Established. 2010

In-depth interviews with the world's leading creatives


Established. 2010

In-depth interviews with the world's leading creatives

FEATURE INTERVIEW #29 from December 2014

Still on the run



A master of visual perfection who always embarks on many incredible creative journeys. Takeshi brings a real distinction to his work with impeccable skills and craft. Constantly on the mission to push himself forward as an artist, read on to find out about his new life in New York, opinions on social media and new technologies.
Takeshi is a New York based illustrator and artist from Saint Etienne, France. Takeshi's illustrative work is renowned for its surreal feel, the quality of its photomontages as well as the light treatments and colourful compositions. His work has been featured in numerous prestigious publications around the world. Takeshi is also a regular contributor to the international digital illustration magazines Computer Arts and Advanced Photoshop. More info / @takeshiwan
Takeshi is a New York based illustrator and artist from Saint Etienne, France. Takeshi's illustrative work is renowned for its surreal feel, the quality of its photomontages as well as the light treatments and colourful compositions. His work has been featured in numerous prestigious publications around the world. Takeshi is also a regular contributor to the international digital illustration magazines Computer Arts and Advanced Photoshop. More info / @takeshiwan

What has prompted your move to New York?

I believe at the time I did, I felt like i was done with the life I had led so far back home. I was looking for something new and exciting, both personally and creatively. 

How does it compare to your original hometown Saint Etienne in France?

New York is a fast paced, modern place that make you feel like you at the center of something vibrant. Everything is growing and changing constantly. It doesn’t really compare with my hometown. I come from an old industrial city, struggling with unemployment and depresseion. There is close to no creative scene there, no energy and the prospects for a healthy future are quite limited there. 

They say ‘the best stuff will always find its way to New York’. How present is other creative talent in New York? 

There is talent everywhere here, I cannot deny that. I guess there is such a concentration of companies in the creative business, that somehow a lot of people who reach the top of their professional field will end up here, at least for a period of time. Also I feel like it is such a challenging city to live in, especially financially, that the ones who survive here somehow have to be the best at what they do.
emeric trahand takeshiemeric trahand takeshi

When you need to recharge creatively, where do you go?!

I got a couple secret spots in the city where I find refuge over the weekend sometimes… secluded places far from the touristic paths and busy areas. I have friends in Washington DC too where my wife comes from, and I try to take trips down there on a regular basis. I find the pace of life much slower and serene there. It helps. 

Your work never followed any particular fads or trends. However, there was a gradual shift from heavy retouched based work into more simplistic object & shape style. Can you tell how this has come about?

I guess I had no education in the art field when I started. I associated good illustration with technical illustration which probably explains why I was looking for something complex and highly retouched. As time went by, my taste evolved, and I taught myself a lot about art direction. I realized I was drawn into a simpler approach and more minimalist compositions. I first simplified things within the limits of the illustration style I had then, which was photo realism, creating pieces with a kind of serenity and dream like feel. I then felt like I reached a limit, and broke my own boundaries again by starting to work with even more minimal techniques like collage or flat illustration. 

As a creative who’s grown his career from the ground up from small commissions, what’s your view on the up and coming creatives who sometimes put more emphasis on social media numbers game rather than evolving their skills?

I am a little pessimistic on what social media have become lately at least when it comes to promoting artists. Everything seems to be about numbers, about feeding the machine with as many images as possible. People seem to only love what they can identify easily. I see so many illustrators getting into visual art to achieve fame, to get some attention, for the sake of having it. The art is not the purpose, its only a tool to get somewhere else. There is very little respect for the craft. I find it sad. Still I believe social medias, as trends will change, evolve and go. New famous nobodies will replace the current ones. At the end of the day, your skills and the respect you show for your work is all that you have. 
emeric trahand takeshi

How important are personal projects for you? Do you get creative satisfaction on commercials projects?

I don’t often get full satisfaction with client work. I can actually only maybe recall a couple examples of seeing it happen. I believe it relies for me on the very definition of client work. So many marketing constraints come in the way of an illustrator’s vision, so many egos and personal interests that it is a bit unrealistic to believe it is even possible to combine a successful commercial job with an artistic attempt.  I do personal work because I’d feel empty if I didn’t, I’d feel useless. I need to explore styles and techniques constantly. I want to learn new things, understand the way things work. I believe producing a work that I am proud of has to be one the best feelings I know. And somehow, by doing so, I get the attention of art directors and art buyers. 

Would you be ever tempted to take a full-time employment role?

I don't believe I would fit in such a position. I work a lot on site with studios in manhattan, and sometimes for extended periods of time. It feels good to be part of a team, and get the comfort of a monthly paycheck, but I just don't think I can deal with the total disappearance of personal time. Im not good at working all day behind a screen and come home and work at night on personal stuff. I need the flexibility of a freelance status. 

How do you see style evolution of current trends or it’s life cycle?

I don’t believe in trends, and try to stay away from them. They are so connected to social medias and a couple famous blogs that they become overwhelming very fast. It has now be 2 or 3 years that everything is about vintage lettering, vintage instagram photographies, 50’s looking illustrations, generic street art or tattoo art. It got to a point of nausea to me. I don’t deny that some people in the middle of all that have a true talent. It is not about them. The problem is that every good idea or style is imitated a million times and spread everywhere within months… and loses all interest immediately. 
emeric trahand takeshi

Your Tiger pieces were influenced by ikebana for example, your new work seems almost tribal and mystical. Is that correct?

I guess Its not entirely wrong. I have been a bit confused trying to grow technically, artistically, and try and keep on working with subjects that relate to my own world. There might be a mid thirties mystical crisis somewhere hidden under the layers.

You’ve always been working with mixed media and photomontage. Any plans to change your work approach to include self-generated elements? 

I love using existing materials because there is something very organic in doing so. I love the idea of almost being able to create art from anything around us. Producing art to me is all about making choices. By generating elements myself, Id feel like I open the doors to making more choices: what elements will I create, and why, and how... Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I tend to already be scattered quite a bit, and find it dangerous to add levels of confusion to my process. Im naturally more drawn to composition. I wanna focus on how shapes and colors can live in a space, or plan, and why and how things become harmonious, and make sense together. 

How do you come up with your color palettes and what are the reasons for your choices?

I find myself very challenged by certain palettes and don’t necessarily feel like my colors are quite there yet. Choices are mostly made by the subconscious part of my brain. I love witnessing how much my brain decides what feels right, what feels wrong, and how the addition of a single tone can sometime completely throw me off or get me excited. 
emeric trahand takeshi

How much work from today do you think will be still relevant in the next decade? 

Well I doubt any of it will by then be remembered. I always try to give some respect to the craft itself and as I said before and not fall into trends too much. I hope by this way, the work I do will resist time a little more, but I don’t really have expectations there. 

What new technologies and creatives tools do you think we’ll have in near future?

There will probably be intuitive tools everywhere, assisted creation software, feather weight transparent devices connected to your brains… I’m not sure. I don’t necessarily have a strong personal interest in the technology used to make art. I tend of detach myself from it actually, and would love to see myself freed from technology in 10 years. I don’t deny technologies has had a revolutionary impact on art and the creative world, and Im sure it will keep going. I just hope I find a way to not care about it much. 

What is your opinion on creativity vs technology. Are computers aiding us to find new ideas or just spawning endless imitations?

Technologies are focused on making things easy for us. We don’t need to learn anything anymore. We got a phone with a high resolution camera, doing the light settings, retouching, focusing, publishing all automatically. We only got an illusion of being in charge. It is easier everyday to do things, and it is easier to see what others do. Sadly it results on people not doing much effort to reproduce what they did not do much effort discovering. 
emeric trahand takeshiemeric trahand takeshi

From your folio, do you have a stand out piece you’re most proud of?

There are a couple pieces in there. I think I love them a bit for their visual qualities, but also a lot for what they changed in my career, or where I was in life when I made them. I can’t exactly define my proudest moment though. I’m doubting a lot, and am not confident with the value of my work. This is part of my personality and that has always pushed me to keep going. 

What is the one thing you learned at the beginning of your career, that you still use today?

I think very early I learned to keep challenging myself and stay away from self satisfaction. 


Interview by Radim Malinic
Images by Takeshi


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