When Jules Magistry talks about his influences, it’s perhaps unsurprising to hear that he draws inspiration from the comics, video games, skateboarding, and films of Gregg Araki. Most imperative, however, are its references to boys, men, and “views of masculinity.”
A particularly present topic today – given the rise of social media and the influx of immediate communication – Jules hopes to craft his own version of masculinity through his illustrations. As such, jules draws on pop culture, identity and adolescence, reflecting on his own experiences and ultimately creating a “nurtured” version of masculinity. Below, we caught up with Jules to learn more about his most recent sketchy and beautiful illustration work.
Where are you from and how did you come to illustration?
I grew up in the suburbs close to Paris, not too far but not so close. It was like the American suburbs with all the same houses and gardens, parents and cars. The area I grew up in changed so much because Disneyland had just arrived, so everyone was working for Disney, and all the fields became suburban homes and big malls. It touched me a lot and brought me so close to American culture in my imagination.
I also grew up as a gay kid in a very closed small town, but that started to change when I moved in high school. However, this was not enough; I moved to Paris to study graphic design to reassure my parents because it seemed like a better way to earn money. I graduated three years later in 2013 and presented an illustration book with barely any graphic design work in it (haha). I started doing internships in publishing houses because I wanted to be close to illustrations and books. It didn’t last long because I didn’t want to work on layouts in Indesign – all that kind of stuff – I just wanted to draw.
So I got a lot of odd jobs and started working hard on my drawings. One day, it clicked in my head: the colors, the characters, the tools – everything. That was around 2016. And then I published a few things here and there, and created my first published book Teenage Apocalypse 4 (paying homage to Gregg Araki) in 2019, presenting it at The Paris Ass Book Fair at Tokyo Palace. I had the chance to meet other queer artists there and really show my work. And then, in 2020, Versace called me, and I created designs for them. It was a dream come true, and I’ve been working on new things ever since.
What are your influences ?
I must say, mostly boys and men. Instagram is both an awful and beautiful place for that kind of inspiration, but there are still obscure Tumblr references that I love with cool guy mood boards and brutalist architecture with it. So yes, guys.
Views of masculinity are changing so much these days, and so are the issues surrounding it. It’s exhilarating! For example, I’ve already drawn three times Yann Horowitz, a queer pro skater that I adore. The subjects, for me anyway, are often guys, adolescence, the suburbs, violence and queerness. But I draw a lot of my inspiration from movies and TV shows, photography, actors, costumes and colors! I mean, I can’t get enough of Gregg Araki, Edward Scissorhands or Heathers. And at the same time, great new shows appear like We Are Who We Are by Luca Guadagnino.
I try to mix everything with my great geek culture. That includes comics and video games, which are a tough world to follow, but there’s so much great work out there. X-men comics are always very political, the French comics industry is always full of amazing new artists, and indie video games are always inventing a new way to tell stories. For so long I couldn’t find stories that mixed good queer characters and geek/video game culture, so I tried to start drawing it. Finally, the fashion industry and magazines like Interview and ID are always excellent references to work on.
Can you tell us about your process?
I’m trying to identify the overall color palette I’m going to use, almost like I’m using paint, but it’s all colored pencils! So I determined the main colors and all the shades I could add. I try not to create too many sketches before the final drawing, to prevent it from being static – I also like to keep mistakes. I love them. And I work, once again, as if I were using paint, putting colors here and there, one on top of the other, changing one by adding new tones.
I can’t erase anything with my colored pencil technique, so changing something is adding or putting a new color on top of another and pressing hard on the pencil. I like the “no fix possible” process. This is the most enjoyable part of drawing – my idea of colors frames everything in my work. I mainly work on Leporello’s books, so in the end, all the drawings create a continuity, a story in their own right.
Can you choose some recent works and tell us about them?
The first is part of a series of drawings I’m starting on queer love scenes in film. I just finished the campfire scene in My Own Private Idaho, a movie I can watch over and over and over again. The scene breaks my heart every time, and River and Keanu, I mean, I think I’ve already drawn Keanu Reeves almost ten times on top of that scene. So I’m quite proud to have finished the scene and to have found the right colors for the atmosphere; it’s melancholy but warm. It’s also very dear to my heart, so seeing my little version is like having a collectible figurine or derivative of the movie all to myself.
The second comes from the pages of the logbook that I started during my residency at La Villa Noailles with the artists Jean Claracq and Paul Rousteau. I didn’t want to forget any of those incredible moments. It was a dream summer with them! So I wrote things and drew a lot of moments that I loved. For example, there is a photo of the sunrise that we watched together; we woke up at 4:30am just to watch it. We went to the beach with our motorcycle, the colors were great and everything was perfect! The last is the cover of Gayletter that I recreated, the one with Frank Ocean on it. It’s special for me because I love Frank Ocean and it was my first time trying to work with very large format and oil pastels. I love the rough rendering that I got. Starting a new technique is always scary and exciting, so this is one of my favorites (and I love that blue).
What messages are you trying to convey through your work?
I do not think of any public when I draw; I do it for me. Like I said before, it’s like something is missing, like a toy that I can see but doesn’t exist yet – the things that I love about the mainstream culture. But I have to own it, and if I can make it more gay, that’s even better!
Sometimes I think of my teenage self, mostly, and sometimes it’s my angry self at the world that needs to set off a nuke or two to release that anger. But at the same time, I want to share messages and stories. My aim is to talk about violence against young people, what it creates in identity, how we feed the culture of toxic masculinity, the need to find new representations of men. I would love to do it with drawings and books! I think right now I want to start reaching the people I want.
I started a series of workshops with students from a university over the past few months – they were workshops on pop culture, identity, violence and adolescence, all that stuff. I feel useful, and it’s as if I had created my own Glee Club. I will be able to exhibit more next year, so these kinds of discussions and actions will grow. But I think my best way to do that in the future will be through graphic novels.
What’s in the pipeline?
I have three shows coming up. One in December at Atelier Quintal in Paris with other artists (Lisa Mouchet, Elsa Dray-Farges, Laura Ottone and Elie Martens), and we all work around the theme of flowers, simple but effective. We will also create a special edition (a small book) with other drawings.
I also have another show in Paris in February and for this one I will continue to create queer and gay love scenes in the history of cinema. It will be a lot of work, but I want to create a huge Leporello, a huge frieze and find a way to use comic codes in a new way.
The last one will take place in Lausanne, Switzerland, and it is a group exhibition at the Olympic Museum on skateboarding. I’m also excited about this one, as I will be able to select and draw some of my favorite queer skateboarders, beautiful, talented and inspiring people. I hope this will give them a good place to be represented and inspire others! I’m also still working on my graphic novel but I need to find a publisher.