This Wednesday May 23 at Le Bain, Parisian artist Fafi celebrates the release of her first comic book The Carmine Vault (Rizzoli). The party will be hosted by Fafi’s New York Crew: the Mob Girls and Folake, with music by her friends A-Trak and Jasmine Solano. What is The Carmine Vault all about? A-Trak had a chat with Fafi right before she takes off to Japan.
The Carmine Vault by Fafi is out on Rizzoli
A-Trak: I can recall you’ve been working on this book for many years now, when did you start it exactly?
Fafi: Three years, I can’t believe it was so long… But I guess this is kind of normal since I worked alone on scenario, coloring, typo and sketching. I am having hard time to concentrate and it is a very lonely activity, so not necessarily fitting the life that I had.
Did you have the story figured out from the start or did the plot change while you were working on it?
I had a general plot, I had done everything in rough sketches before passing to definitive drawings. For some crucial details such as characters design, this was something I was working on while sketching. Which is obviously something an author must not do! At some point, for example, I realized we couldn’t differentiate good characters from evil ones, so I had to find a way to create clothes over actual silhouettes. I have learned a lot.
Can you name a few of your influences for the B.D. (‘Comic Book’ Ed.) style?
When I was young, my father had a bunch of Spirou albums for kids - the whole Isabelle, Natacha and Génial Olivier, the Belgium crew. On the other side, when I was going at my aunt house in the countryside, my cousin had everything Echo des Savanes: Ideka, Reiser, Manara, my first emotions towards drawings and sex. But when I decided to get on the comic, I didn’t want to read any so I wasn’t influenced. I also think if I started to get more schooled up, I would be frustrated, overwhelmed by other artists work and blocked in front of a white page. This way, I was felt I had no boundaries.
One thing that struck me while reading it was that it’s really for all ages, not just for kids; it has some adult themes but they remain suggestive so it’s not only for adults either. Was this important for you?
The reader’s age rating occurred to me when a friend told me she wanted to read it before passing it along to her daughter and then told me she wouldn’t give it to her. I was shocked, I told her about the comics I was reading at her age and how more crazy it was than The Carmine Vault! I think reading comics is less violent information learning than watching movies. You are in a more active and voluntary attitude.
Do you still consider yourself a ‘graffiti artist turned artist/illustrator’ or is your past in graff’ not worth mentioning when considering a work like your book? This is something I can relate to as people often bring up my past in DJ competitions when looking at my current work.
I still love to paint on walls though it’s very rare today. It’s the basis of my work, of my characters, but its immobility in creation was also a reason why I wanted to switch to other supports such as creating the comic or directing videos. I arrived to the point where I wasn’t satisfied creating unique pictures. We can maybe make a parallel with you for competition in DJ’ing and actually producing music, yes.
Let’s talk about Biarritz. I have spent two wonderful vacations there with you and our friends. I know you’ve worked on the book a lot there. What is it about that place that is so unique?
I needed a place to isolate. I was going there one week per month and was living like people who are working for a restaurant guide. Aside from asking wine and salt to waiters in restaurants, I often didn’t speak to anyone in the week. Biarritz is a real beautiful city diving into violent water ocean, I don’t know much how to explain, I know I’ll go there when I’ll be old, this is my favorite city in France. I had chosen a very old-school hotel to work in, I had a specific display while watching the TiVo, a scanner, laptop to import the page, a simple pencil and some paper. I concentrate better if I do something else at the same time. Watching soaps all day long and drawing at the same time is my favorite thing to do.
The Carmine Vault is Decadence, an introduction by Fafi
Do you think Birtak will become a DJ on Earth? If so, what kind of music?
(Laughing) Birtak is more into having one day distinguish male body parts, being enhanced in his ‘male-ing’ and expressing feelings on a stage.
Is Birtak meant to be of an ambiguous gender, à la Tintin?
Completely! But, opposite to Tintin he tries in disastrous ways to reproduce human love behaviors such as french kissing. He knows love can make you feel crazy sensations and he doesn’t want to live his life not knowing them.
Do you plan on writing more comic books after this? Did this book feel like the completion of a life-long goal or the beginning of a new life chapter?
It’s the first one of a series. I have many more characters to bring up, I want to go deeper into specific behaviors the mean girls have (the Hululus) and also work on some vehicles such as the Lupus, there’s a whole universe to create and it’s very exciting!
Who is Neil’s favorite character in the book (Neil is Fafi’s son Ed.)?
Neil likes the Fafinettes, but he prefers stuff that can roll on rails. Everything train, subway, tramway… I am going to Japan tonight, he already has given me his list of JR, Shinkansen and railway system for me to bring him back. Maybe I’ll draw a little Birtak, cut it out and slide him through the doors of his train toys…
The Carmine Vault is Romance by Fafi