Illustrator Catherine Lepage lives in Montréal. She was born in Québec City where she studied graphic design and worked for several years as an art director for an advertising agency. She studied illustration at École Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Strasbourg, France, and in 2011 she co-founded the creative design studio Ping Pong Ping with her partner and husband Simon Rivest. This allows her to do everything she likes: graphic design, commissioned illustrations and personal projects like graphic novels and children’s books.
A Unique Vision
How did you get started in the illustration field? After studying illustration in Strasbourg, I started to do commissions for a small local magazine. This allowed me to put up a portfolio, build a website, buy a page in a sourcebook and so on!
What personal experiences or circumstances have most influenced your work or style? I started my career as a graphic designer for an ad agency. It gave me strong experience in working quickly, brainstorming good ideas and communicating in a simple and efficient way. I think you can see the influence of my advertising background in my work, mostly when I do editorial illustrations on a tight deadline—which is what I like best.
What is the strangest assignment you’ve ever received? It’s hard to tell... They vary so much. Many assignments take me out of my comfort zone and I need to do some research to understand the topics. But that’s also what’s great about assignments: they teach me things I don’t know.
What would be your dream assignment? I’m not a long distance runner; I’m a sprinter. So editorial is my favorite zone. I would love to collaborate with an international newspaper or magazine. Or make posters for great indie bands. My dreams are not that big, are they?
What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator? I would probably sell coconuts on a beach somewhere hot and sunny.
What has been inspiring you lately? I think inspiration comes from everyday experiences. Just walking or biking around Montréal is a great source of inspiration. Here in Québec, we have four very different seasons, so everything changes all the time—nature, light—and that alone is quite inspiring. I also love to take some time off to travel. It gives an incredible creative boost to see other places.
What is your biggest challenge as an illustrator? To learn to say no when an assignment is not right for me, when I don’t feel it. Because when I don’t have fun working, the result is not great!
What’s your favorite quote? “Everything has been done before, except by you.” It’s a free translation, I don’t know if it makes sense in English. Basically it tells me to stay focused on my personal way of seeing things, which is unique, and translate that into images. It helps me to stay motivated.
Which illustrator/s do you most admire and why? To be honest, I try to avoid looking at other people’s work, because I always end up discouraged by seeing so many great artists. There are so many talented illustrators.
What excites you about the illustration field right now? One simple image can go a long way, travel all around the world and be seen by thousands of people. Isn’t that great?
Where do you think the field of illustration is going? I really don’t know. We’ve feared the disappearance of printed magazines and newspapers for many years. But somehow I think there will always be a place for illustration. A good thing is that illustrators are more accepted as “real” artists now, not just commercial drawing machines with no souls.
What other profit centers could illustrators explore besides commissioned work? Self-initiated projects such as books, short films, objects, exhibitions in galleries, etc.
Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Develop a personal style and stay focused on what you do best.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? That everything is possible when you work hard.