PIERRE ALARY ANSWERS 15 QUESTIONS WITH JULINDA MORROW
When I visit the blog of Pierre Alary I am always amazed by the sheer amount of new material he shares with the public. Pierre’s art is unfailingly energetic and his characters always come alive under his beautiful ink line. I wish that more North American publishers would put him to work.
A gallery of Pierre’s animated art follows this interview.
Julinda Morrow: What path led you to comics and sequential art?
Pierre Alary: I love working to tell a story – good or bad (ha ha!). Strangely, drawing for the sake of drawing is not very interesting to me. I began to draw, as all kids do, in school on my desk…then, reading comic books, studying the art of Franquin, Giraud, Corben, Berni Wrightson. Then the passion came; the desire to tell a story this way – to draw comics. Besides, I learn a lot in animation, the process of managing a sequence is very helpful for comics books, for remaining attentive between the panels [as to] where you are [in the sequence], who the characters are [and what they’re doing]….
JM: What schooling or training did you receive?
PA: I studied a little in art school, but it was a part-time, for one year ….besides that the best way to study for me was trying to copy the artists I loved. I never succeeded, but I learned a lot trying to draw the eyes in the John Byrne way, the shadow the Eisner way, and so on. [Learning that way] you learn with the best
Later, completely by chance, I arrived in the Gobelins Animation School. I worked in animation, and there, it was a beautiful school, I learned a lot and I also had the chance to work with the best….
JM: Who, in your opinion, are the pioneers of sequential art?
PA: Pheew…, it’s a difficult question because I have the feeling of discovering new pioneer artists everyday …Sure , artists like Rodolphe Topffer ,Winsor McCay are pioneers of comic books, but I think the sequential art begin in Ancient China….
JM: How do you define sequential art?
PA: Maybe it’s a way to tell a story with drawing – as simple as that.
JM: Do you find that sequential art provides you with near-limitless possibilities for storytelling or do you experience it as constraining?
PA: Yes, I think there is a lot of leeway in BD, in terms of storytelling, drawing, and techniques….then the work consists of pairing the right technique to the right story. The trap that’s easy to fall into is to draw for one’s own pleasure and to forget the storyline, the skeleton; I know because I often fall into that trap. A friend of mine, Christian Rossi, whose work I love, once told me that a BD is first and foremost a story. [It doesn’t matter] how it is drawn, as long as the pictures mean what they should and take the reader in the logical direction. I think that says it all.
JM: What qualities or resources do you believe are most important for a sequential storyteller to have?
PA: First, I think you need a good sense of storytelling – an ability to condense, because there is very little space in which to develop the story.
JM: How do you approach your work process?
PA: When I’m lucky enough to have it in its entirety before starting, (which is rare) I read the story carefully; then I make a storyboard that we review with the scriptwriter in order to make the necessary corrections; then, on to the rough drawing, always ready for corrections, then I ink. Even at that point, after rereading, we can still make corrections. It’s a long process…
JM: How many hours a day do you work? Are you uniformly productive on any given day or more productive on some days than others?
PA: I work all day, from morning to night, just like most people I guess, but as in all artistic professions, I am always ready to come back to my pages, at any time. I work on them again on weekends and again at night and here and there. In reality, it’s always moving around in my head, never quite finished, even when it’s printed and gone to the bookstores.
JM: Was it a struggle, at the start of your career, to find work and make ends meet?
PA: Not really. I was fortunate to fall into animation and have worked steadily ever since.
JM: What has been your most valuable professional experience?
PA: I spent ten great years at Disney in Paris, working on interesting, full-length feature films, with fantastic artists from whom I learnt a lot. Now I try to vary my projects in BD…moving around, finding different pleasures each time, learning….
JM: What inspires or informs you creatively?
PA: There are obviously many more artists, those I have known since my childhood like Giraud, Berni Wrightson, Richard Corben, Franquin, and others that come up in time, depending on my tastes, the needs, my evolution… today I love authors like Denis Bodart, Mastuantono etc…film also has a strong influence on my work…painting…I am very curious about nature. I’m always looking and searching everywhere, even though in my work I remain very timid. I don’t dare change my way of working, I want to tell a story as clearly as possible, and I am not bold in the way I approach sequential art. I think I am fearful, and I regret this.
JM: What is your position on digital comics? Are they a good thing or a bad thing?
PA: I have no problem with this. What matters is the result. It’s true that there is a tendency to add more than necessary with digital, to drown a story under streams of graphic demonstrations that are not always welcome…but for those who know how to use it simply as one more tool, the results can be great. Of course, it’s not the tools that will give us a good story, if the script isn’t good there is nothing you can do…
JM: If you were to make any changes to the industry or the market what changes would you make?
PA: Well, it’s never easy to answer this question…I don’t know…there are lots of changes we’d like to make, but at the same time, one chooses this profession knowing it’s difficulties[...] There are always conflicts with the publishers, who tend to always want more for the same price. We have to defend our earnings…As in everything, if you have successes, it’s easier to deal with, but in general, the worries of the profession are the price to pay for a certain freedom, a choice…
JM: If you could apprentice under any artist at any time in history and anywhere in the world who would it be?
PA: Ha ha… Probably one of the names mentioned in question 11. However, if it was Berni Wrightson I would want to apprentice with him during the 1970’s…(ha ha ha…)
JM: What, in the future, would you like to accomplish creatively?
PA: I think that I became a good artist at Disney. I am not an explorer, or a visionary. (I would like to be, but that will have to wait for another lifetime!) There are not many Moebius’ per generation, so I try to do good work. I like telling stories through this medium. I do my best, all the while enjoying myself, but enjoyment sure takes a lot of work…(ha ha ha)