Article Information
TitleAndreas prefers not to explain everything
AuthorToon Dohmen
AuthorHans van Soest
Context Information
Magazine PublicationZozoLala (1995, number 82)
Magazine PublicationRêve-en-Bulles (1996, number 12)
Article Contents
from the article "Andreas prefers not to explain everything (1995)":
Andreas: The second part of Cromwell Stone took so long because the publisher of the first part, Deligne (Michel), went bankrupt. Back then I didn't go out to find a new publisher, because I had so many other things to do. Le Lombard, for example, asked me to pick up Rork again.
Later Delcourt published a reissue of Cromwell Stone and when I had some time I started working on this second part for them. Meanwhile years had passed by.
Wasn't it hard to pick up the thread after such a long time?
Andreas: No, I felt like living it up with the time consuming drawing.
Ten years ago you should have had an idea about this second part. Have these ideas changed in the meanwhile?
Not really. This second part is more or less supplemental to the first part; many questions that remained unanswered in that part, are explained here. The third part will be more autonomous. I always think a long time before writing a scenario. Through this long preparation period I can finish the scenario quickly, so I can start drawing immediately. Hence I seldomly have to adjust my scenarios.
Don't you ever adjust your ideas while drawing?
Andreas: Seldomly. In my scenarios I work out everything very precisely. Later I sometimes shift a picture to the next page, or I spread a page over two pages. The important things are fixed, though.
Isn't it tiresome to work out a fixed idea for the long time it requires?
Andreas: It took me a long time indeed to work out the drawings for the second part of Cromwell Stone. It took so long because I somewhat lost sight of the story I was making. Normally speaking I like to hurry up with the drawings, because the story is central. In this case I was completely consumed by drawing it. I had foreseen that, when I wrote the scenario. I wanted to live it up with drawing for example the double pages that are filled with ships. Now this album is finished, I've had enough of this way of working for the time being.
The drawing of the second part is much more detailed then the first part. Is that a conscious breach of style?
Andreas: I use more of the hatching technique and more shades of gray. I don't know what caused that. I just felt like doing it. It suited the story. It doesn't bother me that there is a breach of style between the albums. The third part may look very different again.
You make use of extreme perspectives and transformations in your drawings. Why do you chose to do so?
Andreas: The story often forces me to it, or... Actually I don't know. I like to make it hard on myself. That double page in Le retour de Cromwell Stone took me three weeks. After a week I found out that it didn't work and it had to be done over again. I was fed up with it then already. Still I want to continue at such a moment until I am satisfied with it. Eventually the result is not what I wanted, yet it resembled it so I kept it that way.
Andreas: Descente has a page full of tiny pictures of Rork. That is an idea that I wanted to work out by all means. It is a lot of work, but if it befits the story, I will do it.
You must be crazy about drawing.
Andreas: (laughs) Yes, indeed I love to draw. My problem is that I am a limited draughtsman. My illustrations are never really good and they take me a lot of time. I am more of a storyteller. I admire artists that commit a good drawing to paper with great ease. With me the result is always less then I had in mind.
For one, I wasn't satisfied with the scene with the ships, because I could not get enough contrast in it. Of course I am content with many of the pictures, but not about the larger share of my images.
Would you redo some of your albums?
Andreas: No, once its finished, its finished.
Yet a renewed version of Mil has appeared in French.
Andreas: That only involved a few altered pictures. The original version was longer originally. When I had started the album already, the publisher wanted less pages, so I deleted two pages. These are added in the renewed version. The story runs smoother now. Also I have separated the black-and-white and color-pages from each other. I had made them seperately and mixed them in the first version. That was too artificial. The story runs better now.
Are there any albums about which you are satisfied?
Andreas: I'm still satisfied with Coutoo, but mainly about the scenario. I always wanted to do a detective story with a slight fantastic element. It worked out reasonably well, I think. The drawings will do.
Why do you like to draw fantastic things over real things?
Andreas: Because I am a too limited draughtsman to draw realistic things from daily life. That might be the reason I work with transformations. It's much more difficult to draw a man sitting in an armchair in a normal way, because then it should look natural. Classical draughtsmen like 'Juillard' master this drawing technique. While drawing I always encounter my limits as a draughtsman. Yet I am not an unhappy man, because I happen to like drawing fantastic stories. My drawing style fits perfectly.
When I started out as a strip draughtsman, I used to make humorous work. I still like to apply transformations in my illustrations, like in the more charicatural strips I used to make. I like to give theatrical poses to my personages. My drawing is more constructing than sketching. I never even make presketches.
In your debut album, Révélations posthumes, you nevertheless tried to draw realistically?
Andreas: I did that because it worked fast, not because I am having trouble drawing realistically. The documentation and drawing technique (site-editor: This technique is called, in Dutch, schaafkarton) took a lot of the time. In the chapter about 'Agatha Christie', for example, I used only photographs. I was in a hurry and the story had to be finished quickly. I would never do that again, though, since you are only copying and not really drawing.
Your style of drawing reminds one of Berni Wrightson. Are you influenced by him?
Andreas: At first I was, when I was working on the first stories of Rork (Andreas deliberately called the writer in the first Rork-story Bernard Wright, red.). Through Wrightson I discovered many American illustrators from the start of this century. Their drawing technique using strokes appealed to me.
The theatrical transformations of your personages is found in the work of your contemporaries, Foerster and Cossu, as well.
Andreas: Of Philippe Foerster I know that he is, like me, influenced by Wrightson. He loved him even more than I. Antonio Cossu is influenced by a much more diverse company of draftsmen. He learned from both Italian, Argentinian and American draftsmen. Therefore he is a much more all-round draftsman. All three of us do have a liking for the fantastic strip.
Andreas: At the moment I work with Philippe Foerster on an album, Styx. That is, I ink his drawings. In his scenery I recognize perspectives and other matters, that I use in my own strips as well.
What kind of album is it?
Andreas: The scenario is from Philippe Foerster. It's a detective-story in the way of 'Chandler''s, complemented with fantastic elements. Despite these elements it remains a good, classical scenario. At the end of this year it appears at Le Lombard, so I hope it is translated in Dutch as well.
You were at the drawing-school of St.-Luc together. Did you acquire common influences there?
Andreas: Not at school. At St.-Luc everything was more focused on 'Moebius' and the Belgian school. At that time I did discover my American influences. In shops and at sales of libraries I encountered their work. Together with Philippe Foerster I bought my first albums of Berni Wrightson and Neal Adams. Later, the two of us - together with Antonio Cossu and Philippe Berthet - had an atelier together here in Brussels. The four of us were working on the same things for a long time.
You have written scenarios for Philippe Berthet and Antonio Cossu did the same for you. Are you ever going to collaborate again?
Andreas: I am going to write a story for Antonio Cossu shortly. I don't know about Philippe Berthet. Maybe so, maybe not.
Do you like to work with others?
Andreas: I prefer to work alone and hesitate to involve others to help me. On the other hand I do have my limits and it can be refreshing to work with the ideas of others. It has given me the opportunity to make things I could never have made by myself.
That's why I made Dérives, with stories that have scenarios of different collegues. If you write a scenario for yourself you like to omit things you don't like to draw. I for one don't like to draw crowds. An other scenarist can make you do it anyway an thus you develop as a draftsman.
Dérives contains a short story of Frédéric Bézian. He added an element to my work that I could never have done myself. With him I would like to do an album sometime.
In Dérives you use, as in all of your work, the most farfetched drawing techniques. Are you still looking for the most befitting technique or do you just like to experiment?
Andreas: I want to do as much different things as I can. I could never, like for example 'Morris', work my whole life in the same style. I also think different kinds of stories require different drawing techniques. It should correspond to the athmosphere.
There are numerous similarities between the worlds of 'Rork' and 'Cromwell Stone'. They both play in the same time and in a fantastic world.
Andreas: But the personages Rork and Cromwell Stone are incomparable. The first is a bizarre and the second a normal personage, living in a bizarre world.
The ferryman from Rork and the creator from Cromwell Stone look a lot like eachother.
Andreas: That is a lack of imagination from my part.
Both worlds are dominated by the threat of a civilization that existed before mankind.
Andreas: That's a theme from H.P. Lovecraft. I used to read his books a lot at the time I started with Rork. In the first parts you will find many of his influences. It is indeed true that this theme returns in Cromwell Stone, and that's because it fascinates me very much.
I used to read many fantasy books. When I discovered Lovecraft I knew it was that I wanted to make. Since then I read everything of him and haven't touched a fantasy book since. In Lovecraft I found a theme that appealed to me, what I was looking for, a theme with a lot of horror.
In Cromwell Stone you mix those horror motives with metaphysical elements. Why this remarkable combination?
Andreas: I don't work consciously in one specific genre. When I was young I was very Christian. I was very interested in the bible and its stories. Later this got less and I became interested in philosophy, even though I haven't read much about it. Currently I am no believer any more.
When I wrote the scenario for Cromwell Stone, I didn't have the idea in my mind to make a horror story of it. I just let myself go without a clear storyline in mind. I wrote quickly and had no control on what I wrote. I worked the same way at the first Rorks. The latter albums are written more consciously. In hindsight I find these albums too much constructed; they are too much written towards a goal, too much constructed.
When making Le cimetière de cathédrales, the third part of Rork, did you know how the latter parts would finish?
Andreas: Yes.
Yet there is a great difference between the parts from Le cimetière de cathédrales to Descente and the last part, Retour. The storyline is rather calm and clear at first, while Retour is stacked with information.
Andreas: Indeed the album contains too much information. When I started Retour I had enough material for a hundred pages. I then asked my publisher if I could make an extra large album. They said it was possible, with the consequence that it would be a very expensive album and that it could be distributed only by specialized strips-shops. Considering that the first parts had been available everywhere for a reasonable price, I chose this form. I drew smaller pictures to fit more pictures on the same number of pages. The result is not completely succesful. The story has not remained clear, the reader has to concentrate too much.
How did Cyrrus come about?
Andreas: The first page was a dream I had and that I wanted to use in a story. The album was a reaction to Rork, that I made for the weekly magazine Tintin/Hello BD (fr); Kuifje (nl). Rork had to fit in Tintin/Hello BD (fr); Kuifje (nl), so I couldn't do everything I wanted qua storyline. Cyrrus is the most complicated strip I have ever made. I can tell you little about the process of its creation, because I have written it very much unconsciously.
Andreas: The albums whose process of creation I can tell you about, are often the not so good ones. Thus I made the album Azteca (1992, not in Dutch, red.) for the publisher Delcourt, after they had asked me to do something pre-Columbian. The album didn't originate from my own idea. I put in it the things that I wanted to be in it and that's it. It doesn't have anything extra.
Aren't you afraid to lose sight of such a complex story?
Andreas: No, in my head everything always fits. I don't like to simply make things that aren't possible, like Escher who once drew water running upstream. For me everything needs to be explicable. I always look for logic behind the paradox. Imposibillities in the scenario are a weakness and unfair to the reader. I demand of my readers that they puzzle with the story. The logic in my work is hard to fnd, but its there.
Did you ever make a story, whose storyline was incorrect in hindsight?
Andreas: In Mil something happens that is inconsistent with what happened in Cyrrus. That annoys me. My attention has slipped for a moment. I think it was something with the temple. I don't remember exactly.
Is that error still present in the renewed version of Mil?
Andreas: Yes, the mistake is in the colorpages and I haven't redrawn them. Probably noone has noticed. I have, though, and it annoys me.
You are not easy on your readers with your complicated stories. Do you get many questions for explanation?
Andreas: Yes, but I don't like to explain my stories. I want the reader to make the effort to understand and to read the album multiple times. I think, for example, that Cyrrus can be read very easily. One has to read it more than once to understand it, though.
Andreas: At the moment I am working on a strip about the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, for Philippe Berthet, Le triangle rouge. You have to read that strip a second time in order to understand it. You have to notice certain details while reading to understand the end. I like that.
Andreas: Also because the albums get more expensive. Its frustrating to buy a strip and to think after reading it: "That was it, then. I have understood everything". Consequently the strip disappears in the closet never to come out of it again. I think a strip should be rereadable. Take for example 'Watchmen', of 'Gibbons' and 'Moore'. Every time you recognize new things in it. I try to do that too. The strip doesn't have any need for the next standardstructure a la 'Tintin'.
So you are working on a strip about Frank Lloyd Wright at the moment. Why?
Andreas: When I was young, I wanted to be an architect. Only later I saw myself as a strips artist. I am still fond of architecture. This liking returns in my work.
Le triangle rouge has a complicated storyline about someone who dreams about someone who dreams. Its a nice challenge.
Andreas: In the near future I want to start a longrunning series for Le Lombard, but I won't tell you anything about that.
And the third part of Cromwell Stone?
Andreas: Maybe it takes as much as ten years before the third part appears. After the long work on the second part, I am tired of it for the moment. I do have the idea in my head.
How hard do you work?
I draw all day. I start at eight o'clock and stop at seven in the evening. This suits me. I work all days, weekends included.
You know, I get more and more things on my hands. So I have to make time to do all the things that are still in my head. But I also am more in the mood to do all these things. don't ask me where I get that urge, its just something I like to do. If I'm on vacation, I want to start drawing after five days.
I worked one-and-a-half year on Le retour de Cromwell Stone. At the end I started drawing faster because I have so many other things in my head I want to work out.
Sometimes I am aftraid that I won't have enough time in my life to make everything that I have in my mind. I am 44 and thus past half my life. The next twenty years I will have to work very hard to get everything done.
Are you still looking for that one album about which you are satisfied?
Of course, but I think and hope that I won't ever make it.