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!

 

 

 


September recap – Coloring, book launch, Scout calendar

Category : Monthly recap

It’s time for another monthly recap! September went by at the speed of light it seems. I spent most of my time at home, coloring Hiver Nucléaire 3 on my slow but surprisingly resilient, 9 year-old Macbook, using a 50$ Monoprice tablet I had bought just because it was dirt cheap. This piece of hardware more than paid for itself and I find the rough surface and sub-par pressure sensitivity perfect for cell-shading coloring. My friend and studio mate Raphael, known as Rabot (go check out his work), did all my flats and honestly, I would be on the verge of a nervous breakdown if it hadn’t been for his help. I’m a sloppy flatter and not having to worry about the holes in the color has made my life a lot easier. I thought I’d share a process shot of the steps I do the colors in. First pass is Raphael’s flats, hence the weird change all of a sudden. I always start with “daylight” colors, no palette, and work from there until the colors kinda make sense! Plus snow!

L’Esprit du Camp had its official launch on September 6th, at Planète BD. A lot of people showed up, Michel and I signed non-stop for the entire duration; it was a success! Touring local book stores, libraries and small events is starting to become one of my favorite part of the job, way ahead of huge pop culture conventions. I’d rather talk to a handful of dedicated enthusiasts than trying to sell my wares to hordes of strangers. Later this month, we did a small signing at the Millennium comic shop, which also attracted a nice crowd.

And lastly, the 2019 Scout calendar is now out in the wild. I’ll upload all images on my portfolio when I get the chance. Meanwhile, here’s a glimpse of the cover! If you see any Scouts selling the calendars in your area, think about me!

I was excited for this in September:

Podcast: I’m not gonna lie, coloring for long periods of time requires a good comedy podcast. I gave My Dad Wrote a Porno a second listen and it’s just as funny and gross as the first time.

Artist: Every now and then I stumble back on the work of Musa, which I still know nothing about to this day. Still, he/she(?!?!) is one of my favorite artist out there and I’m gonna do a proper study of his/her stuff for Inktober.

Reading: I started reading The Expanse 3 last week because I’m a neeeeerd.

Food for thoughts: The concept of taking a day or at least a moment, to recap, regroup, write, think, has gotten increasingly important for me in the past few years. My brain is in constant state of semi-panic, so unless I do a full stop every now and then, I get antsy to the point of physical pain. Scheduling a Personal Inventory Day seemed like a good idea so I gave it a try. I wrote down a few things, looked out the window longingly, tapped my pen against my lips and such. I’ll try to make it stick for a while, it can’t hurt, right?


July and August recap – Hermit mode, book announcement, heatwaves

Category : Monthly recap

It became somewhat of a running joke, but have a hard time remembering events in time. In my mind, everything happened 4 years ago – college graduation, moving in my current apartment, starting being a freelancer, releasing my first book, etc. This lead me to consider doing a monthly recap of what I’ve been working on and what will be coming up. Simple enough!

So August was the second month in a row I decided not to buy a transit pass and limit my travels to a strict minimum, in order to maximize the time I could put working on Hiver Nucléaire 3. This means working from home and not from the studio, which sounds amazing until cabin fever settles in. Some days have been great and productive but a lot were let’s say… sluggish. Thanks to a network of like-minded cartoonists and neighbours, I was able to take my pages with me and work at friend’s or at the Atomic Café in Hochelaga (a place that has fascinated me since it opened 10 years ago). Thank god this place and most of our apartments have a resemblance of AC because this summer has been brutal so far..

So while Hiver Nucléaire 3 is slowly but surely coming along, Hiver 2 got its own color revamp for the english version, set to be released in January 2019 by Boom! Studios. Reworking the colors or the second book proved to be much less of a hassle then what it was in the first volume. I see this process as a great way to learn from my mistakes. Hopefully, the third book will be the prettiest (nah, it WILL be the prettiest). I wish I could share the cover for Nuclear Winter 2 but we’ll have to wait the official press release!

July also marked the end of production on l’Esprit du Camp, a 2 year colouring gig that ended up being much more than commission work. Michel and I worked our asses off on those 2 books and the fact that we haven’t killed each other during that time makes me consider further collaborations. Who knows!  I’ll talk about process and share a few progress shots after the launch of the book on September 6 at Planète BD. Mark your calendars!

Needless to say, it’s been an interesting summer so far. When it becomes too chaotic (I’m easily overwhelmed), I try to remember that I can’t plan everything and that in the end, being a freelancer comic artist inevitably means having to “herd cats” most of the time. And stay hydrated.

While I’m at it, here’s what’s been getting me excited over the last month.

Podcast: Jake Parker’s amazing “Three Points Perspective” Podcast, especially this episode about networking for artists. An absolute must-listen

Artist: Jorge Monlogo. He’s doing some interiors for the Over the Garden Wall comic and it just blew me away. Solid stuff.

Books: Haven’t read much this summer. If anything, just writing this down might be enough to kick my ass back into reading.


@