ZINE ARCHIVE: AN INTERVIEW WITH FANTINE COPPIN
Fantine Coppin. You’re an artist, animator, maybe in some world a graphic designer, an avid TV binge expert, and an internet meme enthusiast.
I love that.
I’m so excited to sit down with you and learn some more about the digital art world, so, hello, Fantine. I hope you’re well on this hot summer day. Are you ready to begin?
Firstly, just to get into it, and just to get the casual formalities out of the way, I’ve noticed that you’ve recently shared some love and admiration for the HBO MAX series Our Flag Means Death. There are undoubtedly many incredible pieces of visual media that you love and that have influenced you, but could you instead share a guilty pleasure TV series you love to watch and then watch again and again?
That’s a really interesting question. I love Our Flag Means Death because it covers a lot of LGBTQ stuff and instead of being weird about it, it’s very natural about it. In terms of guilty pleasure, I like true crime stuff, I’m like a rabbit hole person on Youtube, I’ll watch hours and hours of that stuff.
Oh, you know me! It’s not like I believe them, but it’s fun to imagine those things and question everything around you.
You live and work in London, but you are in fact French and went to school in France in Lycée Immaculée Conception. Do you think growing up in the European capital of art has had any weight or influence on you working and living as an artist right now?
Yes. I actually do think that. In terms of animation, I do get really inspired by the animation stuff France is making. Like The Triplets of Belleville, I watched that when I was really young and fucking loved it, or Tin Tin or Lucky Luke, these are all comics I grew up reading and they had such a particular style and particular story. Everything is different there.
In your experience, as you’ve shared you’ve had experience working with both, what’s better, MS Paint or a Wacom Tablet?
I grew up on MS Paint. I’ve seen it, like, evolve through the decades, now you can do 3D art on it, which is insane. But in terms of details, I’ve gotta give it to Wacom. When you’re drawing with a mouse, it’s so tedious. My mom bought me my first tablet, I saw it, and I was like, mom, I need this!, and within a week I was drawing like 4-5 times more. I draw on an iPad now, but I really wanna get one of those huge Wacom tablets one day, those are so good for animation.
In addition to digital art, you’ve dabbled a little bit in animation, creating short animated sequences of various animals running or maybe prancing. What would you say is the most difficult bit about beginning to animate? Is it the mere time you need to spend drawing every movement frame by frame or is it more so the research phase when you need to fully understand the intricate movements of various canines and other animals?
That’s such a good question. When it comes to animation, you've gotta think about the time it’s going to take you. The basic fundamentals of animation are all about knowing the anatomy of what you’re drawing. Things like the skeleton or how the muscles move beneath the skin. It’s all about the whole movement of the body, it’s all about gravity in a sense. But it’s a crazy artform and it’s really difficult, the amount of Youtube videos I’ve watched or animation books I have at home - wow! But it really varies, a storyboard can take five minutes, a final product can take months. When you finish it though, it’s so satisfying!
You’ve mentioned that anime and manga have had a great impact on your art. Which anime or manga in particular would you like to shout out here? Any particular style you’ve found yourself more drawn to?
I love this question. Because anime is the whole reason I draw. The anime that truly inspired me to do what I do now is called Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin. I remember watching that when I was nine or ten – shat myself. Fucking loved it. Like, I literally – well not like literally shat myself, but I was like, how come I’ve never seen anything like this? I wanna do this! So the whole reason I do what I do today is anime.
As a person working almost exclusively in the digital medium, I’m curious to hear your opinion on the physical vs. digital debate in the art world. Whether it’s Netflix vs. cinema or NFTs vs. physical galleries, there seems to be a split between people regarding which direction digital content is heading. Are you happy sticking your feet in the fast-developing world of digital art or are you curious to make more physical pieces in the future? And as a digital artist, you’re perhaps the person who could benefit most from creating NFTs, so what is your opinion on those?
I think it’s definitely interesting doing both. As much as I draw digitally, I still have several sketchbooks. I don’t want to do 3D art or anything like that, that’s not me, I just want to do 2D art, but I’d love to do that both in a physical and a digital medium. When it comes to the NFT stuff, that’s always an interesting question to ask someone who does commissions online, the whole idea of NFTs, I think, is so damaging to the art community because you have these artists working hours and hours on a commission, and then an NFT shows up, which is basically the same image, and they get so much more money for that just because it’s presented in a different package, so to say. NFTs can really knock artists’ confidence too, because people will buy a celebrity NFT more than an artist’s work. To me, NFTs are like gambling with art, and I feel kinda dirty just saying that.
Speaking of commissions, do you enjoy creating commissions as much as your own work? Do you feel less creative when working on someone else’s idea and/or request or does it not matter since, at the end of the day, you’re the artist making the artwork?
I have had some commissions – that I’ve gotten half-through – and I’ve been like, I need this to fucking end. As an artist, when working on a commission, it’s always their image, so I make it how they want. That may not be how I want or how I think is best, but at the end of the day, it’s the client's image. But! - there’s also been commissions that I’ve fucking loved. I usually get commissioned to draw animals, but last year a person commissioned me to draw a picture of her and her boyfriend and I was like – actual people! I get to draw actual people! And I was having the best time with it. Also, fun fact, in this art industry you can get a lot of work drawing stuff that is not-safe-for-work. And I’ve gotten a few requests like that, but my commissions page obviously says I don’t accept those. A friend of mine did that and she made thousands and thousands of pounds and for a while there I was like – I could draw a willy!
I want to now talk a bit more about the comic you’ve been working on for a few years now. Firstly, could you explain a bit about the process of making the comic panels themselves? Do you make an image that then gets tweaked in the second panel, if the panels are somewhat similar, or is every panel done individually from scratch? How time consuming is this?
Just the actual panel making – can be so tedious. The way you lay out your story matters so much, so you need to make sure everything fits perfectly. Also, you need to take advantage of all the perspectives you can, if there’s city scenery, you need to see that, if you’d be looking at the character from a specific angle, you’d want to see that, too. Everything needs to fit in, and it needs to fit in perfectly. Now, I’m working a lot on perspective. How much the angles and width matters and stuff like that. I visualise a lot of stuff easily, so at first everything gets storyboarded in my head, then on paper, then digitally. It’s all about seeing how well things fit in together. And yeah, every panel is done from scratch basically.
Could you share a little bit about the story of your comic, the story of Coro, and why this story in particular?
Coro started when I was 11 and it was a lot more fantasy-based. Over the years, I found out that doesn't really work for Coro, it doesn’t need to have monsters and demons and stuff cause as it turns out, there’s monsters and demons all around us! So anyway, now the story is more about mental health. It’s about this dog who’s a bit of an outcast and it’s about him facing his fears and issues, while also listening others around him to try and help them solve their problems. If someone has a story, Coro will give them the time of day, which I think is important cause people don’t really have patience for that sort of thing anymore.
Do you hold an emotional connection to Coro? One would think you have to, after all these years you’ve spent together drawing him?
Definitely. When I was young, when I lived in France, I didn’t have that many friends, so Coro turned into like, an emotional support character. He helped me with a lot of my issues and kept me company a lot.
What year did you start drawing him?
I think 2007.
Yeah, as soon as we moved to France, I was basically drawing every day. I’ve been working on the comic itself since maybe 2010, but it’s changed so so much and gone through so many variations, I can basically say I’ve been working on 3-4 fully separate storylines in that time. It’s taken a lot of time for me to be comfortable with the story.
And lastly: what do you have coming up, Fantine? When might we expect Coro to come out, and if not so soon, anything else to look forward to in the near future?
Well, I am definitely working on Coro at the moment. I wanna say at the end of this year or early 2023 is when you’re going to start seeing pages finally coming out. All of that will be on Patreon. I’ve got so many fucking ideas and so little time. Life is too short and my brain is too fucking big. So, at the moment, I’m a bit all over the place, but know that I am actively working on Coro.