The countdown has begun to this year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October (13th – 15th). The downthetubes “Kendal Calling” interviews continue with a chat with award-winning comic author, animator, writer and illustrator Aimée de Jongh, from Rotterdam, who has one of the most booming careers in Dutch comics.
At the early age of 17 Aimée already published her first book, Aimée TV. Since then, she has made over ten different comic series. Her most popular comic is the daily Snippers, which has appeared in the Dutch newspaper Metro since 2012, ending earlier this year, which has been collected in French by Éditions Paquet. A sci-fi one-shot, Reborn, was published in Dutch magazine Eppo, in 2015.
She has also made several independent animated films and worked for animation studios. In 2014, Aimée moved to Los Angeles briefly, and created video installations which were exhibited in the Whitney Museum in New York.
In 2015, she released her first graphic novel, The Return of the Honey Buzzard, published in the UK by SelfMadeHero, which has been a great success.
At the moment, she’s is working on a new graphic novel for Dargaud, together with acclaimed writer Zidrou. The book will be finished in 2017.
downthetubes: What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?
Aimée de Jongh: Right now, I’m working on a new graphic novel for Dargaud, the French/ Belgian publisher that also released the French edition of my previous book. They asked me whether I was interested in making another book with them, and how can I say no to that? Dargaud is one of the most respected publishers in Europe!
The story was written by Zidrou, an acclaimed scenarist, who writes beautiful realistic stories, mostly about relationships and real human beings. I already loved his work, and thanks to Dargaud, we got to work together on this one.
I’ve finished the sketches and I’m working on the inks now. The book should be released in June 2018.
downthetubes: Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?
I’m still the most proud of my first graphic novel,The Return of the Honey Buzzard. It was originally published in Dutch, and released in the UK by SelfMadeHero.
It was the first comic I made without any pressure from a client, or publisher, or school… I just did what I wanted to do. Ultimate freedom, I suppose. And it turned out to be a very successful book in the end, with drawings that I still love. You can really tell that I’ve had a blast doing it.
There was so much to learn when I started the book, especially storywise. I think I pulled it off well considering my lack of experience in writing. The book won the Prix St. Michel for the best Dutch comic book in 2014, and was adapted into film, and released this year. It’s screened on Dutch television, which was as surreal as it was fantastic. I still can’t believe that actually happened!
The book is still available through book stores in the UK and US, as well as most European countries.
downthetubes: How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
Aimée: As with most creators, every day is different for me. I have different jobs during the year, with different clients and schedules. This is why I have stopped working on a tight routine for a while now. I just try to work as much as I can during the day, including the evenings, even at night.
But I also love sleeping in – it’s one of my bad habits. But I allow myself that, every now and then. For me, this freedom is what makes me the most productive as a creator. Although it’s certainly not for everybody.
downthetubes: What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?
Aimée: I love how we’re able to reinvent ourselves, and discover new things about ourselves, through our own work. I think every creator recognises that moment where you see an old piece of art (or comic), and you’re like: “Oh my. This was about ME!!!”. I have that with most of my work. It’s telling me stuff about myself that I don’t see at that particular moment, but years later, it turns out to be the advice I needed at the time.
It’s amazing how drawing and writing is always connected to the creators, on many levels. That’s why I love making comics and reading them too. It’s like having a peek inside someone’s brain, I guess.
downthetubes: And the worst?
Aimée: That it takes so much time to finish a project, it could take years and years. And the difficulty is, that we change during that time. We change as a person, but also as an artist. Maybe we’ve found different interests, or different styles that we like. Maybe the story has become irrelevant, or perhaps it’s been done by somebody else in the meantime.
It’s particularly frustrating for me to have many ideas for new books, and knowing that I won’t be able to finish them in my lifetime, probably. It’s just something we’ll have to deal with…
downthetubes: What most distracts you from getting your work done?
Aimée: E-mails! I try answering every one of them, but I’m slowly finding out that if I do, I’ll spend most of my day typing and not drawing. Yet I just have to keep an eye on my inbox, in case any awesome jobs come in.
downthetubes: Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
Aimée: Tough question. I think it’s easier to be discovered through social media, but then again, you can have 10,000 followers and still no publisher. The followers don’t really mean anything in terms of money or publication. But, in the end, I believe it’s easier to get published now. It’s easier to get in touch with publishers through email, it’s easier to send them your portfolio.
Some publishers have a special section on their website where you can upload your work. This is how Chris W. Kim got published at SelfMadeHero: He just sent in his comic that he worked on for years in his free time. They loved it, and a few months later, there’s a book. It proves that, if you’re good enough, there are possibilities out there that might not have been there before.
downthetubes: Have you ever been to the Lake District before and if so what did you think of it? If you haven’t, what are you expecting?
Aimée: No, not yet! I’m really curious, because I’ve heard it’s one of the best comic festivals that the UK has to offer. I love festivals that have a good line-up and at the same time still feel like a small community get-together. From what I’ve heard, LICAF is exactly that. Can’t wait to see it with my own eyes.
downthetubes: Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?
Aimée: Luckily, I’ve met most of the creators that I love. Still, I’d love to meet Gipi, who is an Italian comic creator. His work has been inspiring me recently, because it’s so different from anything else.
His work is like a mix between Taiyo Matsumoto, Cyril Pedrosa and Lorenzo Mattotti. To me, he’s more like a painter, than a cartoonist.
downthetubes: How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?
Aimée: Because they offer a place where publishers and artists can be together in the same place. That doesn’t happen often, because we’re working more internationally than ever. I’ve worked with publishers for 10 years, that I’ve never met in person, because they live so far away. Yet, personal contact with creators and publishers is really important in getting a relationship to work. In five minutes, you are able to understand something that you would not have understood in 100 emails.
At these festivals, there are meetings that will result directly in the publication of some amazing comic books in the future. That’s why I think they’re really important.
downthetubes: What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
Aimée: Obviously, it’s the best job in the world. But only become a professional cartoonist if you have the passion and the drive to work long hours, days and nights on your projects. If you don’t have that in you, get out! No, seriously.
Also, forget about “talent”. It’s all about hard work. It takes years before anyone will actually care about your drawings or scenarios. But when they do, you know it’s all because of the hard work you’ve put into that. In the end, passion is what you’ll need to be successful in this field.
It’s also what I love about it: I know that the other creators are just as passionate, and maybe a bit crazy….
downthetubes: What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?
Aimée: I love the comic strip L’atelier Mastodonte, which is published by Dupuis, only in French unfortunately. It’s a comic that’s made by a team of many different comic book creators, about a fictional cartoon studio in Belgium. The comics are semi-autobiographical, about everything that comic artists have to deal with: contracts, deadlines, signing at festivals, drawing materials, colleagues and competition. Every comic strip is drawn by a different creator and that makes it so much fun to read.
Lewis Trondheim is probably the most famous one on the team; his comics are hilarious. If you’re able to read French, get your hands on those books! They offer an incredibly funny peek in the lives of comic creators.
Aimée, thank you very much for your time and we look forward to seeing you in the Lakes.
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• Book your tickets for this year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival here. This year’s events programme includes live draws, masterclasses, interactive talks and a chance to get up close to the best comic creators in the world!