Thursday, 16 April 2015

Pablo - a graphic novel biography by Julie Birmant and Clément Oubrerie

Pablo by Julie Birmant and Clément Oubrerie 

Last night I went to the Institut Français in London to hear Julie Birmant and Clément Oubrerie talk to Paul Gravett about Pablo – their graphic novel biography of Pablo Picasso. An English translation has recently been published by SelfMadeHero.

Paul Gravett speaks to Clément and Julie about a page in Pablo.

Clément Oubrerie created the wonderful illustrations in the Aya series, written by Marguerite Abouet. Pablo is the first graphic novel Julie Birmant has written, she had shown a prose version of it to Clément and they decided to adapt it together.

Julie said she was inspired to write about Pablo Picasso after reading an autobiography of Fernande, his lover and first muse. Pablo, the graphic novel, is told from Fernande's point of view and focusses on the early part of Picasso's painting career in Montmartre - the time of his relationship with Fernande.

Julie and Clément spoke to Paul Gravett about how they worked together. Julie had hoped that Clément would do the script but he didn't have time, so she had to learn scripting as she worked on the project. She said that she had to rebuild her original prose story and that she had to cut down the dialogue as it would have been too much for the graphic novel format. It seems that working to the beat of Clément's 6 panel page grid presented some challenges, she said that at first she felt "panic". However, it appears that this has been a successful partnership, Julie and Clément are working on a new graphic novel project together. I'm sorry to say that I did not make many notes about this except that it is about dance.

Clément gave some insight into his working process for Pablo. Very few photos exist of the people in Pablo Picasso's early life so Clément based his characterizations on Pablo Picasso's sketches of his friends. He used mixed media for the panels, such as charcoal and watercolour, each panel done on a separate A4 page and then combined together in a page layout later. The panels were coloured by Sandra Desmaziéres and then Clément "adjusted the lighting".

Clément sketching an illustration of Pablo Picasso in my book.
The finished illustration.
As you can see in my photo Clément not only signed my book but also did a watercolour sketch of Pablo. I have yet to read Pablo but flicking through it the illustrations have all the charm, humour and wonderful characterization that I enjoyed so much in the Aya books.

Some exciting news! Clément has been working on a graphic novel version of Northern Lights by Philip Pullman and, from what I understand, an English translation will be published soon.