Q&A with Pierre-Paul Pariseau

Which artists have had the most direct influence on your own work?

The biggest influence early in my career were the surrealist artists such as Dali, Magritte and others. At that time, I enjoyed everything that could be labeled surrealist, not only paintings but in literature, poetry and movies as well. Photomontage pioneers like John Heartfield, Max Ernst, and Jacques Prévert would play a pivotal role in shaping my artistic vision.

Could you describe for us the process of interpreting Lawrence F. Farrar’s short story into a single visual image? Were there any deviations from your typical process by creating from narrative text?

I’ll describe step-by-step, as clearly as possible, how I created the cover illustration. This is the typical process that I undertake for most of my work. Then I gather all kinds of cutouts that are related to the subject. I have many boxes full of these cutouts in my studio, more or less classified by category. I also look in magazines and other sources to find more elements if needed. While scavenging for these, I try to keep my mind open in case I find something interesting that is not necessarily related to the subject but may nevertheless prove to be useful. It is important to surprise myself, not to arrive absolutely at the end with the picture I had in my mind when I started. Many times (but not always), in the end, the best pictures/illustrations are the ones that I invented during the process, not having a clear idea in mind at the beginning.

After I have gathered, more or less, the necessary images that I’ll need to begin with, I scan each cutout and apply, in Photoshop, a high contrast of black and white to them (which essentially removes their colors). To achieve the perfect contrast, I sometimes have to do it in parts on the same piece. Then I make each item transparent. It is on a similar shape, underneath, that I place the color. I repeat this for all the scanned elements. I compose the picture like this, piece by piece. Of course I often go back to search for the best cutouts needed to complete the image and take out those I don’t think really fit. Oftentimes, the challenge is to find the good vibration of the image, to understand how everything fits the best together, like the director of a movie or theatrical performance.

The colors can be added also by placing a hand-made layer of watercolor, acrylic paint, color pencil, etc., under the black-and-white layer that is now transparent. These colors can be used independently also, without a top layer. Lines done with pencils can be added, and so on. I use my pen tablet from time to time. Of course there can be other features I use in Photoshop depending on the need, but basically this is how I work. When I think the picture is done I “let it sleep” a bit and come back to it later on (after a good walk outside for example) to look at it with a fresher mind. I can then make a last minute change if necessary. I wish that my illustration can question, amuse, create a smile, puzzle and, of course, stimulate the reader to read the story.

What would you call your proudest artistic achievement thus far in your career?

To have lasted this long as an artist.

Aside from other artists, where do you turn to for inspiration?

A lot of things enter my life through my surroundings to a point where it is difficult to name anything in particular. I always carry a notebook with me in which I can write (mainly) and draw ideas for new images, for titles of work, etc...

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