Monday, September 11, 2017

Exclusive interview to American artist Brian Biggs

I've decided to make more interviews/coffee talks (as I've named them) to comic book artists that marked my life as a simple teenager like American artist Brian Biggs, who's always an excellent artist to talk with.
Here's the interview below, hoping that readers like it.
Many thanks Brian

1) I remember being with you in Porto at a comic book festival and I've bought "Frederick & Eloise: A love story" published by Fantagraphics in 1993 which I've found awesome in graphic and storytelling terms.

Frederick & Eloise: A love story

Do you've any memories of Porto in your mind?

Yes yes, of course. Many memories. Ribeira Square, every evening after the festival. Ponte Luis I, which was like no bridge I’d ever seen. My first taste of Vinho Verde at the hotel bar.  Walking to Praia de Luz with Jason Lutes and Tom Hart. Bacalao. Every day, Bacalao. It was just an amazing and unexpected eleven days.

Ribeira Square

Ponte Luis I

2) In the 90's you created also "Dear Julia" that's an amazing book and that in 2002 turned into a short movie.
As an artist how do you see a comic book that is a static art form that was created by you being turned into a movement art form?

There are many similarities between comics and film. But also, each has its strengths and weaknesses. For example, film has sound. A lot can be done with a soundtrack and music. However, comics has time on its side. Film is, for the most part, linear. You’re on the clock as designed by the director and editor. You can't linger on a scene longer than they want you to. Where in comics, the reader can sit and look at a page or a panel for as long as he or she desires. A good comics writer can use this to his advantage. In Dear Julia, I built in a lot of detail and answered a lot of questions that I haven’t even asked yet in the first 20 pages. I knew the reader could stop and go back, thinking “wait a minute…”
I suppose today, watching film on a DVD or on a modern television, a viewer can pause and rewind, but that’s not as the director meant it to be. It has to keep moving.

3) Can you tell us what were the major influences while creating these books?

Edward Gorey. The films of the Coen Brothers, especially Blood Simple and Miller’s Crossing. Federico Fellini. Tardi’s comics. Photographs by Lartigue. Riding public transportation in Paris and San Francisco. Early songs by R.E.M. I’m sure there are more — but it was 20 years ago.

Edward Gorey


Coen Brothers


4) You also worked in illustration that's a different media from comic books.
How do you see the works that you've done for Illustration as art pieces? 

I don’t, really. There is a lot of craft that goes into them, and I’m sure many people (myself included) are fans of illustration. But I don’t know if it’s “art” in the way you mean. And it’s not mean to be. Some illustration, just like some architecture, advertising, and design, can transcend its initial purpose to become something “more,” and I guess one might call that art. But I don’t think I ever made anything like that for a commission.

5) How do you describe yourself as an artist? 

When people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m an illustrator. It’s on my government tax forms. “Illustrator.” My drawings serve purposes and are meant to be printed, reproduced, and consumed. I write stories so that I can draw pictures for those stories. I draw pictures for other people’s stories. It’s what I enjoy. At times, I’ll produce a piece of work that is meant to stand alone, or be hung on a wall. But I still like it if I can get it printed or disseminated in some way. It’s what I like.

6) What are your favourite books and movies? 

Favorite Movie: Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Other favorite movies that I can go back and watch any time and enjoy: Brazil, Miller’s Crossing, Delicatessen. More recently, I really loved Dunkirk, for the way it told its story in three separate timelines. I thought that was brilliant.

Favorite Books: Lately, I read a lot of science fiction short stories. But rarely do they stay with me. I remember being quite struck several years ago the first time I read Tom Godwin’s “The Cold Equations.” Find it, check it out. As far as novels, the most recent book I read that I just couldn’t wait to get back to was The Book of Strange New Things, by Michael Faber.

7) Now you work in children books.
How do you see children books in comparison to comic books? 

Well, at their simplest, they’re just words and pictures, right? With both picture books and comics, the pictures make no sense without the words, and the words can’t work without the pictures. They both do some heavy lifting.
I often have trouble writing for the appropriate audience when I write for kids. I have a tendency to get a little weird, and have to rein it in; or else I overcompensate and write too simply, too boring, thinking “oh I couldn’t get away with that.” And then I see books come out where the author or illustrator got away with it. So while my “voice” in comics was there from the start, I feel like I’m still finding it in children’s books.

8) As an american citizen that travelled to Europe.
Do you see Europe different from the U.S.A?

Yes, sure. But both have changed a lot in the time since I first traveled. My first experience overseas was my third year of college when I moved to Paris for one year. I’d never been out of the USA before then, and it was quite a first taste. It taught me a lot about who I was and where I’m from. During that year I spent two weeks in Tunisia, traveling with friends, which put me in place even more. My rosy view of being an American really changed there, and I saw what romanticized ideas of the world I’d grown up with.
But you asked about Europe. When I was there, in the late 80s, I thought I’d live in Paris or Europe for my life. I loved the center-stage that art and culture took. It wasn’t a thing you left your normal life to go see or do, it was all around. It was always right there. Everything seemed so much more sophisticated and interesting to me than where I was from.

9) What was the artwork created by you that really pleased you?

The first was certainly Frederick & Eloise. It was the first thing where I realized I had a voice, something to say, and an interesting way of saying it.
But i’ve been drawing pictures for 25 years since then, with literally thousands of drawings. I’m sure there are at least a few in there that really made me happy. Some of the really busy scenes I drew for my Everything Goes series of children’s books were very satisfying.

10) how do you see comic books nowadays? Do you read some?  

Not much. It’s weird to read the Eisner nominations every year and still see so many names that were on that list in the 1990s. Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, and so on. I often read something that someone recommends and think it could have been written in 1995. There are some newer names, like Jillian Tamaki and Eleanor Davis, whose work I like a lot. The books by Isabelle Greenberg are wonderful. And I buy anything Tom Gauld makes. 
In the end, I think this is less a statement of the quality of what’s out there (I’m sure there is a lot of amazing stuff) and more to where I am in life.

Chris Ware

Dan Clowes

Eleanor Davis

Isabelle Greenberg

Tom Gauld

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