Rémy Mattei applies emotions and feelings to his addictively busy illustrations

In the Leon-based illustrator's portfolio, expressive characters take centre stage. Here, he talks us through his alluring practice and why we should all be talking more about our feelings.

Drooling dogs, extra-long fingernails, bizarre characters and pastel hues collide in the work of Rémy Mattei. In his illustrated worlds, everything's a bit strange and slightly chaotic. "My creative process is messy and takes a long time to come to fruition," he explains.

Normally, the French illustrator will have countless unfinished works on the go, numerous "lost works", and some that he's never shown to anyone. "I usually come up with an idea and try to find a way to achieve a piece having a blast from start to finish,' he continues. If he reaches a hurdle – a creative block, for instance – he'll leave it untended for a while and begin to work on another. This usually does the trick, and he tends to return refreshed, reworking the piece with a "natural and thrilling flow".

Of how he got to where he is today, Rémy moved to Leon around 13 years ago to study drawing and was introduced to some people with whom he created Mauvaise Foi, a collective that's been creating comics since 2012. They've won awards for their project entitled Laurence 666, which Rémy describes as a collective comic book where 20 to 30 artists "share the creation of a story". Since this pivotal moment, the illustrator has been screen printing and teaching graphic software, all the while building on his freelance practice and experimenting with colour, texture and techniques on his more personal projects.

When devising the ideas behind his addictively strange works, Rémy will draw inspiration from the more hands-on experiences like playing video games or reading a book. "It really depends on my mood," he shares, citing the little details as the ones that make him want to draw. "In the end, it won't have anything to do with the words or the scene that inspired me, but it will have given me the necessary creative impulse."

Elsewhere, it's the moments from daily life that gets his cogs turning creatively – "things I hear in a bar," for instance. "But most of the time, I would say that I let myself be carried away by drawing things, mostly characters, until I clock on a scene that I would like to see refined." With this in mind, it's clear to see how his expressive characters tend to become the focal point to his creations, for they are his "main motivation", after all. "I want to give them personality, originality; I try to make them live as well as possible by dressing the composition with a decor that corresponds to the mood I gave them."

It comes to fruition in a piece named Talking About Migraine Birds. Having suffered from migraines since he was a teenager, Rémy wanted to transfer his experiences into a piece. "The birds in the background are a reference to the novel The Dark Half by Stephen King in which swarms of birds rise up when the protagonist is experiencing huge migraines," he says. "I read this novel a bit by chance in the period when I was beginning to experience these headaches accompanied by vision problems, and the analogy had touched me a lot. So much so that I still think about it." Deceptively, then, there's much more than meets the eye here; underneath the odd and busy surface to Rémy's works, there's usually a more personal story hidden within.

Rémy's main goal – besides creating visually captivating illustrations – is to talk about his feelings and show melancholy in his artworks. He wants to promote the message that it's ok to express your emotions. "And that maybe," he adds, "we can even make it a strength to move forward. In any case, that's what I tell myself, and if people find themselves there too, then I'm happy."


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