Illustrations  An interview with Emilie Géant, French illustrator based in New Zealand
13/12/201700:00 Emilie Géant
Illustration has long been a part of popular culture in France. While the conventional thought of the terms "illustration" and "French" might make your mind wander off to events like comic conventions and video games, we are excited to share with you our interview with Emilie Géant, an illustrator and graphic designer based in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Originally from Annecy, France, Emilie fell in love with New Zealand on one of her trips and decided to settle in the picturesque country soon after.
Emilie Géant, our guest contributor, a French illustrator and graphic designer based in Aotearoa, New Zealand

Today, she is working as an independent illustrator, sharing her love of art and New Zealand's flora and fauna in local craft markets and via her online shops. From depicting the culture of Maori to sketching moments from her daily life in New Zealand, Emilie is particularly known for her very fine illustration of New Zealand's endemic bird species.
Snapshots of her portfolio on her Instagram © Emilie Géant

Can you tell us how as a French illustrator you've found yourself in New Zealand? Where are you from in France, and did you receive your artistic training in France?
I grew up in Annecy, a lovely city along a lake surrounded by mountains. I studied art and illustration for a couple of years in Emile Cohl, a private school in Lyon, France. In 2007, my current husband and I decided to do a once in a life time travel for a year. We were both really curious about New Zealand which was not really known at that time. It was also the perfect opportunity for me to work more deeply on a travelogue about our journey.

We went back to France after a year, only to realize how deeply we were in love with Aotearoa and its people, and how much we missed the lifestyle. When my husband received a job offer in 2012, it was a no brainer, we left everything to move back here for good!

Annecy, France, under the artist's hand. © Emilie Géant

Can you briefly tell us how the subject of New Zealander "nature and fauna" is so prevalent as a subject in your work?
Coming from France, what surprises me the most in New Zealand is the predominence of Nature, even in big cities. When we first arrived, I could not believe how vividly green the landscape was and how many native birds could be found in my backyard alone in Wellington. I guess I am still amazed with so many native varieties of fauna and flora. I am also really interested in the History of the country and the Maori culture, but everything comes to nature and fauna at the end.

Regarding my current paintings of New Zealand's birds, it all started because of my 2-year-old son. Really early on, he was obsessed with birds and we could spend hours watching them in our garden. It made me realize that there were far more native species than the popular ones like the tūī or the fantail and so I dig a bit more into it. This is how this series started. I have painted 27 species now but I'm far from being done!

The fantail, one of New Zealand's endemic birds © Emilie Géant

Any favourite animal or bird native to New Zealand which you'll like to portray in your work?
My favorite birds are the smallest ones, like the Robin or the Tomtit, and I have a particular soft spot in my heart for the flightless species, like the kiwi and the takahe.

I'm also fascinated with Orcas. I've encountered them a couple of times in the water here and they are such an impressive animal, in terms of their size, their beauty and their intelligence.

France is home to so many unique species - have you ever included any of those in your work, even if you currently reside in New Zealand?
Not yet. What really tickled my curiosity and my artistic interest in France are the old buildings, the architecture that bore witness to our country’s history. This is what I am interested in at the moment, but this could change.

A work in progress of Emilie's travelogue, where she sketches, illustrates or paints from her travels. © Emilie Géant

Could you tell us what a day in the life of an illustrator is like?
Because I make my work available for purchase on prints and other accessories, my day is divided between marketing, supplier research, packaging, retailing processes and the time I set aside for my creation.

The process of creation is a long and slow road for me and my ideas usually mature with time, along my countless tries as well as artistic researches and sketching. I like to make sure I get to hold my subject, understand it and have a real feel of it before I start. I always have a million projects in my mind, but concretising them one at a time is a long journey.

I also work from home mostly. On top of my son's schedule, it means I don't have long stretch of hours at my desk at the moment, I work week-ends and evenings too! Anyhow, I feel lucky with this life balance. It’s wonderful being able to do what I love as well as being present during my son's early years.

A Kereru, part of Emilie's New Zealand endemic native bird series © Emilie Géant

What are some projects you are currently working on?
Illustrating New Zealand’s native birds is my current project. There are still so many species I need to illustrate.

Any big projects coming up? Could you briefly tell us about them?
The Alliance Francaise in Palmerston North NZ has offered me the opportunity to exhibit my work for a month in a gallery in July 2018, in parallel with Bastille Day that happens on the 14th. At the moment, I'm still at a stage of researches among my different inspirations but I can say it'll be a bit different from what I do with the birds at the moment.

Follow Emilie on Instagram or navigate to her website and online Etsy shop. We'll be featuring more of her work in the future - stay tuned!
I'm Emilie, a French artist who fell in love with New Zealand and its culture when traveling around the country 10 years ago. I've decided to settle in Aotearoa in 2012 with my husband and my half French/half Kiwi son. As a newcomer, I explore the culture and environment of New Zealand through my paintings and illustrations. I am here to share with you my experiences, work and everyday life here as an illustrator and most of all my love for this amazing country and its people!

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