One-on-one with Magali Mebsout

Today Boneshaker Press presents you Magali Mebsout! Currently situated in Iowa-City, you can find Magali’s portfolio here.

What’s your background?

I have a scientific education, I studied bioengineering and worked as a software developer. Meanwhile I kept close to art through classes and associations, drawing for pleasure and giving my paintings to friends and family. It took a while for me to realise I wanted art to be more than just a hobby. It’s not until last year that I started to work toward being a professional artist

What got you interested in the arts to begin with?

I don’t remember actually. I think drawing was one of the rare thing that made me happy when I was a child. I was very shy and quiet and focusing on a piece of paper was a great way not to look around me in class. The shy and quiet part changed quite a lot since then but I always kept my love for images. Even when I wasn’t drawing I would observe my surrounding as if I was painting it.

Smell the flowers

Do you remember your first piece of art you were really proud of? The one that made you say yes I am an artist!

I think it is this piece I did for a school assignment. This was the first time I was really trying to build something from my imagination rather than directly drawing what I saw.

The assignment was to take a poem’s sentence and walk around it, explore its words and synonyms to come up with a picture that has nothing to do with the poem but means something to you.

La pluie étalant ses immenses traînées
“La pluie étalant ses immenses trainées” means “When the rain stretching out its endless train”. It is the sentence of a poem from Baudelaire : see translation here: “trainées” in french is a synonym of “hores”. I did this class exercice that was asking to transform the meaning of a poem sentence in … 1998 🙂 Traditional illustration, pen and pencil on paper.

Do you collect anything?

Graphic novels, I have around 300 of them. Since it can get expensive I also rent a lot of comics at the library.

A selection of Magali's Graphic novels collection
A selection of Magali’s graphic novel collection.

Do you enjoy collaboration work? What qualities do you look for in collaborators?

I love collaboration work. I think that in general good communicators are always a pleasure to work with. By “good communicators” I mean people who are not afraid to speak their mind, or patiently repeat a question if they still haven’t understood something, people who would give you a head’s up if they won’t be available for any reason etc… Otherwise I would be looking for people different than me. For example I know I tend to over-plan, so working with someone who doesn’t think too much before acting will be a opportunity for us to balance each-other.

What sacrifices have you made on behalf of your art career?

I haven’t made enough sacrifices yet. I did scientific studies because I was scared of the uncertainty of an art career. But 2 years ago I came to the US with my husband and since it’s more difficult for me to find a job here I chose to focus on my art in order to start freelancing as an illustrator. Making a choice is always a sacrifice of all the other options. I am finally making sacrifices.

Do you ever feel like giving up and doing something else? If so, why and how have you overcome that feeling?

I am the “always doubting” type of person. So of course I am often reconsidering what I am doing and wondering if I should stop wasting my time in something that might not get very lucrative. I talk a lot about those insecurities with my husband and he always find the best things to say to get me back on track. Remembering my young self in high school, when the art homework was the only one I would be glad to do, also helps to reassure me that I’m doing the right thing.


What is your dream project? If there were no time/money restrictions what would you create?

If I had no time/money restrictions I would take all the classes and learn from the best, make pictures for all of my friends and family, illustrate comic books, make point and click video games and even 2d animations, travel around the world and make an illustrated book of every country, island, city, I would make a fully illustrated dictionary.. I would … I would …

Wait what ? I have to choose ? NOOOOOOO !!!!!

Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.

Alex Alice, Jean-Claude Mézières and Moebius

Of course it’s hard to pick only 3 and I know my portfolio is far from it right now. Wait for it though, I’ll get there.

How do you keep your creative spark? What keeps you motivated?

People. Doing things for someone else always make things easier. I have a high level of gregariousness so accountability is very powerful for me.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

“References, this is how you win” – Chris Oatley

Since I spent a lot of time drawing what I saw I wanted to break out of it and draw only from my imagination. This is pretty hard and Chris reminded me that it’s not only OK but necessary to use references when building an image. So now I do a lot of preliminary studies and build 3d models with play-doh, paper and toothpicks. It makes my life much easier.

What does visual storytelling mean to you?

When I hear visual storytelling I immediately think about mute sequential art. Like an image only comic or a mute animation. Then my mind reminds me of the classical paintings and how much a single picture can express more than 1000 words. So to me “visual storytelling” is any picture with a message. It is a personal opinion. I am more sensitive to images than words or music, it’s the form of communication I am most connected to.

What’s your main challenge when beginning a new piece of art?

Beginning is not the part I fear, finishing is. But when beginning something I learned to force myself to choose a topic and a message to convey. Working without boundaries is a struggle because I could explore the possibilities forever never committing to anything.

Would you eat the moon if it were made of spare ribs?

No, I am not a big fan of meat to begin with but if I had a rubber body like Luffy’s, I could eat a moon of strawberries …. with lemon..

Gorilla portrait
Keep calm and eat fruits.

3 thoughts on “One-on-one with Magali Mebsout

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