Join illustrator Aurélia Durand’s “joyful parade to catch people’s attention”
Creating a series of impactful and empowering animations, Aurélia's project hopes to push forward the possibility of a more conscious world.
Thread of Inspiration is a series in partnership with Pinterest which explores how inspiration can come from unexpected places. Throughout the year we’ll be inviting a host of creatives to create amazing artworks, and sharing the intriguing stories behind how they come up with new ideas. Every other month a new creative will be introduced, tasked with creating new works inspired by the artist who came before them in the chain.
For Aurélia Durand, a French illustrator whose work is equally uplifting as it is empowering, how her contribution developed for the latest instalment of our Thread of Inspiration project is quite surprising. Taking the brief off the capable and explorative hands of Berlin-based graphic designer Louise Borinski, at first the illustrator spent time thinking about how she could shape a project off the back of one so visually different from her own.
Describing their “visual universes” as quite far apart, Aurélia spent time looking into the messages of Louise’s work, hunting for one to build her perspective from. Her first reading of the brief prompted thoughts about how she could imagine a conscious world, dreaming up ideas of something futuristic. This led her to automatically think about the climate crisis, and so the illustrator began to realise that many of the gigantic hurdles we face would maybe not be so gigantic if our “leaders made conscious and wise decisions”. As a result she recognised that this is what she truly wishes for. “Today more than ever,” Aurélia explains, “we need leaders who bring us together and want to take action for more diversity and inclusivity.”
In general, Aurélia’s work speaks this message. Impactful in its positivity, her work exudes absolute joy, while still speaking about messages close to the creative’s heart. “I create to stay positive,” she adds on this factor of her work, “and to stay positive is essential for my well being.” In turn, Aurélia’s addition to Thread of Inspiration is a series of positive works, which acts as a kind of illustrated manifesto for developing a conscious world.
In her practice outside of this project, Aurélia is a regular Pinterest user, but largely privately. While discussing how the platform can be beneficial for idea generation she simply adds: “I was waiting for this website to exist.” Mostly hiding her boards because “they’re messy and not meant to be seen by others,” throwing references down as pins is an essential part of her practice, albeit it in secret. “I could spend hours looking at visuals,” she says, then taking a few days to digest what she’s found, and nurture it into her own projects.
As a result, being able to snoop on Aurélia’s board for Thread of Inspiration is a rare treat. Kickstarting the board with a pin of Louise’s, the illustrator then delved into art movements and its figureheads. A series of greats grace her board, from Yven Klein’s performances, Picasso’s cubist work, pop art via Andy Warhol, along with street artists like Keith Haring and Banksy. This then led her to consider her contemporaries like Olimpia Zagnoli and Camila Rosa, before considering the influence of musicians like Janelle Monae, Erika Badu and Lizzo – already you begin to understand how vast her influences can be.
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Specifically, each of these artists inspired Aurélia for their message as much as their visual sensibilities. In particular, Guernica by Picasso was chosen as the artist painted “it to represent what happened in 1937 during the Civil War in Spain, and I like that this piece is relating to a historical event, so we will not forget,” she explains. The work of art group The Guerrilla Girls was additionally a key influence; it’s a collective which has “inspired me for years,” says Aurélia. “They use humour to denounce the sexism and racism in the art world. They have been working on challenging museums and galleries to display more women since the 70s. Today, it is still a challenge. We need more people like them to change the world. They make art to challenge art!”
Each of these influences confirmed Aurélia’s hunch to create a series pieces where her message would be as impactful as her aesthetic choices. In turn the series centres around a typographic artwork by Aurélia signifying the title of the series, Conscious Leaders Lead to a Conscious World, accompanied by more illustrative pieces animated by her too.
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Although each piece differs between typography and illustration, every one holds a heightened sense of vibrant colours, a process Aurélia describes as simply instinctive to the work at hand. Explaining how it’s not even really a conscious choice – “the colours decide for me” – the illustrator notes how she never limits herself to a colour palette either, instead letting the story behind the work lead the piece. Asking herself questions like, “What do I want to say with the visual?” she iterates that, for her, creative work is an act which doesn’t need justification. “I think making art is about following what you feel and your emotions; it gets personal.”
Much like her figurative works, when illustrating typography, Aurélia is never shy with her use of shape or colour. Letters are purposefully “vibrant, big, and fat,” she describes, “to express that feeling of importance.” The accompanying characters in her pieces evoke this too, purposefully illustrated to be “standing up and speaking their truth”.
Then animated by Aurélia, the characters form into what the illustrator describes as “a joyful parade to catch people’s attention”. Jumping and morphing into further shapes and characters in the blink of an eye, the short animations are ones you’ll find yourself watching again and again. It’s easy to find yourself visually astounded by her depiction of “people who are ready to take action to change the world into a positive place to live,” directly inspired by those protesting in aid of Black Lives Matter and the death of George Floyd.
Deciding to focus on this subject matter was an inherent decision by Aurélia, and in turn she describes the series as “reflecting one part of my artistic journey,” she tells us. In fact, the work almost signifies Aurélia coming full circle, explaining that she began to share her works online as she felt there were not enough Black artists represented, and “I feel it is crucial that people understand why I started to draw,” she says. “Our stories are told by white people and that is not normal. I think I am the one who can better tell my own stories. I had to take action and start my own thing.”
In turn, Aurélia’s illustrated protest is a signifier “to people to say I am here, and my story matters,” the illustrator continues. Also noting that this work is a time stamp of where she is today, it’s a series she hopes she can look at in ten years and understand further. “I do not have the distance to say what I am really doing now,” she adds thoughtfully.
Now handing over Thread of Inspiration to our last (!) contributor of the year-long project, Aurélia hopes that whoever picks up the reigns is able to see something of themselves in the work. Possibly, they'll relate to elements “like the colours, patterns or figures,” but she understands it’s dependent on what creative world they come from.
However, with such a powerful message threaded through her series, we hope the next artist picks up an equally empowering approach. As Aurélia so poignantly concludes, “Art can change the world; images have more impact than words.”
About the Author
Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.