By Mikhail James
Hailing from Canada and currently residing in L.A., Tallulah Fontaine’s art is a product of the many experiences she’s amassed between these two drastically different areas. As an illustrator and Zine maker, Tallulah uses minimalistic techniques, often employing subdued watercolors contrasted by bold outlining and shading. As a result, her art can feel dreamlike and illusionary, yet clear and lucid, all at once. Her inspiration is drawn from specific moments and experiences she’s had in her life, which is why a lone female figure is a recurring theme in many of her portraits. Although these scenes are unique to Tallulah, her art evokes a sense of nostalgia, capturing feelings we’ve perhaps experienced within scenes of our own lives.
Tallulah Fontaine – that’s quite an interesting (and very cool) name. Is there a story behind it?
It’s a nickname from Junior High, a friend and I were coming up with names for this band we never ended up forming – The Johnny Fontaines. I used it a lot for social media when I was a teen since my parents were strict about me using my real name on the internet. After a while, I just became Tallulah.
My real name is Kristina.
Between living in Montreal and L.A., two places quite different culturally and geographically, how do you think your surroundings have influenced the art you’ve created?
I moved to Montreal when I was 19. I didn’t make much art at the time but got really excited about it again as time went on. My roommate worked at Drawn & Quarterly [publishing company] and had a terrific collection of graphic novels that I devoured. It was also my first time being exposed to zine culture and I loved this idea that I could easily make and distribute my own drawings. I found a community there. I was figuring out what I liked and what my style was developing into. I didn’t really decide to become an illustrator until I had this opportunity to move to LA and pursue it full time.
LA was a really different experience and I was very much influenced by my new surroundings. This beautiful desert and beach landscape that was so foreign to me. I started painting all the new plants around me, girls swimming, mountains, and I worked more in colour – blues, pinks and greens.
My work really benefitted from being able to do it every day. I was teaching myself new things and getting better over time.
Are you intentional about who you choose to illustrate for?
Mostly, yes. I’m lucky that I usually get approached by people whose projects I’m really interested in.
A lot of your art seems to depict certain moments in time. Do you try to translate specific instances or experiences you’ve had into your work?
Always. Most of my personal work is about memory and longing for specific moments that were significant to me. I record a lot of notes and quotes that I reference later on.
You’ve done some great work for different musicians. If you could pick any one musician/band to illustrate for, dead or alive, who would it be?
I would love to work with someone like Bjork or PJ Harvey. I really admire how they evolve with each album, not only the music but the aesthetics and vision around it.
Your “Home” Zine is a great collaboration of different artists and illustrations – can you tell us a little bit about how that got started?
I was a big fan of Carla McRae’s work and we started talking about working together on a project and came up with this zine collective. The theme “Home” developed when we were both moving around quite a bit at the time and discussing what that meant to us. Each zine is about either the physical space, or belongings and people that represent our feelings of home. We’ve approached artists we admire and are fortunate to have so many wonderful people contribute to each issue. We are starting to work on the final zine, due this summer.
What have you found to be the most rewarding part about the work you do?
I feel very fortunate to be able to do the thing I love the most for a living. Sometimes it can take up all my time and freelancing can be touch-and-go but it has been so rewarding. To get up every day and work from my home studio, it’s the best job I’ve ever had.