even if he weren't my best friend, blaise larmee would still be my favorite artist in the world. not just a fantastic cartoonist and master of panel narrative, well-observed characters, and magical environments, blaise is a real artist in the best sense of the word, a restless craftsman and an open, honest, adventurous person. i talked with him over the course of 3 weekend nites which means a lot of drunken nonsense had to be left out (some is still intact! like the ridiculous, but brief, CAPS section). please enjoy and excuse the fact that we are self-indulgent dorks and good friends and that this is the longest interview that you will never finish and that blaise really knows comix and i don't in any way.
thanks for reading!!!!!
10:25 PM blaise larmee: Hello my name is blaise larmee.
being real: nice to meet you.
please describe yourself in any fashion you like in 2 or 3 lines
10:26 PM I make comics and they usually take the form of zines and blog entries.
10:27 PM that's about it
br: how would you say you approach the printed medium differently than posting online? what changes in your approach or your selection of images and why?
bl: the printed thing is to give to friends and people i admire - it's an easy way to show someone something, by sending it in the mail or handing it to them
10:31 PM the blog is all about process. you can see where i came from, which is really different than where i am now
the zine is like a thing, an object
it exists independently
10:32 PM oh also my parents read my blog
so i don't put some stuff there
br: haha, of course.
10:33 PM so for you, the zines are very much a finished statement and the blog is more of a naked kind of exposure of the behind-the-scenes?
bl: sort of
10:34 PM really a lot of extremely personal and things i'm very proud of are on the blog and it's just an economic decision
for the last zine i got free access to color printers so i went nuts with them
10:35 PM br: this is the architecture zine?
bl: no this is wigwam
br: can you give me a brief description?
bl: it's mainly images.
10:37 PM some of the images rhyme with each other and some pages have some sequences in them
10:38 PM br: sequences, as in kind of narrative panels?
10:39 PM bl: yeah in a basic sense
10:40 PM i guess all the images are pretty narrative, but work better in a sequence than alone
*but some work better
10:41 PM like they look like they go together
10:42 PM if you show them on a page next to each other you'd think that one followed the next
br: but they were originally created independently?
10:44 PM bl: sometimes.
10:45 PM like i'll just be using the same pens that i used to do one drawing and then draw another drawing on the next page and the two just make sense next to each other
sort of accidental diptychs
10:46 PM br: very cool. i like that. what are you working on now, or planning for the near future?
10:47 PM bl: well today was funny
i went to the art store in this sort of frenzy and bought these traditional materials
(ink, brush, etc)
to make a million dollar graphic novel
and ... results are mixed
i've done a few attempts at the first panel
10:48 PM they're all wonky
the only hope is if i can calibrate my system to work with this new kind of project
which may or may not happen
10:50 PM tweak it so that i can make "beautiful images" AND have them go together in a satisfactorily traditional order
10:51 PM br: sounds like the ultimate challenge. what's the plot line thus far (in your head, if not on the page)?
10:52 PM bl: one of the funny things is the first scene's this incredibly action-based scene and i am so limited in that realm
10:53 PM this older sister runs away from home and we follow the younger sister who's left behind
11:00 PM br: okay. one of the things i always find to be the strongest in your work is how you capture posture. you seem like a very good observer of how people present themselves down to the specifics of gesture, sitting position, etc. can you talk a little about that and how maybe that might relate to the way you (visually) describe action and movement?
bl: i think part of it - something i realized the other day - is i am an observer of observers. it's sort of narcissistic. i like the observer and i think it's worthwhile watching him/her. so a lot of my characters are not really participating in any action - they're on the sidelines, content with enjoying everything cathartically. i did this whole drawing zine where each page i drew my body as it was positioned at that moment. i was in this phase where i was drawing naked on the floor a lot, and i liked the way i looked in that action. i'm not a very action-oriented person - all my energy i channel inward. so i guess it's those moments where things happen for me - when i'm sitting or standing or lying down - that real things happen. so when i capture these physical acts, they're often lacking in any external force. when i did those salvia comics, i loved the idea of showing someone's physical state while they're going through this intense internal change. it's also funny because in comics the tendency is to show all that subjective stuff, but by leaving it out you can shift the focus to its absence.
SUNDAY, 6-14-09 (technically monday but who cares)
12:25 AM being real: ready, boyee?
12:42 AM blaise larmee: heyyyeah!
sort of internet's still pretty shitty
12:43 AM i remember i had to constantly refresh my chats page to see what dialogue i'd missed
well we'll make do.
bl: i'm loading this now
12:45 AM br: rad! what do you mean loading?
12:46 AM blaise: oh i mean it's loading (even gifs take a long time here)
12:47 AM br: wow. holy shit, haha, yeah, i'm reading it too. pretty great except there was an ass shot in the dos and donts on the right side that just distracted me
12:48 AM bl: fuck
did you see that?
just lost internet for like 30 seconds
12:49 AM boy i really don't know about that comic
seems like a step back for cf
12:50 AM i know those dos and donts always distract me!
br: a step back how so? i'm not that familiar with cf
12:51 AM bl: no? he does powr mastrs. a fort thunder dude
he usually invests more energy in his comics
12:52 AM br: rite i know that much. i just mean, you're the comix expert, so please explain to me (the tardo) how his stuff is usually better?
12:53 AM bl: it's nothing specific, just you can see his whole being wasn't in this one
he usually has really tight and complex relationships with his characters
12:54 AM this is like him 'covering" himself
br: uh-huh. maybe it's kind of a one-off for him and he's just not as invested
12:55 AM br: so, not to be too 'directing' convo-wise, but how do you see your own relationship with your characters? in an ideal state and in your, let's say, least accomplished state?
12:56 AM bl: i read something that says the closer you get to knowing someone the more abstract and formless they become
12:57 AM to see them sort of objectively as an independent self you kind of have to not look too close
most everyone i draw, all the characters i see as solipsistic creations
12:58 AM that's why i can't do dialogue that well - it comes off as monologue being read aloud by two characters
if the character is someone from real life, then they are more likely to have a specific identity to me
and i'll be conscious of involving them with my life and reality
12:59 AM (reality of the drawing)
1:01 AM br: hmm, yeah, do you think in a way, you're very purposely re-creating not so much different 'versions' of yourself in your characters, but a single archetype based on yourself over and over again with each new character?
1:03 AM bl: there's definitely that
1:04 AM i like the ozu approach, like chris ware, where it's just replaying the same situation over and over and gaining density through that
1:05 AM br: rite okay, so if i can use a really shitty 'oriental' metaphor, it's like you take the same identical grain of rice each time but the process of piling it up repeatedly creates an intricate, beautiful and complex structure with its own distinctive character?
1:06 AM you mean like when you eat a bowl of rice grain by grain?
1:08 AM br: haha, no the opposite, like with each character you basically use the same template over and over again but because of subtle shifts in context, style etc. all of these supposedly 'identical' characters become a new powerful structure over time...?
or i don't know...explain eating a bowl of rice grain by grain
1:09 AM bl: right
1:10 AM no yeah
1:11 AM i mean using one template to describe people is just as accurate and inclusive as using different templates for each person
1:12 AM but i would love to move in that direction
to create characters that have conflicts and so on
1:13 AM br: you mean more individuated characters?
but at the same time not granting them status as individual characters
1:14 AM by refusing to see them up close so their differences blur
and seeing how they are the same as you
but instead keeping that distance
1:15 AM because if you can't see the other as the self
then it's a really limited view you're getting
1:17 AM br: aha, like you feel like you have a better picture of yourself and your characters if you don't describe too deeply or give too much?
1:18 AM the funny thing is i should be really into putting them in sequence
since it's sort of the same idea of getting multiples views of the same person
1:19 AM but really it seems like they only exist in each individual drawing
i mean sometimes i feel that
1:20 AM when i draw the character again in the second panel, it's adding another view of that character
it adds complexity
it's a different view of the same character
1:21 AM but they've changed in between those two panels
so really it's not the same character at all anymore
like i like comics where the background changes every panel and becomes its own character
br: absolutely and i think that's something i see you doing better and better
1:23 AM we can switch gears if you like. i kinda need to grab something to eat real quick, so you can regroup and we can restart.
i really liked what i said there
1:24 AM about the character changing in between panels
1:25 AM br: oh definitely. like, yeah, great stuff!
1:31 AM ok i'm going to get some water
it's been tasting really sweet lately!
1:40 AM br: boy, i'm getting kind of sleepy i think. maybe we can do a 3rd and final sesh tomorrow evening (6ish my time?)
bl: come on a little more
1:41 AM br: okay a little more i mean if you have good shit to say, don't let me get in the way...
1:42 AM blaise: haha
1:57 AM br: hey, sorry for the delay. ate a sandwich.
bl: reading this btw, it's really great
1:59 AM just change the number at the end of the url to change the page
2:01 AM br: wow, awesome. hilarious! oh there's good material for a question. your comix are a lot of things: creepy, touching, beautiful, sad, peaceful, dreamy, atmospheric, etc. etc. but they are really almost never ever funny. how come?
2:02 AM bl: yeah i used to be a funny guy
2:03 AM i went through this whole phase where i wanted to make comics like the far side
i sent them to the reader (never got a response)
i really like humor
2:04 AM i really don't know
i can't stand writing snappy dialogue
2:06 AM br: yeah, that's hard. you don't want to come across like a nerd. i think you have a terrific sense of humor, but you're no comedian. what were some of the 'far side' experiments like?
2:07 AM bl: stupid things that were shock humor (for a 16 year old boy)
like about the virgin mary or whatever. obvious jokes
but yeah i think i do do humor sometimes
2:16 AM like those salvia comics definitely have a humorous dimension to them
2:17 AM because the characters lose their reality as characters in them, they become sort of flat and you can laugh at them pretty easily
but i think most of my humor is enjoyed primarily by my characters, so there's none left for the audience to enjoy
2:24 AM but i don't want to recreate that situation in my comics
2:28 AM and i guess it's hard for me to create humor without feeling like i'm making fun of or patronizing my characters....
[ed. boring shit (my fault) that i edited out]
6:08 PM being real: blaise
blaise larmee: hey
dad's birthday is today
br: well are you going to call him
[ed. more fucking nonsense]
9:52 PM br: what's the latest?
9:53 PM bl: hey
may have a limited time here
saw 4 people last night with shoes that looked like yours
9:54 PM br: well vans are a pretty different story.
br: what shoes are ;you wearing @ the moment?
bl: new balance
9:55 PM br: dur
bl: let's wrap up this interview
i've got like 25 minutes of battery power
9:56 PM br: let's DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!
k, what was the last thing (art/fruit/shape/etc. that directly and positively influenced your art?)
9:58 PM bl: well there was this structure
9:59 PM half finished/renovated/vacated buildings
every storefront i pass that's been stripped and for lease
10:00 PM those spaces are so beautiful and perfect and i guess it's even more poignant because you know as soon as someone starts a business there it'll go to shit
so it's this rare state of limitless potential
i like those spaces and i try to make spaces like that in my comics
10:01 PM br: beautiful
bl: oh stop
br: if i could...
10:02 PM how do you relate to or whatever your materials, your pages, your markers, etc.? tell me about your tools
10:03 PM bl: i don't relate to them that much.
10:04 PM i don't have lasting, involved relationships with my tools
i like new tools for their novelty and the way they force me out of or into patterns
10:05 PM i guess if anything i try to limit the importance of my tools
cost is a good process of selection
10:07 PM like i got this grey marker the other day and it has this unintended effect where it bleeds through these thick pages, and fucks things up on the other side
that's interesting. it intrudes on my creative process in a way i can admire
10:08 PM that's why i'm getting into the idea of collaboration
giving up control
tools never do what i want them to do
this is a constant complaint of all my friends too
10:09 PM friends whose work i admire
it's a good thing
10:10 PM it's the conflict between intention and ability
that's a vonnegut quote, i think
10:11 PM like ok here's another thing
10:12 PM when i moved to portland a month ago i didn't bring any color tools
10:13 PM so i'm only able to render things in black and white at the moment
and all i'm noticing is color now
and it's this thing i realize, where of course if i had color tools i would be obsessed with black and white stuff
10:14 PM br: where? as a phantom presence in your work or in the real world?
bl: oh no in the real world
10:17 PM br: aha gotcha.
what are the black and white materials you're using?
bl: ballpoint pen
another grey marker
10:18 PM and i just got a thing of ink
and a brush
10:19 PM back to basics!
10:20 PM br: but at the same time, those sound very rich with possibility
10:21 PM like the grey marker
is so luxurious, the way it absorbs and the way it builds up in tones
it's also a little warm, so it feels good for skin
10:22 PM some really obnoxious hot girl just walked in
10:23 PM how was she obnoxious
bl: actually i guess she isn't
i heard this gangly voice at the same time she came in and equated the two
br: haha 'gangly voice'
10:24 PM so okay, did we already talk about what you're working on for the near future?
but after talking last night
10:25 PM i really want to make a ryan trecartin-esque thing with massive formless characters
do some humour
10:26 PM over-the-top-ness
like extremely indulgent and masturbatory
10:27 PM i was thinking i really would benefit from a grandiose color palette then
10:28 PM but whatever, i need to photocopy something new
10:32 PM br: yeah okay, so for someone who seems so relatively confident in their approach it seems like you kind of have a lot of willingness to really alter what you do....do you think that's something that you actually purposefully do with each new work/book/etc. or do you think you might be grandstanding a little or what?
10:33 PM bl: i don't have a specific purpose in creation so i'm a little safe in that territory
10:34 PM i think my process is really organic and somehow it's been evolving really quickly over the last couple years
there definitely is grandstanding
10:35 PM especially in the comics scene's idea of what's right and proper
but i mean in an art sense i don't think i'm that unique or anything
10:36 PM honestly i don't think i've settled down at all and i think that's a good place for me
i don't try to create "mature work" because i know that isn't my place right now
i definitely set up my limits and know my place
10:37 PM this is the time for dicking around and cutting the grass
10:38 PM i respect the ego of young children, where the ego is so all-consuming that there is no need to be insecurely "egotistic"
10:40 PM obviously i'm not at that level - there's still a lot of insecurity in my creative process - and there's millions of things i make that never get seen - but i try to keep that in mind
10:41 PM kids also have this jesus-like sense of agency, where everything is their creation, and yet they're only puppets of their parents' desires
that's kind of like my relation to my comics (this may very well be stretching things)
10:46 PM br: well, i suppose that's possible.
10:47 PM what was your entry point to comics? what are some of your clearest influences, in the literal world of comics and elsewhere?
10:48 PM bl: i entered comics via comics culture on television - ninja turtles and x-men
10:49 PM then i made the predictable journey through "serious" comics and now into "art" comics
adrian tomine is still really visible in my characters
and i'm ripping off cf as much as anyone else these days
10:50 PM br: haha.
10:52 PM is there any one or any style that you've made conscious decisions to avoid or are embarrassed about having ever copied?
bl: yes, totally.
tomine is the perfect example of this
10:53 PM when i discovered him, i was just discovering bohemian/hipster culture and of course got overly excited about it all
i went through my embarassement phase and now i can appreciate it as what it is
very "indie", very 90's
it has its place as much as anything
10:56 PM i love how stiff his characters were!
how their hands were always in the same position
br: always exactly 3/4!
and obviously he could make hipster porn like nobody's business
10:57 PM br: metaphorically?
i mean, he never did hipster porn really?
br: like a tit per mag at most.
bl: ha ha
you know what i mean
10:58 PM every face and haircut is extremely fetishized
you can tell how much he loved doing 360 turnarounds of each character
br: rite. not hipster porn, but like rite, got it.
10:59 PM do you ever do practice sketches or imagine your characters in 3d before (or while) you commit them to page
i only have 2 or 3 templates anyway
11:00 PM they're like anime characters
only the hair and outfits chage
but i'm trying to get out of that
br: haha, br00tal
11:02 PM bl: what i used to think was, "i have to draw ugly people in order to expand my drawing abilities"
but now that seems so silly
i made an ultimatum to myself the other day never to draw an ugly person
11:03 PM because there are so many modes of beauty , there's no need
br: and ugly people are hard to draw
bl: no kidding
you have to cover your eyes as you're drawing them
11:04 PM i guess again, the only person i'd be comfortable drawing "ugly" would be myself
11:05 PM but even then - i like myself better when i'm pretty
br: you're always pretty
me not so much, i have this one zit, a small one, on my chin that i've popped twice daily since friday
like, go the fuck away asshole!!!
11:07 PM bl: ugh
have you seen that mad! cartoon of "the zit"?
11:08 PM http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3225/2799700014_6803a8fb9c_o.jpg
i actually own that issue
11:09 PM br: http://img84.imageshack.us/i/04305zit26pz.jpg/
11:10 PM br: i know
bl: i don't like that imagery
i'm sure that's a fetish though
11:11 PM br: i doubt it. i mean really everything's a fetish but there might be one neanderthal that's really into fucking a zit and s/he's probably on death row.
11:12 PM the mad thing was really funny though.
bl: god looking out the window
it's like a giant tomine masterpiece
11:13 PM br: in portland?
bl: yeah everyone's in plaid
11:14 PM br: and everyone is clean and about to read something
bl: ha ha yes
ok i've got like a half hour left
br: RAD. let's make it a fun one....!
11:17 PM let's use caps and exclamation points too!
br: you have no idea what nonsense i am going to spend 3.5 hours spread over 2 nights editing this shit into!
i trust you
11:23 PM i love on google image search where it shows a bunch of versions of the same painting
and each image looks so vastly different
11:25 PM br: RIGHT! ONE IS LIKE 500px X 7000 AND THE OTHER IS LIKE 99999999 BY WHATEVER AND IT'S THE SAME PAINTING AND IT'S LIKE THE SAATCHI GALLERY HAD A SHITTY FUCKING INTERN THAT DAY AS COMPARED TO THE GAGOSIAN GALLERY PERSON SO ONE VERSION IS GRAY AND DARK AND SHITTY AND THE OTHER ISNT
11:26 PM bl: i thought this was tuymans for a while http://www.phaidon.com/GetResource.aspx?file=9780714848860_main.jpg
br: ELIZABETH PEYTON
NICE IMAGE THOUGH.
11:27 PM bl: ok no more caps
11:28 PM br: HEY ACTUALLY THAT'S REALLY FUNNY. the new modern wing (so less aggro w/o caps) has tons of great 'contemporary' painters and artists: bruce naumann, mike kelly, marlene dumas, luc tuymans, felix gonzales-torres, gerheart richter, elsworth kelley, steve mcqueen, etc. etc. and yeah, no elizabeth payton
i mean, maybe she's not that great
11:29 PM or not that 'museum-worthy'
11:34 PM bl: ok well i want to do some drawing before i get kicked out here
so have a good night
br: oh bums....
11:35 PM i guess this is the interview
bl: yeah i'm excited to see how it comes out
br: okay, bye dude