Note: the following interview has been edited for the sake of clarity. I barely speak any French, and although Jean-Baptiste's English is very good, a few grammatical adjustments were made here and there while making every attempt to maintain his voice and intent.
JGO: What projects are you currently working on?
JBM: I'm preparing a new book for a French Publisher (Le Lombard) : Nordic Faeries, Winter tales. I love snow. The project also served as a good excuse for me to come to Canada. I always have had a passion for snowy landscapes. There is nothing more magical and enchanting than a walk in the early morning when it has just snowed.
I am also working toward enlarging the scope of my services to offer conceptual work and character design for the entertainment industry, including feature films, animation, and video games. Montreal is a good place for that. And, of course I'm also continuing to work on my new company; Mr. Dumblebee, adapting my pictures on new derivative products. Last but not least, there is a chance that my graphic universe will be adapted for the cinema in animation. Sorry, but for the moment I won't say more! Just that I keep my fingers crossed.
JGO: What haven't you done yet as an artist that you would still like to do?
JBM: What I would like is to really enter the world of animation and to participate with a crew to create a project from start to finish. It would be set in the marvelous 1900's in London. It's something I have in mind since so many years.
JGO: Do you ever have "artist's block"? if so, how do you overcome it?
JBM: Oh yes I do, I'm afraid so! And a lot! Usually, it's by continuing to work through a project and sheer stubbornness that I could overcome it.
I'll give you an example : my big dragon Ragnarok. I was like Penelope, Ulysse's wife; I undid each night what I had done the day before, for month after month. I finally manged to finish it in only one night, after a great drunken evening with an Illustrator friend, Pascal Moguérou. I could very well missed it completely but I have to believe that that night, which had been so nice, also without a doubt had something magical about it! If I have a defect that can also be a quality (asset), it is stubbornness.
JGO: Can you tell us about one of the most important lessons that you have learned from a fellow artist?
JBM: The most important lesson I learned was when I was beginning to work with my friend Erlé Ferronnière. We learned it from each other : it's to work a lot and to not be afraid to spend a great deal of time on a project. I keep on applying it.
"It's with time that we develop our own universe" Norman Rockwell used to say that when he was young. It was hard to find ideas for his illustrations but with the time, he realized that he would never have the time to paint all what he had in mind!
JGO: Can you tell us about one of the most important lessons that you have learned on your own as an artist?
JBM: Well I would say the stubbornness: you have it or you do not. But it is better to have it if you want to forge ahead and succeed; don't give up at the first doubt. And if you have the opportunity, share a workshop with friends. It's a very rich environment for the mind.
JGO: What do you think is the key to creating a character with "appeal"?
JBM: For me the key is the imagination. I began to copy those I liked but then I did my own pictures. All of us are always feeling the inspiration of other people, it's normal! But what is magic it's the imagination behind and our perception underneath. A scene can have thousand looks (in the hands of different artists) but could be very unique and special with great imagination. You can be poor draftsman, but with good imagination what you draw will attract attention. You can be great draftsman but without imagination, what you draw is flat and ordinary. There isn't a special recipe, just do it with your heart and conviction.
JBM: Of course, Jennifer. Some say that illustration is not a job … Some say it's the best job in the world : it is!
I won't embellish and will be honest with you guys. Ours is a very hard job, some can't make a living of it and must have another job to get by. It's hard to begin because of the supplies, schools,... and most can't afford it. I was in this case. My parents couldn't help me. You will pass through fear, doubt, depression, anger many many times because you'll feel like you can't manage, and that you see other people's stuff is better than yours (in your perception). So you have to be tough above all and hang on no matter what happens and you will find that finally there is also fun, good people to meet, pride, and happiness! If you have the imagination it's good because, in my opinion, that's 80% of the job and the 20% left, very important, is … working working working, just keep working and don't give up.
These are my five words : Curiosity, Imagination, Observation, Work and Meetings.
That's all folks ;-)
Good luck for all of you and Thank you for all Jennifer.
JGO: Thank you Jean-Baptiste for taking the time to do this interview, and for all of your valuable advice and insights which I know will be very inspirational to our students and readers. We hope that we will soon be able to enjoy more of your work here in America, and across the rest of the globe as well!
See more of Jean-Baptiste Monge's work at the links listed below:
All images on this post copyright Jean-Baptiste Monge