Johanna: A Story-teller

First thing first, HAPPY LUNAR NEW YEAR :) It's our New Year's Day today back home and there's this tradition called 'khai bút đầu xuân', which literally means 'picking up your pen [to write a poem, a sentence, etc.] at the beginning of spring'. Which is what I'm doing right this moment! :) 

To begin an exciting, and hopefully adventurous year, I'd like to introduce - to all of you invisible peeps - Johanna, who I admire for her talent and wonderful illustration style. (First day of the new year seriously can't get any better than this..)

Tree of Possibilities
 Q: Please introduce yourself and what you do. A: Hi, my name is Johanna Bessière. I’m an animator and an illustrator. I’ve worked in the film industry for a couple of years, and I’m currently developping a few personal children books projects.

Q: A quick description of your artwork.A: I don’t know if I’ve got a proper « style ». I find it very hard to stick with one ! (and boring, too). Usually I do illustrations in various style and techniques, going from quite simple and stylised to realistic, as well as character and background design for animation, and pure animation drawings. I also enjoy life drawings and travel books.

Q: What is your process of producing a piece?A: For an illustration I usually start with a very sketchy thumbnail, then when I’ve got a basic idea of what the composition is going to be, I draw the line-art. Most of the time I do this in blue and then clean it in black, ink or pencil. Then I either paint it with acrylics or inks, or colour it digitally.

Q: How long does one take on average? Which of your masterpieces took the longest to produce?A: It really depends on the complexity of the piece and the technique I chose for it. It can go from a few hours for a simple digital or ink illustration (or less than an hour for a sketch), to a few days for a complex acrylic painting with lots of details. As an example, « The tree of possibilities » took me a long time, much longer than I expected ! All the little doors are full of details, and each one is cut by hand to show another painting behind. It took me two weeks of working everyday on it (though not full-time, thankfully) to finish it! That’s far too much!

Q: But it's brilliant! In your works, what theme do you pursue?A: I like to make drawings with symbols, subtext and several layers of interpretation, triggering the viewer’s imagination. I draw to tell stories. I can be inspired by a text, a book, an idea, or just a feeling and then I want to put a picture on it. Drawing is always showing a part of yourself, of what you believe in, of the way you see the world. This is why it’s so scary to show your art! But I believe that by accepting to be true to this and to be vulnerable somehow, your art improves, gets a deeper resonance. That’s what I’m trying to go toward in my most recent works, like « The tree… », « Wild one » and « Forest ».
Coming from the animation world, I’m also passionate about movement and characters’ emotions.

Wild One

Q: What do you like and dislike about your works?A: Hahaha, that’s a tricky question. I’m never completely satisfied with my work, I’m ultra-perfectionist. I think one of my qualities is that my drawings and characters are full of life and movement. As for the rest, I’ve got so many things to improve and to learn about! I still feel like a beginner.

Q: What is your dream project?A: To be able to convey themes and subjects that are dear to me in my work and to combine all the different aspects I love about art in my professional life, going from illustration to comics and animation. Changes and diversity make life more fun! I’d love to create workshop with kids too.

Aboriginal Art Inspiration

Q: Name three artists who inspire you.A: Three only is difficult ! As I was just talking about the different aspects I like in art, let’s get an inspiration for each one of them : one of the most amazing comics artists, for me, is Cyril Pedrosa. I love his lines, and he is such a talented story-teller ! (check out « Three shadows »!) For children illustration and writing, Gabrielle Vincent, the creator of Ernest and Celestine. There is so much humanity and tenderness in her work. And for animation, Hayao Miyazaki (of Studio Ghibli, who produced Spirited Away, etc.), whose talent is absolute in every way to me, and whose themes touch me deeply.

Q: What's the best piece of advice you've been given?A: I was given a lot of other great pieces of advice for different situations. One that was particularly helpful was to create a whole story in my head about the character and background I’m drawing, even if it’s not going to be told. Is there a book under one foot of the table because it was wobbly, what in the room reflects the hobbies of the one living in it, etc. It helped me to enjoy drawing backgrounds, when they had been « not fun » to me before, and put a lot more life and subtext into my illustrations.

Thank you Johanna.



M. said...

Happy new year! And brilliant post as usual! Thanks x

Anonymous said...

Haha new year = tree of possibilities indeed. Good job Johanna.

T.H. said...

One word: Beautiful! :)

Becky said...

Happy New Year xxxx
LOVE the drawings, especially "The Tree"

annie said...

I love how the brush strokes seem to flow with such fluidity and thus perfectly capture the movements. Really well done!

Anonymous said...

Stunning earthy colours xxx

April said...

I love not only the mastery of the brush work, but also the story behind each piece. You are very talented!!

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