This is the transcript for the podcast episode Interview With Pascal Campion (Part 1) :: ArtCast #74. To listen to the podcast click here.
Chris: Chris Oatley’s artcast, episode 74, an interview with Pascal Campion, part one.
Hello my friends, and welcome to another episode of Chris Oatley’s artcast, the show that goes inside the hearts and minds of successful professional artists. I’m Chris Oatley! I was a visual development artist at Disney before I quit to start my own online art school, the Oatley Academy of Concept Art & Illustration. Find more art instruction and career advice from some of the most inspiring voices in animation, games, comics, and new media at ChrisOatley.com. That’s ChrisOatley.com.
What does a successful artist look like? Some of us define success by the size of our fan bases, the popularity of our best clients and the amount of money in our bank accounts. But very few of us would agree that these are the most valuable aspects of life as a professional artist. Nothing is valuable without meaning which is why friendship, generosity, self-sacrifice and family are to most of us our definition of true success. But is it even possible to find both financial and familial success as a professional artist? Is the decision to pursue your creative dream a deal with the devil that will leave you tired, broke and lonely forever? Pascal Campion, one of the most popular independent artists working today is living proof that success in all areas of life is possible. In the following interview, you’ll see the contagious passion, the persistent positivity, and the disciplined focus that enabled Pascal to experience success on his own terms.
So take us all the way back to when you first started drawing or painting. When did you first know you wanted to be an artist?
Pascal: That’s an interesting question actually. I started drawing mainly because of my brother Shawn, because he was older than me, he was reading already and he had a ton of books. (inaudible) but he had only given to me if I would draw for him. And at first he would ask me to draw the characters in the comic books and they were the French versions of Marvel comics. We had Spiderman, IronMan and stuff like that. And the way they would sell the comics in France is, they wouldn’t sell single issues, they would sell a package in which you would have three or four issues and that’s what you would buy. So that’s actually how I discovered Ironman, I was not interested in him at all.
Chris: That’s great. He was a tagalong.
Pascal: Yeah, exactly there were…once I starting getting it, comics and buying them for that particular hero and then you have all those others like stuck in there and I had to start a bunch of others like that. But coming back to that, so I would draw those characters and when you realize I had gotten that down with (inaudible) to create my own drawings and stories for him. And that’s where I started like doing like stick figure characters, like those humongous drawings of castles being ransacked and dragons and spaceships. And my drawings were…at that point they were only stick figures, like they were filled with like hundreds and hundreds of characters per page, and I would do little…it was always the same thing, this guy had like a backpack on and would go into a fortress and try to save someone and kill a thousand people on the way. And that’s how I started drawing, but they essentially were like stick figure characters, I really really like it and I just kept doing it until I got to 6th grade and my art teacher told me at a point that I should never consider a career in art because I was not good enough. And I remember that just completely blew my mind, just completely…I mean depressed. And it’s been such a huge event in my life because I was already starting to think oh I’d like to do drawing for the rest of my life, I’d like to draw for comic books, I’d like to draw for either Marvel comic books. I was a big Marvel comic book fan which although (inaudible), I was also into Asterix and Obelix and all the French-American novels we had. But this teacher to tell me just made me want to show that I could, basically she did reverse psychology on me and it worked. And I worked really hard and all the way up until I got to high school, I never was the best artist in the class, I never drew better. I mean that was frustrating because I ran into this one guy, D Martino, Terry D Martino I think it was, they didn’t even try and he was ten times the artist I was. It was just very frustrating because I was drawing all the time and I think I would (inaudible) once in a while and just do (inaudible) drawing. And then I got into high school, and the first year I was still struggling, and the second year I met this guy Hashid who became my best friend and he was just as much excited and together we drew. And we were in class after class and at my house, anywhere we could and I got better and then from there on it was better and better. And after high school, I had a bit of a period like can I move for a few years and then I went to this art school and that’s the beginning of my artist career. I knew I really wanted to do this for a living around the age of ten or eleven.
Chris: Wow, and was that connected to the comics?
Pascal: Oh yeah, it was all connected. And I didn’t even think about animation, not until my second to last year in college. There are two things I had, one of them is I went to the movie to watch a Sunday matinee and that movie was sold out, and I got into this other movie which I’ve never heard of before and it was like well I might as well since I’m here, I might as well go see a movie. It was a movie called The Iron Giant.
Chris: Oh yeah.
Pascal: And I was just blown away, it was like oh my god, what is this? And I was so, how can I say, I was so ignorant about animation that I remember thinking to myself, how could they draw that robot to make it move the way it moves? I didn’t realize it was a 3D robot. It was great, and then I remember there was this part where there was a kid, he takes his bike and he races across the forest and goes to see his mom who works in a diner I think and this whole sequence that the colors, the artwork, and I didn’t realize that people could do this on command. I was so blown away thinking that some people actually painted and drawn this, and they knew what they were doing. Because when you’re in college, a lot of times you do stuff and you’re like oh my god, (inaudible) yay, which happens to me every day by the way. But there’s a point where you have to prove something, right? I’m saying my god, those guys were able to do that, that’s just phenomenal so that’s why I’m like starting to think wow, animation can be really cool. But it wasn’t about animating, it was more about like getting the backgrounds to the storyboarders. That’s really when my first interest in animation happened, and then…
Chris: And that was art school?
Pascal: That was art school, yeah. And then I spent a year in Boston as an exchange student from the school I was to and I had a few classes on animation there which is interesting. It was more like an introduction to this is what animation could be, and you had like you know a thousand, the guy who was giving the classes only a semester, he was a great guy, Nigel something – really, really sweet guy, very good too, but he couldn’t really do anything other than just show us stuff. No one was really that motivated to work. And when I was there, my first job wasn’t really (inaudible) my first job an animation company called ProSun Production, because one of my friends, Max, took my drawings and showed them to his art director without me knowing. And definitely like it enough to ask me to come and interview, and after school was done instead of going back to France, I started working over there and I worked a whole season of a show called…what was it called…Science (inaudible). It’s the same company that did Dr Katz back in 1999. After that, I got back to France (inaudible) for the day than I graduated, and actually came to the states and got into…
Chris: You had an interesting art school experience in the sense that there was a lot of…it was very heavy on theory.
Pascal: Yes, we actually had no technical classes to speak of, or none that were part of the cursors. You could take life drawing classes if you wanted to but they weren’t part of our curriculum. And a lot of times they would conflict with other classes we had. Our school was all about storytelling, or my section, illustration section was about storytelling, not about drawing because some people get into this class and they don’t know how to draw and by the end of school, they still don’t know how to draw and then matter because what the teachers were more interested in was for us to understand where there were (inaudible) of the narration, how to tell a story (inaudible), how to like lead the reader’s eye, and how to become authors really. And the reason they didn’t want to teach us in technique was because they were thinking that if we were authors, we will create our own graphical language to express the ideas we had, people would help us, that language would help us and direct it, that all of us would figure out what we were doing but they would not give us any classes on how to paint, how to draw, how to mix colors, how to do colors or anything. They just would want us to like come up with those things, which is (inaudible).