22 May 2017

Modern romance in Paris, illustrations about love and queer identity from artist Sarah Maxwell

Le heartbreak.

[S]arah Maxwell is an illustrator currently based in Paris having arrived from her hometown of Austin a few years ago. Her tender but powerful illustrations are modern representation of romance: lying in bed daydreaming, lusting for a body that’s not there and regretting everything that you’ve done. Her pastel comic-strips and graphic interpretations are derived from her habituation of Paris, breaking into new art worlds and exploring and affirming her queer identity in a new city.

We’re obsessed with her drawings so we caught up with Sarah to see what’s inspiring her. Follow her on Instagram @sarahmaxwellart and check out her website here.

Hi Sarah! Your illustrations seem based in romance - the good and the bad parts - could you tell us a bit about your inspiration ?

When I was going to art school, I would feel quite frustrated with my work. I felt like I had a hard time finding my voice, and it wasn’t until a teacher of mine told me to get personal that I saw improvement. I’m pretty private with my personal life, and it’s hard for me to articulate my feelings; I’ve never been good with words. Through my art it felt like I was able to fully express the emotions I felt at the time, and most of the subject matter is obviously love and relationships. I tend to hold a lot in, and art has always given me an outlet to relax and work through emotional periods. But it has sometimes been a bit funny and strange to really have my personal thoughts and feelings out there for everyone to see.

A big part of my inspiration is talking openly about being a lesbian, normalising it in a way – because there really isn’t much representation, and I think it’s important. I really appreciate and love the queer artists that are paving the way to make it more accepted, and I’ve always been hoping to be a part of that. I’ve gotten so many people that say they appreciate my art because they can relate to what they see there, and it’s wonderful to hear that I can provide even a small voice to this community. 

Tell us about a graphic illustration you admire? Be it a film poster, comic etc

Anything by the Broken Fingaz crew. I feel like I could talk about a million different illustrations/artists, but I really am a huge fan of their work. It’s super funky, really fun and the colours are amazing. Their work is quite eye-catching for me and I really like the use of comic panels in some of their pieces. 

How would you describe working as an illustrator in Paris? Blossoming creative scene or not really? Tell us about good parts/bad parts of being an artist in that city?

Hmm. I think it depends. For me being international, I think I’ve had a difficult time breaking into the French scene because I started from scratch moving here, having to work independently and count on my pieces to get noticed in Europe. Most of the time it’s all about connections, but I think people in many professions face that challenge right now. For the most part, I think there are some particular styles that are popular at the moment here in Paris, and I’ve found that sometimes I don’t really fit into it. I have a lot of different interests and quite a few paths I could take with my art, but a lot of the time I feel it is best to be very specific in your portfolio, stick to one style. That is where I get most frustrated because my interests are spread out, and my style and content are quite separate from other traditional artists.

I graduated from school not long ago, and it wasn’t until recently that I started to feel more confident in my own voice and my work. I’ve been fortunate to meet more people in Paris interested in my art and have been gaining a steady following since then, so I feel it just takes time. It’s required a lot of patience, but I feel my work will speak for itself and reach a wider audience while I am still developing my own connections to the French illustration scene. A great thing about living in Paris is that it got me to where I am today as an artist, and I feel it has helped me to access a more international platform. In addition, all of the stylistic elements I have come into contact with here have really enriched my work – Paris has opened me up to unique perspectives on fashion, graphic design, European illustration, and more. 

What are your favourite accounts to follow on Instagram?

Ahh, that’s quite hard to answer – I have a lot that I quite like ranging from other illustrators, to models, to magazines. Most of the people I follow are tattoo artists – like Mirkosata (have been obsessing over his snakes for years), oozy_tattoo, and tanya_dsm just to name a few. At the moment, I am currently obsessing over Ruby Wolfe – I love her designs, and her style is so pleasing. It’s a bit of darkness and romance. I’m currently trying to save up to get into tattooing myself, and I’d love to get that same vibe, same treatment of linework. Besides tattoo artists, I love looking at Samuel Burgess Johnson’s instagram. His colours and delicacy in his work are breathtaking. 

Can we buy your prints anywhere?

Yes ! For now you can find them at society6.com/sarahmaxwellart

Sweet, thank you Sarah!