Interviews

Characters

Fred Jourdain / Martin Parrot

When talking about music with Fred, it becomes obvious that performers and their ar-tistic vision fascinate him. It's not surprising that most of his body of work from the last decade (and what ultimately put his name on the map) were illustrations of musicians that inspire him. We can sense there's an attitude and life in his portraits. When dis-cussing with Fred the reasons behind his choice of subjects, one thing is certain: what speaks to him are characters.

Fred, what is a "character" for you?

You see, take Jimi Hendrix, for example. He was an exceptional guitarist with a Jimi Hendrix good to him, but it's really his personality that appeals to me. It was an irreverent one, someone who came into the set at the time and imposed his vision of what music was. It's really his attitude that speaks to me. Leloup, Dylan, Miles and the others, it's the same thing. In my opinion, this is their own personality that defines their art and their speech. That's what makes them interesting and relevant. I do not want to do line portraits saying "well, I made Hendrix, who is next? I have to feel it, and that depends on my mood of the moment. I do not take special commands and I do not walk in repeat mode. I have to feel it, to connect it, otherwise the result is not there.

Interviews

Characters

Fred Jourdain / Martin Parrot

When talking about music with Fred, it becomes obvious that performers and their ar-tistic vision fascinate him. It's not surprising that most of his body of work from the last decade (and what ultimately put his name on the map) were illustrations of musicians that inspire him. We can sense there's an attitude and life in his portraits. When dis-cussing with Fred the reasons behind his choice of subjects, one thing is certain: what speaks to him are characters.

Fred, how do you define a«character»?

Well, take Jimi Hendrix for example. He was an exceptional guitarist with a unique look. But what speaks to me is his personality: he was irreverent. He came onto the scene and imposed HIS vision of what music was. It's his attitude that I like. For others like Leloup, Dylan and Miles, it's the same thing. I believe their personality defines their art and their words. That's what makes them interesting and relevant. I don't want to do back to back portraits and tell myself, "Ok, I've done Hendrix, who's next?" I have to feel it, and that depends on my mood at the moment. I don't do any special orders and I don't work in repeat mode. I need to feel and connect with the character, otherwise the results won't be there. Moods from the moment. I do not take special commands and I do not walk in repeat mode. I have to feel it, to connect it, otherwise the result is not there.


If I'm drawing Hendrix, there need to be splashes of ink all over my drafting table. In a way, I need to become Hendrix. The method and the results are totally different than when I draw something else, like a scene filled with romance or melancholy. I adapt to what I'm illustrating. I work like a chameleon.

Do you have examples of how you've adapted to your subject? Of working like a chameleon?

Yes. Bob Dylan. I drew a freehand sketch of him in one sitting with the intention of keeping it as a rough draft, with much looser lines. In the end, I kept it as is with the lines sometimes going across the illustration in a random way. I felt that made Dylan's poetry stick out. For me, this represents his character and personality.

What about Leloup?

I had a lot of difficulty doing Leloup. I didn't want it to be too realistic or have it resem-ble him too much. Jean is sensitive but he's also bubbling with ideas. His thoughts go in all directions at once and they are filled with the stories of the many different women he's met. He has two or three recurring subjects in his songs: girls, love (that often ends badly) and wandering - he's a traveler. That's who Leloup is. You know, I wouldn't draw Gilles Vigneault. I could do a nice portrait but it would be missing something because I don't connect with his personality - we're too far apart. him, I had a lot of misery to do it. I did not want him to be too resembling or realistic. Jean is the sensitivity and excitement of ideas. He also goes in all directions and he is surrounded by all these girls in thoughts. He has two or three recurring topics in his songs: the girls, the love (which often ends badly) and the journey - the walker. That's Leloup and that's the character. I would not draw ... I do not know ... Gilles Vignault. I could make a beautiful portrait, but it would miss something because I do not connect with his personality. He and I are too far away.

I need to feel a connection with my subject so we can fuse together. The character that appears on paper has to be the sum of our two personalities. If not, I won't be satisfied with the result.

I've done some drawings that are adequate, but I'm increasingly more difficult with my own work. I think it's a good thing but it can become rather torturous!


You've done many portraits of musicians. There are a number of jazz players in the lot: Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Chet Baker, Eartha kitt, Thelonious Monk ... They all have their signature look but, contrary to the others you've drawn, there are all in black and white. What attracted you to them? Their aesthetics? Or their music?

Just like Hendrix or Dylan , the jazz players I've drawn are characters. I love their music but they were also "rock stars" before rock music existed. And when you learn about the lives of these musicians, it's way more intense than what you could ever imagine.

 


Chet Baker's soft voice and languid playing are far from portraying his inner de-mons like his addiction to heroin or his problems with the mob. Chet Baker had all of his teeth broken in with his own trumpet by a gang he owed money to. Miles Davis once showed up to Columbia Records with a gun to claim royalties. That's just the tip of the iceberg. These artists were furiously alive.

As for jazz music, I've been an avid listener since I was 8 years old. It's the art form that's always there by my side, a sort of constant soundtrack that accompa-nies my current mood.

When I start drawing, jazz music allows me to become completely immersed in my work. Classical music works too, especially Mozart. It's easier for me to con-centrate on what I'm doing when there are no words and it becomes like a sort of meditation.

Whether it's old dixie, be-bop or completely unhinged acid-jazz-rock like what Miles did in the 1970, I like how all the music under the "jazz" label offers up a variety moods that allow me to have many different rhythms of creation.

I find that jazz is the perfect conduit for improvisation. It's a dose of chaos sup-ported by an organized framework. I use this approach for some of my drawings where I colour outside the lines and use more spontaneous brush strokes.

When I start drawing, jazz music allows me to become completely immersed in my work. Classical music works too, especially Mozart. It's easier for me to con-centrate on what I'm doing when there are no words and it becomes like a sort of meditation.

Whether it's old dixie, be-bop or completely unhinged acid-jazz-rock like what Miles did in the 1970, I like how all the music under the "jazz" label offers up a variety moods that allow me to have many different rhythms of creation.

I find that jazz is the perfect conduit for improvisation. It's a dose of chaos sup-ported by an organized framework. I use this approach for some of my drawings where I colour outside the lines and use more spontaneous brush strokes.

When I start drawing, jazz music allows me to become completely immersed in my work. Classical music works too, especially Mozart. It's easier for me to con-centrate on what I'm doing when there are no words and it becomes like a sort of meditation.

Whether it's old dixie, be-bop or completely unhinged acid-jazz-rock like what Miles did in the 1970, I like how all the music under the "jazz" label offers up a variety moods that allow me to have many different rhythms of creation.

I find that jazz is the perfect conduit for improvisation. It's a dose of chaos sup-ported by an organized framework. I use this approach for some of my drawings where I colour outside the lines and use more spontaneous brush strokes.

Visually, I see jazz as an abstraction that leans towards figurative art. For me, it's not only ambient music, it's a way to interact with my work.

As Miles Davis said, "There are no wrong notes in jazz!"

What about the fictional characters you draw? Frankenstein,the invisible Man, Dracula ? Why them?

It's a bit the same thing. These are characters that fascinate me and have a certain aesthetic quality that I appreciate. Frankenstein, for example, has fascinated me since I was young. I had toys in his image and, as a teenager, I watched old horror movies Universal Monsters where we also find, precisely, the invisible man, Dracula, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, etc.

Well, they fascinate and they have an aesthetic quality that I appreciate. Ever since I was a kid, I've been interested in Frankenstein. I had toys of him and, as a teenager, I listened to old Universal Monsters horror movies that included The Invisble Man, Dracu-la, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, etc. I really like that type of aesthetic and I like the way it represents modern American culture. Ed Wood Tim Burton has influenced me in the same way and probably contributed to my interest in these old horror films.

What guides you in the way that you draw them?

As far as Frankenstein is concerned, he's not the monster - the real monster is his mas-ter. In reality, Frankenstein is a loving creature. We can see that in the movies when kids approach him and they see him for who really is: a kind, nonchalant soul. In my portrait of him, there's a flower missing some petals.

The flower that is missing some petals on my portrait is a reference to a tragic scene that I appreciate in one of the classics where the creature is played by Boris Karloff. This is the scene where he kills, by accident and nervousness, a girl by lacing her in the lake as one throws a flower.

It's a reference to a tragic scene in the classic Frankenstein with Boris Karloff. It's when he accidentally kills a young girl because he's nervous and scared. He ends up throwing her in a lake, much like you would a flower. I find it illustrates how fragile and clumsy he is. He's unhappy with the world that surrounds him because it's out of his reach and it fades and disappears at the slightest touch. Franky really is a beautiful character.

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

If I'm drawing Hendrix, there need to be splashes of ink all over my drafting table. In a way, I need to become Hendrix. The method and the results are totally different than when I draw something else, like a scene filled with romance or melancholy. I adapt to what I'm illustrating. I work like a chameleon.

Do you have examples of how you've adapted to your subject? Of working like a chameleon?

Yes. Bob Dylan. I drew a freehand sketch of him in one sitting with the intention of keeping it as a rough draft, with much looser lines. In the end, I kept it as is with the lines sometimes going across the illustration in a random way. I felt that made Dylan's poetry stick out. For me, this represents his character and personality.

What about Leloup?

I had a lot of difficulty doing Leloup. I didn't want it to be too realistic or have it resem-ble him too much. Jean is sensitive but he's also bubbling with ideas. His thoughts go in all directions at once and they are filled with the stories of the many different women he's met. He has two or three recurring subjects in his songs: girls, love (that often ends badly) and wandering - he's a traveler. That's who Leloup is. You know, I wouldn't draw Gilles Vigneault. I could do a nice portrait but it would be missing something because I don't connect with his personality - we're too far apart. him, I had a lot of misery to do it. I did not want him to be too resembling or realistic. Jean is the sensitivity and excitement of ideas. He also goes in all directions and he is surrounded by all these girls in thoughts. He has two or three recurring topics in his songs: the girls, the love (which often ends badly) and the journey - the walker. That's Leloup and that's the character. I would not draw ... I do not know ... Gilles Vignault. I could make a beautiful portrait, but it would miss something because I do not connect with his personality. He and I are too far away.

I need to feel a connection with my subject so we can fuse together. The character that appears on paper has to be the sum of our two personalities. If not, I won't be satisfied with the result.

I've done some drawings that are adequate, but I'm increasingly more difficult with my own work. I think it's a good thing but it can become rather torturous!

You've done many portraits of musicians. There are a number of jazz players in the lot: Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Chet Baker, Eartha kitt, Thelonious Monk... They all have their signature look but, contrary to the others you've drawn, there are all in black and white. What attracted you to them? Their aesthetics? Or their music?

Just like Hendrix or Dylan , the jazz players I've drawn are characters. I love their music but they were also "rock stars" before rock music existed. And when you learn about the lives of these musicians, it's way more intense than what you could ever imagine.

Chet Baker's soft voice and languid playing are far from portraying his inner de-mons like his addiction to heroin or his problems with the mob. Chet Baker had all of his teeth broken in with his own trumpet by a gang he owed money to. Miles Davis once showed up to Columbia Records with a gun to claim royalties. That's just the tip of the iceberg. These artists were furiously alive.

As for jazz music, I've been an avid listener since I was 8 years old. It's the art form that's always there by my side, a sort of constant soundtrack that accompa-nies my current mood.

When I start drawing, jazz music allows me to become completely immersed in my work. Classical music works too, especially Mozart. It's easier for me to con-centrate on what I'm doing when there are no words and it becomes like a sort of meditation.

Whether it's old dixie, be-bop or completely unhinged acid-jazz-rock like what Miles did in the 1970, I like how all the music under the "jazz" label offers up a variety moods that allow me to have many different rhythms of creation.

I find that jazz is the perfect conduit for improvisation. It's a dose of chaos sup-ported by an organized framework. I use this approach for some of my drawings where I colour outside the lines and use more spontaneous brush strokes.

Visually, I see jazz as an abstraction that leans towards figurative art. For me, it's not only ambient music, it's a way to interact with my work.

As Miles Davis said, "There are no wrong notes in jazz!"

What about the fictional characters you draw? Frankenstein,the invisible Man, Dracula ? Why them?

It's a bit the same thing. These are characters that fascinate me and have a certain aesthetic quality that I appreciate. Frankenstein, for example, has fascinated me since I was young. I had toys in his image and, as a teenager, I watched old horror movies Universal Monsters where we also find, precisely, the invisible man, Dracula, The Creature from the Black Lagoon , etc.

Well, they fascinate and they have an aesthetic quality that I appreciate. Ever since I was a kid, I've been interested in Frankenstein. I had toys of him and, as a teenager, I listened to old Universal Monsters horror movies that included The Invisble Man, Dracu-la, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, etc. I really like that type of aesthetic and I like the way it represents modern American culture. Ed Wood by Tim Burton influenced me in the same way and probably contributed to my interest for old horror movies.

What guides you in the way that you draw them?

As far as Frankenstein is concerned, he's not the monster - the real monster is his mas-ter. In reality, Frankenstein is a loving creature. We can see that in the movies when kids approach him and they see him for who really is: a kind, nonchalant soul. In my portrait of him, there's a flower missing some petals.

The flower that is missing some petals on my portrait is a reference to a tragic scene that I appreciate in one of the classics where the creature is played by Boris Karloff. This is the scene where he kills, by accident and nervousness, a girl by lacing her in the lake as one throws a flower.

It's a reference to a tragic scene in the classic Frankenstein with Boris Karloff. It's when he accidentally kills a young girl because he's nervous and scared. He ends up throwing her in a lake, much like you would a flower. I find it illustrates how fragile and clumsy he is. He's unhappy with the world that surrounds him because it's out of his reach and it fades and disappears at the slightest touch. Franky really is a beautiful character.

PHOTO CREDITS

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

Share this article

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