We met the illustrator behind everything from Grimes, Purity Ring and that Women’s March Poster you saw pretty much everywhere.
By Nada Alic
When I first heard about artist Tallulah Fontaine some years ago, it was like learning a new word then hearing that word everywhere. You know, like covfefe. It felt like anytime I opened Instagram, walked into a record store or print shop, there she was. Or rather, her signature illustrated hand and rose motifs.
This wasn’t just because we’re both Canadians and by law all Canadians know each other, it was because Tallulah herself is a quiet force in the art world: working with heavy hitter indie bands like Purity Ring, Grimes and Braids, doing commissioned work for VICE, Refinery29 and West Elm, while creating her own zines, comics, pins and prints. On top of that, she hasn’t stopped moving; originally from Edmonton, she’s lived in Toronto, Montreal and now back in LA. I talked to Tallulah at her Silver Lake studio and after we ran through the list of all of our mutual Canadian friends (of which there are dozens), I learned a little bit more about her life as a full time illustrator and artist.
Hi Tallulah! Last time we spoke you told me you were working on a comic, how’s that been going?
Good! It’s currently being risograph printed by Issue Press in Grand Rapids, MI. It’s called Everything Nice and will be debuting this summer at CAKE in Chicago and TABF in Toronto.
You’re constantly on the move, from Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal, LA, how much of that played into the theme behind Home Zine? Can you talk a little bit about that?
The idea for Home Zine came when I was living in Montreal and was about to take this huge leap of faith by moving to LA for the first time. I started thinking about what the idea of home meant to me and how to find that feeling in new places despite my transient nature. Eventually that translated into a series of zines that would explore the various ways we think of home. There were 3 issues for objects, spaces and people. Many artists worked on the project and it was co-curated and designed by the amazing Carla McRae.
Have you noticed any major differences between the creative communities in any of those cities?
When I was younger I didn’t really make very much art and all my friends were in bands so I was much more active in the music scene. I was living in Edmonton and Montreal then so those cities are more tied to my experiences going to shows and meeting people that way. When I moved to Toronto I was really excited because I knew of so many amazing illustrators that lived there and wanted meet more people who were doing the same thing as me. It was refreshing to find friends who could relate in that way. Now that I’m in LA, i’m getting a bit of both worlds and I’m looking forward to being part of the community of artists working here.
I’ve been a fan of your work for years, it really feels like YOU, in that you’ve established a very distinct aesthetic, how did you figure out your own unique style?
Practice I guess! I’m always learning and changing so I’m glad to hear that my style feels like me. It’s a process for sure.
You did a piece on the Women’s March: “Women for the Future” do you hope to do more socially/politically-driven pieces?
The Women’s March was the first time I had ever really done a piece like that and I was happy to contribute in any way that I could. That image ended up being used for posters and signs and made into free postcards you could use to write to your local representatives. It was pretty amazing to see!
Lately, I’ve been working on more magazine illustrations for stories on Trump and the current political climate. It’s a new challenge but I hope to keep working on these kinds of projects.
Can you speak a little bit about the appearance of success, especially with Instagram/press etc vs the reality of being a full-time freelance illustrator? Do you ever feel caught between the two?
Instagram is this weird public space and inevitably people will start to think they know you and project different things. I’ll get the occasional person who will assume that I make a ton of money because I have a lot of followers and therefore can work for free. That’s certainly not the case. Those sorts of things can definitely get to me sometimes but I try to use social media for what it is. I want to promote my work and also just want to be myself and I hope that comes across. I can’t really control how people feel about me or what I make.
“I’ll get the occasional person who will assume that I make a ton of money because I have a lot of followers and therefore can work for free.”
You work is in zines, pins, prints, and tattoos—what’s the one medium you haven’t explored yet but would like to?
There are still so many mediums I haven’t had the chance to play with yet. I would love to design fabrics, make jewelry and learn ceramics. I also really want my own loom, ha. I’m just starting out in illustration so there’s still time!
When was the moment where you were like, “wow, I’m really doing this, I’m a full time artist”?
Maybe after I moved to Toronto in early 2016. I was recently single and it was the first time I was living on my own and not sharing rent. The city is expensive and I thought that I would immediately need to find a part time job so that I could afford to live there. Luckily, illustration work kept coming in and I was able to make it! I really felt fortunate that I was able to do it full time. Still do!
You’re known for your work with bands like Purity Ring, Braids and Grimes—can you tell me about how you collaborate with other artists to visualize their sound? I imagine it’s probably a pretty different experience than doing work for clients.
It is different, I find that those projects tend to be a bit more collaborative since ultimately you want to help them convey their vision for their project and not just make your own representations of the music. For a band like Purity Ring, I’ll go over their lyrics with them, their musical and visual inspirations and then contribute my own ideas after I get a feel of what they are looking for.
Working as a full time artist sounds romantic, but maintaining a creative output everyday must be challenging, do you have any rituals or ways you break up your day so that you’re always creating and not just like, watching Youtube videos all day?
That’s certainly something that I struggle with especially since I work from home. The reality of working full time as an artist is that it doesn’t mean you just get to draw whenever you want. I still have to manage the day and I spend a good portion of it catching up with emails, communicating with clients, packaging orders and running errands. With all that going on, it can be difficult to stay focused on drawing but I am learning to keep more of a schedule so that I can balance it all. If i’m not feeling creative or stuck on a project, I’ll go for walk or yoga and try to get enough space so that i’m excited to work on it again. There are some days when you just can’t seem to get things going and that’s frustrating but the best thing you can do is just be patient with yourself and find other ways to be productive.
If money weren’t a thing and all you could do was create, what do you think you’d do with your art?
I just got home from a trip to Pender Island so right now the idea of living out there, walking in the woods and making comics all day sounds pretty perfect.
Photos by: Cara Robbins