Saturday, October 25, 2008

Renee French

Renee french is the acclaimed cartoonist behind the books The Ticking and Edison Steelhead's Lost Portfolio. Her website is

Above is a work in progress by Renee.

1. can you describe your drawing routine---how often you draw, how many hour per day---how you break up the day with drawing?

typically, i guess 4 to 5 hours a day, 6 days a week ...7 days if i can get away with it. i do errands, try to wake up, take a walk, and don't start drawing full on until after around 4pm, and then i go for a couple hours, then dinner, then more drawing, maybe a movie, and then drawing until bed.

2. how much revision/editing do you do in you work?

oh a lot, depending on the project. i like to edit while i'm drawing. it's one of the more interesting aspects of putting a story together i think. moving things around, deciding something doesn't work the way it is, etc.

3. talk about your process---do you write a script or make up the drawing as you go?

it changes over time but mostly i write the story in words in a notebook, like a short story, then mark up the story with notes where i think an image would be important to the atmosphere of the story, or where there would be something that would be great to draw. if there's a car in the story i cross it out. then i'll thumbnail the story, then shuffle them around, and then make the final drawings, where i still make changes as i go.

4. do you compose the page as a whole or do you focus more on individual panel composition?

i focus on individual panel composition. like if they were just stand alone drawings. i don't think much about the whole page anymore though when i worked with a 6 panel grid i did.

5. what tools do you use (please list all)?

mechanical pencil GRAPHGEAR 500 pentel .3 mm with a B lead (it's hard to find softer than B in .3 in stores) or a staedtler 925 .3mm. tuff stuff eraser stick (thanks vanessa) awesome eraser. or a clicky eraser stick thingie.

black or sepia prismacolor pencil, boston standard, model 41 heavy duty electric sharpener (i've been off the colored pencils lately though and on the graphite). use an old hardcover copy of RATTELSCHNECK as a drawing board so i can stick my originals inside and tape the book closed for mobility. and my cotton drawing glove with the thumb, pointer and bird finger cut off.

6. what kind(s) of paper do you use?

for the new drawings, i've been using graphite on canson 55 lb vidalon translucent vellum.

for the prismacolor drawings i use a canson drawing paper called DESSIN which i know is not helpful because dessin means drawing but that's what the watermark says on the paper. it's a cold press, hard drawing paper, sort of like the paper in a spiral sketch pad.

7. do you read a lot of comics? are you someone who reads comics and then gets ectied to make more comics---or is your passion for making comics not linked to any particular love for other comics?

making comics and reading comics aren't that connected for me. i do love comics though.

8. do you make comics for a living? if not, how do you support yourself, and how does this relate to your comics making process?

i do not make comics for a living, no. does anyone? i'm not sure it's possible to make comics for a living. is it?. even if there's a rush of money from one project, the stress of the next big pay off must screw with your head. it's like making a living doing illustration. too much stress.

9/ do other artforms often seem more attractive to you?

sometimes i just want to make stand alone images -- drawings, etchings (painting seems attractive to me but i'm not sure how to do it) without having to connect them to another image, but always come back to telling a story. i end up doing a drawing series or something and it tells a story anyway.

10. what artwork (or artists) do you feel kinship with?

Vija Celmins, Peter Greenaway, Ivan Albright, Red Grooms, LS Lowry, Roman Polanski, Harry Morey Callahan, Anke Feuchtenberger, David Lynch, David Cronenberg, Robert Bresson, Yasujiro Ozu, Jean-Pierre Melville and William Wegman.

11. is a community of artists important or not important to you?

there are a few artists i communicate with a LOT, almost on a daily basis and that's important to me.

12. what is your parents/family's reaction to your work?

split. my mom is really supportive though she sees the sweetest things in my work all the time even when they're not there. my dad doesn't look my work much and when he does i don't think he approves of the subject matter.

13, what is more important to you---style or idea?

style or idea? that's confusing. style or idea. are they the same? they can be the same. neither? what's style? people don't choose their style, do they?

14. is drawing a pleasure to you or a pain?

pleasure. even when it's about something painful, even if it makes me sad or if it's scary, it's still really pleasurable. i'd rather draw than do anything else.

15. when you meet someone new, do you talk about being an artist right away? do you identify yourself as an artist or something else?

no way. i avoid it. but if someone brings it up, or if someone asks, "what do you do?" i go into the awkward explanation that leads to the awkward q&a, that leads to the blank stare and the pause, and nod and turn away to talk about something else with someone else.

16. do you feel at all connected to older comic artists like steve ditko or jack kirby---or does this seem like a foreign world to you?

foreign world.

17. do you ever feel the impulse to not draw comics?

i do feel the impulse to tell stories with pictures and words that aren't in the standard comics form. and i have sort of, kind of quit doing comics a couple times to do kids books but keep coming back to comics.

18. do you draw from life?

sometimes but not often. in sydney there's a nice life drawing group that gets together once a week.

19. do you pencil out comics and then ink? or do you sometimes not pencil?

i don't use ink anymore. i stopped using ink around 2000 but i do sort of pencil and ink with the pencil. rough sketch (way rough) and then my fished pencil textures on top of that would be the inking i suppose.

20. what does your drawing space look like?

a freaking mess.


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