For today’s MakerStory we’re talking with Simon Lejeune aka Haedre, a Belgium-born painter and comic author. Having started his career as a musician performing across Belgium, Europe and USA, Simon found his home as an artist, giving him a platform to further explore deeper philosophical themes than possible as a musician — like life and death. We’re excited to share Simon’s story from his early days as an artist, his learnings, and how he’s been able to persevere to build a sustainable career doing what he loves — create.
How did your story start as an artist?
I’ve always been encouraged to draw since an early age but, my story really started when I realized I wanted to communicate my, often different, ideas and thoughts. It started with doodling in school books and eventually ended up attending art school at the Academy of Fine Arts in Namur. It was in art school where I started to see how art can be used to express and communicate my ideas and inspirations, that might one day influence others.
Were you always interested in art growing up?
Yes. I remember always enjoying drawing and doodling strange things. In Belgium, where I grew up, you find comic books in every household so I read almost all of them. My parents were also artists, my mom was an oil painter, painting some really trippy stuff and my dad created gardens (although, to be honest, he hated the word “artist”).
When did you decide to follow your path as an artist?
Everybody knows how difficult and frustrating a path it is to be an artist, especially financially. Out of school I started off trying random jobs, but I always found myself quickly returning to art or music. Art just always gives me a feeling of accomplishment and a feeling of going a bit further when I finish a piece. With art I find myself creating and being part of a community. Over the years I slowly worked hard towards a “very average” salary, nothing fancy, but as long as I can continue my work I’ll continue to do it. It’s also nice being my own boss!
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
It usually starts with a vision. If that vision stays with me and gets stronger and clearer, I’ll illustrate them. Although, in recent years I’ve been creating graphic novels. With those I tend to have clearer thematics that I want to develop, which gives me a clear direction in my illustrations and stories.
How would you describe your style of art?
My style largely falls within the science fiction realm, however people would call my style “Biomechanical” — although not all my pieces are of that style. I would best describe my style as surreal cyberpunk with a cosmic tendency, with a focus on artificial intelligence.
Do you have a favorite artist who you draw inspiration from?
Yes, there are so many! My style is inspired largely by the sci-fi artists and comic authors of the 70's and 80's, especially H.R. Giger and his penchant for darkness, and Jean Giraud Moebius and the oniric side to his work. I also draw inspiration from artists like Enki Bilal, Katsuhiro Otomo, Yukito Kishiro, and Tsutomu Nihei, to name a few more.
What are some challenges you’ve faced in creating art, and how do you deal with them?
The financial side is a major one. Having enough to eat and pay your bills several months before finishing your creation has been a challenge, and then you need to monetize your work. I’ve been lucky recently, to have sponsors and supporters, but money is always a concern.
Another challenge is psychological. That frustrating feeling that you’ll never be good enough. I have episodes where I’ll think that my artwork will never lead anywhere. It’s important to get past this, as I’ve always managed to persevere. But it’s a challenge that I’m always dealing with.
Finally, especially when starting off, is the challenge of building a business and creating a lasting career out of art. For example, knowing how to price your work, knowing that art is not just a hobby, and knowing that art is meant to be seen and enjoyed by others — not to just collect dust in my room. Getting over these barriers helped me understand the importance of the business side of art. A trick that I use is that I start by buying nice frames for my work, which then motivates me to create my art, in order to get my money back at a profit.
How do you see the art market and the art world changing?
My work being niche, a mix between art and comics, it’s been hard to break into the larger art markets. Because of this I also haven’t been connected to any particular art “scene”. That being said, I think the internet is helping to change this. The internet has allowed me to reach my scattered and niche audience, who appreciate and enjoy my work, which is powerful.
“Time doesn’t respect what is done without it.”
How has technology and an increasingly digital world impacted your work?
For me, technology impacts my work mainly as an influence. I paint mostly about technology or what it invokes in me. With the presence of technology growing everywhere, I try to communicate a more critical and mature message about technology through my artwork.
At a personal level, I try to find time away from technology, so that I have time away from my screen. I also refuse to adopt the idea of “speed productivity” that technology might enable in my work. I see it as the antagonist to creativity. Time doesn’t respect what is done without it.