Tristan Poulain

Where did you grow up and when did you decide to become an artist?
I was born in Paris and I moved to Los Angeles when I was 4 years old because my dad was offered a position at Disney Animation Studios in California. It’s safe to say that this change of environment, even though I was too young to understand it, made a big difference in my life. Growing up with a passionate and artistic father, it always seemed so natural for me to pick up a pencil and a blank sheet of paper. I was constantly drawing and I would never let an opportunity pass to pull out my sketchbook. I was convinced it was the only thing I was meant to do, after all it runs in the family. My mind was constantly distracted by my own creativity making me a very distracted student, all I wanted to do was art. I tried to absorb as much culture and information as I could by going to museums, expos, watching countless movies and analyzing many books. The only thing I wanted was to graduate from high school and finally be in an environment that would understand my aspirations, let me expand creatively and finally do something that I love. It was at that moment that I knew I wanted to be an artist. 

Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? How did you develop your skills?
The moment I really started to learn about drawing was when I moved back to France to go to the Atelier de Sevres. This really helped me open myself to other types of art forms and finally start to express myself through my art and figure out my own style. I decided after a year to move to the south of France to integrate SupInfoCom a school specialised in 3D. However, it was only then that I realised what I truly wanted to do was traditional animation. So I applied to Gobelins and after a lot of work, motivation, ambition and perseverance I finally made it. I am currently a student there in my second year. Already I feel I have learned so much but I still have a long way to travel. Always surrounded by talented students and inspiring teachers, everyday I aim to be the best that can be.

What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
I’d probably say “The Iron Giant” by Brad Bird. I have always been captivated by this movie, I have probably seen a dozen times. There is just something about the story telling, the character design, the colors, the theme, the music, the emotions that just makes sense to me. There are many scenes where I would relate to the main character Hogarth like for example when his parents go away and he watches TV in a fort he built, me and my brother would always do these types things when our parents would go out. It’s probably one of the only movies that still gives me the same reactions every time I watch it.

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?
I loved drawing war scenes with space ships and weird creatures fighting against each other, and I remember I would even act them out by making sound effects to make them come to life. I was always amazed by how much you can tell and create with one piece of paper. Today I love drawing all sorts of characters female, male, young, old and also animals.

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?
Well the first thing that I do is have a look at what the clients wants and really study his demand, a sort of brainstorming phase, gather everything that comes to mind and then select and organize. I want to be sure to stay on topic and define a theme and road to follow related to the given subject. Secondly, I will start a research phase, find the right style that will give meaning to my character. I’ll start drawing rough sketches to reveal certain shapes and silhouettes. Once I am satisfied with that I will then go deeper to work out the design. Then when it comes to the cleaning phase, which is the most critical because the perception of both rough and clean can be complete opposites at times. So I try to keep some rough integrated in the clean to make more fluid, natural and organic characters.

What part of the creation process is the most fun and easy and what part is the hardest?
The most enjoyable part of the creation process for me is starting a drawing because I have the liberty of a blank canvas, I have no constraints whatsoever. For me it’s easily the most creative and artistic part of any project. However, it can also become a battle regarding the ideas that might seem clear in my mind but do not have the same result on paper. The hardest part would be when I’m cleaning the drawing, because I have to keep that freshness of the original art.

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work/collaborate with?
A typical day for me starts at my current school, Gobelins, that place is like my sanctuary. I always have things to there like school projects or seeing some teachers and also my friends. I really enjoy working with them because they each bring unique talents and visions to the table and can always learn for them. After that I go back home and work on personal stuff, analyze drawings of some of my favorite artists such as Milt kahl, Matt Nolte, Shiyoon Kim, Marlet, Tony Fucile, Chris Sasaki,  just to name a few. I also really enjoy sketching with my girlfriend, Mathilde Loubes (check her out on tumblr she’s great!), we both have different styles and yet so complimentary.

What are some of the things you have learned from other artists who you have worked with or whose work you have seen?
The first people that come to mind are my classmates, I learn so much from them everyday with group projects and side projects. A difficult thing I learned and I am still learning to do in a group, is to adapt all styles, to end up with a homogeneous one at the end of the project.

Is there something that you have designed that you are most proud of?
I’m usually never content with what I create which is why I always aim to do better each and every time. But if I had to give an answer, I guess I am somewhat proud of my  research character design work for our opening Annecy film. 

What projects have you worked on in the past and what are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
I’m proud to say I worked on the latest Quentin Baillieux video clip called : “Can You Do It” by Charles X. It was all around an amazing experience I met so many talented people. I also just finished my first Annecy generic movie with my Gobelins team, we are extremely excited ! You should be able to check it out soon on my tumblr.

What is your longterm career goal and what would your dream project be?
I want to excel in character design hopefully make a living out of it. I’m also interested in making my own comics, I wish to start writing short stories and illustrating them. I think I’m just going to continue doing what I love to do and obviously have fun doing it, the rest will follow through naturally.

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?
I highly recommend Sempe’s little illustrated books. Just makes me smile every time I read it. Simple, smart and funny, it’s pure genius.

Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favourite designs out there?
I have much respect and love for Miyazaki, Shiyoon Kim, Nicolas Marlet, Carter Goodrich, Jeff Turley, Searle, Erich Sokol, Klimt, Picasso and so many others... They inspire me and show me it’s worth it and possible to become someone in this big animation family. You might have realized it by now but I’m a huge fan of traditional hand drawn animation. I feel like we have still so much to discover in this art form that breathes beauty in all its ways of being. 

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 Tumblr blog ( ) and an Instagram ( tristan_poulain ) P.S. I will start to sell my artworks soon ! If you are interested please contact me ( ).

Thank you Tristan :)