If you haven’t seen much of the Julie Delporte’s work you are missing out on one of the most compelling young cartoonists working today. Julie was raised in France and lives in Montreal. She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions after her one-year fellowship at The Center for Cartoon Studies. — James Sturm
JS: Your work has a lovely organic quality. Can you tell me a little more about your process? How do you go from nothing to a finished page?
JD: I don’t do any sketches. I draw directly, sometimes i don’t like what i did, so i cut and paste another drawing. I try to leave all the tracks of the collage, the tape… Sometimes, i work on photoshop so that we see the pieces of tape better. The composition is a lot of improvisation, but for my diary or for short pieces, the text has been written before, in a sketchbook. For longer pieces, there is a lot of improvisation in the storytelling too. It’s like acting, being in the skin of my main characters, trying to imagine what they think, while things happen.
Both with storytelling and drawing, i think the objective is trying to be the closest possible of a real object: a sketchbook, a diary, a letter… They can be real (my diary, for instance…) or fictional, but they could exist as real objects, in opposition of the usual comic form which is a code for narration.
JS: Another way your comics feel unmediated is that I am unaware of the computer having a hand in its creation. You disguise your computer use well.
JD: I used to use the computer for composition a lot. For instance, on a page like this one, drawings has been done on different pieces of paper. But i do it less and less, because i’m getting more at ease with drawing, and the computer step is not my favorite at all. I have to adjust color a little, but the objective is always to make them as close as possible of the original colors.
JS: Are your comfortable writing in English? Besides getting your work read by more readers do you have any compelling reason to write in English?
JD: I’m not so comfortable, but living in White River Junction, surrounded by english, i started to dream and think in english. So english sentences came naturally to my mind. I know my english is clumsy sometimes, but a lot of people said to me it added to the poetic writing i have… Maybe they just said that to be nice!
Here, back in Montreal, a bilingual city, i’m around people who speak and understand both french and english. What i’d like to do a lot (but it’s not really smart or easy) is bilingual pieces, like the one i published in 7days. In a Montreal context, it is political, in a way. I would like the two languages, and the two comics scenes (the francophon and the anglophon) would be more close, more friends, more mixed. It’s a richness that we have here. Writing, some things are more easy to say in french, some others are more easy to say in english. And we have the chance to read and to be influenced by both the european and the american comics scene.
JS: Looking at your work I would imagine that your formative influences are quite different than many of the young cartoonists that come through CCS. What cartoonists changed the way you think about your own work or gave you permission to go in a certain direction?
JD: It’s hard to define influences. It’s mostly inconsistent for me. I think i get influenced by a belgian artist i admire a lot, Dominique Goblet. She is a visual artist/painter too, and uses a lot of materials in her art, like paint. I might have seen the tape appearing in her art and then done it too, but I don’t even know… Maybe the contemporary work of Julie Doucet was also important, i saw her doing traditional underground comics, and then going to collage, visual poetry… People, (and even her) say she stopped comics. But i think she is still doing comics. It is just very different. I admire her for her capacity of moving.
I love Amanda Vahamaki and Joanna Hellgren’s works. But i try not to look at them too much. Most of the time, I try very hard not to take anything from other cartoonists work. There is nothing wrong with it, but i personally chose not to do it, so it allows me to build a very personal style. I prefer stealing from other arts. composition from photography, movies and painting. Style from screenprints or outsider art, or children drawing and children books. Personal and playful approaches from literature and visual art (Sophie Calle, Annie Ernaux, Miranda July). I even take ideas from radio podcasts i listen to. I realize i just gave you women names. Hmm… The free autobiographical zines that David Libens gives when someone asks him “How are you doing?” (and that are made to answer this polite question) were also very important for me i think.
I’m not the type of artist who admires the history of comics. I prefer trying to bring comics on new paths, sometimes far enough that people would say it’s not comics. But it’s still images and text, and narration, compiled in books, zines or blogs. So it is comics, completly. I think the developement of comics suffers from narrow images and definitions. It has to be more open, otherwise it will just suffocate.
JS: Anything of yours we should keep our eyes open for in the coming year?
JD: I’m working on a children book, for a francophon editing house, it’s going to be out in january. I will probably have a book from a Montreal editing house, again in French—I see antennas everywhere, the story of a girl who can feel the electromagnitic waves (wifi, phones…). And finally, a compilation of my diary is supposed to be translated and released in english! For autumn or spring, i don’t know yet.
JS: Thanks for coming to CCS to be a fellow. It was great having you here and I found your work real inspiring.
JD: Thank you so much for this fellowship, I think I would not be already releasing all this books without my experience at CSS. If the objective of the fellowship is to help young artists to take the next step of their career, it totally worked for me.