Saturday, January 29, 2011

Working with Clément Sauvé

On January 26th, 2011, I lost a great friend and an extraordinary artist, a unique inspiration. Clément Sauvé died of a virulent cancer at the age of 33. He left us and nobody will ever fill this emptiness...

Summer 2000.
The first memory I have of Clement Sauvé is when I came in to share the studio space where he worked with Yanick Paquette. I think Yanick was interested in saving some money on the rent and wanted to add one more artist. I was looking for some working dynamic that was not the Drawing-table-next-to-the-bed thing. That might not have been the first time I met Clement, but that's the first I remember. A while before that, he was a student in Grégoire Bouchard's comic class at Cegep Du Vieux Montreal (Old Montreal College), and I may have seen him when I was a guest speaker there.

The loft was a thin long industrial space with greasy floors from the heavy machinery that was there when the Grover building was a factory, decades ago. Now it's a coop that rent loft space to artists, mostly.
We had three tables placed next to each other on the same wall. Yanick and Clément were working together on Gambit, then Codename: Knockout and Gen 13. Yanick was the main penciller and Clément was his background artist, also doing technical stuff like guns and spaceships. I was working on my indy comic book: Veena. Behind us on the wall, there was a sort of clothesline, where comics pages were hung. Yanick and Clément basically worked on many pages at the same time, and traded them back and forth. Clément was already a very meticulous and precise designer. His work was beyond what is usually expected of backgrounds in American comics and closer to what is the norm in European bd. In between some of the comic book work, he sometimes did animation design for a client. It's there that I could see the style that he would develop in the years to come. Less realistic, closer to Japanese stylization. But, it was hidden to fit his "master's" style. Yes, because Yanick called Clément, his personal slave ! Anyone else would have been really insulted, but Clément had a very strong and sarcastic sense of humor...he accepted this and even pushed the joke himself, loudly repeating this in conventions, very secure in the power of real work and confident that real compliments are earned.
Behind us, there was a small tv broadcasting bad sitcoms and some of the worst unlimited source of humour for Clem !


I'm trying to remember if we ever worked on something together...

Two things come to mind: In 2001, I published a book called Flirt. It was a black and white pin-up book with about 60 artists mainly from Montreal, but also from France, the US and a few other places. While I was at our shared studio, I asked Clément to contribute a piece. He kindly accepted and brought back a sort of android girl standing sideway, looking away with robotic arms. At the time, he was not inking himself. He asked his friend Serge Lapointe, still in Québec City at the time, to do that part. His themes were already apparent in this piece, the military attitude, the huge bolts and underneath all the flesh, a robot. This may be his first published artwork that was signed . At the time, his work with Yanick was uncredited.

The second one is an issue of Terra Obscura. Late in 2003, this is the last issue of the ABC/Wildstorm mini-serie and it's almost late. Deadline crunch come in and every penciller around Yanick Paquette pitches in to save time here and there. I did a full page,  a flashback to the forties with the characters in their Nedor era costumes, my wife modeled as the first female black US president, Michel Lacombe did a 2 page spread drawn in the style of Egyptian hieroglyph and Clément was back in his role of background artist doing the toughest thing: one page full of old cars piled on top of each others...The day was saved, the book was on time !


Beyond those times where we worked closely together, during the rest of his career where he worked at home and he developed as a natural stylist, I basically saw him in the parties my wife and I did at our apartment, some book launches and his weekly visits at Studio 3265. He biked every week to the comic shop and he came to visit us before or after. Work usually stopped right there.

Clément was the soul of every friend's gathering, people came around to hear him tell anecdotes about the bizz and funny jokes. He had a way with the hyperbolic comparison, analogies so overblown and hysterical.


His career had some up and down, and we had a saying about "The Curse of Clement". Temporary difficulties with graphic designers, editors, legal department and such. But when I think about him now, I feel that there was no curse. He had his difficulties like every one, but he just made it interesting while he was telling the story. In fact, he was a winner. Someone who worked real had and earned what he got. In the end, he got a good career, a good reputation, and he also met Dominique ! How could that be "The Curse of Clement" ??

Except the ending, of course.

I'll miss you Clément.


Ti-toine said...

My sympathie to you, Yanick and Clément's familly

Marie-Lou Sauvé said...

Thanks Eric for describing so vividly my brother. It's nice to have a glimpse of what it was like to work with him.


Your post put a much-needed smile on my face. Thank you for the story, for the vivid way you painted a moment in time with words, and being a friend in a time of need. You're a gentleman.

I spent my time with him - only small moments compared to your experience - but we got along like old friends. There's nothing more reassuring than meeting a man and immediately feeling comfortable. This was, in essence, Clem to me. He just made things easy.

Thanks for the story and thanks for the small window in which I could 'see' my friend again.


Dominique Richard said...

J'ai vu ton blog sur Clé n'ai pas de mots pour te remercier. Tu as réussi à faire sourire la famille, et tu as su le décrire d'un oeil d'ami précieux.Aucun texte nous a touché à ce point.
Merci mille fois.

Dominique xx

Stephen said...

i just came across this post. thanks so much for sharing this, eric. i worked with clem for a year on GIJOE. besides being a RIDICULOUSLY talented artist that made us all better EVERYDAY. so generous with his time knowledge and encouragement. what i will miss most and treasure most, was that wry wit and sense of humor. the man had a gift for analogy ALMOST as great as his talent for drawing. he is missed. he is missed.

Eric Theriault said...

@ Stephen :
Did you work with him on the animation show or the comic book ?

Stephen said...

oh, shoulda specified. i was part of the caharacter design team on GIJOE RENEGADES, the cartoon.