Barcelona Cultura

Malika Favre: creating from chaos to order

Malika Favre is a French illustrator based in London. Erotic imagery, a sense of humor and a bright colour palette best describe her style. She has worked for companies such as The New Yorker, Vogue, Gucci and Penguin Books.

Malika is one of the speakers of the 11th edition of Blanc Festival, taking place for the first time at the Design Museum of Barcelona from 3-5 October. We talk to her about her inspirations, her creative process and the stories she wants her drawings to tell. 

How would you describe your style?

I’d say very colorful, minimal, sexy at times and always with a strong narrative call.

What kind of stories do you want to people see in your works?

It could be anything. Sometimes it could be a feeling, a lot of what I do is taking people to a place. I like when an image has different layers of narrative, there is a first emotional response to an image and then it says something from behind. The stories become much more personal then.

Is there anything educational?

I don't do it to educate people, but to share my vision and shed the light on things that are important to me. What’s important to me is not to tell the viewer what to read in an illustration but to let them read their own thing. My illustrations are very open to interpretation.

You’d rather leave space for the imagination.

Everything I share is subjective to me, but I really like when I draw something personal that I want to say and someone interprets it from their own life experience or scope of work. This is what happened with the surgeon's cover for The New Yorker. What I did was sharing a personal experience of what happened to me as a kid, and others read it as a celebration of women surgeons, they took it from their own perspective and the times we live in.

Do you see limits between graphic design and illustration?

For me, both are linked. Especially from my personal experience, because I come from graphic design. I approach illustration almost like graphic design, trying to get to the essence of the drawing, which is almost like creating a logo.

What do you consider yourself then?

Definitely an illustrator. Telling stories has always been my thing.

Your style is minimal. Do you believe in less is more?

I find real beauty in simplicity. I really like when something's so there that you can't hide it. So there’s no two ways about it: it either works or not when you look at it. People’s reaction to simple images is very instant. There is a real challenge in simplicity, and this is what excites me. I actually love a French artist, Thibaud Herem, with an extremely complex drawing style, so I think there's real beauty in complexity as well. It's always about knowing when exactly to stop adding to the piece. For me it's the opposite: I try to take away things as much as I can and I have to know when I get to the bare bones of an image and if I take anything else away, it's losing its power or losing its meaning.

What is your creative process?

It is very instinctive. I also believe in creative gymnastics: the more you do something, the better you become at it. I always apply the same structure to my work, I go from chaos to order. It is a very instinctive place where I just put things, I just let my ideas flow and I stop doing things without really knowing where they will take me. Then I get to a point where I kind of have the epiphany, I know I'm holding on to a good idea and it's time to structure it. Then I start refining, thinking about everything I'm drawing, and slowly I get to the finished piece.

How do you manage this chaos?

The chaos organizes itself internally, you can't take everything in. Otherwise, it would becomes a mess. I handle it step by step, I take everything in without thinking about how it's going to come out. For example, when you travel, you discover different colors, architecture, cultures and with all of that you're creating your own little archive of work. The more you see, the more you know, and the richer your brain is in a way. Traveling nurtures my brain and later on it comes out, so it always feels it’s coming out from inside. For me it's a natural process.

Ironically, negative space is very present in your works. Why is that?

Negative space is a bit of magic. It reminds me of when you're a kid and you're looking at the clouds trying to see shapes in them. It talks of that cleverness people respond to, because your brain is seeing two things in one and [automatically] filling the gaps. It’s very pleasing and effective, and very difficult to do in terms of balance and knowing when to stop. You can't force it, it's like forcing a square thing into a round hole. It has to work. I also use a lot of geometry in my work. It all comes from my love for maths, optical illusions and tricking the mind.

Female body and erotica are also very present in your work.

I guess because I’m a woman! It started as a kid, drawing princesses, who turned sexier as I grew older. The female body is all curves, extremely beautiful, and I’ve always loved drawing it. It also has to do with the environment I grew up in. My parents were very open, there was no taboo around that. I've always perceived sex as a very beautiful thing and something that needs to be celebrated in a way. I don't think my work is provocative, but more of a celebration of sensuality and sexiness, which is about revealing enough without showing too much, playing on that line.

What will your talk at Blanc Festival be about?

The talk is going to be very personal. It's not gonna be how I work or how I find inspiration, but about people I met along the way and led me to certain places. People I met of course for work, but also my friends, parents and my grandparents; and how the work I do and who I am today is thanks to all these people. They all guide me in some way and I really wanted to pay tribute to all of them.

Ajuntament de Barcelona