Aurélia Durand on the search for her identity, the celebration of African culture and the importance of diversity

Whether it’s augmented reality, animation, paintings, murals or illustrations, his vibrant afro-pop works, full of nods to his West African heritage, represent men and women. cheerful, proud and empowered black women.

Freelancing for brands such as HP, Facebook, Apple and Adobe, Aurélia also recently illustrated Tiffany Jewell’s bestselling book, This book is anti-racist. Following her recent work for Magnum, we spoke to Aurélia about her journey so far.

How was your childhood? When did you realize you wanted to be a graphic designer?

Growing up, I lived in a lot of different places. I lived on the French island of Reunion, located in the Indian Ocean. This island is multicultural; people come from all over the world; Europe, Africa and Asia. It is a mixture of different cultures. I got to know the difference from a young age and it made me curious.

I decided to be a graphic designer quite late. I studied art and design for six years and had no idea what job I would do after graduation. Guess I was searching and exploring. Four years ago, I understood what I wanted to do: illustrate and express a message about diversity and Afro culture. My art allows me to tell my story.

Windows of Hope for HP © Aurélia Durand

JIF © Aurélia Durand

JIF © Aurélia Durand

Tell us about how you developed your style

It’s colorful, fun and vibrant. It aims to show diversity – something that is a big part of my job and my life. This focus started in college when I realized that women of color were under-represented in our study books.

I also wanted to feature women with afro hair and braids, because that’s how I connect with my heritage. I am mixed race. My mother is Ivorian and my father is French. I was born and raised in France and I went to Ivory Coast only when I was a child. My mom told me a lot about our culture through the hair, but also the food. But I didn’t see much of that elsewhere in France. As I have a mixed cultural background, it is important for me to explore my identity through my work. To know who I am and where I come from.

Couple © Aurélia Durand

Couple © Aurélia Durand

Black History playlist for Code Switch © Aurélia Durand

Black History playlist for Code Switch © Aurélia Durand

Do you also represent other voices?

Yes, the art I shared on Instagram three years ago was very personal. But then I started hearing other people’s stories and connecting with them. I went to events, conferences, exhibitions. I was inspired by women from all walks of life and I also wanted to illustrate their experiences.

Although the issues we face are negative, my work is very optimistic. This is very important to me because I think the best way to spread positivity is with color and joy.

Your work is very colorful – but it wasn’t always so?

Yes, my color scheme was not the same three years ago. The colors I use express pride in being different. And I guess since I started sharing my work online, I started to be more proud of myself. Art has allowed me to grow; I grew up ashamed of my identity because I didn’t understand it. But now I realize that my identity needs to be celebrated. This is why my art is so colorful. My art is unique because it comes from my history.

We are jealous © Aurélia Durand

We are jealous © Aurélia Durand

Sônge - album cover for Warner Music © Aurélia Durand

Sônge – album cover for Warner Music © Aurélia Durand

Your recent work with Magnum shows that brands give more artistic freedom to creatives. Can you tell us more about this project?

Imagined Pleasure is the campaign created by Magnum to support women cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire.

His team asked me to reveal more about my story through the visual I would create for them. I used an old photo my father took while visiting Yamoussoukro Cathedral. It’s part of my story, my parents come from two countries, and I have an attachment to Côte d’Ivoire. It seemed natural to me to work on this campaign.

People Power for The California Endowment © Aurélia Durand

People Power for The California Endowment © Aurélia Durand

Do you think art has the power to change the world?

Art can help make the world more understandable. My work aims to inform and raise awareness on serious topics.

How did you experience the confinement?

During the whole month of March and April, I was in my apartment in Paris. In France, we had to sign a document to go out and visit the grocery stores. Even just to walk around, but not more than 1km from us. It was like a long day. I have worked a lot on personal projects; I organized an auction to help Fund of the NGO Malala to help girls get an education. I can’t help but make art, it’s a need and it makes me happy.

From a new series of small canvases to raise funds for the NGO Malala Fund © Aurélia Durand

From a new series of small canvases to raise funds for the NGO Malala Fund © Aurélia Durand

What has worked for you in terms of marketing?

My work is shared on Instagram by many people; it is the people who talk about me who promote my work. From one project to another, people notice what I’m doing and contact me. I also try to diversify my work, so that I can reach different people.

What advice would you give to other artists who hope to follow in your footsteps?

When I started my journey, I had no connection. I was shy and lacked self-confidence, but I knew that if drawing was my thing, I would have to overcome my fears and meet people. I went to events, sold my posters, reached out to people on Instagram, learned from my mistakes, and kept “doing”. I found inspiration listening to entrepreneurs at events and podcasts.

I make art, but it’s also a business because I sell products / services. It is possible to be successful with talent, luck, and determination, and you can end up working with the clients of your dreams.

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