5 Questions for Rémi Maynègre

Rémi Maynègre is the artist behind the two Voyage Au Japon travelogue sketchbooks.

In this instalment of 5 Questions, we have him talk about his work and the books.

Q1. Can you introduce yourself and the work you do?

I was born in France in 1976. When I was kid, I spent almost all my time drawing.

I wasn't bad at school but I had the habit to make comics strip in all my exercise books instead doing the lessons, leaving all my teachers tired and worried about my future.

One day, one of them told me, "Hey! He's maybe the only one who knows what he wants to do in life, so why not let him be a drawer?" It started from here, my parents sent me in art school, which was paradise for me!

After that, I tried several jobs such as graphic designer but finally work as a postman for ten years! That said, my primary goal was always to be a comic-book artist, and making books.

I love books! I can't stop reading and buying books, that's my favorite meal!

My work does not really stand on an intellectual level, I'm a quite simple guy on that point, I just want to make what I like to do.

When I went in Japan with Sandrine in 2008 for our honeymoon, it was like someone, something enlighten me! Something happened deep inside of me, I wanted to draw everything I saw! In Japan you can easily see remnants or places like they were before the modern age, so my imagination and my creativity get excited everywhere I went!

I'm currently working in a studio with several other artists, I like the mood of the studio and the interactions I can have with other creative people.

I dedicate a part of my creative time to experiment new techniques and recipes, I call that my "kitchen time" — I gather everything I can find, colors, pigments, household products, salt, pepper, textures, tools, etc... I give myself a main theme such as water, wind, air, plants, trees, mountains, seasons, etc. and I mix all I could collect to make effects for rendering my theme the better way. The result might contain a lot of failures, but every time I find one or two new solutions for rendering special effects like light on water, foam of waves, pines or concrete, old stones, mist, winter...etc.. these happy accidents brings new approaches to my style and keep me curious of everything.

Q2. You have two Voyage au Japon artbooks out already. Can you talk about your inspiration or motivation to publish your book?

Voyage Au Japon
At the beginning we didn't planed to make a book, we were having our honeymoon, so we just spent time enjoying our trip. We took a lot of pictures because we bought a reflex camera the second day of the trip and that's what permitted us to make our book.

The idea to make a book didn't appear to us clearly. After we got back, I got nostalgic from Japan, I was moody, really! So I watched our pictures of the trip to live the trip once more! At one point it wasn't enough, so I draw a place in Tokyo close of our ryokan, a place we passed through everyday and that I loved so much! I feel good, but it wasn't enough too, so I did it again, and again and again...

I was a member of a french art community online named Café Salé where I posted my watercolors there to share my feelings, and to my great surprise, people liked them, and react on the thread, so I kept it up. As one goes along viewers increased a lot, I was amazed!

After a while we found ourselves with a lot of illustrations, and people who liked them so what can we possibly do with that?

I like Café Salé had published us because it was there that everything started.

Q3. So how do you create the art in the book?

My process depends on the conditions.

I made some sketches on location, not enough to make an entire book but they're all in it. So, most of the pages were made after the trip itself. I use our photos, but our photo's are a wedding trip album, so it means a lot of random photos of us or places, and most of my photos are not crisps. I watch them several time, that easily revives my memory. That is the most important, to keep alive my memory of those particular moments. I always have enough clear pictures for details but the mood and the feelings of those moments is what I choose to really show in my illustrations. It's essentially a work of memory, more than a possible guide of Japan.

Watercolor is a very good medium for that and it allows me to be absolutely instinctive in my process. That is important to me.

However, when it comes to technic, I'm not a purist. I don't use only watercolor, but also acrylic or gouache, pigments, fluorescent marker or inks. I can mix with oil pastel or add bleach, salt or anything else that can help me to produce my illustration. There's not only one way in art, I like to experiment and discovering new tips, that keeping my interest alive... otherwise I get bored.

Reproducing photos or using the same recipe for making illustrations is not fun and I believe people can feel when the artist loses his motivation or his interest for the picture he realized.

Q4. What are the challenges of publishing an artbook such as yours?

I learn a lot of things during the making of the Tōkyō and Kōyasan books. Like how to make a book, literally, and how the team works, who makes what, what errors I did... I've never done that before and it's really a lot of work!

Especially with a book like Voyage au Japon, which was initially a mess made of tickets, cards, sketches, paintings, etc... Each pages is different, the images are different sizes, sometimes you have a lot of text, sometimes none... you have a lot of small things to fix, each one is quite easy and can be quickly done, but there are hundreds! You'll have to be organized to make a such book!

Looking back, there is a lot of things we would make differently. We try to make every books better, and that's how came experience. At the moment I wrote theses lines, we have started to work on the third volume about Kyōto, and we try a new way of interaction in the working process: having more fun, with more pleasure and less pressure, making things simpler. I hope it'll work!

Q5. What advice would you give to people who might want to publish their own travelogue artbook?

I don’t know, it’s difficult to say, I think the most important is to be honest, with others but especially with yourself. Be simple, do things as you want, as you feel.

You will hear many arguments against the way you choose to do things, most of them are nonsense.

Some people told me that we cheated because most of the illustrations were not realized on location.Really? Who cares? Do you think Voyage au Japon is really less credible or less expressive? There is no only one way, choose yours or create it. This kind of arguments come from people who don’t know you or believe in you, so it’s unfounded and you have to pass besides.

Don't fear the fact there's already a book about the same subject you choose, there is enough place for everybody. You are different, so your vision and your point of view should be the key.

If you find a publisher that means there is a public for your project.

I think internet is now a very good way to find your audience and publish your own books.

I think we should done it that way, if we didn’t find Café Salé.


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