Hello François Vigneault
Meet François Vigneault – a freelance illustrator, cartoonist, and designer living in Montreal, Canada.
may 12, 2016
François Vigneault has worked with numerous clients across North America, some of which include: The Portland Mercury, The California Sunday, Scout Books, Reed College, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, and Nature Conservancy Canada. He is also the Art Director for Study Group Comics.
Thank you, François, for taking the time to chat with us!
BB: Hi François! How are you?
FV: I'm doing well! I'm working on a small painting with your watercolors right now. It will be fun to do some new little pieces with your paints.
BB: Do you use watercolor often in your work?
FV: I paint the covers to my comic book Titan with watercolors, and I did quite a few [watercolor pieces] last year during a daily drawing project I did called Cent Jours… I drew a different image each day for 100 days when I first arrived in Montreal.
"Titan [...] is a sort of reflection of social and economic things in the real world… I am very inspired by history and historical accounts [...]"
BB: What inspired you to create Titan and Cent Jours - two self-initiated projects?
FV: Titan (a six-issue online comic) is a sort of reflection of social and economic things in the real world… I am very inspired by history and historical accounts, and I tried to bring some of that perspective to the story.
[Cent Jours...] I came to Montreal last summer for just over 100 days, and I didn't know much about the city. I thought that doing a drawing everyday would be a good exercise to both improve my drawing practice and learn about the city. Most of the drawings were pen and ink, but whenever I had the time to do something more elaborate I busted out my watercolors.
BB: Were all the drawings of actual people, places, and things that you saw?
FV: Yes, all drawn in situ. The weather in Montreal during the summer is pretty nice - a good time to draw outdoors! I wouldn't try it in the winter.
BB: Haha yes, your fingers would freeze right off in Montreal's brutal winter weather. Where did you live before coming to Montreal?
FV: Portland, Oregon. But I was born in Upstate New York, and I have lived all over the US. My mother is from Québec.
BB: Can you tell us what a typical day looks like for you?
FV: My daily work is a mix of personal creative projects such as Titan and outside work, be it working on book design for Study Group or freelance illustrations for The Portland Mercury or another client. I start the day off with a coffee and a small breakfast, then I try to jump right into creative work while my mind is fresh! I am lucky enough to have a small studio space in my apartment, but I'll also sometimes go for a walk and work in a nearby cafe for a change of pace. In the afternoon I'll often switch to less creative tasks, like reaching out to potential clients or conducting research. I have a very flexible schedule, but I usually work 6 or 7 days a week!
BB: You're also the Art Director of Study Group Comics - how did you come to be involved with them?
FV: Study Group Comics is a comic book publisher founded by my good friend Zack Soto. A few years ago Zack asked me to join SG as its resident Art Director, which means I oversee the design and production of all or our titles and help Zack with the selection of new creators. In addition to publishing print editions by artists such as Farel Dalrymple, Sam Alden, and many others (including my own comic Titan and Zack's comics Power Button and The Secret Voice), SG also runs one of the world's best webcomics sites, with new work posted daily for free.
"I've been involved with comics in one way or another for many years – making my own and also publishing and designing other creators' work. It is a great community."
BB: Would you say that comics are a huge passion of yours?
FV: Yes, I would say so. I've been involved with comics in one way or another for many years - making my own and also publishing and designing other creators' work. It is a great community.
BB: Is that where your career in the arts began?
FV: Yes and no. I have been doing work in comics for years, but until recently, it was more on the side. One of my first jobs out of high school was a paper store, where I learned a lot about printmaking, book binding, etc. That led to other work as a production assistant, and a designer. I guess it has been a step by step process.
BB: Did you always know that's where you wanted to go, professionally - to be a designer and illustrator?
FV: To be honest, no! For the last few years I was working as an art director and an editor at a great company called Scout Books in Portland. They print pocket-sized journals. It was great fun - lots of chances to work with incredibly talented artists. But in the last year I've had the opportunity to spend more time on my own work and it's really exciting. So I'm going for it!
BB: Congratulations! That's exciting. Is that why you decided to move to Montreal?
FV: I came to Montreal to improve my French… I spoke it when I was very young but forgot most of it. It's gotten a lot better since I have been here!
BB: Would you say you're living your dream "job" right now?
FV: Yes! Lucky me.
BB: Did you have any formal training in design and the arts?
FV: I went to an arts high school, but in the years since then I am mostly self-taught. I studied English Literature in University.
BB: If you could choose to go back and do it all over again, knowing what you know now, would you have chosen to study art or design in university?
FV: Hmmm… I would definitely like to have had more technical knowledge of certain things… I know enough to know I'm doing things the "wrong" way sometimes! But I have had the pleasure of learning as I go and by working on projects. I think that is a real blessing.
BB: So, what would you say inspires you the most right now?
FV: I'm a lover of nature and the outdoors, and I try to bring that into my work whenever I can.
BB: Is that why you did the project with Nature Conservancy Canada?
FV: Yes, I was honoured and pleased that I got to do a little work for them. It's exciting to help protect threatened environments and species, even in my own very small way. It was a lot of fun to research the animals and the habitat too.
"I definitely want my art and writing to have a structure, but I am also attracted to mistakes and imperfections in line, color, and form that occur spontaneously during the creation process."
BB: Speaking of research, what is your artistic or creative process?
FV: I am pretty improvisational, actually. I definitely want my art and writing to have a structure, but I am also attracted to mistakes and imperfections in line, color, and form that occur spontaneously during the creation process. Particularly in mediums like watercolor or inking with a brush - there's only so much I can control it, so I try to be open to a little chaos.
When I look at originals of other artists, say in a museum, I am often attracted to the "mistakes" where you can see the creator's "hand" showing through. Of course, some artists are just perfect!
BB: Who are some of your favorite artists or designers?
Too many to enumerate! But some enduring and/or recent inspirations include Kerascöet, Jaime Hernandez, Dupuy & Berberian, John Singer Sargent, John James Audubon, Walton Ford, Jimmy Beaulieu, Eleanor Davis, and Norman Rockwell.
BB: How would you describe your artistic style?
FV: I'd say my art style is torn between precision and looseness, with looseness winning more and more as the years go on. The same goes for my writing!
BB: … because of an increasing self-confidence in your own personal style?
FV: Yes… in a way. It is sometimes just a matter of seeing your own limitations and turning them into a strength, too.
BB: Lastly, do you have any advice for anyone who wants to pursue a career like yours?
FV: Well, it can be pretty hard. I have been really lucky, and had some great clients, but it is always going to be an ongoing grind to find new clients and work. Be prepared for that when you start out.
Also, don't feel like you need to be working full-time to be successful. Create projects and art whenever and wherever you can. Collaborate with other artists in your community to gain skills, connections, and confidence.
Thank you François!