Talking Illustration With Sarah Maxwell, PCA Class of '16

sarah working

We interviewed Illustration class of ’16 Sarah Maxwell on her senior project and her artistic endeavors.

Where do you come from and what made you choose to study in Paris?
I’m from Austin, Texas and decided to come to Paris because I wanted to be a fashion illustrator and this is the fashion capital of the world.

Tell us a bit about the Illustration program and what it entails.
I would say it’s kind of a mix of both graphic design and fine arts. You do get some technical classes but for the most part it’s finding what drives you and your work, and about the experimentation. We have lots of different projects: comics, making posters movies and events, book illustrations etc.

Since beginning the course, tell us briefly how you’ve evolved as an artist.
I’m trying to put it into words, which I’m not really good at. I think for me, what changed the most was that I found a voice through my work and before, when I was going to school in the U.S., I didn’t really get that. There, I was taught that I had to be as technical as possible, I was taught that I had to draw photo realistically. Here I didn’t experience that. I was taught to find what set my voice apart from everyone else’s, to find out what my likes and dislikes are and also about my personal world.


© Marie Breton

Tell us about your senior project in a few sentences.
In my life the two major themes have always been art and movies. If I didn’t have art, I would probably be part of the entertainment industry in some way. I am a huge film buff so for my final project, I wanted to make my own movie. I’ve always been really involved with storytelling but I’ve never had a project where I made an complete story — from beginning to end. I’ve made comics, but they included only bits and pieces of what I wanted to tell.

This time I’ve already developed a story: my movie is about this girl who keeps having reoccurring dreams where she meets her soul mate and about them trying to find their way back to each other since there is this barrier they have to cross. It’s about their journey to traverse this boundary and finally unite.

I have made a look book of the characters, and the characters in their settings as well. In addition, I’ve been making posters for the movie. I have a month left so if I have the time, I’ll make small gif animations too.


© Marie Breton

What kinds of electives have helped you prepare your senior project?
I would say my printmaking classes for sure. It was always the biggest influence for me. I’m using this technique for my posters for the show. I want to make a lot of different types of posters using different media: text based and something a bit more abstract. If I had the time, everything would be done in printmaking but it is just so arduous.

How do you overcome artistic roadblocks?
I always try to find a way to re-inspire myself, whether it’s watching movies again or going to bookshops and illustration shops. I recently found this great bookstore in my neighborhood that sells a wide range of independent publications.

Have you participated in any competitions or company projects?
I participated in the InkTober challenge back in October 2015. There’s a few contests I entered – not that I’ve placed any of them. I participated in Angouleme: they have the biggest comic contest in France. It’s their version of Comicon.


© Sarah Maxwell

What is your biggest achievement so far?
My first publication in Couverture magazine. It’s one of my favorite magazines. They will publish one of my illustrations for their next issue. This magazine is different because they only print in cyan and magenta on yellow paper. Each publication has a different theme and this publication has the theme _’CHARGER’. I got inspired by flash tattoo pages. The word chargée can have military connotations but it also means “busy”. So, using those inspirations, I filled the paper with different illustrations like those flash tattoo sheets._

Where do you see yourself post graduation?
I want to work in the fashion industry where I’m doing something illustration based and I’m happy.

When and where is your senior show?
At the End of Year show, on the PCA campus, the Thursday May 19, and my senior final critique is on May 12.

Discover more of Sarah’s work!

INSTAGRAM @ sarahmaxwellart
Website