Wednesday, November 30, 2011



Jean Baptiste Vendamme Interview

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?

I was born in by a stormy night of august, already 34 years ago, in the middle of France. ( you ll have to excuse me for my sometimes approximative english..) . At a early age I developed a taste for horror movies, the gorier the better, I spent a great deal of time drawing and sculpting monsters , to my parents delight all I wanted to become was a makeup artist.There was very little to do in this industry in France tho, so I reorientated myself towards animation in wich I was also highly interested.. I studied illustration at the Emile Cohl in Lyon, and then 2D animation at the great Gobelins school in Paris. I started working in video games as a 3D animator but I quickly left as I was eager for more exiting projects, that s when I embraced the exiting careers of baby sitter , waiter, barman and toilet cleaner before being rescued by the cartoon saloon in Ireland with which I worked on a more or less regular basis to this day..

How do you go about designing, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?

I usually throw some lines on paper, very light doodles , sometimes so light I don t think anybody but me could figure what it represents... I rarely know what I m going to draw when I start, I can start drawing a human character but a shape will make me think of a bear or a tiger so I start to bend the all design towards it, I usually do this when my computer is taking time uploading some big files, and I don t pay much attention to them, it s just killing time..So as everyone, I have a pile of unfinished doodles on my desk.

They generally go to the bin when I need space but I sometimes find one or two of interest and I start thinking what they could look like in color. I like to know what the final illustration will look like when finished. Then I prepare my brushes in Photoshop, I like doing very stylized shapes filled with quite realistic textures these days. So it s handy to know what tolls you re going to use in advance.. then I go for the color trying to work with as less layers as possibles. I don t use too much references and try to aim at a result as fresh and original as possible, something people didn't already seen a million times..

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?

These days the first thing I do in the morning is to mop dog piss in my bathroom as I found a little dog in the street a wile ago, and the little fella often doesn't make it through the night... then we run to the studio ( yeah , the studio is pet friendly..) . There I start doing retakes on the corrections I've been doing the day before.. At lunch-break I give a little walk to Gilbert, and back again till the evening.. Oh, and I eat sometimes. Generally on Wednesday.

I currently work at the Cartoon Saloon, a Kilkenny based studio, that got a little famous with “The secret of Kells” that got nominated for an Oscar last year.. It s a great place to work, the best I experienced, very friendly , respectful and understanding, a nice not so little family.. The amount of talent in this place is just stunning , from our directors to our interns, great people, I love them all. Except Mick.

What are some of the things that you have worked on?

I worked in video games, animating Disney adaptations such as Winnie the pooh and Peter Pan, I did some cheap TV commercials I cannot even remember, some TV shows so good that they never made it to the screen, I animated on that charming short movie called Cuillin Dualach directed by Nora Twomey , I did a few things on The Secret of Kells, mainly working on the bad guys, and lately I m coloring backgrounds on various things.

Is there a design you have done that you are most happy with?

Not really no, things I did when I was a kid maybe, I was pretty good for my age, but these days I m quite happy with myself wile I m working on some personal things, then the next day I can t stand it anymore.. I m just proud to have been part of the Kells team, I think they did something amazing with such a tiny budget !

What projects are you working on now? (if you can tell us)

I am not designing these days, I am coloring backgrounds on a German movie, it s not exactly my specialty, but I m trying to diversify myself and keep up with my co-workers !

Who are some of your favorite artists out there?

OK, here I m gonna try not to name Nico Marlet or Milt Kahl...
So MICK HARRISON ! Ralph Steadman, Andre Franquin, Simon bisley,Tom horeb, Mary Blair, Rob Bottin.. among so many others...

Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?

I use only Photoshop these days, I should try to go back to traditional mediums as I used to enjoy it, but I m quite scared to have lost all my skills by now... I developed a quite strange method, I first trace a multicolored vectorial “ map” over my scanned drawing to help separating every shape of the drawing, I do my shading quite normally, you know: first the main shadows, then main lights and go more and more into details, I like messing around with textures so I allow myself to play around with them, and in the end I try some variations of colors,contrasts.. but as I gain in experience, I often go back to my first idea.

What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most difficult?

Well, working on personal things is quite a painless and happy process.. I find the coloring quite easy, finding original shapes can be a bit of a struggle, but most of all, I tend not to finish my designs, I get bored quite easily, so I always have to push myself a little to keep working on a design to make it look as finished as possible..
When I have a design job to do, I find it hard to keep the design fresh and original when you have over 30 retakes and corrections to make over your original idea, you often end with a design you don t even want to be credited for. I find this painful but I m getting used to it with experience. Overall the most difficult thing is to find a design job that fits with my way of drawing.

What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?

I try follow interesting blogs, yours included, I m also on Deviantart where there are lots of interesting artists, their comments can be quite motivating, I visit zoos when I can , trying to understand the shapes and the mood of the animals which is often not easy to do in a crowed of yelling kids, I do a bit of photography and most of all, I watch people all the time and everywhere, in the streets, at the supermarket, in pubs, they really come in every shapes and every colors..!

What are some of your favorite designs which you have seen?

Strangely, what comes to my mind would be from live action movies, Darkness, the huge horned devil from “ Legend”designed by Rob Bottin, the Robocop suit from Bottin as well, Audrey 2 from the Little Shop of Horrors, the Alien creature, E.T, some stages of the Transformation in An American Werewolf in London, and the fantastic crazy creatures from the 1982 version of “The Thing”..But overall, the best design I've ever seen is my friend Amy.

What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?

I draw a lot of animals, always had a thing for them, I like the incredible variety of shapes and colors.I specially have something for gorillas.. I d really like to work on some funny educational project about animals, I think the number of endangered species or mistreated animals these days is just intolerable.

What inspired you to become an Artist?

Maybe my dad, he drew and sculpted when I was little, lots of horror movies I was watching as a kid..It was also a good way to kill time at school, I also thought it could be a good way to get the attention of girls back then , I should have picked the guitar..

What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?

Pretty much everything,,specially at the saloon , working with them on a regular basis, I've seen the way I draw and color evolving according to the different projects I've worked on, And that a good ambiance in the studio is something
quite precious..

What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?

Well, I could use some wisdom and tips myself, but as you ask,I would say, try to tackle different styles, because you constantly have to adapt yourself to different productions..Do not accept the tons of job offers, where you are asked to work for free against “ great publicity, or stickers, postcards, peanuts,and stay in good terms with your parents..

If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?

Just use my mail !

Finally, do you have any of your art work for sale (sketchbook, prints, or anything) for people that like your work can know where and when to buy it?

I've nothing like that , no, but my sculpture work is for sale, you can find some samples of it on my blog...

Jean Baptiste Vendamme Gallery