French illustrator Lili Des Bellons states European but also Japanese and Chinese medieval iconography as an inspiration for her playful, slightly weird, but accomplished work. With a client list including Nike and The New Yorker, Lili’s personal projects also make up a large portion of her practice. In a recent project titled Chimera, Lili’s medieval inspirations are made clear with a series of part-humanistic, part-animalistic creatures.
Having studied animation during her time at Supinfocom University, Lili became a graphic designer in several agencies after graduating. During her evenings (and often at night), she began working on illustrations, publishing her side projects on social media. “After six months, I started to receive some contracts, although often poorly paid ones,” she tells It’s Nice That. However, these smaller projects helped her build up a portfolio and she now works full-time as a freelance illustrator.
As anyone who combines client work and side projects will understand, it’s when working on personal projects that Lili gets to explore her true interests, describing them as a reverie. “I like working with animality and monstrosity but in a naive style,” she explains. It’s the exploration of this exact combination that sparked her series Chimera. Depicting breathing fire or with intimidatingly long talons, each character is humanised, whether its through their surprised expression or friendly stance.
In Greek mythology, a Chimera is “a monstrous, fire-breathing hybrid creature, composed of the parts of more than one animal.” Borrowing elements from the fantastical scenes native to the rest of her work, Lili set about creating her own Chimeras, turning them into tarot-like cards. Although presenting a definite stylistic departure from her other work, there is a familiarity to the characters in Chimera. With their hodge-podge bodies, they inhabit the same strangeness and sense of fear that can be found in her portfolio. “I try to explore different ways of displaying my work but the impressions are often the same,” she describes.
In order to create such a convincing set of creatures, Lili explored how they exist far beyond their still images. “I tried to create, for each of the characters a universe with a past, a way to move and speak,” she explains. “Finally, I tried to breathe life into these monsters, my dream would be to turn them into large sculptures.”
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