Spotlight on Artist Marina Taleb

When I first saw the work of French artist Marina Taleb I thought to myself, "If I was ever in a position to commission a portrait of myself, I want Marina Taleb to paint it". After that thought, I realized I definitely need a portrait of myself in my future home. Vain? Absolutely, but why the heck not? 

I was mesmerized by every painting of hers. I was entranced by the vibrant colors but also the emotions Taleb is able to capture in the eyes of her muses. After scrolling through her Instagram feed I started noticing some familiar faces and realized some of Taleb's muses are some of our favorite celebrities; Rihanna, Ruth Negga, and Kate Moss, just to name a few. After reaching out to  Taleb regarding the interview I was obviously happy to receive a response but I was even happier to know that Taleb was enthused about the interview. 

Taleb says many amazing things during the interview but one of my favorites is, "’s not important to paint a tree green if you feel like you see it blue…". Even out of context the message is very clear here...especially if you're an artist. This statement also explains the incredible colors in Taleb's paintings. This can be seen in the painting above which features a female figure with blue hair against a bright pink background. Continue below to learn more about the talented Marina Taleb and follow her to see all her awesome creations (@marinataleb).

What sparked your interest in art?

Maybe just a natural curiosity. And there’s the "Why". Trying to understand the environment I live in and trying to understand myself. Why is the sky blue? Why clouds have so many shapes and colors. Why the rain, why the sun. why me in all this. Why do my parents love me? What have I done for this? And the second most important question after the Why: the What? What did Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphaël, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and, Picasso, to name a few, what did they understand of their own age, their own culture and environment? What is their meaning and voice on this planet? What forms, what colors did they use, and why? It all started my own path of trying to understand things. Why do I spontaneously grab the pink or the turquoise tubes to put on the canvas without any more thoughts? I recently discovered that intuition, most of the time, makes sense in the end. Or it shows you a different interpretation you didn’t think of in the first place. Even if you do not seize it at first, you probably will at some point.

Do you remember the point in life when you realized you wanted to make a living as an artist?

Well, I think like forever. The very first "adult me" I’ve ever pictured was as a painter.

But the path was more complicated than I thought. Mostly because of me. I got discouraged a lot. I thought I didn’t deserve it, I wasn’t talented enough, I would never have worked enough... And to make the whole thing even more difficult, school and society tell you it’s not a safe way (and especially in France, I sense they have a different mentality in other countries like England and USA). School and society make you believe it’s almost an impossible quest, and it’s not the most noble. To best serve society you’d better be a doctor or an advocate or a politician. When i believe creative path is the best. I remember when I was maybe 4 or 5 we were waiting in line at the bakery with my mom. And the gentleman standing before us turned towards us and asked "Hello young lady! How cute are you! What would you like to be when you grow up ?" I answered very proudly (Ponyo style)  "I WILL BE A PAINTER". The gentleman immediately frowned and said, "Oh poor you, you’ll never make any money and you will live poorly under the roofs your whole life". It sounded like a terrible and frightening future. Too bad because it’s not true. Well, in fact, I do live under the roofs and I don’t make that much money, but I still couldn’t be happier. Every single job has a creative part, even though you have to dig a lot for certain tasks… But most of the time, even if it’s mostly administrative or Ford-factory style work, for example, it’s to serve a bigger, greater project. So every job has a positive purpose. Every discouragement, every difficulty, and every job has made me stronger.

Who or what inspires you?

Everything, everyone. All the time. Light, reflections, refractions, blur, colors, faces, words, big pictures & small details. Figurative and abstract.  Cinema, actors, music, fashion, poetry, video games... What is timeless, what is old, what is new, what is universal… How we see things in Occident, in Orient, in Africa…

The older I get the more open-minded I get. I tend to like a lot more stuff, even things I disliked at first.

However, that's not very helpful here so if I had to narrow it down a bit I’d say I’m very inspired by Edvard Munch’s work. He is most famous for "The Scream" but he was very prolific and he was really into emotions and what it is to be a human being. I guess I have the same obsession. Maybe it’s not important to paint a tree green if you feel like you see it blue… I like faces and portraits because we’re multifaceted. I’m inspired by Women and Men in art and in general, whatever their origins. I’m inspired by women artist who devoted their life to art even if they lived in a time where it was utterly difficult. I think about Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keefe, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Helen Frankenthaler… And I’m inspired by cinema a LOT. It’s like a mirror to reality or a window to a dimension you don’t know: another persons mind or eye, another country, another language… How Peter Weir related to Botticelli’s angels in his wonderful film Picnic at Hanging Rock for example. It is very inspiring.

What is your artistic process?

It’s a very basic and simple process. Most of the time it just pops into my head like magic. I see something and I’m like, "wow this would be cool if painted" or "wow I want to paint this face". Or I think a little bit more and I imagine something I would like to see. And then I make the picture, the painting as clear as possible in my mind. Of course in the process, when I start pushing colored brushes around, it almost NEVER looks the way I thought. But I’m happy with this alteration. I like hazard. I take it as a lucky happening. It’s good not no be in total control, not to be perfect. I remember seeing a David Lynch interview where he said one of the very first films he ever shot came back from the lab all blurry and he was so happy with it.

Is there a theme to your work?

That’s a good question. I paint a lot of women, a lot of portraits. I’m obsessed with modern vanities and I made a film about it. I’m interested in what is ephemeral. We are ephemeral. It’s about identity, humanity, time, maybe love? And I paint a lot of birds, I love birds.

Many of the women in your work look familiar? Are all the women public figures or are some of them women in your life?

I paint both. Women all equal. Public women or women in my life. Just people who inspire me. Mothers, single moms, single dads, actresses, singer, musicians, writers, politicians… What are they thinking about? What are they feeling? What is really behind the mask of the face? I respond to other sensibilities, other questions, other lights and, positive outcomes. "Ce tout petit supplément d’âme, cet indéfinissable charme, cette petite flamme." Thank you France Gall, thank you Michel Berger.

Has your style evolved overtime?

I think yes luckily and it keeps evolving. Sometimes I’m more "symbolist" I mean a bit more abstract or blurry, sometimes I’m more direct, figurative, pop… I like to navigate through all these approaches.

What is the most challenging part of being an artist?

To know your creativity and ultimately your "art" is allowed to exist.

What is your favorite aspect of running your business?

Freedom. Also, every aspect is so much fun. You get to be a secretary, an accountant, an art critic…

How do you stay motivated when you experience a creative rut?

It rarely happens because I’m almost always inspired. But when I feel blocked or tend to discourage I change my medium: I take photographs or I write a small story. Or I watch lots of movies or read books. And last but not least, I just do nothing and rest. And it comes back.

What has been your favorite project or creation so far?

I would say almost every painting: I’m not saying I’m happy with the result. I almost never really like the result. But I just enjoy painting.

And then there’s this video triptych I made about modern vanities, that was the first film I made all by myself (story, staging, light…) I had so much fun, the subject was so important to me and lots of people were moved by it, so that was a real gift.

As for the more commercial project, my favorite was hands downs, the shooting for a new fashion application called Hackaoui. We had so much fun with Flavie Roquette the CEO and founder. Like two little girls playing and inventing stories…

What is your ultimate goal with your artwork?

"A light here required a shadow there", said Virginia Woolf if I‘m not wrong... Difference is individuality and therefore it’s a strength. But the line between weakness and strength is very thin… and "difference" makes you feel rejected and you suffer from it. When it’s up to you to change the anchorage from negative to positive.

It may sound presumptuous but if some people could question what their main values are in life and maybe shift it towards beauty and love. Then I’m a very gifted girl. Otherwise if one can just feel pleasure by the look at it…

And if there’s none of that, that’s ok.

Any last words?

Follow your heart before anything. Even if it’s risky, long, and difficult. Go towards what you love, and then towards what you don’t love. Be curious. Try to answer the "why". Why do you like this more than this? What you like and what you don’t. Try to analyze and be precise. If you don’t connect the dots now, you probably will later. And the best advice I’ve ever been given by my wonderful husband: just do. Or as one of the greatest philosophers of our time, Master Yoda, would say, "The greatest teacher, failure is" and "Do or do not. There is no try".