If you go to Wirksworth or Melbourne Festival this September the chances are you will spot quite a crowd surrounding the fascinatingly intricate drawings of Olivier Marc Thomas Leger.
In the last three years the 27-year-old has gone from putting a few drawings on facebook for his friends, to receiving five figure offers for his originals and being shortlisted for the RA Summer Exhibition.
And if you are lucky enough to see his fantasy animals at the festivals you will be in no doubt as to why, because the drawings are bewitching and you won’t be able to take your eyes off them.
Not only that but Oli, who lives with his family in Loughborough, is himself an engaging young man who loves nothing more than to talk about his work and what inspires him to create his mystical creatures.
“I have always been interested in wildlife and the environment and my brother and I were brought up in a creative environment. We were always encouraged to draw by our mother when we were young. If we said we were bored she told us to get out our pencils and paints. I always used to doodle monsters and things from my imagination,” he said, hunting for a schoolboy sketch in his studio at his home to prove the point.
“A teacher suggested I take A level art and then I took a foundation course in art and design at Loughborough and I absolutely loved it. So much so that I decided then I wanted to have a solo show one day.
“I had been thinking of teaching snowboarding in France but that course changed my mind and instead I went off to study Fine Art in Norwich.”
Unfortunately the degree course didn’t live up to Oli’s expectations and although he left with a First he was disillusioned, uninspired and struggling for ideas. It was as if the creativity had been squeezed out of him.
“I wasn’t about to give up on what I wanted, so I just started drawing things because it was fun.
“This planet is wonderful and so is the wildlife that lives on it and what I like to draw are fantasy animals which are my own ecological imaginations of their physiology and the eco-systems around them.
“I started doodling the animals and putting them on facebook for my friends. I drew a goat and people liked it. Someone asked me to draw a yak (which ended up being a Musk Ox) and it got people talking. I drew and seahorse and everyone loved it.
“The response to the drawings was so positive that I entered all three in the Sock Gallery Open in 2013 and was the overall exhibition winner. It was then that I realised could possibly do this after all and I have been working hard at it ever since.”
Oli says his drawings are created using fine line pens to achieve intense levels of detail, and to create a vast degree of visual discovery. Some of them are vast and could fill an entire wall and others are quite small. He has learned to scan and print the originals himself so he gets the best possible quality for his queuing customers.
“I like to be in control of what I produce and getting it just how I like it,” he says.
He is also keen on making sure that his work is enjoyed by as many people as possible and I think he is the first artist to tell me that he has an annual ‘giveaway’. I thought he meant a new year sale but no, he actually gives his work away on facebook on a first come first served basis for a limited number of days each year.
“It seems a bit unfair that people cannot enjoy them just because they couldn’t afford to, so I like to give away stuff and make people happy.”
He can see my incredulous look and adds: “Well, OK, it is not entirely selfless as I get to promote my work to a wider audience for the future and people keep in touch on facebook as a result,” he says with a huge grin.
He must be doing something right as he has more than 1,700 likes on the social media site.
If you want to see more of his work go to http://www.olivierleger.co.uk or check him out on facebook.
He also has a special exhibition at the New Walk Museum in Leicester from until September 13.