Born in the suburbs of Paris, illustrator Alice Wietzel is the embodiment of a young emerging artist. Inspired by nudity and the female form, Wietzel has managed to establish a beautiful way of representing the human body with her mystic approach, gained by working on Amerindian cosmogonies. We spoke to the illustrator about the creative scene in Paris, her final project for her diploma and what it is about nudity that inspires her.
"I was born in Paris, I lived in the suburbs until I was 11 and my parents got divorced. I come from a family where men die quite young and women have a very strong temperament. I graduated from high school just fine but had to study literature for three years because my mom wanted me to get a bachelor before I started an art school. I grew up in a very supportive environment and I owe a lot to my parents. My mom’s a journalist and she studied fashion when she was young, so she had a sensitivity. She used to draw and cut little characters for me to play with when I was a child. Even though she made me go to uni, she always told me that I could do what I liked; only I had to find a great school to do it haha. I think growing amongst the paintings she displayed in our house, and the objects she bought at flea markets educated my eyes quite early. My stepfather’s a photographer and he made me discover a lot of artists, took me to Paris Photo, bought some cameras for me... I observed him work and it gave me a sense of composition, I think. Some of my illustration are inspired by pictures I took. Anyway, he’s also very demanding so I knew I really couldn’t screw up art school! My mother’s family has always cheered me and told me that what mattered truly was to have a job you liked."
"I read a lot of comics and my favorite one was Yoko Tsuno. I was crazy about the drawings and promised myself I’d become an illustrator like the author Roger Leloup. I took turns in my studies but always kept focused on illustration. I couldn’t stop doodling on my pages in uni, which was quite frustrating because it told me I wasn’t in the right place." Besides illustrating and painting, Wietzel also told us about her other creative hobbies including photography and sculpting; "I love photography, which doesn’t mean I consider myself good at it. But I really like doing portraits of the people I love, catching the angle and the context that fits them and tells who they really are. I also love ceramics, even though I’m better at sculpting than glazing. I suck so much at glazing. But I think I have to practice more in order to find the right colors, the right amount of precision, etc.. I did some pieces for my diploma, and now I want to improve! I started painting and now I’m starting to think I like it, so that might also be a new medium for me to use. But I only like to paint on wood, I like to have a rigid surface to work with. Or maybe it’s because I need to feel unofficial, since I don’t paint that well!"
"The creative scene in Paris is really busy! There’s always a lot of events everyday, you meet a lot of people from very different circles. I tend to feel lost in it, but it’s also very stimulating since you see a lot of great stuff and aspire to try and do as good. There are many opportunities, but you have to know what you want for yourself. When someone offers you to participate in an exhibition, you can’t run straight into it. That’s the issue with Paris, you have to know what you want to be part of, whether you want to be known in squats, in galleries, in small independent structures, or hide. I should be ashamed but I don’t go to galleries. Whenever I want to see an exhibition, I go to places like La Villa Belleville (an authorized squat), or Le Campus Fonderie de l’Image (which is also a school), and also le Musée de la Chasse. Frankly, almost every Parisian museum is worth seeing. If you’re in Paris and want to see unofficial exhibitions, then go to L’Amour, Le Liebert, Les Grands Voisins, L’atelier Meraki, Le Point Éphémère, etc. I like to hang out in my neighborhood, next to the Bibliothèque François Mitterand with its crazy architecture (there’s a whole piece of the Fontainebleau forest in the middle of the library!)."
A naked body can’t lie about the one who possesses it, it’s free of social markers. This is what I like about nudity; its boldness and its sincerity."
Most of Wietzel's work focuses on the female form, nudity and the human body. Her nude drawings have a serene feel to it, and she's certainly developed a signature style of portraying the human form. Intrigued by what inspires her about all these elements, we delved deeper into the artist's mind; "Nudity inspired me at first because I was working on Amerindian cosmogonies, and representing bodies naked was a way to drain the temporality of the pictures and better symbolize the myth. I kept that mystic approach, until I realized nudity wasn’t only a way to give a universal aspect to my illustrations, but also to talk about the body itself and the power residing in it. This sounds like a cheesy thing to say, but a body is always more beautiful without its clothes, and most people who’ve done nude drawing sessions know what I mean. A naked body can’t lie about the one who possesses it, it’s free of social markers. This is what I like about nudity; its boldness and its sincerity. My favorite part to draw is definitely the butt, because the round shapes are always funny to do. But my favorite part in the whole body, without any purpose? I’d say the face because it’s the most eloquent part, the one that has the most wealth and diversity. But hey, if it has to be a body part not including the face then I’d say forearms. They’re awful to draw, but they’re beautiful when they’re veiny, or thin, or anything. The bone has this slightly curb aspect and turns without making the muscle move."
"My travels inspire me, my childhood memories, the movies I watch, etc.. Basically everything can be a source of inspiration, but I think summer and spring are what inspire me the most. All the elements that revolve around these seasons are part of my visual lexicon. I tend to draw what feels good to me, and I love when nature’s blossoming all around me and the earth gets warmer. I have that feeling, that whenever I can walk around without a sweater I’m part of the earth and it is benevolent to us." Wietzel also recently completed her diploma and speaking about her inspirations reminded her of the final project she worked on - 'Le Feminine'. "It was called 'Le Féminine (o)(o)', and I was dealing with the feminine visual vocabulary. I wanted to point out the fact that the imagery we call feminine, like flowers, nudes, fruits, vases, were in fact set by men in classical art. I realized that girls use Instagram as a medium to build their visual universe and that these tropes were recurrent. I wanted to say with my diploma, that there has been an effort collectively made by female artists to disturb those codes by reusing them. I think about girls like Arvida Bystrom and Petra Collins who use pink a lot but have a militant approach of femininity. I made a book about selfies called 'Narcisses' to try and dignify the digital autoportrait. I wanted it to look like paintings, and to be named after the flowers because all these girls are more than just a freudian mythology inspired trope. I must admit I didn’t receive the comments I hoped from the jury, it feels like even though they were trying to be open minded, something wasn’t just right for them. How could a pastel soft and quiet word be anything more? It proves how hard it is to be heard when you’re a female artist."
Wietzel also did an internship with Riso Presto where she collaborated with them on a zine project - 'Solarium'. Apart from illustrating, she also enjoys doing murals. "I was at an internship at Riso Presto, and Aurélien and Sarah gave me the opportunity to make a book. I loved working with them in their studio, it was a great time for me. Now we’re friends and I hope to keep collaborating with them! Aurélien also helped me with 'Narcisses'. We want to publish it for real and print it in offset, but we need funds! I love painting murals because it’s mostly a privileged moment with my boyfriend. I usually work more on my colors than my image. We just do a sketch and then try some stuff, cover it, do something on it again. I like feeling you get when you paint something big, your body isn’t tied to a chair anymore, and all its part are involved in the making of the picture. You climb, and then you use your other hand because to right one is dying. Valentin is my safety net, because I’m not really clean when I do spray painting. But recently, we’ve mixed spray and real paint, and it feels really great! It’s also great to create something that you know won’t be seen or last, it’s just for free so you can allow yourself to not care."
"I just graduated so I’m full of anxiousness! I really want to work a lot, and with different people on edition projects but also illustration and even art stuff. But no one ever tells you wether you’re going to struggle for long or not. Ideally, I’d like to be in a studio with friendly people, working for magazines and brands, but using some of my time to work on ambitious editions and art projects. My main project is to find funds for 'Narcisses', which I might redo all by hand. I’ve started working with some magazines and it’s very stimulating, so I hope to be doing some more. Draw Down Books should be publishing a book of mine anytime soon, and I have to start working on another one with a Spanish risograph studio. For now, the most exciting is the Clubhouse Week I’m going to be spending with Colorama Print and Aisha Franz! They’ve invited me in Berlin to work on a fanzine with amazing artists and I can’t wait to meet them all! It’ll be out on August 6th."