Nicolas Sauge

Where did you grow up? At what age did you start thinking about pursuing an artistic career?
I grew up in France. Spent most of my childhood in Dijon, a university town in Burgundy. I think the main decision was taken after I discovered the power of the Japanese animation and manga storytelling, thanks to a close friend of my big brother, Gilles. Internet was not that big at that time  (like the early 1990's) and the main way to discover anime novelties was to either know someone who traveled there or to go to anime conventions. My friend Gilles took me to those conventions and it literally blew my mind and opened my heart. I thought back then how much I'd love to tell such inspiring stories.

Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? How did you develop your skills?
Self taught. I did English studies, and I must admit that it made me more aware of what made a good story. The importance of the style, of the characters, of the environment, the symbolic layers between a story, etc ... But as far as learning drawing is concerned, it was king of long and hard. Little people around me had the same passion, or very high skills. I joined an amateur fanzine, and built up experience, but it was kinda slow. the main shift came with internet and the forums. There you had a much wider access to resources and to more skilled and even professional critique. As far as method goes, I learnt from books, tutorials, tried to find projects to channel my efforts and be more motivated. Of course, I was inspired by senior artists and tried to learn from their work too.

Have you always been supported in your artistic path or has it been challenging to let your family and friends understand your choice?
For my rather "old" parents (over 43 when they had me), making a living out of drawing was too abstract, unreal and unrealistic I'd say. They told me to get a "real" degree. But it was not badly intentioned. They really supported me in my English studies. Often, parents are just worried that their children will be able to get a job and have a good life. I can't blame them for that. I could call that generational and social background ignorance.

What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
Gosh, so many... all right, let's say I grew up in the Club Dorothée imported japanese animation (Goldorak, Dragon Ball, Ken, Sherlock Holmes, Capitaine Flamme, Lupin, Cat's Eyes, Cobra, Ulysse 31, etc... ) and also my brother was collecting comic books (John Byrne's X-men, The Fantastic Four, Spiderman, etc... ). I discovered anime like Ghibli Studio movies, Akira, Ghost in the Shell or Kawajiri's films (Ninja scroll), or anime series like Escaflowne or Lodoss Wars rather late ( starting from 17 years old or so). That was the biggest impact. My masters are: Hayao Miyasaki, Akira Toriyama, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Eichiro Oda (One Piece), Yoshiro Togashi (Hunter X Hunter), Masashi Kishimoto, Koji Morimoto, Nobuteru Yuuki, Moebius, Mike Mignola, John Byrne, Joe Madureira, Chris Bachalo, Loisel and Franquin. 

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?
Yup sir! Animal-man mixes. I love it when the animal becomes human or the other way round. it brings out the animality within you, and all the instinct, subtlety, sincerity, bestiality it implies. Also, nature and trees in particular.

From the initial client idea to the final work: What goes through your mind and what is the method you use when starting a project? Could you describe it?
All right, let's get to business ^_^. So, for me, the whole point is to understand the all purpose of the project. It's technical specifications  too. Making sure you understand what the client is looking for, and even helping him better define that if need be is key to getting the best results and to avoid wasting time and energy. Once aim and validation process is clear, i will usually start by proposing like 2 to 5 rough possible variations to better define where we're heading to. Once the direction is clear, I then go step by step, validating each main step if possible. As to how I build the visual orientation, I go surfing the net or books I have. I make a starting file with all the key reference that contains elements I feel will nourish the project well and then I start weaving all that together by doing rough compositions or learning how to better draw such or such thing. As the identity of the project grows clearer, I take some time to look at what emerges to learn from that rough exploration and define even better what I'm heading towards.

What is your process in creating your art and what are your favourite tools?
Part of the answer is above. Also, I work in photoshop (cs5.5). I like that tool. I'm really used to it. Wacom Intuos A4 oversize. When I work on traditional media, usually, pencil, Japanese brush pens (kuretake, tombow, pilot, zebra and watercolour mainly.)

What part of the creation process is the most fun and easy and what part is the hardest?
That has evolved with time. Now, let's say I love character designing. It's cool when you see a character's identity and personality start to show. It can be hard on some occasions, when the character belongs to different influences. Getting the unnatural mix to look natural often takes several attempts. Also, storyboarding is a sometimes tough but very enjoyable process. That's there that the core of your rhythm appears, the core of your story. So I'd say fun and hard are not necessarily contradictory. The hardest for me is the "boring" repetitive stuff, but if it leads to something really cool, then it makes it all worth. What's hardest is not having enough time or space to work properly I think ^_^.

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work, collaborate or share your creative time with?
Most of the time I work home alone. That is not so much a choice but it's not easy with my family life an small resources to work in an artist workshop, though I'd like to try that. So , music is my main company. Of course, as I advance in my projects, I show my work to my scenario co-writers, fellow artists or followers. To my wife too. She's not an artist but has a laser sharp eye (and tongue too : Slash ! Ouch !)

What are some of the things you have learned from other artists who you have worked with or whose work you have seen?
Wow, once again, big list... I believe a lot in oral transmission (not talking about French kiss here, right ^_^). I've learnt a lot from the guys I've worked with. I used to say that the value of the persons someone has met in his life often tells you what that someone is worth. Transmission is a key thing. So to name a few things (that did not necessarily come from artists): define yourself through your art, find your identity, your "center". Naturally, we are not clones (though society and marketing would like to model us very often to make us more "manageable"). Listen to your inner voice, learn from your aspirations and choices. Learn patience, cause it will get you far and will make you able able of building bigger and stronger. Be tolerant. Defining yourself does not need you to negate others. Diversity is a richness. There's room for every body. Find your optimal place of efficiency. You'll love it. Don't get manipulated by people who've lost their humanity and learn to listen to those who want good things for you without compensations for themselves. The starting point of everything is often tiny, like the seed that will become a huge tree capable of producing oxygen, provide support for life and shade to rest. It does not get complete in one day, and that's also what makes life enjoyable. Tough is good. Learn to suffer wisely, confront your doubts, limitations and scars. Don't travel alone on that trip. A good crew is essential.

Is there something that you have designed that you are most proud of?
Any of the characters that was born under my pencil. I don't prefer one of my children to the others, but then, some will have more resemblance to me than others. My most accomplished stories are those ahead of me. Always move forward.

What projects have you worked on in the past and what are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
Quite a lot. independent video game, educational CD-ROMs, illustrations, animation series storyboard or character design. As far my main activity now is concerned, that is comic books, I have done short stories in magazines (Spirou, Ravage, Catch One) the storyboard of one volume for a french comic book series (Le Petit Prince") an unfinished series called "Néron" (1 volume, editor went bankrupt), and I'm currently finishing the third volume of my series at Le Lombard called "Golam" (out in september 2017). I'm also preparing a 3 book project (300 pages globally) set in medieval Japan with a fantastic twist with a rapper. That should be a great project if we manage to get it done the way we want. 

Do you have a longterm career goal? What would your dream project be?
Becoming an author and using that influence to help people grow and to try and share my experience on how to better communicate with each other. I still have 2 big stories I still want to draw, when i'll find the time to start that.

Working for a company or freelancing: what suits you best? And why?
I guess I'm an independent mind, so freelancing came naturally. But I like collaborative work more and more. If the spirit in a company is good, then that's perfectly fine with me. Every situation is particular, I beware of general categories and labelling ^_^.

What advise would you give to an artist who is dealing with an artist's block? How do you boost your imagination and keep yourself creative?
get some distance to get a general view and get closer to your subject to learn about it. Use your imagination not to create everything but to echo what you've learnt from your exploration. Give "your" vision of "the" subject. Learn "the" subject, express "your" vision.

Concept art, animation, illustration, comics, you name it. There are so many careers and when you are very young, sometimes you know only one thing: you simply love to draw. In your opinion, what should a young person take into consideration to make the right decision when choosing an artistic path?
That's a tough one. Mmm... ok, once again, try and document yourself on the nature of the job you'll be doing (internet, meet people, ask questions). For instance, I did two years law after my baccalauréat. I loved law series with the lawyers acting like comedians and revealing the truth ... but ... being a lawyer implies you'll have to read jurisprudence and new laws all the time. I realized it was not in my nature to read such things all the time. That was not the right path for me. I did English studies and I could have become a teacher. I like transmission, finding interesting angles into a subject, etc ... teaching could have worked for me, but I also wanted to develop my own personal depth, I wanted to write personal inspiring stories and get to meet more grown inspiring individuals, so I became an artist, building my path towards being an author. Try and visualize what you like and what you're good at (to be competitive and find clients). Imagine yourself doing that every day. Does it work ? then go for it. It will be tough either way, but if it matters to you, you won't give up on your dream. Project, patience, courage. Also, "writing down" things you want is a very good technique. When things stay in your mind, they're static, blurred, mixed up. On paper, they become clear. From there, you start realizing and building the next step. "EX"-press your-"self"= Press/push "your" "self" (identity) out (ex) to better realize it. First step("forward") is key.

In your own experience, what would you suggest to someone who is inspired by your work and wants to follows your footsteps: should they work in one consistent style, or work on many different ones?
Hahaha! Don't follow my steps, follow yours ^_^ ! All right, joking aside, inspiration is good but at some point, you'll need to find what works for YOU. Learn to respect yourself, to learn from yourself, to listen to yourself. Your potential is infinite, no matter what other poor lost souls have told you otherwise. It's "just" a matter of patience and building up. Create a situation that will allow you to be autonomous, go towards people, train to become stronger, enjoy what you do and learn from situations around you and from good people. They're often closer than you'd notice. Every great human being has been tiny, ignorant and vulnerable at some point in his life. When you choose to start building "YOUR"-self is entirely up to YOU. Take your destiny into your Hands boys and girls ! Open your eyes, heart and hears and get to Work !

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?
Scott mac Cloud "l'Art Invisible" ("Understanding Comics") is a very good book to have read to have a wide and true vision of the essential in visual storytelling. Then, it's a matter of your personal goals, tastes. So many great books out there.

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?
Ok, I don't pretend my opinion to be the absolute truth. My angle is not so wide or documented. That being said, I believe that there's a great demand for artists to "produce" content to feed the media to get people occupied and entertained. Henceforth, competition is tough. I think new ways of getting your stuff financed start to emerge and they're great for they give the opportunity to "less mainstream" authors to get published. Still, I do not see the traditional editors as obsolete. They could use some optimization or brushing up in their approach, but they're also bringing some sort of stability. I believe we should always try and remember what a great tool art is to transmit new ideas, to make them global, to build bridges between different individuals and communities. Making money should be a means to make that possible, not the ultimate aim. Some have realized that, some don't care. Choose your "side". Build bridges, make them strong and beautiful so things will be interconnected. Walls are good when they allow us to go higher and to protect what needs to be, not to separate a group.Think global. Share. Receive and Give.

Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favourite designs out there?
Ghibli and Otomo forever ^_^, Yoshiro Togashi, Eichiro Oda, Masashi Kishimoto, studio 4c, The catfish team (Bill otomo, Baptiste Gaubert, Fabien Mense), Capcom, Nintendo's Miyamoto and the crew around him, Max Grecke, Yûsuke Murata, Mathieu Reynes, Antoine Carrion, Tite Kubo, and many more whose name don't necessarily come to my mind.

We have a soft spot for hand drawn animation, what is your opinion about the future of this art form?
I don't really "work" in the industry, so I'm not the best person to say what's actually happening in that field, still I believe that, even though 3D animation has immensely progressed with the years , proposing beautiful and inspiring stories, 2D animation possesses a power that 3D will never have (I believe), it's the synthesis and the notion of "choice" that is key to humanity. Let me explain : When you animate by hand, frame by frame, then every "drawing" is the result of the understanding, vision and numerous choices of an individual human being, and that, my friend, is extremely powerful. People react to that without realizing why. I believe that the notion of "choice" is one of the key, because all those "man made"  and "hand drawn"choices are the reflection of our humanity in all its complexity and simplicity at the same time. If 2D animation should disappear, I'm pretty sure we'd end up realizing that 3D animation cannot answer all our needs (still , it will probably keep on progressing)   

When clients contact you for a commission, what essential info should they include in their very first email in order to communicate with you efficiently and effectively?
Well, talking about it can help precise things for them. They often don't know what it's all about and don't measure why the prices are the way they are. Let's start with an idea of the budget, the subject and of the "object" they want to "have" in the end. Then, we'll make that demand into a reality.

Finally, where can we see your art online and get in touch with you? How can we buy your creations and support your work?
So far, the best place is my Facebook page. Go to the album section to find what you're looking for and send me a message to contact me ( facebook.com/nicolas.sauge.9 ) Then my Flicker which I update regularly (more dedicated to visuals): ( flickr.com/photos/nicolas-sauge ). I'm thinking about starting a Teepee or Patreon soon, around my next comic book project I talked about (fantastic medieval japan 3 book project), but it's not in place yet. I'm open to all propositions as long as they're respectful of what I do. I like meeting new people, and helping them turn their dreams into a reality, so feel free to contact me. Thank you for the time you took reading what I had to say. Good luck with all your projects. Build the world of today and tomorrow. Do it for yourself, for those around you, and to inspire and feed those to come. Love, Patience, Honour!

Thank you Nicolas :)