Fine ladies in wigs, angry witches and crazy dinosaurs – these are just a few of the characters French illustrator Agnès Ernoult has created for her clients in recent years. Each persona has its own unique charm, interesting expressions, and little touches of detail you won’t see anywhere else. That’s why her work is in demand at a range of children’s book publishers, magazines and more.
Agnès actually set out to become an English teacher. After studying the language for three years, she moved to Bristol and found herself in the Stokes Croft district. It’s an arty area, full of studios and decorated with all sorts of murals. The creative bug had bitten, and it took Agnès back to when she was three or four years old and worked at a little desk next to her father, who was a teacher marking papers.
“Every time I said, ‘I’m finished,’ he would reply, ‘You can go further by adding this or that.’ That's how drawing became a part of me. I've always loved spending hours and hours trying to represent what I had in mind as best as I could,” she explains.
Now, the artist’s life is a reality for her, she still harks back to old Disney films and Peter Rabbit stories for her inspiration. Agnès loves to see animals wearing clothes, like The Fantastic Mr Fox. Cakes, pastries and famous chefs also give her a creative spark, as does the music of French film composer Alexandre Desplats.
Agnès studied for a degree in Illustration at Ecole Pivaut in Nantes for four years. She thinks of it as the Hogwarts for future artists.
Optimism is the very first stage in Agnès’ process. When she starts an image she tells herself it’s going to be the best work she’s ever done. She is always aiming to improve. Then she begins with some quick sketches to explore the subject matter and when she’s settled on what she wants to capture, Agnès creates a bigger sketch with as much of the final detail as possible.
Watercolour is her medium of choice, and when the sketching is complete she tests out some colour combinations on a small piece of paper. This way she can find something unique, perfect for the piece she’s working on. She has mastered a range of watercolour effects, and often uses ink for the outlines.
Agnes’ style of watercolour painting gives her work a soft and delicate look. It’s a subtle style, with a retro feel and a touch of humour. She loves to include nature in her illustrations such as floral details, and little insects and animals that give each image extra life. She also offers a looser and punchier cartoon style, which is ideal when the illustration needs to make people laugh.