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February 11, 2009

Robot Dreams author Sara Varon's Angoulême report!

Angoulême was awesome!  I can't believe I am home already. 


I arrived on Thursday night, and Dargaud, the French publisher of Robot Dreams was so nice to me.  They put me up in a hotel which was right in the very center of things (thank you, Dargaud!), and every night they had a big dinner for all the Dargaud people - staff, writers, artists, etc.  I think I sat next to some really famous french comics artists at these dinners, and I totally didn't know their work.  I was worried that I missed some opportunities.  There should be a rule that you must carry your book around at these things, to show people if they ask. 


At these dinners, my editor or one of the other editors always made sure I was sitting next to an English speaker, since, despite 4 years of high school French classes, my French is pretty lousy.  (I guess those classes were awhile ago now.)  I was very grateful for this.

Every day I signed books for 2 hours.  It was a bit different than signing books in the United States.  All the artists (Dargaud usually had about 6 at a time) sat behind a big counter, and there were crazy long lines for a lot of artists.  The artists spent a really long time drawing in people's books, and did some really beautiful work.  It was kind of amazing to me that they were just giving this away, which was the difference between French and American signings.  Here, artists just draw a little doodle.   Or at least I do.  

Friday was my first full day in Angoulême,  (See top photo of the main drag in town, which was getting pretty busy by Friday.)  In the morning, I went over to the Dargaud booth to sign books.  (See photo below of Dargaud booth, showing my book 'Rêves de Robot' on the lower shelf.)  I was totally unprepared.  First of all, I haven't drawn in a few months, and I was super-rusty.  There is nothing worse than the feeling that you've totally ruined someone's book and that you should (a) throw it away and buy them another, or (b) refund their money.  Also, I'm a bit lazy and tend to draw the same thing over and over.  NONE of the French artists did this. 


So later in the day, after several horrible drawings, I went back to my room and did a bunch of drawings in my journal, so I could warm up my hands and think of more than one image.  Also, I decided I'd bring my colored pencils the next day to spice up the drawings a bit.  

Anyhow, after my signing, I was very excited to see that Marguerite Abouet & Clement Oubrerie, the makers of the 'Aya' books (published in French by Gallimard and English by D&Q) were signing books.  I LOVE the 'Aya' books!  I couldn't wait to get over there and have them sign my copy of Aya #4!  When I got there, I was so excited to meet them I was practically foaming at the mouth, but then I also felt like a total loser that I couldn't speak their language.  After a pathetic and unsuccessful attempt to communicate in French, they replied in English.  I'm sure I just seemed like a nervous creepy weirdo, which was a bit disappointing for me, but I'm sure I'm not the first weirdo they've encountered.


I was feeling a bit down after the 2 events, and I went off to meet Ellen Lindner, Charlie Orr, Nick Abadzis, & Alex Holden at the giant Dupuy-Berberian exhibit at the comics museum, which totally picked me up.  Initially, I wasn't really that excited about it, and it was a bit of a shlep, but it turned out to be so awesome and inspiring!!!  First of all, the volume of work was enormous.  Alex pointed out that it was, after all, the sum of 2 people's work, but even so, I was impressed.  I loved how loose and experimental a lot of it was - there were gouache and watercolor paintings, tiny figurines with knitted sweaters, little dioramas, a series of wine labels, pages from sketchbooks, and an enormous kinetic sculpture that cast shadows on the wall.  And it was all so good!  My favorite part of the exhibit was a big room full of their favorite art by friends, along with some experiments of their own.  A highlight was a 15 (or so) page Batman comic (i don't know who did the story) in which each of 15 artists did a page in their own style.  There were pages by Killoffer, Philippe Petit-Roulet, Jacques Loustal, Nicolas de Crecy, and tons of other amazing artists. 

The exhibit totally made me want to go home and make things, which is the best kind of exhibit.

Afterwards I went over to a small exhibit by SAI comics, which is a Korean publisher.  Visually, the work was beautiful.  My favorite piece of art on the wall was a page from a book - it was a watery ink drawing on rice paper, and the artist also used a lot of dry brush, so it had a really unusual texture. I bought a book by an artist named Ancco (see attached photo).  I don't know a word of Korean, but I'd like to think that if I did, I'd be able to tell you the writing was just as good as the art.

On Saturday morning, I went off to my new favorite chocolate store called 'Duceau', conveniently located by my hotel and the tent of indie comics, and I bought about 20(!) chocolate bars for friends.  I practiced drawing in preparation for my next booksigning at 4, and then I went of to meet Charlie Orr and Ellen for a fancy multiple-course French lunch. 



After a leisurely meal, I went off to my next signing which, much to my relief, went a lot better.  I didn't get many people, but my drawings were satisfactory, and during the long periods when i had no one, I drew the enormous crowd of people in line for my neighbor. I was sitting next to the guy who does 'Boule et Bill', which, I hear, is like a French Charlie Brown. 


Then I went off to the other main art exhibit, by Winschluss.  That guy is a genius!!!  Apparently, he was the co-director (or something like that,) along with Marjane Satrapi, of the animated version of 'Persepolis,' which explained his awesome filmmaking skills.  There was a lot of really great 2-D artwork on the walls, along with a great animated film about the robot 'Ferraille' showing on a TV monitor in the wall.  But most of the show was an installation that was supposed to look like a graveyard.   In the 'cinematorium', they were showing an insane zombie film by Mr. Winschluss.  All I can say is that I hope you get an opportunity to see it someday!  It was crazy and hilarious and brilliant and freaky.  After seeing the film, you realize that the graveyard installation is part of the film set.

Afterwards, there was another Dargaud dinner (my last) and more drinking at the Hôtel Mercure.  At the dinner, I met a texas-rodeo-performer-turned-comics-artist.  That was a first for me.  I thought I had a good day job, working for a boxing tournament, but I think being a rodeo rider wins.

On sunday, I was supposed to do an activity with kids from 11-12.  It was a bit haphazard (no thanks to my lack of plan) and the interpreter forgot about it and finally showed up at 11:30.  While i was waiting, someone walked by in a giant Spongebob outfit.  I turned to the people I was with and said, 'Oh look, it's Spongebob!'  They obviously thought I was mentally ill, and then after a minute, someone said, 'Oh, you mean Bob l'éponge!'  So, now I know. . . it's 'Bob l'éponge'.  Anyhow, the event went over OK.  I was placed in front of an enormous Wacom tablet hooked up to a projector, and the kids decided that I should draw pictures for them.  Everyone named an animal, and I drew a huge scene with a horse, dog, lion, cat, squirrel, parakeet, snail, monkey, person, fox, and unicorn.  Mysteriously, they were either entertained or very polite, and it was fun for me as well.

I made one last tour of all the book stands.  Some of my favorites were the books I bought from a publisher called Sarbacane.  (See photo.)  So far I have read and loved 'Anna et Froga' by Anouk Ricard, and am looking forward to reading 'Commissaire Toumi', by the same author.



And then I made my way to Bordeaux, where I caught my flight home. . .sigh. . . it all went by so fast!


It is great to hear about your anxiety and impressions. I would be that nervous to meet you.

This is so awesome! I love your drawing of the line! And the Bob L'eponge and Aya stories. And now I want to go, and I want to see these books.

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