MM3 Cover Artist Interview: Julien Ceccaldi
Julien created a 6 page comic for us and we liked it so much we asked him to do the cover artwork, too. Here he shares some of his inspiration, working process images and insight into the origins of his interests and obsessions.
MM: Is it your intention to only focus on female fashion and issues, or is this just the way it's turned out to be?
JC: All of my characters are fragments of myself. Before they are « feminine », their concerns and their interests are my own. I don't identify as a woman, but I certainly don't identify with the men's rights movement either, to say the least. The feelings of worthlessness and utter vanity are gender-neutral.
MM: You seem to depict a ‘new’ or non-traditional form of female, can you remember the first time you drew women in this way, was there a specific point of genesis?
JC: It's unfortunate that bulkier women would be considered an especially unusual sight. It goes to show how cruel and exigent expectations are when it comes to women's appearances.
When I was eighteen, it came to my attention how suspicious it is that the female body in manga is almost invariably young and thin, and often sexualized as such. As I grew older people couldn't understand that I saw myself in the skinny girls I'd been drawing since I was a child. They assumed I perved out on my drawings or something. So I began drawing women with sculpted bodies as a meeting point between where I come from and what I want.
MM: Your comics are biting and angry, do you think it’s important to make comics with this tone?
It's hard to imagine writing in a different tone because I've become such a weary and bitter person. Harsh self-criticality is worth investigating, because it involves not only people's most intense inner dialogue (if they are as displeased with themselves as I am), but also the external, oppressive system that provokes these thoughts.
MM: You’re very consistent in the themes you put in your comics, are you locked into a specific mission with these comics? Do you ever find yourself writing comics that don’t fit this method and have to scrap them?
JC: In my comics I focus a lot on depicting heteronormative situations in the context of what seems like gags, but it is my hope that the maliciousness of sexism becomes the real subject in the process, not transformed into a cheap joke, but kept as this sad thing to seriously reflect on. As of now, it's all I see around me and I don't want to talk about anything else.
MM: Do you feel that negative energy can have a positive effect?
Jc: One of my favorite cartoonists is Nekojiru, and I think she is the perfect example of that. It seems like she was especially sensitive to the unfairness of the world, and responded to that with anger.
Her comics are dizzying because at first sight, it appears like she has very little empathy for her ruthless characters. But as you go through her strips, you begin to see the subtle compassion she has for them. The emptiness in their eyes is propelled by how distressingly brutal the world feels to her. It's destabilizing, but there is much to learn from that.
MM: In your cover design for Mould Map 3 you referenced some old shoujo manga covers; light, sweet, romantic, cute pretty images. How do you respond to that imagery, considering the darkness you load into your comics?
JC: Since I was a child I responded well to sweets, frills, ribbons and flowers. These are what shoujo covers are essentially made of, so it's no surprise I'd be into them. The greatest shoujo manga (Ikeda, Hagio, Clamp) are stories of personal growth through angst-ridden hardships and introspection, and they can be wrapped in the most saccharine packaging.
MM: Have you made an image this shiny and sparkly before? Do you think you’d like to work like that again?
JC: I started using the computer to draw manga characters when I was 13. The illustration I did for the cover is very similar to something I would have made at the peak of my CG art years, circa 2005. This type of 5-tone shading is something I used to really aspire to. I calmed down with the computer coloring since then, but it's the technique that comes to me the most instinctively.
MM: When you designed the cover, you cited specific pieces by Versace you wanted to reference. The closest thing I’ve seen to that with comics is Hirohiko Araki’s work with Gucci, but that’s so far away from what you’re doing. Somehow it feels like I’ve never seen comics like yours before. The reference points you’re making, and they way you’re doing it, I wonder why there aren’t any other comics that are so ‘Now’. What do you think about that?
JC: These Versace references didn't actually make it into the final illustration. But anyway, I didn't invent the concept of looking at fashion ads for ideas. Countless mangakas do it when it comes to dressing up their characters for special illustrations: Naoko Takeuchi, Ai Yazawa, Akira Toriyama, etc...
I'm lucky that manga is so hot right now, otherwise I'm not sure what I do would come off as particularly current – especially since my reference points mostly date from before 2000. That being said, I am also very influenced by the insights of the current generation of teenagers. From gender non-conforming youtube personalities like Divadarlingchic, to the people behind Rookie, they have an inspiring awareness of themselves and of how they relate to others.
MM: I think you said you will soon be releasing a big collection of your comic works soon, and you’ve been exhibiting and selling your hand-painted garments… can you tell us what you might be working on for SS2014?
JC: I can't wait for the re-opening my web-store, hopefully some time before Christmas. It might be the end of the charmingly long email correspondences I had with every sale, but I'm happy it will be a more legit place for people to shop. I'm also excited to debut a video look-book around that time.
As for the comic collection, it's a 60 page stapled zine. I printed a few copies earlier this fall, and already ran out. But there are a couple left at Ooga Booga! And it will be reprinted by the time my website's running again.
MM: How do you survive in 2013?
JC: You do you bb!
(Interviewed by Leon Sadler, conducted by email in Autumn 2013)