Hélène Druvert: the life of a Parisian artist

Children’s book illustrator Hélène Druvert discusses her nomadic existence between the city and the ocean, drawing, driving a Vespa around Paris and thinking Parisians should smile more…

Did you know as a child that you wanted to be an artist?
Yes, I wanted to be a home decorator or children’s book illustrator when I was four.

Where did you grow up and what was your upbringing like?
I grew up in Brittany. We had a big garden with old trees and lots of flowers. It was paradise for children. I didn’t want to leave my childhood, it’s one of the reasons I love working with kids.

Did you enjoy school and studying?
Yes, I loved school, especially art lessons! Every day I went to school looking forward to playing with my friends.

When did you decide to start making children’s books, and why?
I discovered paper cutting four years ago, I wanted to make a children’s book but I was too shy to show my work to a publisher. In fact, the French publishers Hachette and La Martiniere contacted me in the same month with a book proposal – it was such a fantastic surprise!

Why did you choose to make children’s books, rather than writing for adults?
I think you have more artistic freedom with children’s books.

What do you want children to feel when they look at/read your books?
With Paris Up Up and Away, I want them to feel surprised and happy when they discover that they can play with light and shadow, and I want them to really absorb the poetry of Paris.

Too many Parisians wear black and forget to smile!

Can you describe your studio to us?
I live between Paris and the southwest of France and I love to travel. Because of this, I kind of have a ‘nomad studio’ – just a computer, a graphic tablet, a notebook, pen and scalpel.

My favourite place is the Basque Country, I love working in the living room because we have big windows with an ocean view. But I wrote my last book from a campervan in New Zealand, so every day I had a different view, which was an incredible experience.

Can you run through a ‘day in the life’ of Hélène Druvert?
I wake up at 8:30am – I love sleeping! I have a big breakfast; it’s the most important meal of my day, and after that I work until about 1pm. I drink lots of tea or yogi tea when I’m drawing.

In Paris, I go to a morning yoga lesson twice a week with friends, but in the Basque Country, I usually surf. Lunch is often a quick affair alone, but sometimes with friends. In the afternoon, I’ll work from home unless I have a meeting with one of my publishers or customers.

I try to stop working around 6pm, and if I’m in Paris, I’ll usually take a walk around the city. For supper, my fiancé and I often go to a restaurant with friends, or we cook together.

I’m usually in bed by midnight. Of course, when I have a lot of work on, I’ll draw all day until 9pm. As well as my own projects, I do freelance paper work for a number of different clients, so my days are always different.

What do you love about Paris?
I love being able to ride around Paris on my boyfriend’s Vespa, have an ice-cream on the Ile Saint Louis, and discover a new place or an art exhibition. The Bibliothèque-Musée de l’Opéra National de Paris is one of my favourite places to spend an afternoon.

Is there anything you don’t like?
Too many Parisians wear black and forget to smile!

What is your dream?
My dream is to continue to live between Paris and the ocean, to continue to be able to travel, to build my family and, of course, to create a new children’s book every year.

Anything else you’d like to share…?
Enjoy life and the small things it brings you every day

Paris Up, Up and Away is published by Thames and Hudson