WE Q+A: Sandrine Pagnoux


Artwork Sandrine Pagnoux
Photography Sophie Etchart 

When did you first begin creating works of art?
As a child, I felt that I needed a world of my own, to transport me out of the real world and out of the banality of everyday existence. I was a very shy and introverted child and I felt that I had to find a way to express myself in an other way than speech.

My first aspiration was to compose music and play guitar but I have absolutely no talent for it. So I started to spend a lot of time drawing and making handmade collages, placing all my feelings into these works.

I was also always very interested by fashion and photography. So, when I arrived in Paris at the age of 23, I started trying doing portraits and fashion photography but I soon realized it wasn’t my true passion. Professional photography was not a medium that suited me. The photograph is too dependent on too many people and I couldn’t express the visions in my head. It was frustrating. So I decided to put my efforts into what I did since I was teenager; using photographs with handcrafted elements like handwriting, paintings and drawings.

Now I know it was the right choice because I can express myself much better through my illustrations and drawings than in any other way. Illustration allows me to create new meaning and translate photographs into my own personal expression.

So after studying basic techniques in a graphic school and working intensively during a year on my own in self-taught, I’ve submitted my portfolio to magazines and advertising agencies and I started to get my first contracts in 2006. I also met a representative agent (Marie et Nous) who helped me to express my work better.

Did you study art anywhere?
I studied visual arts in a graphic school in Paris. I needed the aid of computer technology to create the digital collages I had in mind. So it was a must to gather the techniques that I did. But I quickly stopped attending the school after a few months, because I was afraid that learning too much could hinder my creativity, make me less spontaneous, and I’d never want to lose that. It’s very important for me to keep something really immediate and intuitive in my work. So I spent a lot of time working for myself, in a very personal way, searching my own techniques, using software’s in my own way. Photoshop and I having a very special relationship, we’re very close and very human. We’ve gotten to know each other well over time.

What medium do you prefer using?
My favorite medium is paper. I love the textures, the smell of ink. This is why I hope print magazines don’t disappear. I like to touch of them, to cut them, to tear them. I also love create visuals for clothing. One of my dreams would be to develop my own independent t-shirt brand.

Has your style evolved since then?
My style has evolved over the years but I think the basis, built during my childhood and my teenage years, remains the same. This entire imaginary world that I built myself, through dreams, they’ve stood for so long that they have become indestructible, unchangeable.

But my style has had to evolve with the world that changes around me, my inspirations changes, everything is moving, and my work is the reflection of who I am, of what I feel. I am constantly searching to explore different ways and techniques. Each commercial project pushes me in new directions and allows me to work on very diverse pieces.

What does your process of creating involve?
My process of creating depends on the project but I have always an image in my head first (it can be based on the brief when it’s commercial work), then I work until I have the global composition. I begin to refine the elements and colors. Then I collect everything I am able to find, and create the traditional handmade elements that I need. I work using Photoshop, transferring the images onto there to build my illustration adding elements, touch by  touch, following my imaginative flow. I can spend a large amount of time to find the correct balance of elements or colour. I tried different angle. I add details and tone to the drawing until I feel that the image is completely balanced for my taste.

People and the human body seem to reoccur in your work, what do they represent?
Yes. People are essential in my work. When my work is based on photography I let the face dictate what happens. Faces, eyes and bodies obsess me.

People are the symbols of life. In my work they can appear fragile and vulnerable but I always try to show the force, which emerges from them. I just want to show people in their most vulnerable, powerful and magical state, to convey emotion. I love playing with their beauty.

Your work has a style that is reminiscent of Jean Michel Basquiat, has he influenced you in any way?
Oh. I love the work of Jean Michel Basquiat and yes, he is one of the artists who molded my perception of art. He probably influenced me a little, by his raw powerful style and his huge energy. This is what I try to transmit: a raw energy.

I love to use textured background and I often use multi-layered images with a lot of little details (including text, images, spontaneous drawings, symbols,) to build my illustrations.

But otherwise, I think what I express through my work is very different. My work is much less political, much more based on fashion. I havent lived in New York during the 70s /80s . I think thats a big difference.

My others influences are mostly expressionist paintings, and I love artists like Egon Schiele, my favorite painter. But I always leave the door open for new influences, usually they come from pop culture and stretch as far as classical art, to allow my self to be enriched. I like to spent my free time in bookstores learning more about painters and artists I’ve heard about. I read also a lot of arts, music and fashion magazines and I think, subconsciously, my works are filled with lots of very different influences.

Has your journey in life deeply influenced your creations?
My entire life has deeply influenced my creations. My work can’t be dissociated from my life. My artworks are the reflections of my mood. I find inspiration everywhere. So everything that is happening around me and in the world influences my creation. But what influences me most is the music I listen, they transports me into different worlds and emotions.

The colour palette you use is vast and flat, what does colour mean to you?
I think colors are the mirror of our moods. So I use different colors depending on my state of mind. I don’t’ forbid any color but I often have phases: pink, yellow, bright colors, or vintage shades, The use of colors just depends on how I feel and where I need to go. For the background, I use a lot either black or white or brown colors.

What does the colour black specifically mean to you and your works?
Black is essential for me. It’s in the dark that light is the most magicalFor me the dark is not scary, it’s even reassuring. Black color represents the night and then the fantasy, the dreams, the desires. A suspended time where anything is possible, where all is stronger, more intimate, more authentic. Night doesn’t lie. I like to wander the night to discover mysterious forms.

I have a stronger feel for black and white images. I like to play with shadows and contrasts to show the dark side and a lighter side of the world, the tragedy, the beauty, the violence and the magic of people.

Published in Issue 37 – Black

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