Valéry Goulet: Snapshots of Imagination

Canadian ADC Member breaks out as a full-time illustrator

After a brief break for MLK Day, ADC and Illustration Month are back in action! We’ve been inundated with submissions from so many talented illustrators within our community, and it’s a joy to share their stories with you.

The next ADC Member to be featured as part of Illustration Month is another “north of the border” artist who has embraced her quirky style.

vgoulet_photoVALÉRY GOULET

Edmonton, AB



Just about every kid can draw, but not every kid is particularly gifted at it. Where did your childhood artistic inclinations come from?

As a kid, I found drawing very challenging — and I still do now! I remember at a very young age drawing with my mother and asking her why she could draw perfect circles while I couldn’t! I wanted to do things just like her and I found her drawings so beautiful. I spent a lot of time crafting things. The best gifts I received were almost always related to drawing, painting, cutting, etc. Like most little girls, I collected pens and notepads. These days, if you open the drawers of my drawing table, it looks like I am still… in a different way.

The memories I have from my ‘art’ are probably very different from the ones others have. I always found that my drawings were terrible but interestingly, my family and friends thought I was really good.

My family has always been really supportive of my aspirations and for them, what seemed the most important wasn’t the job title but the quality of my education. They never forced me to get my Master’s Degree but they highly recommended it, which I am really grateful for. I think I have chosen one of the best paths I possibly could have.

When did you discover that “Hey, this could actually be a career”?

I worked for many years as an Art Director and Creative Director and even if I pursued some personal illustrative projects, to me it felt mostly like an added value to my work as a designer.

Not too long ago, I decided to leave my full-time job and start my own business, focusing on illustration. I am currently working hard at getting known in the industry and I am still curious to see if I will be able to make some sort of living from this!

How would you best describe your style? Do you fight against having a particular style, or do you embrace your style as your “brand”?

I personally don’t know how to describe my style with words. I have heard ‘quirky’ a lot from others. For many years, I fought my style really hard but now I embrace it and I don’t think I have a different option anyway. Your style is shaped by your inspiration, knowledge and practice and it is unique to each individual.

“For many years, I fought my style really hard but now I embrace it…”

Walk us through your usual creative process.

It took me many years to actually follow an illustrative process I would feel comfortable with. I think it is because I wasn’t confident enough in my work. Now that I have decided to do so, I am able to follow a creative process, which now brings some excitement when a new opportunity arises.

I wrote an article on my blog about the process I followed for an editorial illustration I created in 2015.

Tools of the trade: do you have any specific pens, pencils or other instruments that you swear by?

There is definitely a set of tools I couldn’t live without. The first being my set of technical pens (Rapidograph) which I discovered as a kid. My father had a set at home and my ‘job’ was to add water to them so they wouldn’t clog. I tried them out to make sure they worked smoothly and every time, I was impressed with the really fine lines some of them would create. When I was in University, I saw a set of 8 on sale and I treated myself! For many years, I simply loved using my technical pens for sketching, drawing & writing. I discovered a ton of other tools but none of them made me feel as comfortable.

Lately, I have discovered the ‘SAI’ brush pens. They’ve impacted my illustration work considerably. They’ve allowed me to improve my illustration skills as you can’t approach the lines the same way than with a technical pen as you have to hold them differently.

Finally, I couldn’t live without my Wacom Tablet as it allows me to approach so many different mediums with so little mess. I love acrylic painting and ink drawing but it can be very messy and it requires time to set up your space. With the tablet, you can fake most of those messy techniques by simply turning it on.

“For many years, I simply loved using my technical pens for sketching, drawing & writing. I discovered a ton of other tools but none of them made me feel as comfortable.”

What is the most challenging thing about a career in illustration?

At this stage, what I find the most challenging is getting known. Not only the quality of my work matters but also how collaborative I am. Until you get a project, your client doesn’t know how good you are at delivering an excellent illustration and a great service.

Is there a particular project of yours of which you’re especially proud?

In 2009, I designed an illustrative calendar in collaboration with a local printer and the paper company Wausau Paper. It was a little dream I had at the time to create a promotional piece for a paper mill as every time the paper representative would meet with us and share the new samples, we would dream about such projects. When I look back at this piece, I am not in love with the illustration I created as I think my work evolved so much. But all the time and effort invested towards this project reminds me to keep working hard in order to keep achieving more.

Cocktail party talk: how do you describe what you do to someone who isn’t in a creative field, and what’s the typical response you get from them?

Unless I am trying to get some work, I tell most people that I teach design and illustration at University (which is not a lie). I have tried in the past to explain what a graphic designer and an illustrator does and each time, they smiled and moved onto a different topic. Either they get a very rough idea of what we deal with or they simply can’t imagine that this can be a career.

“I have tried in the past to explain what a graphic designer and an illustrator does and each time, they smiled and moved onto a different topic.”

Where do you most often seek out creative inspiration?

I seek inspiration in different places depending on the project I am working on. But for the most part, I realized that teaching brought me a lot of creative inspiration. Connecting with other educators and students help opening your mind and think differently, especially if you have been working in the advertising and design industry for many years.

Which professional illustrators do you look up to and why? 

I could go on for days thinking about professional illustrators I look up to but my top 3 are:

Ping Zhu is an illustrator that I admire. Not only her work always looks great, but also her brush technique is so perfect! I still can’t figure out how she does it and I dream about the day she would share a video of her process so I could see her in action.

One day, someone told me that what made an illustration a good one is a piece that you can’t stop looking at. With Gosia Herba‘s illustration work, it happens every time. Her way of drawing her characters, the colors she uses, the textures and also how she dresses the people she draws always impresses me. I simply like to observe how she creates everything in her illustrative world.

Tommy Doyle is so talented! I am simply in awe with all his work and career path. Regardless if it is a painting, a drawing or any graphic work he produces, it is always good.

Tommy graduated from the same university I did. Since he was one year ahead of me, I have seen his work from the day I started my bachelor degree and I was so wowed by everything he created that I never stopped looking at his work.

At the end of the day, what do you love most about being an illustrator?

What I love the most about being an illustrator is the freedom of creating a ton of different stories in your own visual world. Like when I was young, I take pleasure using my different pens and books and draw snapshots from my imagination. I feel great when people look at my illustration work and smile. I like to deliver images to others who might have trouble to visualizing a story.

Illustration Month continues throughout January, and is open exclusively to ADC Members. Not yet a Member? Join today!