July recap – Montreal Comiccon, ice cream, aliens, and GOOD NEWS!

Category : Monthly recap

The AC is installed, I’ve been working from home wearing as little clothes as possible, and drinking lemonade. I hope you guys are keeping it cool, wherever you are!

This month started out strong with the Montreal Comiccon on July 5th. Me and a couple of pals got invited at the very last minute, to share two big tables at the faaaaaaar end of the show floor. It was a perfect setup, honestly; having a set schedule to sell books but also merch is the best of both world. For the first time in years, I actually walked around Artist Alley and met tons of super nice people. Ahhh, I missed tabling! And the AC inside the Palais des Congrès was a blessing.

The scorching heat inspired this weird series of prints. I’ve been told they look both delicious and absolutely disgusting! It’s different than what I usually do but it was a good break from drawing comic panels. Anyway, I put them up on my shop!

Another new item I’ve been wanting to do was a Mystery Pack! I have a LOT of prints and merch at this point, so why not make a surprise bundle? I have no idea if it’ll even catch on but when it comes to Etsy in general, I have no idea what I’m doing. Oh well!

One of the highlight of the month was the release of my Invader Zim alternate cover. I finished it somewhere last fall and I had to patiently wait almost a year to show it. I didn’t think I’d see an Invader Zim renaissance in my lifetime but between drawing two alternate covers (there’s another one on the way) and the Netflix movie coming in a week or so, past me is kinda freakin’ out! I have a feeling that a lot of you are also old-time fans of this weird, weird series. Maybe I’ll watch a few of the old episodes for nostalgia’s sake!

Okay, now onto the good news part.

I GOT MY GRANT!

I still can’t believe it! I will be able to make Utown my main project! As July was dragging on, I really started losing hope. Applying for a Canadian Art Council grant was almost an after thought earlier this year. I’m SO happy I did though! It’s wild how my mindset switched to thinking 100% of the time of ways to scrape some income left and right (everything I wrote in this entry is, in fact, that) to thinking about one. single.thing. How am I going to make the best comic I can. There was a background noise in my head, a static sound that always asked “How will you make it until the next freelance gig? You should get a real job!”. The guilt of working countless unpaid hours on a script, a storyboard and maintaining a Patreon, has toned down.

So for now I’m savouring the moment. I got the email at the end of the month, so I’m allowing myself a bit of a breathing space before I start planning the whole thing. I’m both extremely excited and terrified; it’s a good feeling! It’s worth pointing out that I had a lot of help from dear friends along the process. From reviewing storyboards to commenting my script and giving some much needed feedback on the grant application itself, I don’t think I would’ve made it alone. I’m so grateful!

For more Utown updates, head on Patreon. I still have tons of sketches and concepts to post. Hopefully, by the next monthly recap, I’ll have a finished chapter!

Until then, here’s what got me hoppin’ this month.

Reading: This great article on being a thrifty artist. It resonated with me quite a lot!
Watching: A mix of Queer Eye, 3Below and….Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures. I’m all over the place!
Listening: Cool, summery jams. Friendly Fires, Metronomy, Beach House. And… um. I fell back into Mars Volta, which is the absolute opposite of “chill”.
Artist: Jiji Knight. It’s cute and soft and just weird enough. She’s very active on Twitter too!


June recap – Vector illustration, layouts, soul-crushing anime

Category : Monthly recap

I can’t believe how fast June went by. Holy hell. We’ve finally had our first few days of very nice weather and I’ve entered LEISURE MODE, which is both necessary and a bit dangerous.

Each year I get what I call my “corporate gig”. It’s normally mildly exciting but it pays the bills for a little while. This year, it consisted of two full weeks of cleaning up a storyboard and drawing assets in Illustrator. I have a complicated relationship with Illustrator. What it does, it does well, but it’s so counter-intuitive for someone like me, who is satisfied with half-assed scribbles on crumpled paper. Still. It’s over and done, and if anything, being away from my personal project for two full week just made me more motivated!

So speaking of which, I decided it was more than time to just start production for Utown. I did all the research necessary at this point, drew all the outfits and mapped out all the places. Leaping back into storyboarding was… interesting. At first, I completely botched the two opening pages. I had to go back and actually plan out the dialogues (am I ever gonna stop writing?!). After my friend Boum sent me her own scenario for her next book, I decided to adopt her two-columns format to plan out spreads instead of individual pages. Having logical-thinking cartoonist friends is pretty damn useful! Drawing layouts is extremely challenging for me, and I hadn’t done anything of the sort in more than a year and a half. But I’m closing in page 10 and I can already feel it getting easier. Since I put in the lettering as I go, it’s already starting to feel like a real comic. Exciting!

The sketches I’ve accumulated over the last few weeks will all go up on my Patreon at some point. I’m still icky about “exclusives” so I think I’ll settle for a mix of public, early access for now. It’s a LOT of managing, to be honest, but I feel like I have to regrow a fan base from the ground up. And this ain’t the good ol’ DeviantArt days anymore…

In other news: COMICCON! I’ve been invited as a guest artist at the Montreal Comiccon! This is a first for me and I honestly cannot wait. I’ll be there with books and merch. I’ll post my signing schedule and table number as soon as I have the info.

On a final note, one thing: Neon Genesis Evangelion is on Netflix, I hadn’t seen it, it has wrecked me. BUT: it has top-notch UI design and by far the best technical yammering of any sci-fi franchise I’ve seen. I would sit through an hour-long Eva launch sequence any time.

via GIPHY

So other than giant robots piloted by emotionally staunched teens, this is what got me fired up this month:

Reading: Still not done reading last month’s book because I’ve been biking so much, instead of commuting. No rush though!
Listening: Pup‘s Morbid Stuff for its nostalgic energy. But I gotta be honest, those Lo-fi hip-hop Youtube channels get a lot of air time because: work.
Watching: Good Omens, based on the novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I’ve read the book two times and sat through the radio-play. I couldn’t have asked for a better adaptation.
Artist: Kit Mills. Love love love love.


May recap – Grant update, Patreon, MCAF

Category : Monthly recap

May is one of my favorite month of the year. It’s the month of my birthday, all of the flowers bloom and it’s also the month of the MCAF Festival, Montreal’s very own comic event. I got my bike out for good, slammed into countless potholes already and got my first busted tire. One of many, according to my experience.

The month started on a low note. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t get the government grant I applied for. Cue sad horn. Oh well! It hasn’t stopped me from doubling down and finishing the Utown scenario, after almost a year and a half of on and off work. I’m frightened by the length of this comic to be honest. I gotta think of a way to make this happen without driving myself into the ground. It always looks way worse on paper. Once I start layouts, I’ll have a much better scope of the work load. I hope.

Part of the plan to make Utown viable was to re-open my Patreon. I did so at the start of May and switched to a “Pay what you want” model. A friend of mine suggested this and honestly, it lifted a big weight off my shoulder. With this philosophy, I don’t feel guilty about my update schedule anymore. I don’t feel like it has to be yet another side hustle. The way I see it, it’s more like a production journal than an actual “pay-for-content” kinda setup. My first goal is to cover half of my studio rent with my Patreon earnings and thanks to some very kind and very generous friends, it might become a reality!

I might not have gotten the grant, but I won an award for Hiver Nucléaire 3! You lose some, you get some!

The end of the month of May means it’s time for the Montreal Comic Arts Festival! This year’s edition was insane. I sold ou books, made a bunch of dumb sticker packs, sold out as well, walked around, drank a lot of beer and had a great time. It’s by far my favorite event of the year. Everyone I know did really well and since it’s a small event, you can tell when everyone’s happy and enjoying themselves. It rubs on everyone else, tablers or visitors. Next year, for sure, I’m getting my own table. I have too much merch and not enough opportunity to sell it!

Lastly, out of the blue, I had an urge to draw something girly that was not a storefront. I guess it had been gnawing at me for a while because I finished this on two days; that’s insanely fast and focused for me. I’m really happy with it! (Print in the shop, as usual.)

I got a lot of freelance work lined up in June. Personal projects will have to wait. But for now, here’s what got me excited in May:

Reading: A Scanner Darkly, because it’s never too late to pick up some weird sci-fi/psychedelic Phillip K.Dick novel. Up to this day, I still haven’t seen the movie. Which is, if you know me, unbelievable.

Watching: Avengers: Endgame. Smart Hulk and Burnout Thor were the two things I didn’t know I needed in my life.

Listening: Long-time favs Holy Ghost! released a killer track called “Escape from Los Angeles from their upcoming “Work” album.

Artist: Matt Cook. Incredible sense of light. This guy is in a whole other league, especially given his subject matter.


Horaire du Festival de BD de Montréal 2019

Category : Conventions

C’est le temps de mon événement préféré de l’année, et j’ai nommé le Festival de BD de Montréal!

Voici donc mon horaire officiel de dédicaces et d’activités.

Dédicaces:

Vendredi: 16h-17h
Samedi: 16h30-18h

Activités

Vendredi: 15h-15h45h – Discussion autour du projet BD Japon
Dimanche: 16h-16h45 – Dessin en direct

Je fais aussi parti de l’exposition Itai Doshin 異体同心 qui se tiendra à l’Espace Lafontaine pendant la fin de semaine. Une BD muette de 8 pages réalisée en début d’année y figurera!

Ça se peut que je tienne des sketchbooks et des packs de stickers à la table. Et s’il fait beau, je risque de hang out autour du chapiteau, faque si vous spottez une tête rose gomme-balloune, c’est moi!


April recap – Québec BD, concept art, writing

Category : Monthly recap

April was a month of talking about comics. Holy hell, I feel like all I’ve done in the last month was talk. about. comics. The Québec BD Festival was obviously a well-suited place to do exactly that. I caught up with fellow bédéistes friends, got real nervous at the Bédéis Causa award night (congrats to all the winners!!) and met a LOT of readers. It was the first festival I attended with Hiver Nucléaire 3 and wow, I got so much love from people who had finished the series. It was truly an amazing edition and it re-fueled my batteries a great deal!

Work this month has been separated into two big tasks. One was doing the book print layout for Axelle’s upcoming book, Si on Était. The other one is an ongoing concept art/background layout gig I got through the studio. I’ve always loved drawing backgrounds in my comics and such, but it’s only my third time doing it in a professional setting. I think I enjoy drawing backgrounds more than I do drawing characters–in a work situation, I mean. I know, it’s like a blasphemy! I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to show any of that work anytime soon but I’m keeping a few pieces for my portfolio for sure.

Oh and I’m still drawing houses. Like, it’s starting to turn into a thing.

Aside from work, I’m still writing Utown in tiny, tiny chunks. I’m starting to think that “part-time” comic making is not going as smoothly as I would’ve liked. Hopefully, once I re-launch my Patreon (soon!), it’ll give me a little boost! In the meantime, I drew Sam, doing what he does best: nothing.

In an attempt to keep my head somewhat clear (it’s such a mess right now), I kicked myself in the butt and have taken up jogging again. The first run felt amazing. I haven’t felt this energized in a long time! It’s too bad the weather has been this terrible because I’m just aching to move. Going to the studio on bike is one of my favorite thing, partly because of exercice, but mostly because of my route. I follow the Des Carrières cycling path, which runs directly beside a train track and the entire semi-industrial landscape that surrounds it. If I’m lucky, I’ll bike next to a freight train and try (hopelessly) to race it. Each day, I take a glimpse at the picture-perfect Van Horne overpass gently curving above the train tracks I cross on foot. This entire area is like a visual playground for me and has inspired more comic panels than anyone will ever know. Biking and walking are just the best way to get inspired. If you care to pay attention!

April was hectic and challenging, but in a good way. So here’s what got me excited this month:

Listening: To a lot of silence actually. I’ve been writing this post and most of my scenario in total silence, with only the ticking of the clock in my living room and the sound of the cars outside. I’ve become increasingly aware of noise and how it affects me.

Reading: Man oh man, I read Austin Kleon’s “Keep Going“. I’ve been waiting SO LONG for this book. “Steal like an Artist” got me out of a terrible funk years ago and since then, I’ve been following his work in any way I could. “Keep Going” is a wonderful little book, a reminder that being a “creative” is all about leading a decent life, showing up for work and going outside once in a while. I cannot recommend his work enough.

Watching: GAME OF THRONES, WHAT ELSE?!

Artist: Fran Meneses. It’s cute, it’s bittersweet and I feel like we are the same person?!


Horaire du Festival Québec BD

Category : Conventions

 

Un p’tit post en français pour une fois! Voici mon horaire de dédicaces pour le Festival Québec BD (le FBDFQ) qui se tiendra à Québec du 6 au 14 avril. Je serai au stand de la librairie du Festival de BD! C’est le moment de venir faire dédicacer l’Esprit du Camp, et c’est aussi la première apparition d’Hiver Nucléaire 3 en festival. Dur à croire hein!

(Psssst: j’aurai aussi des copies de mon sketchbook en vente clandestine, hors de mes horaires de dédicaces. Si vous me spottez dans la foule, faites-moi signe!)

Jeudi 11: 14h à 15h30

Vendredi 12: 12h à 13h30 et 16h à 17h30

Samedi 13: 10h à 11h30 et 18h30 à 20h

Dimanche 14: 12h à 13h30 et plus(?)

 

 


March recap: Lyon, a sketchbook, the wait

Category : Monthly recap

Oh March, you bring both tax season and spring. You’re over now, so let’s move on to April, a month that offers the hopes of biking and walking around in shoes again.

I feel like I barely touched a pencil in March. I think I was so caught up with the trip to Lyon and my goddamn taxes that the only activity that seemed remotely rewarding was to binge-watch Boruto instead of working on any of my stuff. I was well on my way to finish the Utown scenario but I suddenly found a million other things to do. I’m not gonna lie, this month has been… real rough. Between bouts of procrastination and crippling self-doubt about the grant I applied for, I don’t feel like I’ve spent my time efficiently at all in the past weeks. It’s insane how draining jumping from one task to another is. Chris Bailey calls it “attention residue”, that fog that clogs our brain when we multi-task too much. As a freelancer, this is probably my biggest weakness, and this month has been a hell of a challenge in that regards.

Thankfully, I decided to embark on a project that I had been putting off for too long: making a new sketchbook! It got me so motivated that I managed to have it done in less than two weeks. It was fun, digging around old archived folders, reworking sketches that deserved a second chance and scanning forgotten pages of sketchbooks. Having all these disparate drawings together made me realize that I’m glad I kept a lof-fi analog quality to my drawings, wether digital or hand drawn. It’s starting to set me apart–and I like it. And yeah, I’m gonna say it, I’m damn proud of what’s in that book, even if there are drawings dating back from 2016. Old art isn’t (all) bad art. Putting together this little 32-page booklet felt real good. I’ll put it up for sale mid-April!

I was also tasked with making the official poster for l’Off-Ciel, a pop-culture event taking place in late-March. Making covers and posters might just be my two favorite non-comic related sort of gigs. I’m gonna try to make more in the future. I worked in duo-tone again for this poster, aka the most satisfying method of colouring. I can’t wait to see it printed!

 

It’s Sunday the 31st as I write this last bit, and I just came back from Lyon, so it’s still fresh in my mind. It wasn’t anything like Japan when it comes to the work load: I had one signing event in a bookstore and one live-drawing event. So this left me and my travel buddy Guillaume loads of time to explore this gorgeous city and to talk to the wonderful people who made all of this possible. Bonus, I even got to hang out with Émilie, my friend who just moved to Lyon like, a week ago.  And as we always do between French-speaking “cousins”, we delighted one another with the wildest, most regional expressions we could think of. Surprisingly, I wasn’t asked to repeat over and over, despite me refusing to change my thick, thick accent!

Of course I could go on about the architecture and the early-spring light and the turquoise of the city’s two rivers but I’ll refrain 😉

Hopefully, all the admin work that weighed me down in March is over. Time to get back into a creative streak! Nonetheless, here’s what got me excited this month:

Reading: The Corner, a Year in the life of an Inner-City neighbourhood, the book that inspired The Wire, my favorite TV show of all time. It’s part fiction, part documentary, covering everything from race, white flight and the slow collapse of working-class manufacturing cities. It’s a stunning snapshot of the 80’s and 90’s and how the war on drugs shaped inner-city life.  My only regret is reading it in French. I’m even tempted to watch the show for the fourth time…

Watching: Queer Eye season 3, between heartfelt tears. Since debuting, this show has done more for my self-esteem than most things. For once, I now own way more button-up shirts than I ever did. A true improvement.

Listening: The english rock band Shame. I cannot get enough. And as it often happens, I’m falling back into oldies, like old, old The Cure, Buzzcocks and The Clash.

Thinking about: Who still uses RSS feeds and aggregators? After Google Reader was shut down in 2013, I migrated all my favorite blog’s RSS feeds onto Feedly and to this day, it’s still my favorite way to get news that isn’t on Facebook or Twitter. I’m grateful for small, one-person blogs that still curate and publish content weekly. I stumbled upon so many interesting and eclectic articles on my daily Feedly browse–content that wasn’t suggested by an algorithm of favorited by some Facebook acquaintance–that I can’t imagine RSS feeds ever going away. I don’t know what I’d do.

 

 


February recap – travel plans, comics about Tokyo, commissions

Category : Monthly recap

The sun is setting later, the light is giving out that certain “spring feel” and despite the relentless cycles of snow, rain and flash freezing, winter is on its last legs. February has also been for the last three years, a dry month for me, a challenge to resist the alluring call of BEER and such. Last year, I treated myself with Jamie Hewlett’s art book to congratulate myself; this year, I’m eyeing the Mutafukaz artbook; I haven’t seen the movie yet but I’m fantasizing about ogling at those incredible Studio 4°C signature background paintings.

Just when I thought I had my share of travels for a lifetime, I was presented the opportunity of going to Lyon, France, for a francophonie event in March. At first, I had a violent internal struggle. I didn’t think I had the strength to dive back into the logistics of traveling, the jet lag, packing and such, but I’m happy I accepted. Lyon and Québec have a long-time partnership when it comes to comics and I’m eager to see that side of the Francophone market. So yeah, another trip in March!

After putting it off until the very last minute, I finally got around to working on a short comic project about my visit to Tokyo. It’ll be part of a collective of local and Japanese artists. We all had to avoid using text to facilitate translation and it turned out to be a real struggle! My very first comics ever had no text because I thought I was an illustrator and not a storyteller, but after a few books, I can’t even imagine not writing in dialogues. I chose a super simple style for this short comic and ended up learning a lot about readability and simplification. I’m really proud of the end result!

And lastly, I got commissioned to draw an actual building! It was a very unusual request but I’m not surprised that drawing endless rows of store fronts and houses would lead up to this. It might even become a thing? Who knows! I’m lucking I got such a charming triplex, complete with original wood cornices and my favorite, varnished bricks. Yes, I have an opinion on building materials… I’m weird like that.

February was short and I drank a lot of tea, but here’s what got me excited this month:

Watching: Umbrella Academy. This series has a lot going on for it, but suffers from subtle and crippling writing flaws at times. It hasn’t stopped me from binging the entire series in just a few days. As a proof of how I like the characters, I even drew Number Five on a whim.

Reading: Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by the late Anthony Bourdain. I watched the Parts Unknown episode where he revisits Provincetown, the first place he ever cooked, and I teared up. I’m in absolute love with the book and I find a lot of fucked up wisdom in his writings.

Artist: Dan Black, who does incredible poster work over at Landland. I’m impressed by the integration of lettering into that sort of old, rust-belt architecture. It’s really outstanding work and it makes me want to have a go at making posters… Their shop is here. God, I wouldn’t know which one to chose.

Bonus: An Instagram of New York doors, and nothing else. Of course, this brings me great joy.

 


January Recap – Winter blues, grants, Nuclear Winter 2 release

Category : Monthly recap

Winter, amirite…

So the start of the year has been… hard. Not having a project to work on per say has given me way too much time to think, which, for me, translates into overthink. It coincides with me being in the middle of writing Utown, my next comic, so I am really up in my brain right now. And it’s intense.

Speaking of which, I’m applying for a grant for Utown. Without going into details, just putting into words the core and soul of this project into well-formatted sentences has proven to be quite a challenge. Utown is the long-time project that I’ve been putting off until I was certain I was ready, so I easily get overwhelmed and emotional when I talk, or write about it. I know, I’m putting all this unnecessary pressure on myself but I can’t help it! On the bright side, writing the grant application has really helped me ground the story and find a good, solid intrigue. I’m having a lot of fun with where it’s going and I honestly can’t wait to start.

Nuclear Winter 2 came out this month! I got my copies and read through the book cover to cover in one sitting. There’s something very thrilling about reading your own book, in another language. It’s familiar, yet very different! I’m always impressed by the amazing translation work the guys at Boom! Studios did. The book itself came out amazing and got a good feedback on Twitter. Here are the few cover sketches I did before we settled on the final cover

 

I also decided to give my Etsy page a big boost, by adding a few original artwork. Having original line art and marker drawings just sitting in a dusty portfolio drives me insane. Moreover, I don’t do half has much conventions that allow to just display my originals, so they just end up being dead weight. So a little photo shoot and many, many unsuccessful keyword attempts later, I now have a nice selection on Etsy. I already made a few sells, which convinced me to keep maintaining and putting time and effort into my shop. One of my 2019 goals is to make enough passive income to at least pay for my studio space, and Etsy is on its way to become a big player in that. Plus… I really like managing a print shop. Go figure!

January is the longest month ever but… here’s what got me excited this month:

Series: I absolutely loved Sex Education. It’s funny and endearing, it’s bold without being raunchy and it’s a master class in character writing. I can’t wait for season 2.

Stuff: The Baron Fig line of products. What can I say, I’m a sucker for nice stationary and analog journaling/planning systems. I try to steer away from gimmicky bullet journal-y notebooks in favor of cheap, customizable ones but damn, their Clear Habit planner looks gorgeous.

Artist: Lee Gatlin. If “bleeding pen on a napkin” were a style, this guy would’ve invented it. He makes it look so easy. Plus, his little comics and captions are super clever.

 

 


December Recap – Hiver Nucléaire 3 launch, between projects, the future

Category : Monthly recap

Last recap of the year! Turns out I really enjoy doing those, so I guess I’ll keep going!

The few days after I got back from Japan, I was physically and mentally exhausted. I went back to the studio regardless, partly to get a sort of routine back, but mostly to work on some last minute jobs. After at least 3 weeks of not drawing, it was fun to get back into it, especially when working on the Scouts Christmas card.

The one thing I was most excited about was the launch of Hiver Nucléaire 3 at Planète BD. It was my first time launching my own book in a bookstore and it did not disappoint. I was super happy with the turnout and I finally got to pop open the bottle of bubbly wine that had been sitting in my fridge since my birthday. Finishing the Hiver Nucléaire series is a huge milestone for me. It never occurred to me when I started, that a silly webcomic project would end up being a 3-book series. It’s very hard to leave those characters behind, but I’m ready to move on to another comic project, and fast.

Photo credit: Francis Gauthier

So even though I was technically “jobless” in the sense that I had no actual comics to draw, I had plenty of things to fill my time, like comic improv, the Mystérieux Étonnants Christmas special and of course, the holidays. I stayed home after Christmas and I took the time to write about everything that happened this year, and think about what the future has in store for me. I’m not gonna do a long 2018 recap but I can safely say that it’s been a BIG year, in every aspect. I finished working on Hiver Nucléaire as well as l’Esprit du Camp, the two books that were my almost-full-time job for the past 2-3 years, and did the Scout calendar in between, as well as a few other freelance gigs. Nuclear Winter came out in May, which might be the start of a whole new chapter (I hope!) I’m incredibly grateful for all the opportunities I had, I truly am. But I also learned the hard way what it’s like to come close to burning out. in 2019, my goal is to work smarter, not harder. My brain is wired for multi-tasking and it just feeds on distractions, a bad habit that’s getting harder and harder to tame. I know what I need to do to get better… the whole challenge is actually taking the first few steps.

I’m looking forward to next year, I’m (frighteningly) excited about Utown and absolutely terrified by the amount of work it represents. In the process, I hope I can manage to stay sane and healthy, which is really only up to me. So, I wish you all a wonderful 2019 and I’ll leave you with the usual end of the month list 🙂

I was excited for this in December:

Podcast: It’s a shameless plug because I’ve been on the show a few times, but Les Mystérieux Étonnants is still one of my favorite podcasts and one of the few French-language ones I listen to. These guys make you feel like you’re a part of the gang!

Artist: Warwick Johnson Cadwel is an amazing artist with an impressive output. His lines are sharp, he warps and bends backgrounds in a masterful way. He’s a magician with a pencil. His website has a few drawings but he’s really active on Twitter.

Movie: Go see Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse. Go now. I never draw Marvel fanart but I did this the morning after seeing the movie. People liked it so much I had to make a print out of it!

Food for thoughts: Like each year for the past 5 years now, January means I start a new paper planner based loosely on the super overhyped Bullet Journal system. I’m definitely not the type to decorate and embellish the damn notebook, but I do enjoy taking the time to plan sections and calendars and such. My brain is constantly on the verge of overspilling so having a place where I can just dump whatever’s causing me anxiety or stress (meaning: everything), is really important. I barely ever leave the house without it. If I had Horcruxes, this would definitely be the last one, and the hardest to destroy.

 


Japan Recap – Week 2

Category : Monthly recap

So after a week of shaking hands, handing cards, bowing, smiling and wearing shirts and jackets, it was time for part of the delegation to go home. Thomas-Louis and Francis went back to Québec City, while the rest of us kinda did our own things for most of the rest of the week. Now that the “work” part was done, it was time to see EVERYTHING (in Tokyo at least).

Over the next few days, I went back to a couple of places like Shibuya, Asakusa and Akihabara. The morning was usually spent having breakfast at a near-by coffee shop, while making a rough plan for the day. This meant browsing through a tourist guide from the hotel and cross-checking to see if it matched any of the numerous suggestions I’d gotten from friends, and then plotting a train and subway itinerary. And I was off!

Without going into the details of each and single day, there is one thing that struck me about Tokyo; neighbourhoods have themes. I didn’t know Setagaya was ALL thrift shops (well, not really, but there were a lot) so there I was, browsing through perfectly curated, pristine 90’s sweaters, retro sports vests and knock-off band tshirts. Then, there was book alley, which had a mix of tiny claustrophobic shops and big, beautiful stores that displayed the Japanese’s wonderful sense of graphic design. I bought stationary, needless to say. Akihabara had loud rows of anime video billboards, arcades and a dying breed of electronic shops, tucked inside long, seedy corridors. It was a cyberpunk paradise. And as we would find out on the last night, during a walking tour, Kabukicho had… the “sex” stuff. I’m talking hostess clubs, love hotels, gaudy advertisements, the whole deal.

And then there was Ameyoko street in Ueno, an insane row of tightly packed shops, adjacent an elevated railroad. It was too crowded (and I’m too short) to take any good pictures but I knew that I had found a piece of Tekkonkinkreet’s Treasure Town right there.

Speaking of which, I managed to get my hand on the movie’s white art book, which currently retails at $68, for well under half the price, at Mandarake. I think I spent at least an hour in that manga shop, just… lost in a sort of fog, not able to read any of the books’ spines, angry at their fascination for wrapping EVERYTHING, including books, in plastic sleeves. I had to make some tough budget choices but buying that book in Japan felt really symbolic for me. At that point, I had bought only a few souvenirs for friends, a pair of shoes for me (out of necessity), a bit of art supplies and not much else. In a city where buying stuff seems to be a religion, I can safely say that I at least showed some restraint.

Another highlight of the second week was an impromptu visit at the 21-21 Design Museum in Roppongi. I had no idea what the museum was about and the poster for their ongoing exhibition showed only a clay pot and some writing I obviously couldn’t read. So with a few hours to kill, I went in. The exhibition was about the Mingei movement, a folk art and craft philosophy that values the beauty of simple, well-made everyday objects. While I’m in no way a pottery artist or a wood worker, the objects on display, the beautifully translated accompanying text, and the quotes used throughout the exhibition, touched me in a way I still can’t explain. Maybe being surrounded by noise and people and a LOT of city made me especially receptive, but watching a 20-minute video of a guy weaving a basket and a girl painting on fabric, in a dark museum room, made me teary and provided a much needed break. I got out of the museum, feeling oddly serene, and met up with Gautier–who had been to the Mori museum all day– in a smoky, vaguely european-themed café. It was all very artsy.

Two days later, we both decided to go see what I thought would be a Kaneoya Sachiko exhibition at the Vanilla Gallery, but I was a week too late! We went in anyway; the walls were covered from top to bottom by meticulously aligned original manga pages by artist Atsushi Kaneko. And after wandering in awe for a few minutes, I walked into the next room only to find the artist himself, hunched over a Cintiq, drawing. Insane.

At this point, the trip was coming to an end. I was getting a bit homesick, I dreaded the event of (another) earthquake and I longed to be in my own bed. The last event we did was an evening walking tour of Kabukicho, the red light district, and its drinking and social culture. The walk ended at the Golden Gai, an odd, densely-packed shanty-town of micro bars, all with a different theme and a varying level of aversion for foreigners. It was the last night in Tokyo, we had met up with Thierry and Stephanie, it was time for one last beer. We were just getting “comfortable” in the closet-sized drinking hole wistfully named “Not Suspicious”, when two other english speakers (a guy and a girl) came to claim the last two sitting places. After about five minutes of chatting, I discovered they were cartoonists (!), the girl followed me on Twitter (!!) and she was in fact, Natasha Allegri, the creator of Bee and Puppycat. For which series, I did an alternate cover years ago. The world is VERY SMALL.

And the next day, we left.

It’s getting harder and harder to summarize the trip as the weeks pass. There are a few things that stayed deeply engraved in my memory: the weird, informal architecture, the trains, the wires. The smell of cigarettes and cooking oil, the taste of miso. The faces of people we met, the feeling of complete, total humility in front of the work of manga masters like Kim Jung Gi and Mr. Kaneko. The sheer scale of the city that even an avid sci-fi and anime lover such as myself, can’t comprehend. And most of all… knowing that chances like this come around once or twice in a lifetime for an artist. I’m incredibly grateful of having had the chance to visit Japan because of my art, and I hope this experience and the networking we did, will open the door for more artists in the future.

I made a bit of a selfish wish at a shinto shrine but in hindsight, I should’ve added “I can’t wait to come back” before clapping my hands and bowing.

 

 

 


Japan recap – Week 1

Category : Monthly recap

So it’s been a while, hasn’t it! I skipped the October recap, which is entirely my fault and I will blame it on actually finishing my book, while planning a trip and generally freaking out. But nevertheless, I’m here to make amends and to talk about the last two months, but more importantly… JAPAN! As some of you know by now, I spent two weeks in Tokyo, from the end of November to December third, as part of a Quebec BD/comics delegation. Part of the trip was for business/cultural exchange but part of it was also for pure fun and wonderment. A lot of my work was and still is influenced by Japanese comic or video game culture so needless to say that it was like a dream come true. So here is a very abridged summary of my experience in Tokyo, starting with a very busy first week!

Our little French-Canadian, jet-lagged and culture-shocked group consisted of Thomas-Louis who manages the Festival de BD de Québec and who pretty much organized all the trip for us; Gautier, my editor, Francis, Stéphanie and Thierry, fellow comic artists, and Christine, aka Nunumi, an up and coming author who’d been in Japan a couple of times. Thank god she was there to ease us into the rhythm of the country and to translate a few things.

The first week was basically all of us attending activities put together in partnership with the Quebec delegation based in Japan. We gave a talk at Tsukuba University and were addressed as “-sensei”, which I found out, also applies to mangakas, and not only mentors or teachers. I have to admit, I had a bit of an ego-boost at that moment! The talk was hosted by Miki Yamamoto (an insanely talented author and artist), who had visited Montreal as part of the FBDM in May. We were off to a good start!

The following days were spent in two separate “comic book conventions” of opposing scales. The Comic Art Tokyo was in two tiny classrooms at an inner-city university. The Kaigai Manga Festa on the other hand, was held at the GARGANTUAN Tokyo Big Sight, and gathered crowds like the which I had never seen in my life. Oddly enough, despite being halfway around the world, the exhibition floor, the ambiant hum of the crowd, smiling to get people to stop and look at our books… it all felt very familiar. I managed to sell out the few Nuclear Winter copies I had brought and made a few bucks with small prints. Considering the language barrier, I’d say it’s pretty good! One of the highlight of the week was getting to hang out, if only for an hour or two, with old studio-mates Karl Kerschl (who now lives in Japan) and Brenden Fletcher, who gave me a hell of a pep-talk! 

The following activity on our super-tight schedule was a meet-and-greet at the embassy of Canada, with all the protocol and hors-d’oeuvres one could expect. It wasn’t all stuffy and serious though, and I met with authors and publishers and web-comic people, who all seem to be on the verge of some kind of change in their industry. While I’m no expert, I felt like the model of the overworked mangaka slaving on a series for 10+ years, published in chunks in a cheaply-printed catalog (like the Jump), is slowly shifting. To prove the point, Shonen Jump rolled out a new digital subscription service this week, that I assume, will kill their iconic weekly paper anthology… Their is a definite shift in the way Japanese people are consuming mangas, and while comic bookstores are still very much a part of the landscape, I’m curious to see if there is indeed a slide towards phones and tablets.

So that’s the gist of what we actually DID on week one. This was of course, intertwined with a bit of sight-seeing and shopping, but I think I’ll cover my own personal experience of Tokyo in a follow-up post. I wanted to retell the “business” side of the trip because first, it’s the reason I could actually go and, and second, because I believe developing relations with other artists and publishers, regardless of where in the world, is a key part of growing as an indie author. I can’t rely on huge publishing structures right now, especially if I intend to keep on making creator-owned books, by myself. So part of the job is staying in tune with how the media and the market is evolving and that’s done by actually talking to people, be it readers or professionals, wherever they are! Plus, I find it genuinely interesting! I’m incredibly lucky to have had the chance to travel to Japan to hopefully, pave the way for other Quebec artists to visit. It was incredibly enriching, destabilizing, mesmerizing and at points, challenging. I’ll try to gather my feelings and thoughts on the trip for next time, as I write about week 2, which was spent touring the city freely. 

Until next time!

 

 

 


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