Whether you find them funny or scary, or both, Amandine Urruty’s graphite drawings will stick with you. The young Paris-based artist draws fantastical creatures in faux-idyllic landscapes. Her drawings resemble old family portraits haunted by a child’s overactive imagination. But the power of these images is a natural outcome of the artist’s skillful hand. Every scene is balanced perfectly like a group of set designers was at meticulous work. Mesmerized and impressed, our own Malka Gouzer spoke to Urruty about the process and ideas behind her haunted masterpieces, her experiments in color, her incredible murals, and opposing interpretations of her work.
I grew up in the Southwest of France near Toulouse in a village of 25,000 people and it was awfully boring. Drawing was my escape from the boredom. I wanted to be a painter or a cartoonist, but it never seemed like I could make a living from that. So I studied to be a teacher instead. After my PhD, I started singing in a bossanova group, and fortune had it I was asked to draw the promotional posters. This earned me my first illustration gigs and exhibitions, and I decided to follow my passion full-time. It was financially disastrous at first, but I was happy, finally.
The choice of black and white was instinctive. My first solo show was in black and white. People suggested I use color, so I tried it, but eventually I switched back to black and white. Now I don’t want to do anything else.
I need to be alone and locked in my room when I work. I draw in bed. I like to listen to documentaries, podcasts or police TV shows, without looking at the screen. To recharge, I take long walks around Paris, just taking in the city and its stimulating energy.
The murals are a lot more work because you have to actually paint them. I much prefer drawing, even in a very large format. What I love about the murals is how it transforms public space and puts you in touch with people from outside the art world. I appreciate that contact very much.
I can live off my drawings now. This wasn’t the case for the first seven years of my career. Back then, I would spend 12 hours a day making art, producing ever-larger drawings. In 10 years, I have drawn over 300 of them.
I start every drawing with a concrete plan in mind, but the details change. I use photographic references. I make large drawings and often, in the end, I realize that they are not full enough so I add more characters.
People often ask about the special meaning of my drawings, but there is none. They are inspired by everyday life and stories from my childhood. Specifically the aesthetic of old photographs from my childhood inspires me.
People are either attracted or repulsed to my drawings, sometimes both. These are worlds that can amuse you or scare you. The scary aspect is an homage to my father and his great passion for horror movies.
What is my favorite color? People ask me this all the time. It’s black. [Laughs.]
To see more of Amandine Urruty’s work, visit her website.
Translated from French by Anne Bertrand.