Then you arrive in Belgium. When was that?
That was in 1973, I was 22. I spent three years at
Saint-Luc and two years at the academy of Sint-Gilles. Saint-Luc
is a sort of general art academy, with courses on architecture,
illustration, sculpting, and the like. There was one
comics workshop where Eddy Paape
used to teach for years. I started
there the year he was succeeded by Claude Renard
. Then it was called
with the R
(Research). Renard had been a student-assistent of Paape and
replaced him without having any professional experience.
I find it hard to talk about Saint-Luc, because in retrospect
I think I didn't learn much there. In any case regarding comics.
The drawing lessons, working with models and perhaps even the
course art history were definately interesting. But there were
also completely useless courses, like philosophy or literature.
And during modelling classes we were busier throwing
clay at eachother than anything else. In the comics workshop
we sometimes had compulsory assignments and sometimes we could do
what we wanted. Renard made his round amongst his pupils
to talk about their work, make corrections, and such.
Later I realised that it was all very much without engagement.
It was always like: "Yes, not bad, but maybe
there you should..." Never something specific like:
"No, this is not right; yes, that is right; here's
how to do it..." If you don't have any previous knowledge,
such an approach is not likely. Furthermore, there was a sort of
breach with the rest of the world. Everything that happened at
school was "fantastic" and everything else
"worthless". With the exception of Métal Hurlant
there were only idiots, people without any sense. This trashed
my idols completely - except for Franquin and maybe Moebius,
who were considered geniuses. In three years a sort of
coccoon formed in which everyone told eachother
"Great, what you're doing." But it wasn't really
all that much. With that luggage we wouldn't have found a
job at any magazine, any publisher. As an example: at a
given moment we asked for a course on writing a scenario and
we got a course on semantics! Not that it was completely useless,
but we never learned to write a scenario. Actually we never
learned to tell a story at Saint-Luc.
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After Saint-Luc you went to the Academy of Sint-Gilles?
At the same time, I think, at the end of the second year.
started a new course at a small academy two hundred
metres from Saint-Luc. A French friend of mine had taken a look and
told me: "You should come too, it's really good."
Then I went too. I believe that virtually everyone from Saint-Luc
followed Paapes lessons at the same time. It was exactly what
I was looking for: down to earth, do it so-and-so,
little rules. It had its own limitations, but it taught me
more than Saint-Luc. It has given me the foundation to do
what I wanted to do, and add some external influences.
Paape gave precise directions, something to hold on to.
He gave you assignments like: a car arrives at a house and stops;
someone gets out of the car, enters the house,
gets back into the car and the car takes off. Dat was an
exercise he had used for years. Claude Renard
always told us that it didn't matter:
"You don't need to make such an exercise, it doesn't work like that..."
And yet it mattered! When we left Saint-Luc, noone could just make a plate
displaying a simple action. We could hardly tell something accurate and simple.
Even during our time at school most students realized something was wrong and
developed a kind of reaction. Especially Duveaux
, who was always very
critical and somewhat withdrawn, had conflicts with Renard. Renard in turn
rejected Duveaux' work completely. Eventually Duveaux was the first
to publish something after he left the academy. In short I also
disagreed completely with Renard.