Friday, January 20, 2006
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Pierre, Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? Where did you go to school, and what classes did you study? What helped prepare you to become the artist that you are today?
So… nothing very original or exciting. I stopped my studies after college, I don’t have any diplomas. I went through various non artistic jobs for a while after that and then went to “les Gobelins” animation school in Paris. That was in 1990, I stayed there 3 years, and then joined the Disney Feature Animation studios in Montreuil (just outside of Paris). I worked at the studio for 10 years, until it closed down in 2003.
I had my first comic books published in 1997, while I was working as an Animator at Disney. I always had this passion for comic books and drawing since I was a kid, but never thought that I could make a living out of it. So everything came into place slowly, without planning it.
How do you go about designing a character, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?
The character design process is in a way (actually… I believe so as I never really thought about it) a combination of different things. To start with, in the process, ask yourself, who are you drawing? What is his personality? A nice guy? A bad guy? ,.. then are coming on top of that (in my case anyway) many images, some influences gathered through the years, I’m thinking obviously about how some Artists which I love the work would have drawn this character ( I’m looking at their work again sometimes to trigger some ideas, or, I start from a drawing I like, something I wouldn’t have thought of, and I translate it into my style, this process helps me a lot to get rid of my drawing habits, to avoid using the same “tricks” again and again, and my shyness…) then comes the difficult moment, trying to forget those influences, I often start from scratch, with a basic shape (first the face) the face will determinate the rest of the character for me (body…) This shape can be a circle, an oval, a pear shape… everything depends on the personality of the character I want to draw. We can count on an “happy accident” too, this line you didn’t really do on purpose, this scribble that suddenly gives life to your drawing, an another dimension, a new path to follow.
From your own experience and maybe from some people that you know, what should we put in our portfolio and what should we not?
I believe that you have to show what you do best, what you're good at, I’m not saying that you have to do a car design portfolio or a face drawing or paintings portfolio if it's your specialty, you have to show a broad view of your skills. For Character Design, might be good to show the ones that seems the most achieved in the "style" you aimed for, some life drawings, it's always good to show some solid "classic" drawing skills. You have to find a harmony in your portfolio, include some artwork showing your
ability to use color in different media, but in general, don't try to show too much, I don't think it helps to show as much as you can, it can be overwhelming to the person going through your work. Show the artwork that represent yourself, that you like the most of course.
What are some of the things that you have worked on?
I've done few comic books, few short stories for different magazines, I was an Assistant Animator then Animator on few feature movies, a little bit of story-board (some commercials...)...voila.
Is there a character design you have done that you are most proud of?
No, not really. I'm never really satisfied of my work (I think it's the case for a lot of us ha! ha!) some might say it's a good sign... I'm not really sure about that, on an other hand, I'm really happy to go through a project until the end, for example, lately, I've done a
tribute drawing to "Little Nemo" (you can see it on my Blog), I felt really embarrassed about it, I really wanted to do it, but didn't have any ideas at all. Thinking about it now, I'm very happy, not of the drawing I've done, but of the spirit I stuck to while I was working on it, I really pushed myself hard and never gave up, which forced me to create something quite close to the universe I was inspired by. This is this kind a "small victories" that motivate me.
What are you working on now? (If you can tell us)
I'm currently working on different projects, my own comic books, an illustration's portfolio, some short stories for magazines, but everything is still at the concept stage. The only project which is really going to come through is the volume 3 of "Belladone" then in November it's time to go around the comic book shops in France and comic book fair to promote Belladone 2 and sign my books!
Where is the place you would like to work if you had a choice?
In a house, with a beautiful workshop, some huge windows overlooking the forest (or the sea) like on those pictures of Berni Wrightson's workshop I was looking at when I was a kid that made me dream. I would love to get involved in a feature movie again, character design or story-board... or both.
What part of designing a character is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?
It's never really easy, but I do like the first stage, when I "draw" the personality of the characters, this is where I wish I could stop, right here, with only few rough marks on the paper, everything is here. Unfortunately,
I usually go further into details, I try too hard to make my drawing more readable, easier to the eye, and I often loose my first intentions. Funny enough, it’s at these very first steps that I feel more daring, braver, at the same time not natural…strange, this is very contradictory… am I loosing it?
What are some of your favorite character designs and least favorite, which you have seen?
My favorites characters obviously are the ones from my favorites Artists, thus I love how “Bernet” treat is “Torpedo”, his dry brush inking suit his character very well, as well as his science of the black and white. Hellboy is also “quintessential” in Mignola’s art, his compositions, his use of negative shapes, black shapes and volume.
What is your most favorite subject to draw?
It depends, I don’t have any favorite subject, I only have habits, and hence the fact that when I’m in front of a white sheet of paper and I don’t have any ideas, I always draw the same thing, small faces with furrowed eyebrows, that’s some tricks I kept in me from my teenage years spent wishing I could be like Berni Wrighston. These “habits” really became a problem, I feel like I don’t have any imagination.
What inspired you to become a Character Designer?
Some artists, the ones I mentioned above.
What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?
One of the most important thing I learnt while working with other people, especially in the animation industry, it’s to never fall in love with your drawings, not be scared to do it again or to throw your drawing away, to rework a composition. Often ,a sequence doesn’t work only because we really wanted to keep THIS drawing that we love so much, this drawing that in fact kills everything, break the flow, the rhythm, you have to be brave, remove it and then realize that it was THE one that caused the problem.
What wisdom could you give us, about being a character designer? Do you have any tips you could give?
I don’t think I’m in a position to give any wise advice, may be you may
find some in the previous answers.
If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?
Through my email address at
or visit my Blog at
Finally, do you have any of your art work for sell (sketchbook, prints, or anything) for people that like your work can know where and when to buy it?
Yes, I’m selling few of my drawings, but not a lot (for the moment). When signing my books on book fairs, I always go around with some pencils drawings to sell, people usually appreciate these drawings; this is an interesting stage of the process of the making of a comic book.
I’m selling few of my comic book pages as well, I’ll be at the COMICON in San Diego this year, it will be a great opportunity to sell some of them if some of you are interested, but also, and mainly, to try to exchange some with comic book shops to comic book pages from artists I love. I would love that!
You can find tow of Pierre's Books at SketchMart in the Books and Media page here...
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