Interview by Alex Schuchmann / Illustration by Linda Merad / 15min

A school teacher, who was a painter invited Linda to several art exhibitions, a neighbor of her who practiced still life painting let her use her pastels, and parents of a friend lent her art books. Born and raised in the suburbs of Paris Linda Merad’s future was already predicted. She has been drawing since she was little and has always been passionate about images, whatever they are: botanical and scientific illustrations, popular imagery, and even fashion ads. Until today she collects images, “it’s a habit”, she says...Now she is a full-time illustrator, bringing dreaminess and humor onto paper for herself as well as her clients. She is not just making the world a little bit more colorful but also reflecting our current culture and everyday life in a sophisticated way.

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Linda, what is the most fulfilling thing about working as an illustrator?

To explore subjects and create drawings that you wouldn't have spontaneously thought of. And when the client is delighted, it is always a pleasure.

How do you begin a new work? At the computer or as a drawing?

First of all it is an idea, converted by a sketch. I develop the illustration by hand with pencil, and then I apply colors digitally. So my work is a mix between handmade and digital tools.

Where do you gather your inspiration from? 

The everyday life is an infinite source of inspiration for me. I’m sensitive to words, faces, bodies, jokes, memories and feelings. I think this is the genesis of any project. As I said, I’m a compulsive image collector so I can be influenced by social trends, music, fashion, photography, design, painting and traditional arts to name a few.

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How much of your own identity flows into your work?

I want to answer 100%. At least for personal projects, when I am free to express myself fully and have fun. This is not always the case for commissioned work of course, since there are constraints and an audience to think about.
My way of drawing is very clean and graphic, probably due to my studies in graphic design. My forms are soft, but the whole can give off a touch of humor or weirdness. This is an aspect that is not far from my personality. There is also a kind of duality in my work: I can go from outline drawing to filled and textured surfaces, like false volumes. Above all, I like to feel free and have fun while drawing, going from one style to another, from one mood to another.

What are your favorite elements in the world of illustration?

The illustrations that I like are those that provoke emotions, questions, or thoughts. And when the drawing is funny, it's a jackpot!

How did you come up with the idea for our cover illustration and what is it about?

This large format allowed me to stage figurative elements, with several entries and readings during the workflow in a creative mind. It’s like an odd and flourishing journey full of ups and downs, mysteries, questions, and doubts. It’s a question of self-perception - the gap between what we project and what we produce. It’s also the story of revealed or buried thoughts, of anchored certitudes, of an idea that transforms itself into another, of surprises that spring up where you don't expect them, of connections of a whole.

Do you get doubts about your work sometimes? 

Of course doubts feed the process, and I've learned not to be blocked by them. I am now more relaxed about the “mistakes” I can make or the weaknesses I can see in my illustrations. I tell myself that I will do better or that I will approach things differently next time. It's a good technique to move forward.

How do you cope with creative blockages?

When that happens you have to air out. Think and do something totally different. Leave to come back better. Give yourself time when you can.

What was the most difficult measure you had to take as an artist?

What is the most frustrating thing for me is to put commissioned works before personal projects. We have to pay the bills like everyone else. Sometimes I have to make compromises and limit an idea to the client's goodwill. It happens necessarily to all freelancers. It’s pretty ordinary.

When are you the most fullfilled?

While I draw by hand, the pencil tool allows me to be precise and nuanced. I feel comfortable with it. I have an idea in mind, but happy accidents can happen. Not everything is predictable by drawing by hand and I find it very exciting, lively.

What's coming next for you? 

I continue to receive work for the press and publishing fields globally, but I would like to find a balance between commissioned work and personal work (which has been set aside at the moment due to lack of time). I've had planned collaborations with artists for some time and a publishing project on hold, but it's difficult to predict concrete things in these times of Covid. Let's see where it goes!

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