines and words, then a first gouache paint proposal. I work with blocks of flat color using tracing paper and pieces of paper in a collage style. I then scan the final version, put the finishing touches to the colors using Photoshop, remove any specks of dust that might have found their way into the scanner, and send it!
How did you become an illustrator?
After studying at the School of Fine Arts in Lorient and the School of Typography in Amiens, I completed an internship at Cartier and worked in London as a graphic designer in a publishing agency. But I didn’t feel fulfilled. I kept trying to take on more illustration projects in my job, until my boss suggested I go freelance! One of our former clients actually needed someone to paint stickers with a vintage travel aesthetic for their magazine. And with that, I started my new career.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I spend a lot of time wandering through museums and beautiful stores such as Le Bon Marché in Paris. I take photos of things I like, a pair of shoes by Hermès, a wicker basket and a bouquet of flowers on a market stall, a paintings. I have a huge library of images that I organize into themes like paintings, landscapes, lines, mouths, and eyes. My latest additions are photos of my trip to Sri Lanka and plants in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, which grow in geometric patterns in deep black sand. In the same place, I was also inspired by the home of Spanish artist César Manrique, his lamps, family photos, hanging plants, and bathroom overlooking a courtyard filled with cactuses.
What is your relationship with the United States?
It’s more of a fantasy for now, as I have never been there! I have developed a vision of the United States through its breathtaking paintings, Thomas Cole and the Hudson River School, westerns, Thelma & Louise, Casablanca, and television series such as Friends. My perspective has been highly influenced by culture. When I think of New York, I imagine a huge city filled with a crazy energy, a port, and a hub of immigration. I imagine the covers of Alexey Brodovitch, fashion photographer and art director of Harper’s Bazaar during the 1940s, who revolutionized the magazine’s visual identity. My goal this year is to spend a month in New York and feel the pulse of the city.