interview

the blue dragon

Fred Jourdain / Martin Parrot

"I needed to understand how to draw the hand character, Pierre, so I cut my hair to look like him and I took pictures of myself."

You are working on this project. How did it all start?

I think people from Robert Lepage's company, Ex Machina, saw my work around 2008, back when I had an exhibit going on in Quebec city's Old Port neighborhood. They were busy working on a project in the area called 'The Image Mill' so they often had their nights there. In any case, I was one of many artists approached to work on the project. I was really flattered at the time, I had just finished a comic book called 'Round Midnight' and I had decided I would not work on it anymore, at least for a little while. I was having more fun expressing myself through larger pieces than through a series of small panels. I'm suggesting a few comic book artists to the people at Ex Machina but they call me back and insisted I wait for the first of the Blue Dragon play in Montreal and meet Robert Lepage backstage so we could chat. I obviously accepted that offer.

It was a really beautiful play and I was very much inspired by its opening scene, when Xiao-Ling's character wore a traditional Chinese mask and performed a Chinese ribbon dance. I also really enjoyed the part when Pierre Lamontagne's character drew Chinese calligraphy on the floor of the stage with a giant paintbrush. That's when he recounts the legend of the Three Gorges. It was about how, in ancient times, when an unmarried woman became pregnant and could not take care of her newborn, she would be able to float down the Yangtze River. The legend states that the child has three possible outcomes, depending on which side of the river the basketball floated down. The end of the play actually makes reference to that ...

After the show, I was already thinking about what I had in mind. I wanted to make a lot of money, but I wanted to do it very much. Robert told me he was interested in my vision and that, above all else, he wanted the final product to be something of a meeting between his storytelling and my artwork and he insisted I take the kidneys. I think he was comfortable enough to let me experiment and he knew I would honor his creation.

Place of adaptation to the traditional comic book format, I proposed a hybrid graphic novel approach. I felt that the formula, this format would be better suited to convey the minimalist sets, the ethereal sounds and the strong dialogue between the three main characters. I thought it was more about how to use a book and feel a picture. I would like to do this, but I would like to say that it would be easier to read the book. This approach allowed me to use the art of illustration to tell the story in the best possible way and to incorporate the texts and dialogue for the word for word, which was Ex Machina's only constraint.

How did you go about starting a project of that magnitude?

Obviously, I had to do lots of storyboarding but I also practiced drawing. I had to fine-tune my technique in order to meet the aesthetic of the play which is a contemporary tale set in China. I spent a whole year researching the different techniques I studied Chinese architecture. I ordered authentic costumes from the Maoist era and had friends wear to see how they fit. I built scale models of the inside of the main character to have a better idea of ​​the different angles I could draw. Robert also suggested a few books for me to read, including the biography of Tchang Tchong-Jen, a man with an incredible life story who was a friend of Hergé. All that work taught me about China before, during, and after Mao's rule and it was fascinating. I even put a master of Chinese calligraphy that showed me some of the basics of drawing Chinese characters. The first year preparing for the project and the second year illustrating it.

You bought a traditional Mao to learn how to draw that kind of outfit?

Yes, along with other garments. I was trying to learn as much as I could. I had my girlfriend and other women wear some of the outfits and I had them pose as the characters of Xiao-Ling and Claire. But it went even more than that. I needed to understand how to draw the character, Pierre, so I cut my hair and I like it. I wanted to be a little piece of me in him. The images I took of myself and others with the help of a little bit in my clothes, stuff like that. For example, the way Stone stands next to his bicycle in the Pudong illustration, which was used as the first cover page, it was inspired by a picture taken from me in a park in my neighborhood. Using those images as models, I would like to concentrate on their faces.

And the calligraphy, that was important to you?

It was important to tell the story. Pierre Lamontagne's character makes calligraphy and the story begins with a scene of him talking about calligraphy. I wanted to stay true to the play and give a homage to a certain Chinese artistic tradition. I managed to incorporate that into my technique. But before I started working on the project, I was just drawing a lot with Chinese inks so it all happened pretty naturally.

Some of the calligraphy I was in The Blue Dragon was drawn on rice paper with the hairs of the ears of cattle, like those Picasso received from Chan Daichien in the mid-50's. Don Quixote sketches. They are very particular purpose I ended up drawing some really neat stuff with them.

I also had a Chinese artisan, named Chengwei, who was based in Chicago and with whom I was in contact for the entire project. Pierre Lamontagne, another for the Blue Dragon - which was used in some limited editions of the book - and another for myself - which was used to illustrate the book 's last page. Pierre Lamontagne's works. When everything is published, I feel a copy of the book to Chengwei and he feels back to me with a beautiful letter filled with golden calligraphy.

It's a technique you've used on other projects?

A little, yes, especially for illustrations with certain nature textures, for example leaves or bamboo. The leaves in my Buffalo Will illustration were drawn with that technique, same thing for The Divine Comedy. I'm in my tool belt and I take it out of time, depending on what I'm drawing.

With this new technical drawing, has the Blue Dragon left its mark in any of your recent work? Perhaps in your more ethereal illustrations?

Some of my illustrations were already pretty moody to begin with, even before The Blue Dragon. In fact, that's one of the things Robert told me about my work before we collaborated. However, the project did allow me to explore how I approach narrative. It also pushes me to do more extensive research, something that is now becoming part of every illustration or painting I do. The constant need to document and design and the posture of my characters.

The 'Dragon' has been critically acclaimed and you have several nominations and prizes for your art. Are you satisfied with your work?

I'm the type of person who is perpetually dissatisfied with their work. Every time I flip through the pages of the 'Dragon', I start thinking about certain moments in the creative process and then I start thinking about the constraints I had to work with, not the success. There are illustrations in there that I love drawing 200 color pages in one year, as well prepared as I was, made me realize that it's not the kind of project I want to work on a regular basis.

I like to take the time to draw every single one of my illustrations. However, under the circumstances, I think I did a good job. But I know I could have done better. At a certain point, you have to move on and accept this project for what it is: my first book. With that in mind, I can say I'm quite satisfied.

credits

Pictures: Anthony Jourdain, Catherine Côté, Fred Jourdain, Martin Poulin, Martin Côté

Translation from french: Peter Tardif

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© Affranchi - The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the author's consent

interview

the blue dragon

Fred Jourdain / Martin Parrot

"I needed to understand how to draw the hand character, Pierre, so I cut my hair to look like him and I took pictures of myself."

You are working on this project. How did it all start?

I think people from Robert Lepage's company, Ex Machina, saw my work around 2008, back when I had an exhibit going on in Quebec city's Old Port neighborhood. They were busy working on a project in the area called 'The Image Mill' so they often had their nights there. In any case, I was one of many artists approached to work on the project.

I was really flattered at the time, I had just finished a comic book called 'Round Midnight' and I had decided I would not work on it anymore, at least for a little while. I was having more fun expressing myself through larger pieces than through a series of small panels. I'm suggesting a few comic book artists to the people at Ex Machina but they call me back and insisted I wait for the first of the Blue Dragon play in Montreal and meet Robert Lepage backstage so we could chat. I obviously accepted that offer.

It was a really beautiful play and I was very much inspired by its opening scene, when Xiao-Ling's character wore a traditional Chinese mask and performed a Chinese ribbon dance.

I also really enjoyed the part when Pierre Lamontagne's character drew Chinese calligraphy on the floor of the stage with a giant paintbrush. That's when he recounts the legend of the Three Gorges. It was about how, in ancient times, when an unmarried woman became pregnant and could not take care of her newborn, she would be able to float down the Yangtze River. The legend states that the child has three possible outcomes, depending on which side of the river the basketball floated down. The end of the play actually makes reference to that ...

After the show, I was already thinking about what I had in mind. I wanted to make a lot of money, but I wanted to do it very much. Robert told me he was interested in my vision and that, above all else, he wanted the final product to be something of a meeting between his storytelling and my artwork and he insisted I take the kidneys. I think he was comfortable enough to let me experiment and he knew I would honor his creation.

Place of adaptation to the traditional comic book format, I proposed a hybrid graphic novel approach. I felt that the formula, this format would be better suited to convey the minimalist sets, the ethereal sounds and the strong dialogue between the three main characters. I thought it was more about how to use a book and feel a picture. I would like to do this, but I would like to say that it would be easier to read the book. This approach allowed me to use the art of illustration to tell the story in the best possible way and to incorporate the texts and dialogue for the word for word, which was Ex Machina's only constraint.

How did you go about starting a project of that magnitude?

Obviously, I had to do lots of storyboarding but I also practiced drawing. I had to fine-tune my technique in order to meet the aesthetic of the play which is a contemporary tale set in China.

I spent a whole year researching the different techniques I studied Chinese architecture. I ordered authentic costumes from the Maoist era and had friends wear to see how they fit. I built scale models of the inside of the main character to have a better idea of ​​the different angles I could draw. Robert also suggested a few books for me to read, including the biography of Tchang Tchong-Jen, a man with an incredible life story who was a friend of Hergé. All that work taught me about China before, during, and after Mao's rule and it was fascinating.

I even put a master of Chinese calligraphy that showed me some of the basics of drawing Chinese characters. The first year preparing for the project and the second year illustrating it.

You bought a traditional Mao to learn how to draw that kind of outfit?

Yes, along with other garments. I was trying to learn as much as I could. I had my girlfriend and other women wear some of the outfits and I had them pose as the characters of Xiao-Ling and Claire.

But it went even more than that. I needed to understand how to draw the character, Pierre, so I cut my hair and I like it. I wanted to be a little piece of me in him. The images I took of myself and others with the help of a little bit in my clothes, stuff like that. For example, the way Stone stands next to his bicycle in the Pudong illustration, which was used as the first cover page, it was inspired by a picture taken from me in a park in my neighborhood.

Using those images as models, I would like to concentrate on their faces.

And the calligraphy, that was important to you?

It was important to tell the story. Pierre Lamontagne's character makes calligraphy and the story begins with a scene of him talking about calligraphy. I wanted to stay true to the play and give a homage to a certain Chinese artistic tradition. I managed to incorporate that into my technique. But before I started working on the project, I was just drawing a lot with Chinese inks so it all happened pretty naturally.

Some of the calligraphy I was in The Blue Dragon was drawn on rice paper with the hairs of the ears of cattle, like those Picasso received from Chan Daichien in the mid-50's. Don Quixote sketches. They are very particular purpose I ended up drawing some really neat stuff with them.

I also had a Chinese artisan, named Chengwei, who was based in Chicago and with whom I was in contact for the entire project. Pierre Lamontagne, another for the Blue Dragon - which was used in some limited editions of the book - and another for myself - which was used to illustrate the book 's last page. Pierre Lamontagne's works. When everything is published, I feel a copy of the book to Chengwei and he feels back to me with a beautiful letter filled with golden calligraphy.

It's a technique you've used on other projects?

A little, yes, especially for illustrations with certain nature textures, for example leaves or bamboo. The leaves in my Buffalo Will illustration were drawn with that technique, same thing for The Divine Comedy. I'm in my tool belt and I take it out of time, depending on what I'm drawing.

With this new technical drawing, has the Blue Dragon left its mark in any of your recent work? Perhaps in your more ethereal illustrations?

Some of my illustrations were already pretty moody to begin with, even before The Blue Dragon. In fact, that's one of the things Robert told me about my work before we collaborated. However, the project did allow me to explore how I approach narrative.

It also pushes me to do more extensive research, something that is now becoming part of every illustration or painting I do. The constant need to document and design and the posture of my characters.

The "Dragon" was critically acclaimed and you received several nominations and prizes for your art. Are you satisfied with your work?

I'm the type of person who is perpetually dissatisfied with their work. Every time I flip through the pages of the 'Dragon', I start thinking about certain moments in the creative process and then I start thinking about the constraints I had to work with, not the success. There are illustrations in there that I love drawing 200 color pages in one year, as well prepared as I was, made me realize that it's not the kind of project I want to work on a regular basis.

I like to take the time to draw every single one of my illustrations. However, under the circumstances, I think I did a good job. But I know I could have done better. At a certain point, you have to move on and accept this project for what it is: my first book. With that in mind, I can say I'm quite satisfied.

credits

Pictures: Anthony Jourdain, Catherine Côté, Fred Jourdain, Martin Poulin, Martin Côté

Translation from french: Peter Tardif

Share this

© Affranchi - The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the author's consent