Pol-Edouard Flores illustrates retro characters and games with his spontaneous approach to drawing
With a touching journey that recounts his struggle with mental health and developing his style while hospitalised, the France-based illustrator now talks about his arrival at a more colourful oeuvre and life.
- Yaya Azariah Clarke
- 19 September 2023
In a sea of high top fades, cyborgs, laser blasters, and action and sci-fi film references, France-based illustrator Pol-Edouard Flores puts the 80s in our faces. Using screen printing methods, acrylic paint on canvas, as well as pens and airbrush on paper, he adds a colourful burst to retro games, film franchise icons and universes-at-large. Grace Jones becomes Blade Girl and Mr T turns T-Rex, as he stretches the world of sci-fi with a retro but futuristic quality – leaving us to wonder what the genre would be if these larger-than-life actors took on such characters. Originally inspired by the Renaissance masters, and building the foundations of his drawing skills from their artworks, he has now combined his learnings with a raw approach to drawing and storytelling. “I try to not get stuck in following only one road, I believe in trying new things,” he tells us.
Born in Paris and moving around to a number of cities, Pol-Edouard came to his style during his time spent sectioned in a London mental health ward in 2015. “No computer, no phone, so I had all the time to read and learn perspective. I started drawing cyborgs in a sort of automatic way, without sketching and without any idea of what the final results would be,” he tells us. During the 18 months spent in hospital his friend and screen printer Tristan Pernet began printing his drawings for a cyborg zine he was creating at the time. “I started with only three colours – cyan, magenta and yellow. And, after mixing them I had a palette of seven colours, blue and yellow make green, magenta and yellow make red and with all three colours mixed, you have a dark brown. I was trying to focus on the lighting on the bodies and the face, to give that feeling you get from 80s movies,” he adds. After finishing the drawings, he then traced all of the colours onto every layer, getting them ready for screen printing, and the process has followed him throughout his practice years later.
Learning not to become dependent on sketching or outlines, Pol-Edouard embraces mistakes as a key part of the process. “When I was younger, I found that the best sketches were the ones I did spontaneously, and whenever I tried to copy it for a larger drawing or painting, I lost all the energy I had in the initial one.” He adds: “It’s the best feeling – accepting the marks you’ve made instead of starting over.” In his earliest “automatic drawing,” Cyborg (with the axe), the colours take on a particular pattern that highlights the character’s form, because of their contrast. “To this day, it is my favourite because it acts as a reminder of the time I spent in the hospital, not only being locked up to recover my mental health, but a time of great creativity that has become useful for my new life after all those troubles.”
Ultimately, Pol-Edouard’s oeuvre honours all things retro, but he is not living in the past, as his techniques bring them into the present and elevates our perspective for the future. With a new print zine coming alongside an exhibition in Marseille, that is but two things that have brought the illustrator full circle, as he tells us: “I am working with patients in a psychiatric hospital right now, helping them with drawing techniques to hopefully make their stay easier.”
Pol-Edouard: Bladegirl (Copyright © Pol-Edouard, 2023)
About the Author
Yaya (they/them) is an editorial assistant at It's Nice That, with a particular interest in Black visual culture. They have previously written for publications such as WePresent, and worked as researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.