Lucie Guyard is a 33 year old native of the French tropical island of Martinique in the French Caribbean. After receiving her diploma in graphic design, she moved to metropolitan Paris for work briefly before moving to Shanghai, where she has now been a resident for 7 years. And this is where her artistic business venture of publishing a series of comic stories on Chinese social media WeChat began.
What she intended to be a personal blog that keeps her friends and family in the loop of her experience in China quickly turned into a WeChat publication. Her account LaPtiteLu features a fictional character based on herself. The stories are mostly funny and lighthearted anecdotes of living as an expat in China.
Within three years her trilingual (English, Chinese, French) WeChat account LaPtiteLu has grown to 15,000 followers. She even published a couple of short stories, which to her surprise, became popular quickly. Her first 100 books were sold out instantly and a few hundred more reprints were gone in three months. Now her comic books can be bought in a few bookstores in Shanghai and via her WeChat shop. Other products featuring her illustrations and designs also span from postcards, tote bags to phone cases.
ArtZeen caught up with Lucie to discuss what makes her art special.
Art Zeen: How did you become a full-time freelance graphic designer?
Lucie Guyard: After getting my diploma, I moved to Paris hoping to find a graphic design job. But with no prior experience in web design, it was impossible to get any job, especially given I came from a sunny island surrounded by beaches. Nobody would take you seriously! So I started by doing a part time program at a web design school which allowed me to do an internship in a big e-commerce company in Paris. That was a good way to enter the professional world. After that, I was finally hired as a graphic designer by vente-privee, a private sales leader in Europe. My three-year experience working at a big corporation opened up new opportunities including the life changing experience of relocating to Shanghai. Before I decided to take the plunge and quit my corporate job, I was the Art Director in charge of the creative team at Meilihui, a Chinese luxury e-commerce site. But I knew I wanted more freedom and more of a say in what I create so I became a freelancer and devote more time to work on my personal project: LaPtiteLu.
Image: Lucie Guyard’s illustrations source: http://www.lucie-guyard.com/blog/en/
Art Zeen: What is your current art/project about?
Lucie Guyard: LaPtiteLu is the main character of my comic strips, which I publish weekly on my Wechat account. Each story is very short and includes a few drawings with captions in French, English and Chinese. The stories are on different topics, mostly related to my observations as an expat living in China.
Art Zeen: What inspires you to create and what is your creation process like?
Lucie Guyard: Everything starts in my mind first. I deal with all types of people and things in my daily life. If something attracts my attention, I would write it down and turn it into a fun story with a nice twist or ending. I then sketch the story in my sketchbook before scanning the pages onto my laptop and using Photoshop to do the magic. I use a graphic tablet to redraw and add colour. I also rewrite everything in Photoshop, which is very time consuming…Some stories take longer than others to create. Sometimes I keep an idea in my mind for months before arriving at the right ending. Sometimes an idea pops up into my mind suddenly while I’m taking shower or when I am walking my dog. And I would know how to put it into words and drawings immediately. Every story and product takes time to release as I prefer to make quality products.
Art Zeen: How does your art differ/What makes your art stand out?
Lucie Guyard: There are not many illustrators who draw weekly about their life as a foreigner in a foreign country. My WeChat content is easy to find, easy to read and easy to share… It takes a few seconds to read them. LaPtiteLu is a faceless personality who is also friendly and cute. That is why anyone can relate to her, mostly women but also men since she is not exactly confined to gender stereotypes (not the most feminine and sexy comic character for sure). Another thing I try to stick with despite some complaints is the font I use for the stories. I use my own handwriting instead of a typeface. I think it gives the drawings a personal touch and a sense of spontaneity. My handwriting even varies depending on my mood at the time of creating the story. The drawings are simple and can be enjoyed by kids, teens, adults and even grandparents! The language I use is very colloquial. I use a lot of bad words. I make fun of myself. I make fun of French people. I make fun but I do my best to not be mean. My purpose is to make people laugh, and not to upset anyone. If I do, it is out of my control and because it’s impossible to please everyone.
Art Zeen: What challenges have you faced promoting your art via Chinese social media?
Lucie Guyard: My last job at a Chinese e-commerce company allowed me to see how important mobile and social media were. I was working closely with the marketing team on WeChat promotion and thought I wanted to have my own platform so with the help of my friends, I registered a WeChat account and learned the basics. It was challenging at first, I had to google translate everything related to account setting to make it work. A lot of time was spent in the set-up stage but once you manage to figure it out, that’s when you can be really proud of yourself!
Art Zeen: Where do you hope your current endeavour will lead you to?
Lucie Guyard: I truly don’t know where it can lead me. At the moment I feel very grateful and happy about the achievement of LaPtiteLu. I have had 2 books, 4 exhibitions and a few products launched, plus a 2018 calendar underway! Next year I’m going to be published by a publishing house in France. It’s hard to imagine anything bigger and better than that… I will keep doing it as long as it makes my followers and myself happy!