Thomas Hayman, the Artist Behind France-Amérique’s Neo-Vintage Esthetic

Thomas Hayman dreamed of designing cars. But after finding more affinity with the arts than the sciences, he became an illustrator. Throughout his career, he has created posters for the Printemps department stores, the French space agency and the last album by French singer Benjamin Biolay, and had his retro drawings published in Le Nouvel Observateur, Les Echos, America and the Sunday Times Travel Magazine. The half-French, half-Welsh, Parisian artist is just 32, and has been designing the covers for France-Amérique since January. We sat down with him to find out more.

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.

March 2021
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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.

January 2021
February 2021

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.

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