Interviews

Method

Fred Jourdain / Martin Parrot

Fred's method often resembles a collage of ideas, themes and scenes. Much like a song, some of his illustrations lend themselves to free association and hold a deeper meaning than what appears at first glance. While walking with Fred in a park near his home one night, I tried to learn more about his creative process and the different steps he takes to come up with an image.

How do you go from an idea to a final image? What's your approach from one project to another?

 

Usually, I start with some sketches and try and create a particular mood. Those lead to rough drawings and I usually make several small vignettes on one or more pages. Those vignettes serve as composition tests.

 

I work on those until I feel like I have something I'm happy with and that ex-presses the message I'm trying to get across. That's when the real work begins: I make the image bigger and I clean up the the blurred lines by adding details. And this is where the research work kicks in. It's sort of like the artistic direction for a movie.


Everything that's not happening in the drawing, either the backstory or what could take place after the scene I'm portraying, could be suggested by certain elements in the image.

It's one of the aspects of my work I'm most passionate about. If I do that well, no one will need any explanation as to what's happening or what the illustration's about. They can easily fill the gaps on their own.

What sources do you use when you're researching for an illustration ?

It involves a lot of reading. For example, if I am drawing a particular article of clothing, I'll start with a few sketched lines but after that, I can then spend two days looking up the history of that piece, its different styles and the story behind it. It's often fascinating. When I'm doing this, I use peer reviewed sources, photographs, art history books, even fashion magazines.


They allow me to document the whole process and that gives me ideas. My work on The Blue Dragon pushed me to approach projects in this manner and develop this method. For that project, I had to draw modern China really well. But I didn't know anything about China and I'd never been there. So I spent a lot of time researching everything down to the last detail. I really appreciated that part of the workload and nowadays, I use this method for all of my projects.

Speaking of archetypes, I recently started to delve intothe commedia dell'arte and his characters. Scaramouche, Pierrot and the others, I find it interesting! I like to see where it comes from and how it changes in time in theater and cinema. I like to be able to inspire me of contents of this kind to add a sub-text to my drawings, without however to make it explicit. For me, these additions are never trivial, they always contribute to the broader sense of the illustration.

You mention a few names of photographers. You also talk a lot about music, movies and fashion. There has been little talk of designers who inspire you, are there any?

These days, I am more in the painting and there is a painter that I appreciate very much: Caspar David Friedrich. I did not know him before, it's really recent. I was often told about him in connection with my drawing Rooftop Inspiration.

As the reference came back often, I finally went to see and I immediately saw the similarity between my illustration and the canvas of this painter where there is a character in front of a storm on the coast. I bought myself a book about his work and it speaks to me a lot. His way of composing his paintings is close to mine and in a way, his themes too. Another era, same fetishes?


I do not have any training in plastic art or art history. It is by digging that I discover these artists who have preceded us. I push more on the art history side than I did before and it's pleasant, it gives me the impression of a certain coherence in what I do and it equips my reflection on how I work.

Otherwise, the designers who inspire me are many: Norman Rockwell, Bernie Fuchs and Edward Hopper, but also Moebius, Bilal, Ottomo, Fred (Philemon), Hugo Pratt, Jamie Hewlett ... There are so many good artists!

We were talking about archetypes earlier. Are there times and / or characters that often come back in your works?

Yes, well they're often pensive observers or travellers. In Rooftop, he character is standing on a snowy rooftop in New York, surrounded by the city's buildings. In Beyond the Boundaries, a woman is standing in the desert and looking towards the horizon, as if she's getting ready to face a storm or about to reach a point of no return. There are a lot of these kinds of characters in my illustrations for The blue Dragon , especially in the transition scenes that aren't in the original play. I added them to the graphic novel to give depth to the characters outside dialogue scenes.

These pauses isolate them and bring some down time which adds dramatic tension to the story.
 


You've probably been asked this before: do you think you'll do comics again someday?

What I don't like about comics is how long they take to draw up once the re-searching, scriptwriting and storyboarding is done. In fact, I feel like I have to play the role of some sort of scribe. Maybe I am not patient enough, maybe I ra-ther give myself the liberty to move on from one style to the next. Right now, what I prefer doing is to draw series of images that tell the fundamental part of a story while leaving the rest to people's imaginations.

I did The blue Dragon , represented 200 pages of drawings. I saw what it takes to do that kind of work and I don't think I have the right temperament to do that my whole life. Drawing takes patience and concentration and I am not great at either of those things, hahaha! But you know, never say never!

PHOTO CREDITS

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

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Ó The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the consent of the author


Interviews

Method

Fred Jourdain / Martin Parrot

Fred's method often resembles a collage of ideas, themes and scenes. Much like a song, some of his illustrations lend themselves to free association and hold a deeper meaning than what appears at first glance. While walking with Fred in a park near his home one night, I tried to learn more about his creative process and the different steps he takes to come up with an image.

How do you go from an idea to a final image? What's your approach from one project to another?

I usually start by trying, with the help of sketches, to create a particular mood. It takes the form of several sketches, several small vignettes on one or more pages.

These thumbnails are composition tests. I work there until I feel like I have something that pleases me and communicates the essence of the idea I'm trying to illustrate. Then I leave the chosen sketch and I work it more seriously, in larger and I specify the fuzzy areas by adding details. This is where the research appears, much like a film's artistic direction.

Anything that is not in the drawing, what happened before this scene and what can happen next can be suggested by elements in the illustration as needed. This is one of the parts of my work that fascinates me the most. If it is successful, no one will need more explanation than what the drawing shows and suggests.

What sources do you use when you're researching for an illustration ?

It involves a lot of reading. For example, if I am drawing a particular article of clothing, I'll start with a few sketched lines but after that, I can then spend two days looking up the history of that piece, its different styles and the story behind it. It's often fascinating. When I'm doing this, I use peer reviewed sources, photographs, art history books, even fashion magazines.

They allow me to document the whole process and that gives me ideas. My work on The Blue Dragon pushed me to approach projects in this manner and develop this method. For that project, I had to draw modern China really well. But I didn't know anything about China and I'd never been there. So I spent a lot of time researching everything down to the last detail. I really appreciated that part of the workload and nowadays, I use this method for all of my projects.

You mention fashion magazines. In what context would you use this kind of material to document yourself?

I am very inspired by the work of some photographers and illustrators who have worked for a hundred years for magazines like Vogue. I am thinking especially of Horst, David Bailey and René Gruau. The goal being to give a personality to some clothes, we find a lot of attitude in their work and it speaks to me.

Some of my recent illustrations take a bit of that approach, like my series on Horai, which is my stylized version of the 4 seasons, or Aneriswhich is inspired by mythology. These drawings allow me to experience something different that I like: to make a very stylized, mysterious image, especially inspired by myths and archetypes.

This is a trip a little more expressionist. Like the work of some fashion designers or photographers I like, like Irving Penn, Helmut Newton or Alexander McQueen, these illustrations have a very dark and classy look that speaks to me a lot. The compositions are boldframed and cold, centered on the strength of character of the character.

Speaking of archetypes, I recently started to delve intothe commedia dell'arte and his characters. Scaramouche, Pierrot and the others, I find it interesting! I like to see where it comes from and how it changes in time in theater and cinema. I like to be able to inspire me of contents of this kind to add a sub-text to my drawings, without however to make it explicit. For me, these additions are never trivial, they always contribute to the broader sense of the illustration.

You mention a few names of photographers. You also talk a lot about music, movies and fashion. There has been little talk of designers who inspire you, are there any?

These days, I am more in the painting and there is a painter that I appreciate very much: Caspar David Friedrich. I did not know him before, it's really recent. I was often told about him in connection with my drawing Rooftop Inspiration.

As the reference came back often, I finally went to see and I immediately saw the similarity between my illustration and the canvas of this painter where there is a character in front of a storm on the coast. I bought myself a book about his work and it speaks to me a lot. His way of composing his paintings is close to mine and in a way, his themes too. Another era, same fetishes?

I do not have any training in plastic art or art history. It is by digging that I discover these artists who have preceded us. I push more on the art history side than I did before and it's pleasant, it gives me the impression of a certain coherence in what I do and it equips my reflection on how I work.

Otherwise, the designers who inspire me are many: Norman Rockwell, Bernie Fuchs and Edward Hopper, but also Moebius, Bilal, Ottomo, Fred (Philemon), Hugo Pratt, Jamie Hewlett ... There are so many good artists!

We were talking about archetypes earlier. Are there times and / or characters that often come back in your works?

Yes, well they're often pensive observers or travellers. In Rooftop, he character is standing on a snowy rooftop in New York, surrounded by the city's buildings. In Beyond the Boundaries, a woman is standing in the desert and looking towards the horizon, as if she's getting ready to face a storm or about to reach a point of no return. There are a lot of these kinds of characters in my illustrations for The blue Dragon , especially in the transition scenes that aren't in the original play. I added them to the graphic novel to give depth to the characters outside dialogue scenes.

These pauses isolate them and bring some down time which adds dramatic tension to the story.
 

You've probably been asked this before: do you think you'll do comics again someday?

What I don't like about comics is how long they take to draw up once the re-searching, scriptwriting and storyboarding is done. In fact, I feel like I have to play the role of some sort of scribe. Maybe I am not patient enough, maybe I ra-ther give myself the liberty to move on from one style to the next. Right now, what I prefer doing is to draw series of images that tell the fundamental part of a story while leaving the rest to people's imaginations.

I did The Blue Dragon, which represents 200 drawing pages. I saw what it was and I do not think I have the temperament to do this all my life. I like it when it moves. Drawing, it takes patience and concentration and I'm not a champion in one as in the other, haha! But hey, who knows, never say never!

PHOTO CREDITS

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

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Ó The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the consent of the author