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Graham Roumieu – HeyThere
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10

Graham Roumieu

Freelance

Illustrator & Author
Lucky us. We managed to snag an interview with one of Canada’s leading illustrators Mr. Graham Roumieu. He is well know for his knack of bringing humour to darker subject matters. His illustrations are often knee deep with macabre yet handled with sensitivity and thoughtfulness. He’s also a successful author of various books, most notably the Bigfoot series. Let’s dive right in…
HT

To a layperson your work might appear simplistic and childlike (a quality we deeply admire), how often do you have to respond to statements like “I could do that” when a person misses the underlying complexities and how do you deal with it?

GR

It doesn’t really come up that often, and when it does it’s hard to be bothered when the majority of people seem to get what my work is about. To put it another way, I would not trade the energy and personality and intangibles in my work to please the tastes of a putz who can only equate working something to death as “good”.

HT

Your work sometimes gets compared to the great Quentin Blake in particular his work for Roald Dahl, was he a big influence on your work or did your work naturally drift in that direction?

GR

I love his work. I read those books as a kid, but I can’t honestly say I studied him and tried to emulate his images. With narrative, character and humour-centric minimalist pen and ink and watercolour I guess unintended occasional similarities are bound to pop up. Quentin Blake, Ronald Searle, Saul Steinburg, William Steig, Steadman, Shahn, Roz Chast, Barry Blitt, etc., all use/used pen and ink and watercolour to make images -lines of ink and blops of colour, depicting people and pets and trees and sofas, and pizzas, and dump trucks and table lamps and what have you- but all manage to do it in a way that is signature to them. So, while I’m very flattered by the comparison, I hope a person could tell my work from Quentin Blake’s because I very much want to be doing my own thing.

HT

Writing also plays a large part of your work, most notably with Bigfoot. You write the books and maintain an active twitter account for him. How easy or difficult is it for you to write about ideas rather than illustrate them?

GR

The interplay between words and pictures is what makes the Bigfoot books work, so even if writing at times can be difficultish (not a real word but people foolishly accept my claim as an author so I will do as I damn well please), without the ambidexterity of writing and illustrating, I think the book would have been impossible.

HT

Bigfoot is perhaps your most well known work. Are their any plans to grow him into a larger product such as toys / apps / film? Or have your resisted this notion?

GR

Yes.

HT

You’ve worked with many major publications. When you started out how did you build up your client base?

GR

I made every effort to get my portfolio and/or website in front of every person I thought might be interested in using my work. It’s something I still try to do today.

HT

You now work with agents. What is the value in this for you? Would you recommend it to others starting out?

GR

I think everyone’s situation starting out is different, so its hard to say without writing a short book covering some of the multitude of hypothetical situations in which one might or might not benefit from having an agent. I have agents, I like them, I think they like me (for what reason I’ll never know, but it probably has something to do with my winning smile?)

HT

Clearly your work expresses a dark sense of humour. Is it more fun to draw darker themes or are you just naturally more attracted to it as a person?

GR

Yeah, it just comes out that way.

HT

How often do you visit galleries and soak up other art? Do you feel this is important to your work?

GR

Galleries –I don’t set foot in them anywhere near enough. I’m always looking at stuff though. Stuff is everywhere and available for the looking at.

HT

When working with a client do you go through many iterations on a piece or do they generally accept what you produce? Do you send sketches first?

GR

Yeah, there’s usually if not always sketches before a final.

HT

You have embraced platforms like Instagram and Twitter to spread your work to a larger global audience. Besides nice comments has this led to any real tangible benefit for you?

GR

They give me a place to share little drawings that might otherwise not ever be seen. Quick little blips and weirdness and vulgar things that aren’t fit for commercial use, aren’t part of a larger project, but that I might as well broadcast. Actually, some of them do wind up in my portfolio as self-directed pieces so there’s that as a benefit.

HT

Do you ever feel restricted by your style?

GR

No, it sort of goes back to the answer for the first question. I might miss out on things because a few people don’t get my work. If they can’t look past the surface aesthetic “style” and see that there’s an parallel universe with equivalents and possibilities to visually address pretty much anything, then what the hell am I supposed to do about that? There are of course many many many instances where my work is simply not appropriate for something like an ad campaign for ___. Its up to Art Directors and Designers and so-ons to make that call.

That said, I could for example draw you a really beautiful, realistic tomato. I went to a good art school, paid attention, made an effort, so I can do that sort of thing, but holy shit do I ever not want to. Maybe to get out of a hostage situation or something. Now I’m just imagining the weirdest kidnapper…

HT

Sketching seems to be a very important part of your routine. Is it something you practice regularly or do you use it as a tool to get ideas on paper fast?

GR

Yes, I draw a lot. I don’t really think of it as practice, its just something I do.

HT

As a professional how do you feel you’ve progressed since you became a full-time illustrator / author.

GR

I’m more confident in who I am and what and how I draw. I guess I also understand things now in a way that only comes from having done a lot of work and experiences with people and situations.

Also, also, the hunch in my neck and extreme sensitivity to light and noise are now competing at world class levels.


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