“Everyday things, observed or heard” are the inspiration behind Sarah Fabre’s naive yet charming illustrations

The Parisian illustrator currently based in Brussels tells us about her multi-layered process – one that involves an abundance of screen grabs and pictures taken in PhotoBooth.

21 May 2020
Reading Time
3 minute read

Sarah Fabre’s illustrations have some kind of timeless longevity to them. A style that could have easily been developed yesterday or 20 years ago, her simple line drawing technique and less-than-garish colour palette emanate a classic feel – which for the most part make her jokes just that little bit funnier.

Office life and daily antics take centre stage, while big yellow hair-dos, computer pornography, shopping bags, naked window gazing, achey backs, and pesky cats are the subjects that bring her scenes to life. The thing is, we’re all probably looking at her illustrations and thinking there’s something all-too familiar about them. “My inspiration comes mostly from pictures I find on the internet,” the Brussels-based illustrator tells It’s Nice That. “I cultivate a big database of these on my computer, pictures that come from Google but mostly from movies that I watch in the evening.” A process that involves endless screen grabs – especially when she finds characters that have “interesting postures and positions” – Sarah admits that she has a slight obsession for people talking on the phone, a recent focus in her work.

Currently working from home in her room, Sarah spends her first moments trawling through her screenshots to see if there’s anything that she can work with – if not, she simply continues to scour the internet and stores her findings under file names like “people from behind”, “on the phone” or “in a car”. Once inspiration strikes, though, that’s when she starts her drawing process. “I mix up a lot of images,” she says. “If I want to draw someone in a street, for example, I’ll look for a picture of a street on Google, change up a few things in the setting, or take from elsewhere to create the composition I want.” Utilising a fountain pen and colours derived from an alcohol-based pen on Photoshop, her character positions are then secured by using PhotoBooth on her laptop – a place where she currently holds “loads” of pictures of herself in various poses, “looking miserable in my PJs”.

GallerySarah Fabre

A collage-like and multi-layered technique, it comes as no surprise to hear that Sarah had decided to go to art school at a young age, attending applied arts school in Paris. Knowing that she wanted to become an illustrator, she continued her studies and pursued a degree in multimedia graphics, after which she moved to Brussels to study video and later gained a masters degree in Illustration and Strip Comics. “The circle was complete,” she says. “I think these various studies allowed me to have a lot more ease in my page composition and the overall editing of my comic strip production. I started drawing late, so basic notions of proportions or perspective were not my strong point; I try to play around them and take advantage of the lack of technique.”

Funnily enough, it’s this supposed “lack of technique” that gives her work a dose of naivety and charm. Take her current piece as an example. “While I was looking for something in my closet, I fell upon an old pencil drawing of a guy lying down,” says Sarah. “I picked it up the wrong way and I thought that standing up with his arm in an L shape looked silly. I wondered what he could be looking at on the floor in that position, and thought of a dandelion.” By placing this odd character alone in a “bizarre street”, Sarah explains how it’s an element that she finds satisfying, solidifying her natural pull towards disproportionate framing and warping character design.

Let’s not cover up the fact that Sarah’s works might have brought a slight grin to your face. And if they did, then this will be one satisfied illustrator. “I just want people to smile when they look at my drawings,” she says. “I often try to go from a little thing – everyday things, observed or heard – and extrapolate a bit to make it a half-funny half-poetic illustration, while including a point of view. Maybe it’s a naive way of looking at things, but I hope people can relate to them.”

GallerySarah Fabre

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and continued to work with us on a freelance basis. In November 2019 she joined the team again, working with us as a Staff Writer on Mondays and Tuesdays. She's contactable on aa@itsnicethat.com.

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