Aurelia Durand on the Importance of Diversity and Minority Representation
Aurelia Durand is a talented illustrator and artist who hails from France but currently lives in Copenhagen. Her colorful and vibrant artwork celebrates diversity, representation, and equality. She has gained international recognition for her unique and empowering style, which combines bold colors, whimsical patterns, and positive messaging. In this interview, we dive into her creative process, inspirations, and aspirations as an artist.
You lived for a while in La Réunion and now in Paris and Copenhagen. Do you think that each place you lived influenced your work?
Traveling and living in different places influence my work. It’s the people I meet that change my perception of the world I am living in. And since my work is about portraying people, I am inspired by the fashion, architecture and culture I experienced while I am living in those places.
If so, what characteristics do these places represent in your artwork?
I am not specifically representing these places directly in my work. It’s more about the vibes I get from living there that influence my work.
What is your working process like? Do you sketch on paper? Where do you start and what is your final touch?
I do not sketch anything on paper anymore. I visualize an idea in my mind. I spent time making a moodboard and while I am doing that I imagine how I can combine what I saw into my style. Through the years I learnt how to be more efficient. I think it’s a waste of time to sketch when I work for clients. I work directly on my computer with Adobe Illustrator and then I modify, define, redefine my work. I know how to focus and get the best out of it.
What do you think is missing in the creative industry in terms of diversity, gender, and culture? What do you think, how can that be changed?
What could change is what is happening in the art schools, the students have all the same cultural and ethnic backgrounds. It’s not diverse enough and this lack of diversity reflects in the creative industry. If there were more diverse voices then more campaigns will represent more nuanced and diverse stories of people.Even though there are lots of women in the schools, not all of them will succeed in the art industry as it is still a dominant male industry.
What should change is that parents should push their kids to pursue a creative career, but there is this cliché that there is no money in the art industry compared to becoming a lawyer or business person. It’s more deeply rooted.
What do you wish you had known when you came into the creative industry?
The only thing is that it’s not enough to be a good creative, you need to be good at selling your work. I wish I learnt the business side earlier, but it’s only by doing that you learn.
What would you tell to young, female*, poc artists trying to break into the creative industry? What tips would you give them?
Be your own cheerleader. No one will do better than you. Be brave and dare to show who you are because people like honesty. Don’t be fake.
You have quite the academic career behind you. Did you miss anything in your many courses of study, could it have been more or less, or was there anything missing at all?
I wish I had business lessons, how to be an entrepreneur, what to expect, and more. I have that knowledge now but it could have been cool to have that in my art school.
On your Instagram account, you also educate your followers with interesting facts about modern art. Can you imagine teaching young students one day, not just giving online courses like on Domestika or Skillshare? If so, what would you like to teach them?
I have filmed a Domestika course here. Maybe when I am older I will teach in an art school. I think I have a lot to learn.
Your book “This Book is Anti-Racist” is quite the hit. I just got a first look at it and I’m already intrigued by it. Obviously, the subject is close to your heart. What was the process of writing and designing your book like? What did you like best about it and what difficulties did you face?
I have not written the book, I illustrated the whole book though. I have been contacted by an editor of the Quarto kids publishing house. She saw my work and had this idea of a book. She knew a potential writer Tiffany Jewell who is a teacher in the US and teaches anti-racism to her students. I worked with the designers of the publishing house and we created the layout and illustrations after Tiffany wrote each chapter, it took 5 months. It was my first book I ever illustrated.
What are your tips on how to be anti-racist?
LISTEN. Listen to the people who suffer from structural racism. Advocate for them among people who are ignorant, let them space to tell their stories with their own words. And be an ally.
And that’s the reason WHY you choose to do what you love. It helps to do what you love, it makes you endure the hard times.
Since you also published the book “Dance for joy: An Illustrated Celebration of Moving to Music,” would you say that dancing, sports and movement inspire you?
I love music and dances. I started my instagram by representing dances; I was animating characters dancing to afrobeats music. I like my work to transmit good energy and make people smile for an instant.
What has been your favorite commercial work so far? What company have you synced with?
I have worked on so many cool commercial work for Apple, Nike, Google or The New York Times. It’s been incredible working for such huge campaigns and still keeping my artistic voice.
We can imagine that you have a lot of exciting projects coming up in 2023. Any project that you are especially looking forward to in 2023? If so, would you like to give us a sneak peek?
I am working on a new book which I am going to write about how to create a creative profession from scratch. I am excited to work again with the editor I have been working on for the first time. And I am also focusing in selling my paintings which means going to fairs, meeting galleries, exhibiting, etc.
Aurelia Durand will speak at the Forward Festival Berlin in September. Next to her, you will be able to hear Creatives like Malika Favre, Simone Cihlar, Ines Alpha and many more.