A conversation with Fantasy Illustrator Jean Baptise Monge
Can you tell us something about the Celtic Faeries Deluxe Edition that our CTNers may not know and why you decided to do this project?
Celtic FAERIES is one of my main book in France (and so in French translations) and it is also my most personal work I did so far. I wrote, illustrated, did all the layout, I just did not print it at these time! 3 years of hard work, that has been a long process. My former publisher at these times never gave it a chance in another language than French but when I moved to Canada in 2010 I always knew that this is what I needed to do. With my wife Margo we created our own publishing company Goblin's WAY to spread and diffuse my work and last year we both felt ready for this great adventure. We found 3 English translators who did an amazing job and started to gather insights, feedback from friends, everything about how to build a proper crowd funding campaign. The day has come that it is real now, this is such a joy, and I'm so happy to offer to my fans and readers the story behind the illustrations. This new enhanced Deluxe edition for the 1st time in English will be my pride.
Were you always interested in Faeries growing up?
Indeed. I come from Brittany, in France. This is the area the closest to the UK across the sea. We have the same legends, tales and quite almost the same creatures to tell the children at bedtime! I have been rocked by these stories very young and I guess they never left me, even now. I like this universe, it can be kind and cruel in the same time and I definitely like the Victorian period for its costume and elegance. I am a Dickensian's guy!
Can you tell us a bit about how you work and what tools you use?
All the illustrations in Celtic FAERIES are traditional made. I used watercolor and gouache for the most of all, I also used oil paintings too for some of them, and of course graphite pencil for the sketches. In addition to the book, there is also now a small part of the pieces that have been reworked in digital. Nothing can replace the physical bond that you create with your picture during the process. You literally fight with and holding the canvas or the watercolor at the end is a huge satisfaction. However for this new version of Celtic Faeires I want to have more colorful impression so I have to rework a little bit some sketches for adding hues and colors in digital. The digital medium is very nice and fast and offer a great freedom on the sketches for a little touch of colors.
Where do you find your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from everywhere. Nature, animal and mythology of course but also from everything. The outside of the studio is a great «terrain de chasse» (hunting-ground I guess in English) for my personal curiosity, I love watching people, the way they walk, they laugh, their wrinkles and face details. These are my mental treats. There are so many different people in the street and all have a story to tell us. Few years ago, I started to keep a moleskin every time I have to wait somewhere so I can work from imagination and do live model when I feel it: subway and waiting rooms are the best for that. I'm really fond of browsing the web in the morning and before sleeping too, discover new paintings and illustrations is like a game for me, so, a forum like Artstation is fantastic and this is a real food for my brain. So many talents! I'm very curious and when I spot something that draws my attention I like to test it. Ink work, digital sculpture, I always need to learn something during a day, otherwise I get grumpy.
What are some of your goals over the next few years?
Where to begin! I have so many! I'd like to keep on translating all my bibliography that remains in French for its majority and I also would like to create new books of course. I worked for animation studios here in Montreal these past few years and it comes the time to paint again for me. I have a great book project that I'd like to start this year. Another goal would be to move on the west coast of Canada, near Vancouver. A cozy wood cabin / small cottage by the sea would be the cherry at the top of the cake and if anyone knows something, feel free to contact me! I need trees, mountains, ocean and a milder weather! I think this kind of environment and landscapes would be the perfect match for my new book project. I recently meet Guillermo del Toro as he is writing the preface of Celtic FAERIES and we had a very interesting conversation about fears and maturity. There is a project that I want to do for such a long time that is haunting me and also freezing me. So I think about it and carry it until I'll be ready to draw it.
How did you get involved with CTN, and what have you found CTN brings to you as an artist?
The time is flying! I got the chance to be involved with the CTN thanks to Tina Price who called me to join the exhibition in Burbank in 2012 as guest artist like Glen Keane, Syd Mead and for being interviewed by the famous and generous Peter de Sève. A place like this is priceless because you have the chance to meet friends, students and legends at he same time. All the good ingredients for energizing your creative brain. Beside being a platform for artists, what really put CTN in 1st place is that it brings a knowledge, a passion and opportunities. No one does that but CTN!