It’s a beautiful thing when a childhood interest blossoms into a lifelong passion, even better when it becomes a full-blown career. For Fred Jourdain, childhood interests and teenage ambitions have come true as he’s managed to support himself while carving out his place as one of Quebec’s premiere graphic novel artists.
His journey began with a look, ‘bandes dessinées’ –comic strips- caught his eye and even from a young age he aimed to work in this industry. He got his start early doing fills and landscapes for bigger artists who would focus more on character design but this was all the exposure Jourdain needed to follow the artist’s path and begin developing his own signature style. After producing his own zine, he was featured in an international comic book festival and his noticeably detailed style, along with his meticulous attention to learning and integrating techniques was put on display for a wider audience. His narrative bend resonated with many. “I always try to have a story behind my illustrations – even if it’s a single drawing. I want to set a mood,” he explains.
His big breakthrough came unexpectedly in the form of a project he initially turned down. Robert Lepage invited Jourdain to see his latest play, Le Dragon Bleu, which he intended to also transform into a graphic novel. Because Lepage first envisioned the work in the traditional Franco-Belgian comic strip style, Jourdain politely suggested a few other artists who might be better suited to that style. Lepage then countered, asking Jourdain to make his own proposal on what the graphic novel might look like. Jourdain agreed and almost immediately the idea was set in motion. The end result is the critically acclaimed Le Dragon Bleu. Available in both English and French, this piece is a departure from traditional comic styles featuring a variety of narrative techniques and everything from traditional three-panel strips to full page bleeds. All told, Jourdain estimates that he spent over five thousand hours executing Le Dragon Bleu; it’s something he’s proud of because he asked himself: “what would be the most beautiful way to enjoy this story” and then followed his vision.
“The impulse of creating art is like falling in love – it moves something inside you”
Another way in which Jourdain expresses his convictions as an artist is by making art which represents the macro culture or movements of society at large. The ‘Maple Spring - Printemps Erable’ student protests in Quebec became a subject he couldn’t ignore and had to colour red; Jourdain intended to stay away from political statements but discovered the beauty of how people came together. “All my illustrations about this movement are characterizations of hope, of strength… It’s about inspiring people to look for solutions and not just expressing anger,” he explains. No matter what outlet he is using Jourdain wants his artwork to be a vehicle for positivity.
“I would like people to look at my art in two ways: the simple beauty or aesthetic of the piece and the relatability, can they feel connected to it in some way,” he says. Perhaps this is why he is particularly proud of a recent commission – twelve labels for Shawinigan microbrewery ‘Le Trou Du Diable’. “It’s a natural style, I’m not forcing anything and there’s a comic book flavour to these illustrations.” Of course, it’s an added bonus that he’s been widely congratulated and even told that sales for the company have jumped since his artwork began appearing on their bottles.
For an artist like Jourdain, to whom the moment of creation is one of the strongest pulls he experiences, satisfaction lies in producing work that can impress and improve others in some way. Given his array of technical talents and his passion for connecting with others, it’s safe to say Fred Jourdain is one of the premiere artists to watch emerging out of and at the same time celebrating the beauty of la belle province.