Sketchbook 2010: Interview with Raymond Biesinger

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by Drink & Draw MTL on February 12, 2011

Raymond Biesinger is a self-taught illustrator from Edmonton AB, who moved with his wife to Montreal last summer. His work has been featured in numerous publications including The New Yorker, WIRED, Walrus, GQ, and Monocle, and he is also one half of the garage rock duo The Famines. We thought this would be a great chance to introduce Raymond to those Montrealers not already familiar with his great illustration and design work, as well as getting a sneak peak at some of his illustration roughs and the finals. | |

D&D: What drew you to Montreal?

Raymond Biesinger: Difference, I think. My wife and I had both been here many times through Famines tours or work, and of all the cities in Canada it was the most unlike Edmonton. Historically, culturally, architecturally, economically, a lot of things. That’s something we needed, as we ran out of lessons to learn in Edmonton and felt like scene grandparents there–the early 30s are still much too young to be that old. There were good parts of filling that role, but also problems. Now, nothing’s quite as rejuvenating as sounding like a seven-year-old because your French is so bad. I also understand learning a new language fends off Alzheimer’s.

D&D: Has being here affected or influenced the direction of your creative work so far? Or do you feel that it will?

Not yet, but it’ll come. I have a backlog of about five personal projects that I really want to finish, and they’re either selfish or deal with my old city. It’ll take at least a year to get through them. I also suspect it’s going to take a long long time before I feel qualified to do certain things in Montreal like I did in Edmonton. I couldn’t imagine executing community memory projects like my band chart, hosting illustration open-houses like I used to, or remaking the Montreal civic crest. There are certain things a tourist shouldn’t do, or might not have the knowledge, confidence or credibility to do successfully.
D&D: As an anglophone, have you found language to be an issue whether in day-to-day life, or when seeking out new clients?

In the first case, a little. We live and work between Parc Lafontaine and St-Denis, and though it’s more french than a lot of neighbourhoods we can get by with not much french. When we’re in over our heads we’re lucky that people generally are cheery and happy to switch into english, knowing we at least made an effort. In the second case: a small fraction of my work is with Canadian clients, and even less of that from Quebec. Most is UK, a good portion in the US. So, work-wise it’s been business as usual–how nice to move 4000 kilometres and still have steady paycheques arriving from the usual suspects. They euros are pretty happy that I’m two time zones closer, too.

D&D: You’ve mentioned working on an instructional vinyl for would-be illustrators. Care to elaborate?

RB: Absolutely. Basically, I feel that most illustration programs do a good job of preparing illustrators for real work, aesthetically, but most programs do a poor job of educating illustrators about business practice. As a result, those things make a lot of illustrators nervous and scared, and that leads to declining work conditions for all of us. That business end of things, though, fascinates me, and I’ve been lucky enough to do some campus talks and write a lot about it.
To get to the record part, though: a few months ago I saw a double LP by the legendary Bruins defenceman Bobby Orr at the Saint-Michel market, instructing young players on proper defence habits. Inspiring, old, stuff, and I’d just been thinking about what to do with some old business speaking notes I had, and was also bummed out about how long the Famines’ next 7″ single was taking to get finished up. I think that moment was what’s called a “divine coincidence.”
D&D: Finally, if you had one tip to give an aspiring illustrator what would it be?
RB: Don’t be afraid to learn in public. It’s never too early to send out postcards, do art shows, table at craft fairs, send links to blogs, etc., and see what kind of people might be interested in what you’re doing.


To view all the D&D Sketchbook 2010 submissions to date click here.
Pour voir tous les soumissions à date au D&D Sketchbook 2010, cliquez ici.

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