Click on one the questions below to go straight to the answer:
1) Why call your comic "Ugly Sweater"?
2) Who is the man behind Ugly Sweater?
3) Why did you marry an Indian woman?
4) Is drawing Ugly Sweater your real job?
5) How did you get the idea to do a comic?
6) Which tool do you use to draw?
7) What are your inspirations?
8) What advice do you have for young artists?
why call it "uglysweater"
Every year, around Christmas, some weird, weird people organize parties where guests are asked to come wearing the most repulsive jumper they could find. Some even weirder people organize competitions crowning the "Ugliest Sweater" of the evening.
Now that's the type of humour I love. Not only because it celebrates our ability to laugh at ourselves, but also because it highlights that beauty can be found everywhere, even in a God-awful piece of clothing. When thinking of a name for my new webcomic, Ugly Sweater just came to me as the perfect title.
I secretely hope that - one day - someone will organize the first "Ugly Kurta" party around Diwali. If you're planning to do that, let me know and let's start a nation-wide trend!
who the hell are you
In a nutshell, I am a bald - yet sexy - 37 year old French man with a supernatural talent for saying stupid things. Yes, I'm that old. Which means I barely understand a word of what you swanky Millenials are saying. IKR? Yolo!
I used to work as a photographer and an economist, two jobs that took me to a lot of places. Among them: India, where I spent around 18 months working in the countryside. There, I learned three things (1) how to live on dosas and Parle G biscuits (2) how to keep snakes away with a stick when I go pee-pee in the woods (3) seventeen words of Hindi, twelve of them insults.
After doing an MBA, I moved to South Korea then to Singapore with my (wonderful) Desi wife and my two (adorable) daughters. The parentheses show that I wrote these adjectives under duress.
why did you marry an indian woman
That is an excellent question, which I keep asking myself every single day. But it just so happens that, one fine morning - while I was minding my own business at my University in the US - I happened to cross the path of a beautiful, talented, smart, funny and totally not-forcing-me-to-write-this Indian woman.
As soon as she saw me, she knew I was the kind of man she should totally ignore for around 4 years. Which she did, until I decided to make fun of her on her Facebook profile because...well...that's what I do.
My wise-ass FB comment earned me a dinner, then a date, then another date, at which point she was past 30 and really was ready to marry anything with a pulse as long as it got her parents off her back.
is ugly sweater your real job
If by "real" you mean "job that puts food on my children and clothes on the table", then no. I have happily sold my soul to the Modern Corporation in exchange for free staplers, bad coffee and - yes - a monthly salary.
I am currently working for Samsung, doing something that I can't even quite explain myself, except that it's about creating powerpoint slides and using fancy terms like "synergy" and "value" and "blockchain". If you don't know what these words mean, don't worry: nobody does. Just smile and nod and laugh when everybody laughs. That got me where I am today.
However, if by "real" you mean "job that gives a meaning to my life because my readers are completely amazeball" then yes, Ugly Sweater is my real job.
how did you get the idea to do a webcomic
When I was young, I was an avid cartoon artist. But life and parents and work happened, and I just stopped drawing. For 15 years I didn't touch a pen.
Then, one day, during my MBA, I created a meme and posted it on the school's Facebook Group. My classmates seemed to like it so I kept going, and by the end of the year, I had a nice body of work making fun of everyone, but especially consultants (see picture).
This planted a seed of an idea. It took another couple years (which I spent reproducing, for reasons still unbeknownst to my wife and I) but it eventually led me to creating Ugly Sweater.
Which tools do you use to draw
Every designer has its own preferred tools and workflow. For those using an Android OS, I heard that Medibang was a fantastic sketching app, and many others exist (just google it). Cintiq tablets and Wacom pens are also wonderful tools of the trade.
If you want to create, you really don't need to break the bank to start doing amazing things. A simple tablet, stylus, and free web publishing platform is more than enough.
WHAT ARE YOUR INSPIRATIONS
Ugly Sweater is a mix of three main influences:
(1) French comics - France is a great nation of illustrators. Every years sees hundreds of new comic artists emerge, and the country's design schools train some of the best animators in the world. Growing up in France exposed me to artists that have shaped my style and my humour, such as Gotlib and Maester.
(2) Japanese manga - In the eighties, France was flooded with Japanese mangas. Besides well known titles (e.g. Dragonball), I have been influenced by darker works (e.g. Gunnm, Akira) as well as weird comedies (e.g. Ranma 1/2, City Hunter). I find myself using a lot of their tropes, from giant hammers to flowing tears.
(3) American webcomics - The US is where the modern webcomic was born. I owe a massive debt of inspiration to The Oatmeal, Lunarbaboon, Owlturd, Sarah's Scribbles, Poorly Drawn Lines, and Adam Ellis. I also enjoy following emerging artists, such as the hilarious Brown Paperbag, and Cancer Owl, who uses cartoons to share the experience of cancer patients.
What advice do you have for young artists
I do not think I am in any position to give any advice, but drawing UglySweater made me realize two useful things:
(1) Nothing replaces Getting Started: I learned 100 times more by just getting Ugly Sweater off the ground than by planning over and over. So if you want to do something, I suggest you just get started. Begin with something small, show your work to friends, get feedback, improve, grow slowly, and soon you will see yourself getting much further than you expected. All the tools you need to put yourself out there are available almost for free online.
(2) It's not about the Art: Most great webcomics today are drawn by people with limited design skill, but fantastic ideas. One thing I learned is that technical excellence doesn't matter as much the quality of the message. For artists, I think it means we should work on content as much as on technical skills. For non artists, what it means is that anyone has the potential to create something amazing that will resonate with an audience.