category: Art,Design,Gazette

Hipster Than Thou

Wednesday, October 15, 2014 by

PATRON looks around the assorted knitted scarves, vintage hats and out-there coats on show outside Owls & Antlers, hoping to catch a glimpse of Yumi, the artist girl who always behaves like a cat. Not simply to peer of course. We brought our pocket chihuahua with us dressed in a très chic checkered flannel waistcoat, hoping to fit in with the >edgy crowd. So far, all it got us was curious stares and anxiety over whether Yumi would take offense at having a dog, no matter how non-threatening, brought to ‘her’ space.

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Just as we are having second thoughts over whether très chic is acceptable as hipster language in 2013 (is ‘deck’ the word on the street now?) our interview subject shows up and shuffles over into the corner, looking around surreptitiously while reaching down for his packet of Golden Virginia. We hustle over and make the formal introductions.

‘Hey Vincent! PATRON here. For the interview?’

Budding artist Vincent Fournier’s eyes light up, just for a second, and his slouch decreases and increases in micro-second speed. ‘We have a table, right over there…’

We sit down, order two Cisks and two vodkas-on-ice, down the vodka, and hunker down to business. The looks he gives the place make it clear that he’s chosen such a loud and crowded place for this interview for a not-entirely-innocent reason.

We first ask him how he’s doing and the answer is on form – ‘Ok I guess, could be better…’ We decide to forego any more questions along that route – we see enough of his feelings on his proto-blog with help from cartoonists Moira Zahra and Mark Scicluna (see next page for their thoughts on working with Vincent). What we’re looking for here are facts. Opinions. Light shed on past events. Where he’s coming from. Hopes for the future. And of course, the question on everyone’s (read: my) mind: did he ever speak to the ‘next Picasso’? He’s got a bitchin’ beard. ‘The guy is out of his mind, and I think he has fleas. I did ask him for a pencil once, he gave me a rubber duck. Don’t ask…’

Perhaps drugs rather than mental illness is the reason for that, something Vincent is opening up to recently – ‘Do you have any more of that stuff we tried last week?’ we see him asking to a friend in a recent post. Whatever the answer to that was, Vincent will find it difficult to keep up the habit as the said friend has been detained by police. Anyway…

Does he feel the art course is taking him anywhere? ‘Quite a lot of successful contemporary fine artists are loaded, unlike myself,’ he says in his trademark self-pitying tone. ‘If it will take me anywhere, it’s going to have to be a divergent path.’ His next words are reminiscent of every wannabe artist there is. ‘I just need to be in the right state of mind to produce art that is genuine but different at the same time, and, of course, I need the right contacts…’

With Vincent’s cynicism and anxiety, it will be tough to make it in an art world that requires a certain ballsiness in pushing one’s art (particularly if, as he says, ‘nobody understands it’). Self-criticism is one thing, but we cannot help but feel that Vincent judges himself too harshly sometimes. ‘I would say being critical and self-judgemental only helps me get better at what I do. As to my cynicism, it does make me think twice about sharing my art, or going for a fine art career in general, but who doesn’t have their doubts?’

Doubt might just be the quintessential element in the identity of 20-somethings, an element that can only find recourse in love, Vincent tells us. ‘The first date with Mariella…it was brilliant. We hit it off instantly. We’re both insecure so we found refuge in one another.’

Although the cracks in the relationship started to show during the Comic-Con, it was a family gathering that was the final nail in that particular coffin. ‘I don’t know what had gotten into my head,’ Vincent explains with a hint of regret. ‘Taking ANYONE to meet my family is a bad idea…’

Speaking of family, what do his parents do during the day? ‘My dad runs a lotto office, but he’s retiring soon. My mum is a full-time housewife.’ Vincent’s relationship with them may seem tenuous at times, but in one instance we see them enjoying a proper family evening in front of the telly in the run-up to the election. What is it about political debates that bring families together all over the country?

Vincent lowers his voice for this one, making PATRON aware that this admission might not be the hippest thing around. He looks around and notices Katrina sitting just a couple of meters away. Fabrizio, her “douchebag” boyfriend is nowhere in sight, and we think they actually make eye contact. His composure changes but he keeps his voice low. ‘Well, you know how it is. At first you try to ignore the billboards and adverts, but then they become so overpowering, and everyone is talking about it, so you get sucked in. Once you do get involved, you become competitive, and that’s when you connect to your parents after god knows how many years. That is, unless you’re rooting for the opposite party.’

One particular line from his proto-blog struck a chord that stuck with us: ‘Booze, intellectual chicks, and you can smoke on the premises.’ Goddamn if that doesn’t sound just fine, so we order another couple of vodkas (no ice, thanks) and craft a couple of superior quality tasty cigarettes from the world’s number one hand rolling tobacco, and head on outside to take a break from the formalities. Straight down the gob and a thick cloud of smoke as a chaser is the PATRON way, and Vincent happily follows suit. Are those three elements all a hipster really wants? ‘Well, no, but it’ll shut him up for a few minutes or so…’

As we’re eyeing some fine specimens of the fair sex, without giving two hoots if they’re intellectual or of the same cerebral prowess as Maltese politicians (found to contain up to 99% stupidity by a study reported by the only real serious news on the islands), we ask Vincent a question that has been bouncing around in our head for some time. Just what is the view like from that chair by the blinds we see him occupying so often? Is it laundry hung out to dry, someone’s bedroom, a blank apartment wall…a skyline? ‘I’ll speak to Moira and Mark,’ he answers after a moment’s pause, ‘so you can see for yourself.’

Finishing our smokes, we head back inside. Our table is taken, so we hustle up some space on a sofa and get back to work.

Where do you see yourself in five years? ‘No particular direction…’ Come on, we have an interview to write here. ‘Ok ok. Best case scenario: having my own art studio in London, or New York, with a cute indie girlfriend who has a rich Wall Street dad, but we all know how difficult that’s going to be, so let’s go for a more realistic scenario: living in a shitty apartment because I’m too proud to be living with my parents at 29. Working full-time who knows where, and trying to find time to make art part time. Worst case scenario? Living with my parents, unemployed, uninspired.’

Vincent’s life is being chronicled, allowing people to relate to his misadventures. Does the fact that people are rooting for him encourage him, or is it an affront to his pride? ‘Do they root for me because they feel better about themselves? Or because they “get” me? Either way, I don’t really care…’

For such a thoughtful kinda guy, Vincent sure says the wrong things at the wrong times, such as when he asked for an ebook version at a ‘Books Are Alive’ event. Then again, he simply didn’t want to buy the book and to hell with it. When’s the line crossed between socially awkward guy and intentional action?

“Hey, I asked for an ebook to avoid people looking down on me when I don’t buy the printed book, so I was trying to protect myself. I had no idea it was that kind of event. Generally I’m just socially awkward, which results in bad decisions and actions.’ A generation more used to the chat box than the actual human face can surely relate.

With the interview done, we suddenly remember The Chihuahua (real name Fido, but hey, we also want to fit in with the eclectic crowd for the evening…) and go look for it, only to find it basking in the attention of some girls of questionable drinking age. It doesn’t even glance our way when we go close, so we decide to sod the little bastard (bitch, technically) and simultaneously decide to start on the scotch.

An hour later and Vincent and ourselves are properly sloshed, so we venture to ask a potentially touchy question: on a scale of 1 to 10, how predictable of a hipster is he? As we imagined, Vincent is taken aback at this, but he gamely goes along. ‘Not sure what this is supposed to mean…I consider myself to be relatively unpredictable, but since you’re asking, I would go with 3 (1 being super unpredictable). Was that a predictable answer?’

Kind of, but we don’t want to burn any bridges here, so we merely respond with a couple more shots.

The rest of the evening is not fit for publication on this esteemed journal. But it was very fun.

Vincent's View
Vincent’s View


The next morning a hungover PATRON caught up with A Space Boy Dream’s creators Moira Zahra and Mark Scicluna to talk shop.

PATRON: Your work isn’t a run-of-the-mill webcomic. You engage your readers with a Facebook profile for Vincent, exemplified by when you made a comic about getting a new profie for Vincent…and then changing it on Facebook, inviting people to comment…and then writing the next one based on those comments. In a more recent example, a panel changes according to whether the mouse is on or off the panel. Do you think webcomics need to have higher standards of user-engagement in today’s world?

Moira and Mark: Readers are generally amused when the comic is interactive, however we don’t feel that this is always a necessity. User-engagement is great, but listening to your audience is much more important, and story + humour always come first.

What other webcomics are you guys into?

Moira: XKCD, The Oatmeal, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, Dustinland, Subnormality, Penny Arcade, Cyanide and Happiness.

Mark: I’m more into classic printed comics like 2000AD, Tank Girl, MAD, American Splendour.

Which artists inspire you?

Both: John K, Gerald Scarfe, Winston Rowntree, Robert Crumb…

How do you divide the work between you?

Both: We come up with the story, Moira writes the script & we both draft a storyboard. Vincent is normally sketched by Mark, then we swap back and forth. We don’t have any rules for who draws what, it’s normally a question of who feels like drawing what. We both draw characters and backgrounds, sometimes one of us does the sketch, and the other does the inking and rendering, then someone else does the lighting. Other times we draw complete scenes individually.

Your characters faces seem to have something of the exaggerated facial
features common with hawking artists – and caricatures in the media. With Mark being the caricature artist for MaltaToday, we can tell where that came from. Moira, where does your character come out in the artwork?

Moira: Both of us have been drawing cartoons since we were very young, so this is why we draw exaggerated characters. I draw most of the girls in the comic because I have a thing for stylish characters. You will find that their faces are also slightly distorted, they are cartoons after all. I also have a thing for rooms and environments. I draw Vincent’s room, the kitchen, living room, his friends’ house…although Mark also draws backgrounds sometimes.

To what extent do you feel that Vincent is an extension of yourselves?

Both: I would say Vincent is an extension of our younger selves, which is why we can laugh about him now. Other times he does vent out our frustration, in his own way of course.

In a previous interview you stated that you will be publishing a print comic version of A Space Boy Dream. Any news?

Both: We’re working on it!

Maltese art seems to take one of two roads – trying to appeal to foreign markets, or trying to appeal to the local crowd. Is there a mid-way point?

Both: I wouldn’t say all Maltese art takes one of these roads, some of it appeals to both. We’re trying to be in the mid-way point, we draw the comic for both local and international readers, but of course the comic is set in Malta and certain easter eggs will only appeal to the locals.

You’re both lecturers at MCAST. What piece of advice would you give to those looking to make it as artists in Malta’s small environment?

Both: Find out what you like and draw that, without going for what might be popular and trendy at the time. Research, dedicate your time to draw constantly and make sure that you are getting better, if you’re not, find something else. Post your work online, talk to people, participate in the art community and when your work is good enough, you won’t need to chase followers and clients, they will chase you.

Category Art,Design,Gazette

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