Johann Delestrée : hyperrealism & mobility


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Behind “JohannDelestreeArt” we find Johann Delestrée. He lives in Vanves in the Hauts-de-Seine [France] and does some traditional aeronautical illustrations. In life his passions are the drawing and 3D modeling. Interview with an expert on the “alcohol markers”.

OJL : Hello Johann.
Johann : Hello.

OJL : Four quick questions before getting to the heart of the matter. As you live in Vanves, can you tell us what your favourite coffee is there ? And what do you like to take there ?
Johann : I don’t really have a favourite coffee, in the morning I always drink my espresso at home or at work. My workplace changes a lot, so I tend to vary the cafes in Paris.

OJL : And what is your favourite park or place ?
Johann : My favourite park is undoubtedly the Parc Montsouris, in the 14th arrondissement. I have relatives living right next door and have spent many afternoons there.

OJL : Next, what was the last book you read ? And the last song you listened to ?
Johann :_About the book: the last book I read was the series “The Accursed Kings” by Maurice Druon.
_About the song: “Jesse” by Joan Baez.

OJL : Finally, do you have a quote and/or proverb that you like ?
Johann : A proverb that I like is “There are two ways to be rich, to have more or to desire less” by the novelist Alphonse Karr.

OJL : Great quote. Let’s talk a little about you now. How could you introduce yourself ?
Johann : Since I was little, I have always loved the arts. I started drawing around the age of 7. My passion for vehicles also came very early. Around the age of 15 where I already wanted to be an automobile designer. I drew dozens of cars and various spaceships in my notebooks. My family quickly made me understand that it was a blocked path and that I would have every interest in doing something more “serious”… Following their advice I therefore opted for engineering studies, realizing a 5-year diploma specializing in mechanics and materials.
After a year as an engineer, I made the most important decision of my life… I resigned and went to design school. I was leaving a stable financial situation with many advantages to become a student again. Fortunately… I found an intensive design training course lasting just one year.
I worked hard on my level of drawing and 3D modeling. And after an end-of-study internship as a product designer, I decided to become a freelance designer directly. Another bold decision… Indeed, I wanted to have free time for my personal projects, in particular my regular drawing practice.
After a year I opened my illustration shop, while at the same time I took on numerous missions as a 3D designer.

OJL : Who are the artists who shaped you ? Who struck you down ? In a few names and why.
Johann : I am a big fan of designers and concept artists from the end of the 20th century. Particularly in vehicle design.
For example, I have a library full of works by Syd Mead (Alien, Star Trek, Blade Runner) or Daniel Simon (Tron Legacy, Oblivion, Top Gun).

OJL : Let’s talk a little about your work now. What are you creating ?
Johann : I create illustrations of aircraft and other vehicles. I try to choose the viewing angle or lighting carefully. In order to create a feeling of intimidation, or wonder in front of the machine, almost as if I were drawing living beings. I choose the white background, in order to simplify the composition and highlight the device.

OJL : How can you define your style?
Johann : I think I have an extremely realistic style on paper and without paint, which is based almost exclusively on the use of alcohol markers.
It is a technique taught in design schools, particularly for automobile designers. I have already tried painting, pastels, coloured pencil, charcoal, digital, but without necessarily falling in love.
The current market is mainly made up of flat design images (flat colour), there are also a lot of digital illustrations (created on a digital tablet) or painting on canvas. So this felt-tip technique allows me to stand out a little from the crowd. To my knowledge, I am the only one to practice it in the world of aviation illustration.

OJL : What techniques do you use ?
Johann : So I use a technique inspired by automobile design, that of alcohol markers. These mediums have the reputation of being extremely demanding to handle, in a few points I will try to identify the difficulties of use.
_Wrong colour ? Impossible to correct. The colour being transparent, if you add yellow to blue you will obtain green.
_Colour too dark ? The drawing is ruined, with transparent layers you can darken but never lighten.
_Are you colouring too slowly ? The ink has dried in the meantime, the solid colour is missed.
In summary, the technique is similar to watercolour but less liquid. To give you an idea, a simple square to colour is a real ordeal at the beginning, because one round trip of felt will have a more saturated colour than one way (2 layers instead of one). So if you colour in any way, you will obtain heterogeneous areas with 1,2 or 3 layers of markers, i.e. an uneven solid colour. But despite all these features, I saw incredible potential in these markers.
_Firstly, unlike coloured pencils, they allow solid areas of colour, without any grain.
_The markers colour, but do not saturate the paper fibres. It is therefore perfectly possible to colour with coloured pencil over it as if the paper were blank.
_Felt pens allow you to create very soft gradients.
_Finally it is possible to play with transparency and stack the layers, in order to produce a drawing with more depth.
The markers are, for example, very useful for drawing the cockpits, because I just need to draw the interior, then go over everything under a layer of blue to add the transparent glazing. For the painting areas too I can stack the layers to arrive at paintings damaged by the wear of time. So I fell in love with this drawing technique.

OJL : Can we place you a personalized order ?
Johann : Of course, I have already made several.

OJL : Can we subscribe to your newsletter ? Because social networks are a bit saturated…
Johann : Not at the moment.

OJL : Do you have an anecdote about the creation of one of your products? Or one of your sales ?
Johann : Not really an anecdote, but I often have retired pilots who ask me to immortalize their aircraft (military or civilian). It’s moving because they talk about him almost like a person, a comrade in arms. Obviously the attachment to vehicles is something that is shared by sailors, car pilots or aeronautical pilots.

OJL : Last question. You definitely have friends who are doing amazing things! If you want to promote them a little, now is the time!
Johann : Yes. Two people :
_A good friend, in a different style, does graphic design. It’s a very soft and pleasant style:
_And my brother who got into music. And who has been composing since last year:

OJL : Bravo for what you do. May Our Lady protects you.
Johann : Thank you.

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