Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Joseph Gillain

The usual colourful cover of 'Robbedoes' had been replaced by a simple black and white image, featuring a circle of cowboys staring at the empty spot in their middle. It was the summer of 1980: Jijé had died.

Joseph Gillain was the founding father of the 'Marcinelle School' of Belgian Comics, characterised by living lines and a great sense of humour. Quite a number of the heroes from my younger days, i.e. Franquin, Morris, Peyo and Giraud, had learned the art of comics from this one mentor, who is not only the spiritual father of Jerry Spring and 'Blondin et Cirage', but who can also be considered the spiritual grandfather of even more popular characters like Gaston Lagaffe, Lucky Luke, the Smurfs and Blueberry.

The special edition of 'Robbedoes' included a short overview of Jijés life and work through interviews with his pupils, radiating a warm affection towards their teacher. One fact mentioned has remained with me ever since: Gillain taught his pupils to draw without looking at their paper. As a 14-year old this grossly impressed me: someone who can draw without looking at the paper must be really really really good. And now, at the age of 42, I still think so.

This week, the second term of my education at the Max the Mutt Animation School has started. Yesterday I got my final evaluation over the first term. I got a Pass for 'Design and Composition' and 'Perspective and Structural Drawing', and a High Pass for 'Acting and Improvisation', 'Beginning Life Drawing', 'Principles of Drawing' and 'Representational Painting'. Of these, 'Design and Composition' and 'Acting and Improvisation' are finished. New courses will be 'Colour and Water-based Media' and 'History of Animation'. The other courses will continue into the second semester, although the teachers are shuffled around, to allow students to get a new view on old material.

Today I had my first 'Beginning Life Drawing' class by Vivian, a respectable lady who follows Nicolaides' 'The Natural Way to Draw to the letter. Other than my previous teacher she encourages us to draw without looking at the paper, in order to train our observation, as opposed to training our memory. This morning I once more felt the wisdom of this approach, and I promised myself to stick to it. It may mean a short dip in the development of my drawing abilities, as my eye-hand coordination feels a little below par, but I believe it is worth the effort in the long run. Let's see what happens...

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