Illustration Means to me: Pieces of life stories collection
When I sketch: I catch a moment. It is a pleasure to express my feeling, my thought and imagination from my mind and put it all on a blank paper.
A sketchbook is: My memory keeper.
A brush is: A tool that helps the artist performing their skills and art.
My name is Maxime, I was born in the 70’s. In the North East of France, in Montbéliard, Franche-Comté. It is the place where cold winter blesses us with snow and cheese is almost our religion. My mother worked as a primary teacher and my father was a furniture maker.
We lived in a cosy and beautiful country house near rivers and fields. I spent my childhood playing with friends in the forest and riding the bicycle. I enjoyed the debut of the first video games ever. In my town, all the kids were the same age. We devoted our free time outside or in front of our TV screen. We were trying to beat the records at Pac-Man, Zaxxon or Donkey Kong.
When I was a young boy, we believed we could do whatever we loved to do. With the most inspiring magazine of that time: “Métal Hurlant”, my uncle was my first guide. He introduced me to the culture of “bande dessinee”, or what we called “comics” in English.
To some people of my generation, Métal Hurlant is the bible that changed the world of comics. I was devouring the unconventional stories of Jodorowsky. Many of the topics were new to me. I was 12 years old and the magazine was for adults, but, oh! Such a shock, such an exquisite discovery! The mesmerizing talent of the famous Euro comics. With titles such as Moebius, Arno and Druillet exploded at every page. I was impressed; I wanted to draw like them. I spent hours drawing my favourite characters every day after school.
The pure joy of being a kid who didn’t notice the consequences of the attempt to master his skills. I grew up drawing all the time. Drawing shaped my orientation. For me to become a student of the ISBA of Besancon and the art décoratifs of Strasbourg University. And also, a stepping-stone inspired my career and my path as an artist. After my graduation, I started my travelling. With a curious and young-heart to explore the world around. I visited first Vietnam and then Japan.
My first travel to Vietnam was 20 years ago, in Saigon. After that, at least once a year, I came back to Saigon, my second homeland.
After that, I got the travelling fever! Now, travelling and sketching the world around me became my usual routine. My first travel to Vietnam was 20 years ago, in Saigon. After that, at least once a year, I came back to Saigon, my second homeland. Silent as a watcher, I have seen that city evolving and changing through the years. Of all its qualities, the energy of Saigon remains unrivalled.
The calls of the street vendors “Dừa xiêm đây… Dừa xiêmmmm”. The crazy noisy traffic all around. The strong social links that irrigate the Vietnamese culture. The combination of the bad and good smells that attack your senses everywhere you go. Saigon can’t let anyone be indifferent. Saigon has its hidden charm and always called me back when I was away.
Nowadays, pollution, franchises and industrial development, make me feel regret for Saigon. There was a time you could feel free to drive motorbike along the streets with no cars, no traffic. But past is the past and evolution goes on, with or without me.
Usually, I start my day by finding a nice coffee shop, drinking a typical “Cà phê sữa đá” and sketching the local life. It is a pleasure. I try to capture what belongs to this city atmosphere. It can be anything. Ordinary, surprising, normal or specific; it always comes with a story behind. I don’t use any colour to render the world around me. I love the pure visual impact of black and white. Simple, but the truth lies beneath the details. Vietnam is an unlimited source of inspiration. From its unique architecture to the busy night markets and hidden narrow streets (ngõ hẻm). Everything is worthy to draw.
Over time, I gathered memories by memories in my sketchbooks. All those sketches tell about the people I met and the great events that punctuated my life. As a result, I wanted to share my experiences and the “Big Bang Saigon” comic book project was born. It is a love story that takes place in Saigon. That graphic novel is partial my true story and partial fiction. In early 2017, it was published in France and was praised by the critics. Travels and romances are interesting and beautiful. Big Bang Saigon definitely brings that flavour to life.
Sketching is important at any levels for a comic book author, an illustrator. It enriches and boosts our work; it helps to connect our brain to hands in a skilful way. Sketching is also all about the moment; especially when we draw the portrait of someone we just meet. I could say, it helps to connect the world and lead to great friendships. In 2001, I met my friend, Thanh, in Hoi An, when I was drawing the peaceful scenery around his house. Since then, he welcomes me every time I visit his town.
In 2006, Makoto came spontaneously to speak to me, because I was sketching his ramen shop in Minoo, Japan. And many other good relationships come to me that way, from different places all around the world. I felt grateful and started to develop my idea to combine travelling and sketching. To the extent that, last year, I proposed a tour to my artist friends and students from France. I brought them to travel around Vietnam. I showed them the unique culture they could sketch. I also provided them lessons of sketching. The result amazed me.
It made me expand my projects to even Vietnamese and foreigners who would like to travel and sketch. Artists, beyond drawing, sketching or photographing, they use their own language as storytellers. Or, ambassadors to link culture closer. Art, in general, is a way to get connected to the present time. It is a total activity, a diving into the reality that leads to creativity. We wake up in the morning and go to sleep in the evening; we have produced something that fulfilled our day.
To the young artists, I would say, get your distance with the devices and screens that devours your time. Start your trip at any time you can! Go and absorb the real world with all its images, sounds and spirits. An artist is not a sheep, neither a photocopy machine. Don’t misunderstand my words. We need years of practice and guideline from early generations. We need the experiences to master our skills and achieve a certain level of detachment.
The challenge in this industry you might face is sometimes you have to go against your own values. Or your sense of art, to fulfil orders from clients. Slowly, you will realize the importance of controlling your “artist ego” inside, to balance. But be aware that feeding the marketing system, even with the most appealing illustrations, is not art. If you want to be an artist, don’t be a follower. Don’t try to please the crowd, don’t listen to the main voices, but only your inner voice. Be honest with yourself and put your best in your work. Now, just be well prepared first!