France-Amérique: How do you come up with ideas for the magazine covers?
Thomas Hayman: It depends on the issue. I sometimes receive very precise commissions based on certain key visual elements such as books, a bookstore, and a spiritual atmosphere for the January cover, for example. I had more freedom on the March cover. I was just given a theme: the success of French TV shows in the United States. I thought of how I could Americanize French series and came up with the idea of a U.S.-style cinema with Le Bureau des légendes [The Bureau], Baron Noir, and Call My Agent! advertised on the marquee. It was a simple, easily understandable idea. In terms of color, I wanted to give it a retro look that conjured up 1940s American thrillers and movies from the French New Wave, while retaining a modern aspect with contemporary cars. I work on a computer with Photoshop and Illustrator, which allows me to easily edit and touch up the images. I also use After Effects to add grain and texture, for example, and lines surrounding certain elements to create a double exposure effect.
A neo-vintage esthetic is very present in your work. It’s almost like looking at old posters…
I try to create something halfway between the past and the present, vintage and modern. I draw a lot of my inspiration from 1940s and 1970s advertising and tourism posters, which used a printing technique that creates contours around everything. I love the imperfections of these posters and try to reproduce them in my own work.
What are your other sources of inspiration?
I love Japanese etchings and how artists would symbolize things. When you look closely you can see quite simple geometric shapes, but when you move farther away, a complex, realistic image appears. I also like Félix Vallotton, the Impressionists, and Alex Colville, a Canadian painter whose meticulous, cleverly chosen colors and compositions inspire me a lot. Then there is Hopper, of course, as well as Hockney and American hyperrealism.
How did you become an illustrator?
When I was little, I used to draw lots of cars. I originally wanted to work as an automobile designer! I then realized you had to be good at math and went off the idea. But drawing has always been my passion. I started studying art in high school in Paris, and became interested in art history, painting, and graphics. I then studied for a BTS technical diploma in visual and multimedia communication before taking up illustration for two years at the London College of Communication. After I graduated, during the 2007 crisis, I spent three years unemployed. I used this time to teach myself motion design, as a former teacher had told me there were lots of jobs in this field. I then spent five years animating numbers and percentages for banks, public work companies, and major French CAC 40-listed companies. It wasn’t very creative to say the least! An agent ended up noticing my illustration work and offered to represent me. Now I make my living from my illustrations!
What is your relationship with the United States?
I went to Florida when I was nine or ten, and I only remember Disney World! My vision of the United States is therefore one of fantasy because I only know it through its cinema. I recently watched American Honey; it was so beautiful. Movies give us an overall idea of America. I would like to go back to compare my illustrations to the reality of the country.