Illustrator Godeleine de Rosamel's book Drawing With Circles has a simple premise: It lets young artists “create some of their very first masterpieces” by using just circles. On the cover, a dog with an orange body balances a beach ball on his little round nose. The idea is to get kids to unleash their creativity by drawing with shapes they already know.
De Rosamel — who's French but lives in L.A. with her Californian husband — approaches her work with the same sort of simplicity. Her playful, mammalian ceramic sculptures are currently on display in “Beings and Things,” her solo exhibit at GR2 Gallery.
While she now encourages artists to put pencil to paper at a young age, she didn’t always know she'd end up working in illustration.
“I always loved drawing,” de Rosamel says via email. “It was my favorite thing to do as a kid. Later I started art school with the intention of becoming a graphic designer, but ended up enjoying … what I felt was more freedom in illustration.”
Twenty years later — after illustrating numerous children’s books — she realized she was “lacking a real joy,” so she decided to step back from illustration.
One day an image popped up in her mind, “a herd of unidentified animals.” These animals, she realized, needed to come to life in something more than just an illustration. So she turned to ceramics. Nowadays, she often sketches these curious figures — most of them with the usual amount of little arms and legs, but not familiar, in the sense that they can't be identified as actual animals in the real world. After drawing the creatures, she turns them into ceramic figures. This practice now feeds her illustration and lets her creativity run wild. She hopes to take viewers along for the ride in this show.
“My approach was pretty simple. I just wanted to create a coherent world with and around my creatures, in the hope of taking people’s imagination somewhere new,” de Rosamel says.
Her figures — some of which stand on two legs, others on four — look out with beady little eyes and small, straight lines as mouths. Some of them have long snouts, others round little ears. Many of them seem to balance objects on their heads, but whether they do so permanently seems unclear.
Because of the roundness of their eyes, the figures seem perpetually surprised, as if the viewer just caught them in the middle of something. But they seem happy, content in their existence from whatever little world they come from. In their whimsical nature, the ceramic pieces are cute enough for kids to love but interesting enough for adults to wonder at.
For “Beings and Things,” de Rosamel also explored a new area of making: zines. Curator Eric Nakamura connected her with Tiny Splendor, an independent publishing press with locations in L.A. and Berkeley. Working with them, she produced two zines — a coloring book “using the sketches and preparatory drawings” from the show and a zine with “illustrations inspired by the ceramics.” Working with Risograph printing seemed to spark something, she explains. The drawings in these zines feel even more imaginative than the ones she normally produces.
Her figures and drawings offer light-heartedness that viewers can carry with them. And they too can wonder what sorts of figures would come to life if they paid more attention to the little images that pop into their heads.
“Beings and Things,” Giant Robot 2 Gallery, 2062 Sawtelle Blvd., Sawtelle; through Nov. 30. giantrobot.com/collections/gr2-godeleine-de-rosamel-beings-and-things.