Yann Kebbi illustrates a bustling fictional museum filled with a new exhibition on every page
The Parisian illustrator talks us through his latest series, Fondation Kebbi – an imaginary museum that took him six months to create.
- Ayla Angelos
- 15 July 2020
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
Welcome to the busy imaginative land of Yann Kebbi. Named Fondation Kebbi, the illustrator has created his own fake museum, where anything goes and the freedom of his pencil allows him to showcase varying techniques – including drawing, etching, photography, mono prints, oil and wood engraving.
Born in Paris, Yann’s venture into drawing and illustration began during his studies for a “quick” semester at Parsons, New York. “I knew I wanted to draw as a kid,” he tells It’s Nice That, “but I did not specifically know where it would take me.” A keen advocate for comic books, he’s now particularly drawn to the narrative aspect of illustration. Especially for the fact that it enables an image to spread and become accessible to everyone. “Beyond that, I think it’s also a field that allows you to draw and make a living from it, and I think that influenced me to go forward.”
Yann doesn’t think of himself as an illustrator per se. This is because he sees the label as limiting, and one that puts him into a box. Instead, his main and “daily” goal is to draw: “That’s what I want to do,” he says, “it’s my way of expressing myself.” In this sense he devotes much of his time to producing different pieces and experimenting with different tools, all the while trying to evolve and change his practice along the way, depending on the medium that his works take form.
The illustrator tends to work freely, with movement and “accidents” playing big parts in his methodology. This, again, depends on the tools that he decides to use or whether there’s a specific brief, but once he commences his process it will evolve into a humorous depiction of everyday, urban life. His subjects can take form from anything, as Yann is inspired by the small moments of the everyday as well as the things he sees happening in front of him, “making fun of people and seeing them with a gentle eye.” Other times it can be “more moody” when Yann wants to evoke a personal feeling of his – achieved usually through paint or prints. “I do a lot of monoprints and it’s quite different from pencils,” he says, both stylistically and in terms of where his ideas have come from. But above all, Yann’s influences come from the “usual stuff”, like artists, drawers, painters, photos and music, or it might be a specific moment like a “street scene” or composition with an attractive light, colour of feeling.
Inspiration in tow and Yann will rise early (without an alarm clock, to note) before biking down to his studio for his second coffee of the day. Depending on where he’s at with a project, he’ll either pick up a piece or complete the final tweaks. “If it’s launched and I’m in the middle of it, I just go with the flow and draw, and it goes smoothly,” he says. “If I’m at the beginning of a project or I’ve just finished one, it’s something else; I’m kind of lost and I either do ugly stuff just to do something, or I decided to let it go and do some sketches outside.”
As for his most recent series of an imaginary museum, Yann explains how it was built on a narrative, “because you have the exhibitions (one per page) but at the same time a lot of things are happening page by page – if you care to look at all the characters,” he adds. For example, there’s a man and girl bumping into one another, “falling in love”, then having a baby and getting a divorce. There’s also a death, a super hero smashing phone devices with a hammer, a mother smoking in the face of an old man, friends, enemies and tourists. At first, the idea for this series was for it to be “interchangeable”, in a way that makes the layout of every spread seem familiar but different – the entrance and exits would be in the same spot, and the walls, balconies and ceilings would all be consistent. “But I let go of the idea for the page to change, first because I thought people would not be into it that much, and because it was forcing me to leave the centre of the drawing empty.”
Rather, Yann made sure he had all of his ideas forged and decided to focus on the content of the exhibitions – of which was created organically or through imagery he had already produced. “Then when the 20 pages were done, I went for the narrative,” he says. “Taking my time to build the faces, the stories, sometimes going fast and drawing badly or sometimes more detailed.” It took him six months in total, but he enjoyed every minute.