Brisbane native Rhea Isaacs aka Young Earl Grey, spills the juice on living in Paris, the creative scene in Australia and what influences her illustrations.
First up, thank you for designing us some Paris artwork! It’s clear to see that you have a strong retro aesthetic throughout your work, when did your love affair with the 80’s begin?
I think it’s that case of a bit of a hangover into the 90s when I was growing up! My favourite thing was looking at the cases in the video rental store when was around 5 or so, and they all had these intensely bright, wacky covers to make you want to rent them of course. That and Barbie, Barbie, Barbie! My dad’s nickname for me is still “Action Barbie” so I think that says enough!
You were born and raised in Brisbane moving to Sydney at 18, how did you find the creative scene in Sydney as a young illustrator?
I think the creative scene around the big art schools in Sydney – Sydney College of the Arts, National Art School and COFA – was really nuturing and I appreciate being able to be around that a lot during my time studying in 2011 – 2014. The art scene itself in Sydney does suffer a bit from not enough money and venues though – a lot of artists are really pushing for space, and I think it doesn’t create a nice atmosphere when everybody is competing just for their voice to be heard. Australia is slowly building a better relationship with the arts though which I’m excited about!
What are your earliest memories of trips and travels growing up?
Mostly doing really weird and fun road trips with my dad! One summer we went to Bribie Island, which at the time (late 90s) was still a very kitsch 60s/70s holiday destination for people living up in Brisbane, where I grew up. We stayed in a cute little caravan in a holiday park, which had a little video arcade and some tennis courts. I remember playing into dusk with some kids I met around the park, and my dad cooking a BBQ for dinner – sausage on bread is an Australian summer staple!
Let’s talk about Paris! For as long as we’ve known you, you’ve been illustrating the likes of Daft Punk, Justice and many artists from the French Electronic scene, when did you first visit Paris and what made you want to move there?
I visited Paris first in mid-2015. Actually it was a trip to LA in 2013 that really sparked the flame for me; at the time I was attempting to move to America to really kickstart myself, but I was a fresh-faced 21 year old and didn’t really have the proper guts and know-how to make it work. I ended up coming back after 5 weeks, but promised myself I would work on moving somewhere else overseas as quickly as I could. Around the same time Daft Punk came out with their RAM album and I fell in love instantly – Discovery was a huge record of my later childhood so the Daft have always kind of been around in my life in the background. I really got into their music properly, and in turn it opened me up to the French House and eletronica scene which I really gelled with. I started researching more and more about Paris, then booked 3 weeks there to get a taste of it. I loved it straight away, and also ended up falling for a french dude as well – my now husband, Max! So from there it pretty much solidified me making the big cross-continent move.
What’s your favourite thing about living in Paris?
I think the constant access to so many scenes that I had limited exposure to back home. Here I can go and see an experiemental Japanese band, a classic House DJ from America and African Disco all in one week! It’s incredible how much creativity and variety Paris really fosters, and I appreciate being able to soak that all in at once. That, and being able to sit on a terrace until 12am drinking red wine and chatting with dozens of other Parisians!
Can you give us a few of your favourite spots in Paris?
Well, when you come to Paris, you have to do a bit of vintage shopping! The best place for this is around Hotel De Ville where you’ll find Kilo Shop, Kilo Shop Kawaii and two Free P Stars, which have a mixture of cheap vintage and some special designer pieces.
Paris has a little Japanese district on Rue Saint Anne right near Opera in the 1st, and my absolute favourite place is a Ramen bar called Hakata Choten. The ramen is mouth wateringly good, and they also do pork dumplings which have won awards!
Instead of going to the Tuileries gardens, I like sitting in Palais Royal which is just around the corner. It’s more intimate, with a big fountain in the middle and lots of avenues of trees to sit under.
What’s on the horizon for Young Earl Grey?!
So many exciting things! I’ve just signed with an Agency in the UK so I’m super keen to get cracking on new collaborations and projects that really make me stretch my artistic bones a little.
I’m going with In The Stone from Earth Wind and Fire, because it sounds like the perfect opening to a 70s buddy travel movie and everybody should play it while landing in a new city!