It didn’t take long for us to become fans of Thomas Lean’s work, so it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak with him!

Where are you from? Has your home city influenced your art?

“I’m from France and I’m living in Paris today! I lived in many places in the country and even if it’s a small one, it’s a huge mix of different cultures and it’s full of different kinds of places (we even have deserts!) and so different ways to live, all these places influenced who I am today and how I consider my job and art in general. I realized only a few years ago, when I worked in other countries, how much it affects me and how french I am in my manners ahah. French people barely respect the rules. Typically, smoking on a train platform is forbidden, it’s written everywhere but everyone does it. I think it unconsciously influences you a lot if you’re doing art, I personally always try to do things that please me rather than doing what’s “great” according to “the rules”. You can notice that thing with most of the french musicians too (Ed Banger Records, a lot of french rappers, etc). French people in art seems to generally be known because they’re doing something in a different and personal way; that’s something I can relate with a lot.”

CHILLIN IN DA STREET YAA – Otter by Thomas Lean

How long have you done pixel art?

“Like most of the people, I first tried to do pixel art just for fun. It was around 6 years ago I think, when I still was a student. I did a lot of game jams at this time and a few years later, I started to post my work on Twitter (an awesome place to meet a lot of indie devs an artists!). That’s how I discovered that pixel artist is a real job ahah. Some people started to contact me to do commissions and that’s how I started to consider the idea of living as a freelance pixel artist, which was what I decided to do at the end of my studies, rather than being a 3D animator in a company. It was a hard choice but I definitely don’t regret it! I meet a lot of awesome people thanks to that!”

So, give him a follow, ay?

What is the favorite project you’ve worked on?

“Since I’m doing freelance, I’ve worked on a lot of different projects (and a lot of them are not games), so it’ll be hard to choose! I’ve worked on The Last Night when I still was a student and Tim and Adrien Soret helped me a lot to have confidence in myself and what I was capable to do at the time. I’m clearly someone different today thanks to them and the project itself helped me so much to understand how ambitious you can be with a media like video game! My current personal projects are clearly influenced too by what I’ve experienced with them and it gives me so much hype for what we developers are doing for the next years 🙂 I also want to mention Black Future 88 (Don & Zac I love you!), it was such a cool adventure! This project made me understand that working with cool people is one of the most important things. I know it may sound a bit cliche ahah, but it gives you motivation and passion all the time and I’m sure that’s the best way to do cool things as a team! More recently, I’ve also worked with Stink Studios on a project for the fashion brand Miu Miu. It was something really “exotic” and it makes me realize that pixel art is not something you necessarily have to connect with video games. That’s also a unique aesthetic thing and that’s why I want today to do more things on my side which are not video games :)”

What artists are your inspirations?

“In fact, I’m in a way not an absolute fan of pixel art and I’m doing it mostly because I consider that’s what I’m good at. Even if I love some pixel artists work (Schiptimmer, Naemo, Daku, Barney from Powerhoof, Adrien Soret, Franek more recently, and a lot of others), I’m mostly inspired by creative people who try to do things which connect a lot of people in general. For example, I’m a huge fan of what Reddit did with r/place, or the concept of Curiosity by Peter Molyneux. I’m also really interested by what Takashi Komiyama or Toyoi Yuuta do with pixel art. They both really different but they also both try to do something new with it. Developing new aesthetics is what I’m mostly looking for, and the idea of using them for something else than “just” video games (clothes, visual experiences, etc) inspires me a lot!

An example of Takashi Komiyama’s style

Are there any projects coming soon?

“Yes! I dedicated these last months to find a balance between freelance and personal projects and I finally have time to work on some serious business things on my free time. As I said above, I really want to experiment a lot of things so all the projects I’m working on right now are really different!”