Polymanga 2011

Thursday 5 May 2011

It took a little while to finally tell a bit about what was my very first comics convention as an artist. This journey to Switzerland has been the most frantic ever, 4 days packed with traveling, painting, drawing, meeting people, sleep deprivation and cosplay overdose.
Although I had no idea how on earth my type of work would fit a Japanese comics convention, when the director of Polymanga called for inviting me to participate in this new concept named "Arting Spirit", I was thrilled by the promise of a fun, yet endangering experience. I must admit that when the day arrived, the prospective of waking up at 4, followed by a 3 hour train ride to Paris then a 9-hour trip to Lausanne suddenly pondered the enthusiasm. However I quickly found that the Polybus filled with comics artists and art fellows was all I needed to deepen into the drawing ambiance in a flash!
Tenth of new awesome encounters later, we shared the youth hostel room with Lorenzo and Flonum, two out of the thirty participants that would be in the starting blocks for the Arting competition on that early Saturday morning.
Each of us was given a easel, a 100x100 cm canvas, two days and a subject that left everyone puzzled in the first place: "3D". Just the sound of it, in French : "troidé". It could be the third dimension. It could be three dices. It could be anything. I put down the mind game on paper, and a few scribbles later I settled with the idea of three characters _ actually three variants of the same_ which would be allegories of the words "Défi, Désir, Délit" (literally: Defier, Desire, Delict). I would also give a simpler entry point by having my composition sit onto three stone cubes _ the dices.
Then the race had to start. I attacked the sketch directly with paint, a diluted ocre tint. It was my first time with acrylics. Those color tubes were fresh from the shop, I had no idea how it was going to be like to brush with this fast-drying paste. I really had little choice but using them to grow my underpaint, but frankly, what a relief when the second day I could switch to oils! Such a pleasure in those smooth gestures, in the paint that never falls dry, that can be thinned forever.

Paintings Zancan Polymanga 2011

( you can click on the images above to watch pictures)
The challenge ended up at 11pm the second day. It was for me the climax of a trance that had risen up in intensity from the last four hours. On the microphone, David Heim announced that the countdown was over, but that they were offering some extra time... of one minute ;) I can tell i used this minute to the maximum. They had one person of the staff next to each artist to make sure he wouldn't add a single stroke after the bell had rung. Harsh! There I was staring at the result, bound to admit that I would have to be satisfied with its level of completion, and realized that one actual stroke was missing for my storyline to get consistency... there at the distance of my arm... but they wouldn't allow me to add this fallen dress strap on my character Désir's shoulder. ( No one complained about it, obviously, but when I'm asked often when do I decide that a painting is over, this is the kind of small detail that has its underlying importance in my verdict. )

Below is the dedication that the VIP guest Stephen Silver drew inside the copy of his copy of his Sketchbook. I have been sitting next to him for those three days, and besides witnessing the immensity of his skills with character design and live caricature, i've been spoiled by the man, with tenth of goodies and food and drinks :)

Stephen is famous for his work as a character designer, and was all the time surrounded with hundreds of admirers who were fans of his series Kim Possible. I must thank him for he told me at one point “you have six hours left” with a teasing smile, while I was getting carried away in detailing the face of my left character with a tiny brush, making me realize that the tough part of the race had to start. It's only at the end of the third day, when they gather the painters on stage that I understood that Stephen was actually member of the jury! ( if I had known, I would have been the one spoiling ;) )

Second prize

So yes, I was really happy to make it to the second place with my painting. Romain Lardanchet, whose piece was also my personal favorite, a very efficient, frontal, black and white robotic composition mixing painting and sculpture, won the 1500€ prize. I won a 500€ prize, and Valérie Rallière the 300€ prize with a fresh, ethereal scene populated with stereoscopic aquatic species.
I was very happy of the results, but I was just a minuscule 0.15 point away from Romain, which made me wonder were that little extra thing lacked. Finitions, I would say, because my piece wasn't as polished as his, and also a more modern approach in terms of style, which was a bit too fantasy-like in my opinion.
Overall, it appeared that the artists who were the most distant from anime style, and who were familiar with a larger range of media fared better with the challenge. Most participants were perfectly trained comic artists on one hand, but in the other hand, they were mostly new to bigger surfaces and unfamiliar with brushes and paint. Moreover, many of the artists had to take care of their stand in parallel, and kept working on dedicating their books or doing commissioned portraits in the meantime! While I had no stand at all :/

Trying out dedicaces

I was such a newbie to this kind of convention that I didn't bring anything to sell or sign, not even some postcards or posters. After the first day,I had the iPad and compiled a slideshow of my works. It was still better than nothing on my desk. I was surprised that several visitors or artists knew my paintings from deviantART ! Most who were familiar with the website had seen Home and Fairies somewhere ( .. for it is, at the time writing, the 4th ranked deviation of the site, weee! ).
It was really nice to discover that I wasn't such a complete stranger in a manga festival !
So I had a flattering welcome from some visitors, which made me doubly happy to try making drawings for them. To those who brought me something to draw on, I tried making something out of my dusty skill. I dedicated paper sheets, pages of notebooks, costumes, bare limbs, or these super cardboards for calligraphy with golden frame, that I lousily used on the wrong side, oOps.
I don't have pictures of those drawings that I did for people. Only this one below, of Milena who stood still for chatting in front of my stand:

I'm sorry that apart from her eyes, I quite failed in rendering the face, because she was either smiling or filling up all the blanks of the conversation, and I had no idea how to capture this moving mouth so I rendered it rather inexpressive, which was at the opposite of the moments I shared with her and her brother.
I must say that after the last day, Monday, I was really exhausted, after only 2 hours of sleep the past night and another stressing day. The reason why I was still standing is because I was high on Red Bull ( they were sponsors of the event, I drunk like 800 of them in 3 days). And we had to go back to Paris by bus, driving overnight. You can't really sleep in a bus...

For some reason they had advanced the departure of 2 hours, so we arrived in Paris at 5 AM and I had to wait for my train to Bordeaux for 5 more hours, an insanely long time when you're exhausted. The girls from the fanzine Darjeeling Clockwork, Océane and Cécilia, kindly waited with me around a café near Gare de Lyon.
The final piece of travel, 3-hour long ride by train, was a bit confused. It was really hot, I ate a bit, drew a weird surreal scene inspired by the conversation with the very old french-speaking american-born protestant nun seating next to me and blurred by sleep deprivation. Then I fell into a disturbed sleep on my 1st class seat.
Finally, I was proud I made it to Polymanga. It was such a rich experience. Plus I'm not getting this old after all.


Jun. 2, 2011 2:01
Anime/manga conventions are usually fun to go to. In the past couple of years it's pretty much grown to encompass art in general, not just Japanese comics. I love the idea of a speed painting. Congratulations on your win! I hope to be able to see you work live one of these days. :)
May 11
5/5/2011 Polymanga 2011