Léa Maupetit is a French illustrator, living and working in Paris with a devoted international fanbase. She’s the talent behind next season’s Match a Mummy and this year’s #GiftWithLKP Christmas campaign.
After graduating from ECV Paris in type design in 2015, Léa developed her own style of illustration, using bright and vivid colors, with compositions full of life and humor. She is the illustrator of next season’s Match a Mummy, the first of several Laurence King collaborations. We asked her to share the secrets to her success, via her daily routine, her approach to work and what she’s learned throughout her career.
You enjoy a very busy and varied career, working across several mediums and with diverse clients. Tell us about how you came to be an illustrator and what you feel was important to your ascent.
I used to study graphic design and type design and I graduated in 2015 in Paris. I already had a few projects before my diploma and I really wanted to try to be an illustrator. There is nothing that makes me more excited than thinking about a picture and then grabbing my colors.
Most of my work is illustration but I also give workshops on ceramics and recently, drawings with kids.
During my diploma, I also started my own e-shop with my printed illustrations – this really helped me in growing my skills, my style and making a living!
"Like any project, you have to think about the people who will see it, but you also have to enjoy yourself while building it if you want others to enjoy it"
In addition to creating the visual identity for our 2019 Christmas campaign, you are the illustrator of two upcoming games with Laurence King, Match a Mummy: The Ancient Egypt Game and 299 Cats (and a Dog): A Feline Cluster Puzzle. What was the experience like working on these games?
All these projects make me so happy, I am really looking forward to seeing them printed! As a kid, with my sister, we had this book about Ancient Egypt and we spent a lot of time observing their clothes, their tools, their artworks… When LKP told me about this project with the British Museum, it took me only a second to say yes!
I think it was the perfect commission for me: patterns, animals, Egyptian divinities and even organs… Like any project, you have to think about the people who will see it but you also have to enjoy yourself while building it if you want others to enjoy it.
This is even more true with the Feline Cluster Puzzle. A big part of this project was experimental: tough to design (due to the particular cluster shape) but absolutely fun to play with it!
(N.B. 299 Cats (and a Dog): A Feline Cluster Puzzle is out Autumn 2020)
A Christmas dinner table by Léa for the #GiftWithLKP campaign
What does an average workday look like for you, from morning to lights out?
I spend a huge part of the day at my desk, with my computer, sketchbook, gouache paintings, on my own. I need this routine and I love it! I also keep a to-do list because I can be working on several projects with different deadlines, different processes…
Sometimes, I feel like I need some fresh air and I go out for exhibitions / walks.
What are your go-to tools, digital and physical?
I love working with gouache on paper, felt-tip pens and I also work digitally for commissioned projects.
For the Feline Cluster Puzzle, I spent a lot of time on the ‘building’ part, with cutouts and tape. I really need to start with physical tools before working on my computer.
What advice would you give to someone hiring a designer/illustrator?
Hire somebody for her/his actual style and capacities. Of course, illustrators and designers can improve themselves and learn a lot on a project, they can be flexible and inventive, but don’t ask them to stick to another style if it doesn’t look like her/his portfolio at all.
Hiring an illustrator means you trust her/his work and capacities.
What’s the most important thing for you when choosing which clients to work with?
The most important thing for me is the subject (do I like it or not?) and the client/context. Since I work with many countries, I don’t always meet my clients in person. I try to build a professional relationship with people sharing common values.
Another important thing is of course the timeframe and the budget.
I learned I can’t be everywhere, with everyone, in every project and I have to choose my projects wisely, like ‘bricks’ in my little wall. It is a privilege but it really feels good to say no and follow my own path if I don’t feel good about the project.
"It really feels good to say no and follow my own path if I don’t feel good about the project"
l-r: Sonia Delaunay, Nathalie du Pasquier, Gunta Stolzl
What first steps would you suggest to someone looking to start a career in your field?
First of all, display your work wisely on platforms and try a lot – restart again and again. Try to find your own path and try not doing something everyone already does on Instagram.
It also depends on your financial resources: if you are comfortable enough, choose your projects carefully (are they meaningful for you?) and don’t throw yourself into the first unpaid proposition you have with a subject you don’t really like.
"Display your work wisely on platforms and try a lot – restart again and again."
Vintage matchbox labels
If you could master one skill you don’t have right now, what would it be?
100,000% teleportation but I think you are talking about a real skill. In this case, administrative skills!
What are your favourite spots in Paris?
I love going on walks with my sausage dog around Montmartre, having some picnics and naps at the park and going to little cafés around my place (Café Pimpin is my fave).
Would you rather be the best in the world at climbing trees or the best in the world at jumping rope?
Climbing trees for sure! I would love to see the view!
See more of Léa’s projects at https://leamaupetit.fr/