Nico Racicot is a Toronto based artist who lives in a pretty little palace in Parkdale. He and I first met in the winter of 2012 and over the last few years have enjoyed late night feasts, a summer cottage retreat and artsy events around the city. I’ve always known Nico was a creative guy. Raised in Montreal, his deeply rooted French sensibility and the unique way he strings his words together always offers an honest pomp and panache to spirited conversation.
I was shocked (but in retrospect realize I shouldn’t have been) when I discovered that “my actor friend from Quebec” was also a talented illustrator. My first reaction upon seeing his work was, “omg you drew that?” followed by a few pangs of jealousy (I can’t draw myself out of a paper bag) and appreciation for his secret talent (FYI: I’m a closeted knitter with a long history of fondling yarn).
I sat down with Nico to chat about his longstanding love for drawing, the launch of his new brand LEZ AUTRES and exciting collaboration’s he’ll be working on throughout 2016. He created the images featured throughout this story to add a breath of fresh air to the look and feel of dobbbernationLOVES. I think he’s perfectly captured the blogs mantra “Eat Well. Travel Hard. Live Better.”
When did you first realize you loved to draw?
I used to wake up at the crack of dawn every weekend to watch cartoons while eating my Cheerios. I’d spend hours in awe watching anime, enjoying the fantastic worlds the characters lived in before my parents would wake up and force me to go play outside.
For as long as I can remember I’ve had a fascination for drawing. I remember making my parents wait while I finished a drawing (in fear of not being inspired once I got home I guess) when they would pick me up from school after work. I had an obsession with contouring and would spend hours filling the empty spaces in between the lines of my colouring books. Looking back on it, it must’ve been some kind of meditation practice. I found so much joy and peacefulness doing it. I’m a “dreamer” (says my mom), and drawing was definitely a way to channel my imagination as a kid and way to express myself throughout elementary school and high school.
Did you have any artistic inspiration or mentorship at home during those early years?
My paternal grand-father Germain Racicot graduated from l’École des Beaux-Arts de Montréal back in the day (before it was incorporated into the Arts department at UQAM in 1969). Upon graduation he worked as an artist selling his paintings throughout the province.
I grew up watching my dad paint massive canvases on the weekend (he had a 9 to 5 job during the week). Family and friends regularly commissioned him to paint something beautiful to hang in their homes. I think his love and main inspiration was, and still is, nature (he’s a big outdoorsy kind of guy). He paints amazing landscapes and has a natural talent for mixing colours and capturing the essence. Although landscapes was his main focus, he would occasionally dabble in portraits and abstracts. I use to spend hours observing him work very meticulously in silence, mixing colours, dipping the brush and just going for it.
Where do you find your inspiration as an illustrator?
All throughout elementary school and high school I excelled in arts class and found a real passion for it. Looking through my yearly agendas is a real blast from the past as they are covered in drawings (mostly portraits of women, often naked with long hair). Since most of my family and friends were women, I guess it made sense to develop such an obsession with them from an early age. Women are forces of nature and have a very impressive and strong influence on me and my art. I find them enigmatic, winsome and their natural elegance and poise boggles my mind. I only have huge admiration and respect for them and what they to do and bring to our world. Somehow women have and continue to inspire me daily.
In high school I developed an admiration for the world of fashion and cinema and was totally enamoured with models after seeing The Fifth Element. Milla Jovovich was so incredibly touching and embodied exactly what I thought of women at the time (I was 12) not to mention the kick ass costumes by Jean-Paul Gauthier that were absolutely OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD. Still to this day, The Fifth Element continues to amaze me and I feel a deep connection to it because of its themes, characters, costumes and Luc Besson’s impressive and mind blowing cinematography.
Can you describe what it was like to make that switch from acting full time to adding illustration projects to your everyday?
LEZ AUTRES came about when I felt I had hit rock bottom a few years out of theatre school. I was in desperate need to create and collaborate again and being an actor would sometimes leave me feeling empty in-between contracts. I could be on such a high for a few days or a few weeks and then nothing. The wait in-between projects (especially when you start) can be dreadful. My best buddy Jade who’s an amazing actor and cartoonist encouraged me to draw every time we’d hangout. I learned a lot by observing him. Over the last few months, I made drawing my daily practice which lead me to launch LEZ AUTRES as a brand.
What process and gear do you use to create your illustrations?
My go-to when sketching used to be pen and paper, markers, india ink and sometimes water-colour. I always had a sketch book close by, in my bag or by my bed (you never know when the inspiration strikes). I still use pen and paper on the regular, although most of my work is now done on Apple’s iPad Pro.
The iPad Pro has allowed me to expand my ideas and vision, creating expressions that I didn’t know were possible with pen and paper. I sketch on Adobe Draw with the Apple Pencil which offers amazing precision and is super sensitive when it hits the screen. In the past when I would create a drawing with pen and paper I’d sometimes realize later that I wanted to blow the image up. I’d have to scan the image and once blown up it would often appear pixelated. With Adobe Draw’s capacity to create vectors, I can now blow up my sketches and make them billboard ready without noticing any degradation to image quality or clarity.
Adobe Draw also offers illustrators a slew of innovative features that allow you to control and select your brush strokes, opacity, colour palette and image layering. Once my illustration is complete I import the image into Adobe Photoshop on my Mac. It’s here where I work on post production editing which includes cropping and selecting the size of image you want to print.
What is LEZ AUTRES?
LEZ AUTRES (which means “the others”) are satirical, stylized fashion cartoon characters inspired by my love for women, supermodels, fashion, Sci-Fi and good storytelling. I enjoy the idea of creating a mysterious reality where people look totally blasé, which is basically what I witness on the daily. It offers me a blank canvas to create and express myself freely. Knowing who you are independently of others is important which is why the LEZ AUTRES’ motto is “I love me!”
What projects does LEZ AUTRES have coming down the pipeline?
I’ll be launching my website by the end of April. Art fans will be able to easily order cool prints, clothing and accessories online. I’m currently working on the album art for the band KIQS and signer-songwriter LISA while tackling a project for PHILOS, a do-good brand which sells products that raise awareness and funding for shelter animals.
I’m excited to be adding a bit of flare to dobbernationLOVES as I’ll be launching a monthly fashion column in April which will highlight “must have items,” by popular fashion brands as well as working on a set of images each month for Charlotte Empey’s bookworm series powered by DK Books and Chapters Indigo.