Léo Maximus is a French artist based in Paris, France. He started drawing alone, “looking at beautiful illustration books.” Then, later on, he studied graphic design and illustration in Paris. At the end of these amazing years during which Maximus gained a solid base, as he wanted to deepen his knowledge of visual expression, Léo pursued his studies in a fashion school. Léo’s technic is incredible and we felt in love with the nature of his subjects.
KALTBLUT: Did you study illustration or do you consider yourself an autodidact? Léo: As an illustrator, you find out very early if are gifted or not. Therefore, drawing is something I started naturally. I started alone, looking at beautiful illustration books. And then when you start studying art, you go back to studying the basics, the technics. You discover the power of the image, its meaning, its history. But it’s actually by practicing nonstop that you train your eye. You need to gain a huge cultural visual background to create your style. This part is the longest but also the more fruitful. This specific learning never ends. But when you go somewhere, where arriving isn’t important, it’s the journey that counts.
KALTBLUT: The technic of your illustration is really impressive, could you explain the process you use? Léo: It all depends of the subject. When I have an order, I start by researching what has been done in the past and I keep what I like the most. It’s a personal work, in the end. I just listen to my inner voice to know what direction I should take. I let my hand go free. I’m never sure where a certain work will lead me. I just let it go. In short, I express envies or needs but I’m sometimes very surprised about the result!
KALTBLUT: Your style evolved a lot in the recent years. What are the things that used to inspire you more compared to now? Léo: My universe has always been illustration. Mangas and cartoons inspired me a lot. I loved bright colors. It had to be fizzy and flashy! As of now, maybe because I grew up, I’m not so much into illustration anymore and my colors are softer. My messages are more intellectual, I think more in terms of concept. I try to bring some nobleness to my work. Maybe what grown-ups would call maturity…
KALTBLUT: Why are you using a circular format for your illustrations? Léo: Nothing is more boring than rectangular format! That’s why I used a square format for a very long time. And from square to circular there is just one step. I discovered that it was easier to equilibrate your composition inside a circle, everything feels easier, sleeker and it gives you a new array of possibilities. The circle also gives an idea of infinity, of flotation and focus. This format is fitting really well the Purgatoire series. The circle format also answers to a tradition from the antiquity, it was very popular during the Italian Renaissance. We used to call it Tondo (or Tondi in its plural form). It was used to represent religious sceneries and the circle format was symbolizing perfection.
KALTBLUT: How much time do you spend on each image? Léo: It really depends! If I feel very inspired it can be very fast! But if not, it can take some days!
KALTBLUT: Do you use photos or real models? Léo: I use photos that I receive or that I take my self. I reinterpret them very freely. When I draw them I always change the light, the composition of the bodies, the facial expressions, the colors etc. I love saying that I reshape reality.
KALTBLUT: What inspires you in general? Léo: I am a visual bulimic! I eat images like others would eat candies. Everything inspired me. Advertisement, movies, children books, everything is an inspiration. Although I have to admit, I have a sweet tooth for the documentation of the 1900s to the 1950s.