Focus: Andre Vaillant Interview

Focus: Andre Vaillant Interview

Focus explores the creative talent within the climbing community.

Inspired by the natural environment in British Columbia, illustrator and designer Andre Vaillant's work focuses on the outdoors. The Canadian climber has worked with the likes of Kichesippi Brewing Co., Nita Beer Company and Lululemon. 

How did you become a graphic designer and illustrator?

As child I always had a love for the arts, specifically drawing and painting. Though growing up I never really thought about trying to make a career out of it—at least until I was entering my last year of high school. Looking at the programs at my local college, I discovered graphic design. I thought it sounded fun and interesting; making logos, posters, websites and many other things I had been enjoying in my high school classes. Plus the program was well regarded in the industry and it sounded like jobs would hopefully be easy to find when I graduated. 

I went into graphic design not really understanding that it was more of a visual communications program than an arts program, but I still enjoyed the creativity and diversity of the work. Though a lot of the work was on the computer, we also had courses in illustration where I was being mentored and challenged by a couple of my professors. It was through them that I discovered pen and ink illustrations and where I started to developed my illustrative style.


In the program the goal was always to create something that would stand out from whatever was around it. I had noticed that most of the work in the industry at the time was entirely digital, but the most cutting edge designs were incorporating illustrations and other hand-made elements. I decided that that was the type of work I wanted to do and started use a similar approach using my illustration work as a base or to supplement my digital designs. I thought that if I focused on showcasing work that I wanted to do and enjoyed doing, than I would hopefully get that kind of work at a studio. Luckily it worked and within a month or two of graduating I ended getting my first position with a local design studio.

How would you describe your style and where do you find inspiration? 

For my illustrative work I would probably classify it as stylized realism, but since my design work often varies slightly to meet the needs of each project it's a little harder to pin it to one specific style. I've often heard it describes as "bold" and "edgy" but I would say it has and almost organic quality. Since I do large parts of my projects by hand, there are always slight variations and imperfections in things like line work, form, and colour. It's often a little less shiny and perfect as digitally made designs but I think that's what gives the work it's unique character.

Most of the time I'm not just trying to create something beautiful to look at but also a feeling that something will evoke while I'm out in the wilderness. I've always drawn from that natural work around me. It can be as big as the golden glow of the late afternoon sun on the landscape as I reach the summit of a hike, or as small as the colours in a river stone as I'm fly fishing on the river. I like to try pull on those experiences and use that feeling to try connect with people through my work.

When you are working on those projects how does your process work from ideation to the final piece?

On an average project I'll spend a couple hours researching my clients market to get a base idea of what businesses in that specific industry are doing. From there I start sketching up my rough ideas until I've come up with a few strong concepts. At that point I'll do up a more detailed version of the design with any illustrations fully sketched out and any digital work either showing the style, as in the case of an annual report or publication, or completed concept as in the case of a logo or poster. If the client is happy with the direction, I'll ink with a quill and acrylic ink and then watercolour the illustrations and add them into the digital design and make any small adjustments and edits until it's as close to perfect as I can make it. Then send it off for one last review. After that if there's anything, it's usually just small changes to content before it's ready for print.


What advice would you give to anyone looking to build a career in illustration and design? 

I think the most important advice I would give is to first know what it is that you like to do with your work and what makes that unique, and then promote it. I've learned that the projects you show in your portfolios or that you promote yourself with will be the kind of jobs that you'll be hired to do. Showcase the your best work that you enjoyed doing and you'll receive more of that type of work. Because at the end of the day you'll be happier working on something that you enjoyed doing.

Follow Andre on instagram here