“I spent a lot of time in confinement working on new styles and directions for my work,” says Marcel. “Previously, I had painted many watercolors with a sense of realism. With my new work, I wanted to try something a little more character-driven, with a more impactful look. I wanted to try to surprise myself and see if I could add a new dimension to my existing portfolio.”
We chatted with Marcel about how he developed his distinctive style and dealt with Instagram’s confinement and influence.
Your hand-cut watercolor illustrations are beautiful! What is it in these techniques that you like so much?
I have been drawn to watercolor ever since I first tried it in school. I like the delicacy and the lightness of the medium and its feeling of fragility. I also like the fact that there is only one attempt, and if it goes wrong, you have to start over. This means that it takes all your concentration and you can forget about everything else apart from painting.
With my hand-cut illustrations, I wanted to find a style where I could express more cartoonish scenarios, which watercolors didn’t seem quite suited for. I felt the colors needed to be bolder and the shapes more blocky. They seem to have a stronger, more cheeky appearance, which is a nice change from my watercolors.
I cut the shapes out of a single sheet of paper and then colored them digitally. I always try to retain a bit of artisanal quality in my work because I think it can make it more human and connect with our emotions.
What have you been working on lately?
I made a board game called “Endangered Animals Bingo” where I worked with Laurence King Publishing and WWF. I had to illustrate 64 endangered species. It’s fascinating to learn more about animals you’ve never heard of before, and also sad to think that it’s mostly human behavior that is making them nearly extinct.
How have you found the pandemic over the past two years?
I found it difficult, as I like to people watch and walk around, to fill myself with ideas and inspiration. So when there wasn’t a lot of life around and it was all dimmed, it sometimes left me feeling a little flat. I tried to take the time to experiment a little more with my work, and there are a few other stylistic approaches that I put on my site. Right now, I’m just feeling a bit more positive, as the world seems to be getting back to normal, to some degree.
You graduated in 2010 – how has your work evolved during this time?
When I graduated, my portfolio consisted entirely of etchings of decrepit interiors that I had made at the University of Brighton. It took me a few years to really think about what kind of portfolio I could do, to satisfy my creative side and my expression, but also to get commercial work. I started working in watercolors and realized I could bring a creative angle and personal tone to any subject. Recently, I worked on the cut-out illustrations because I wanted to work from my head, without photographic references.
And how has freelancing changed?
The emergence of Instagram has changed things a lot for freelancers. It made us all aware of the huge amount of great work and great illustrators out there. So it can be very off-putting and intimidating at times. But then I think it made it easier to connect with potential clients and get your work seen.
What helped you get your name known?
Sometimes it worked to approach individuals in a more personal way, rather than posting general promotional material. My advice to others is: don’t look too much at other artists and illustrators on Instagram. Try to excite yourself with your own work first.