Samuel Bas is an illustrator of all things miniature. His detailed drawings often hone in on populations of tiny, cartoon-like figures and the ways in which they inhabit their fantastical worlds. After enrolling in Ivry-sur-Seine to join the EPSAA (Ecole Professionelle D’Arts Graphiques), Samuel took a job as an illustrator for a colouring books company. “It was an interesting experience but very frustrating for me,” Samuel tells It’s Nice That. “I invested a lot of energy into drawings where my name didn’t appear anywhere. I felt like I became a ghost illustrator or a drawing machine with the name of the company on my forehead. It was very unpleasant! I became allergic to colouring papers and I finally quit this job swearing never to draw under someone else’s name again.”
Childhood is a central theme in Samuel’s work – the way he creates shapes, characters and objects is directly informed by his youth. “Childhood is very important in my work. But this doesn’t mean that I think my images as images ‘for children’, even if I’m happy when kids like them,” he says. “My images would be more accurately described as glimpse into my adult anxieties through my childhood fantasies. They might even be considered as a nostalgic return to a missing childhood.” Samuel’s illustrations are both festive and disturbing — the vibrant colours are often undermined by the sinister scenario within which they exist. For Samuel, this tension is crucial. It prompts the viewer to reconsider what they’re looking at and to question the drawings they are confronted with.
Samuel’s influences are many too. From plastic horses and super heroes to Playmobils and wooden construction toys, the illustrator looks to what he knows well for inspiration. By turning to his childhood toys for ideas, Samuel brings to life his characters and their stories through vibrant visuals. “Apart from my toys, I’m inspired by many animated films from the 1930s, such as Betty Boop, Silly Symphonies or Flip the Frog,” Samuel says. “I love the aesthetics of these cartoons; their strangeness, the way everything comes to life and starts moving. They are for me a perfect mix between something childish and something completely crazy and disturbing.” Other references include Oskar Schlemmer costumes, Francois Desprez’s monsters, Patrick Smith’s video games and drawings by Henry Darger.
Samuel’s recent portfolio of work includes two books: Festin and Ruines. Festin, which is currently still a work in progress, is about a group of sad boys who look for various mystical ingredients in order to put together an extravagant meal. “I wanted to create a set of illustrations that are at once contemplative, elegant and violent, inspired by mythological and esoteric images. This project is important for me because it is the realisation of the different aesthetic research that I lead for several years,” the illustrator says.
Ruines, which is a collaborative project with Joachim Galerne set to be published in 2021 by Éditions 2024, tells the story of a fictional city through two temporalities by collapsing the distinction between past and present. Samuel says that “in order to build a graphic bridge between two worlds, we drew inspiration from traditional cartoon techniques where the spaces are painted on paper and the characters drawing on rhodoïd.”
When asked about the future, Samuel says he is eager to build on his existing body of work while experimenting with both subject and style. “I have several projects in mind for the future. For a while, I would like to work on an animated short film project that I have started about a collection of tunnels that is shaped by the thing that will come out of it. I also have several book ideas: a book about the inside of an apple, another on a short pants contest and a last one about a knight who sweats a lot.”