Born and raised in Montreal, Canada, Agathe Bray-Bourret majored in film animation at Concordia University. Bray-Bourret represents the fantasy and humor that lies in everyday life with watercolor – her favorite medium. A big fan of cartoons, especially French cartoons, she loves how expressive cartoon characters can be. Agathe illustrates for magazines and books, and for commercial ads. Her music videos and short movies have played in many festivals worldwide.
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Illustrating the future
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Illustrator Agathe Bray-Bourret
Can you recall the first time you realized you were going to be an illustrator? What were your earliest impressions?
I don’t remember. Was never aware of the fact that I was going to be an illustrator.
Who or what influenced your art when you were young?
I liked cartoons a lot. Especially French cartoons. I was a big fan of Gaston Lagaffe and any Gotlib drawings. I loved the movement of Sempé’s lines. My father used to have a collection of Fluide Glacial and though his illustrations are quite vulgar, I loved the expressiveness of this French cartoonist’s characters.
Do you remember what your first artwork looked like? Do you still have it?
My first work was a painting of a flamenco dancer. I remember being surprised at how well it turned out. I have no idea what happened to it. I probably threw it away soon after because I wasn’t very proud of my painting. I tend to hide old works as I progress, but now that I’m older, I find myself wishing I had more of my earlier works.
Why did you choose illustration as your life’s work instead of, for example, filmmaking, law, or even medicine?
I’m also into filmmaking. I didn’t choose illustration or animation. It wasn’t my dream or my ambition. It’s just what I ended up doing. I hate offices and air conditioning and I like to draw. I am something of a bohemian soul so the lack of stability didn’t bother me at first. I guess I was born to do what I do. At one point I thought, ‘It is so crazy to think this could be my career,’ but I just continued doing what I was doing. I was lucky in that sense.
Did you study art in school?
At university, I studied film production. After I finished college, I realized film production wasn’t really my thing. I remembered I was good at drawing when I was younger. I started drawing for fun. I went back to school for animation and to refine my drawing skills. It was then that I fell in love with animation.
Where does your inspiration come from; your impulse to make art? Do you have a source for your ideas?
I’m never bored. I’m a daydreamer and I have a vivid imagination. I’m one of those people who actually enjoys waiting for a bus or looking out a window for long intervals. I imagine things and ponder. At times, I need to draw something out to make it more concrete or to illustrate an idea I already have in my head.
How would you describe the process of creating art?
Creating art provides a sense of achievement that not many things can. When I create an animation or an illustration, I feel absolutely great. This may explain why illustrators, in general, are willing to accept poor working conditions. It’s because they get so much satisfaction from what they do.
Do you have a favorite illustrator? What is it about that illustrator’s work you like?
I love Bill Plympton. He’s an animator of adult animation feature films. Favorites are hard to choose. There are so many great illustrators out there.
If you could do something else, other than creating art, what would it be?
I’d like to be a comedy writer or a lawyer. I have a secret passion for law. When I was young, I wanted to be a lawyer, but my mother, who was a prosecutor, discouraged me from pursuing law. She became disillusioned and often said, “I don’t want you to become a lawyer, why don’t you try art instead,” so I did.
Do you remember your first set of paints, pens, or markers?
No, but I’m sure the caps got lost and they dried out pretty fast!
Do you have a favorite illustrator supply, a favorite method, or favorite location, where you like to create artwork?
I really can create anywhere. I adapt easily. All I need is to have something to drink next to me. I don’t usually drink what’s there because I’m concentrating on what I’m doing. It’s not that rare to see me dip my brush in my coffee or drink a sip of watercolor water.
If you could give a viewer clues to understanding your art, what would you say?
I like representing the softness, the silliness, and the ironic. I just want to encapsulate movements that I like and show others how I view the world.
Why does art matter to you? Why might it matter to the world?
It matters because it is part of the content of life. For example, politics and money are logistics, art is substance.
If you could look back or forward a hundred years, do you think the life of an illustrator was or will be better than today?
I am pretty sure the struggles would be similar. The question is: will anyone’s life be better in a hundred years? I hope so. As much as I wish for great conditions for illustrators, there are many pressing issues and areas of inequality than need to be addressed before there will be change.