Where did you grow up and when did you decide to become an artist?
I’m 23 years old, I grew up in Paris (France), where I’m living and where I studied. I’ve been drawing since I learned how to hold a pen: I didn’t know how to write, so I drew. I decided to make it my job at 18, once I got my baccalaureat (equivalent to British A-levels and American high school diploma.) I really hesitated before making that choice: I wanted to a lot of things, even biology!
Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? How did you develop your skills?
I only joined an art school after I graduated high school : I first did a public course in multimedia graphic design, because finding a school that focuses on drawing was quite difficult. I am now in third year at Gobelins, and even though I’m happy with the technical level of the course, we’re not getting much taught about artistic direction… It’s important for us to work on that on the side and always be aware of what’s going on in the trade.
Have you always been supported in your artistic path or has it been challenging to let your family and friends understand your choice?
My family and friends always supported my choice of going through art school, but the french education system made it hard to feel assisted. After high school, I couldn’t find a public course that touched upon the more technical aspect of animation. Even though french media goes on and on about the “french touch” in animation. A paradox!
What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
A lot of belgian-french BD (comics) like Franquin’s, Morris’, Blain’s, Larcenet’s, Trondheim’s, Sattouf’s but also Japanese titles: Dragon Ball, One Piece, Naruto, CardCaptor Sakura etch. Animation-wise, I got to watch Spirited Away when it came out in theatres in 2001, and it was that movie that really made me want to study (and work in) animation.
Did you have a favourite subject to draw when you were a child and do you still have one today? If you do, what makes it so special?
When I was younger, I drew monsters’ adventures, simply because I didn’t know how to draw humans! I still love to draw weird and original shapes, which I find more creative than a regular guy.
From the initial client idea to the final work: what goes through your mind when you are designing and what is the method you use when starting a project? Could you describe it?
It’s hard to tell, every project has its specificities, which in turn makes the process vary a lot. I for one make sure that I’ve read the breaf several times to make sure I’m not going in the wrong direction from the start. I write down ideas that come to my mind, the ones that come from regular bias. Then, I try to explore diametrically opposed concepts, to find an original point of view that can be my own. Another step for me is to look up visual references that can fit both my intents and the brief’s.
What is your process in colouring your art and what type of tools and media do you use?
My colouring process is pretty basic : I’ll pick up the colors and the brush type, then do the shadows. I mostly use Photoshop, but sometimes I’ll mix it up with Maya and After Affects. I don’t really draw traditionally anymore, except for explorations and initial concepts.
What part of the creation process is the most fun and easy and what part is the hardest?
The most difficult part is certainly to find the best design concept. The one that’ll be original enough to catch the eye of the viewer. Being able to draw away from your influences and find your own voice. The easiest and most fun part is probably colouring, which is usually pretty straightforward if the design is well-thought.
What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work/collaborate with?
After I’ve woken up (tough times!), I to find some caffeine. Then I go to school (Gobelins) where I work with my lovely classmates on short films, under the supervision of more or less competent coordinator.
After this typical day, tiring but always productive, I usually go home. If I still have it in me, I work freelance on projects that are pretty cool, but where money’s often lacking.
Is there something that you have designed that you are most proud of?
Wow, pretty hard to answer that. I’m hardly ever happy with my work, I still have a lot to learn. Maybe one day !
What projects have you worked on in the past and what are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
I got to work with a team on a short for the Annecy opening credits, called “Eve”. I also worked with the National Natural History Museum in Paris, Radio France, The Huffington Post, Posca, and the National Museum Coallition. Currently, I'm working on a short 3D movie. That's a lot of work because we are only 3 in our team!
What is your longterm career goal and what would your dream project be?
I want to be an artistic director on short of feature animation films. My dream project if probably to work on an original feature film that would reflect what France’s BD and illustration has that’s most innovative. France is still quite shy in terms of feature films, most of them are adaptations (Astérix et Obélix, Ernest et Célestine, Avril et le monde truqué…).
Working for a company or freelancing: what suits you best? And why?
It’s probably better to work in a studio, where the whole team is! Freelancing usually means working from home, or in a workshop, away from your coworkers. I find it less stimulating.
What advise would you give to an artist who is dealing with an art-block? How do you boost your imagination and keep yourself creative?
You have to go beyond what you already know, and stop spending time scrolling on Tumblr. Just explore other arts: theatre, contemporary art, dance, fashion, poetry… But sports as well, science, or just look at people in the streets, observe everyday life!
If you had to recommend only one art book (a comic book, graphic novel, children book, ''how to'' book) to a fellow artist, what would it be and why?
The book that left the biggest impression on me is probably Trois Ombres (Cyril Pedrosa). It’s a french comic about a father and a son’s separation. A poetic and profound story, fantastically drawn and narrated, that proves that french BD isn’t necessarily a humorous genre aimed at children.
What’s your point of view about the industry today: what are the expectation for someone who wants to make a living with an artistic career?
Regarding the animation industry today, there are a lot of cool projects right now, but working conditions are degrading. The trade is constantly devalued, and since it’s a “passion job”, it’s hard to negotiate with some studios. I think that if someone wants to earn their living with an artistic career, they have to know their value and their rights, so they’re not exploited by studios who take advantage of young talent.
Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favourite designs out there?
A lot of modern artists like Manet, Toulouse Lautrec, Picasso, Edward Hopper… As well as contemporary artists like Hayao Miyazaki, Kevin Dart, Nicolas Dehghani, Remi Salmon, Aurelien Predal, Cyril Pedrosa, Théo Guignard, Thomas Fournier… And some women as well, like Elle Michalka and Anette Marnat, even though they’re still sadly in the minority in the industry...
We have a soft spot for hand drawn animation, what is your opinion about the future of this art form?
I love being able to give life to a drawing, but it’s still a tedious job. Even more when, like me, you like story-telling, it can be frustrating to spend most of your time drawing in-betweens on an animated film. I also like CGI, getting an interesting result takes less time. It looks like hand drawn animation still has a bright future ahead, just look at the Annecy festival’s prize list: hand-drawn films from top to bottom!
Social networks, crowd funding websites, print on demand online service, you name it. New media on the internet are connecting the artists directly with their fans like never before. In your opinion, how is this affecting the industry and what are the pros and cons?
This is an endless topic, we could discourse for a long time about it. These new systems are intersting and allow some projects to surface. However, everyone can offer content, there’s no selection. A lot of amateur projects are proposed and funded through their creator’s popularity. There are a lot of innovative projects which would deserve better exposure, but don’t succeed due to their lack of visibility.
Finally, Where can we see your art online and get in touch with you? How can we buy your creations and support your work?
I have a website ( jusdefiction.fr ) and a Tumblr ( simonsitron.tumblr.com ). If you want to support my work, share it! hehe :)
Thank you Simon :)