There are quite a few things to mention about my trip to Paris for the opening and book launch, so I might as well begin here. One of the very best things about traveling abroad and showing my work is having the privilege of meeting artists whom I've admired but never thought I would ever actually get the chance to meet. Such was the case with Juanjo Guarnido, the scary talent who illustrates the now classic Blacksad series written by Diaz Canales. it's an ultra pure film noir detective story that takes place in a Dashiell Hammett universe populated not by people, but by completely anthropomorphized animals, all perfectly cast to suit the character they are portraying. John Blacksad, the titular character, is a detective and a black tom cat, very much in the mold of anti-hero Sam Spade or in this case Spayed ( I had to say it!) The criminal underworld is portrayed by likewise suitable fauna-- thugs may appear as apes or rhinos, the police chief and his squad are vigilant canines and the kingpins of crime can be anything from a Greenstreet-ish albino tiger to a Soprano like frog. All of this is set in a quintessentially noirish city of the mind, tinted with the unmistakable patina of New York in the fifties.
Beyond the beautiful characterizations, Guarnido is a dazzling master of perspective and uses it in a powerfully cinematic way. It is easy to imagine this animated on the big screen ( but be careful, whoever you are, it will be a very delicate thing to get right).
One would think this guy would be a bit intimidating to meet, but I'm relieved to say he's a very nice fellow and humble to a fault.
My hosts, Jean-Jacques and Diane Launier kindly invited me to their home just outside Paris to see their amazing collection of artwork, movie and comic collectibles before meeting Guarnido for dinner at a restaurant nearby.
The restaurant,which happened to have a giant one hundred foot long sculpture of a plesiosaur skeleton hung from the rafters ( I'm still not certain why), served us a delicious meal. In the meantime, Guarnido and I got to exchange notes on artistic influences and found we have many heroes in common . He loves Rountree! He loves Sullivant! He loves Kley! Look at their work and you'll see why. (more on those masters at some later post).
I made him a gift of my book and he surprised me by doing the same in kind. He gave me a precious, signed limited edition of his Blacksad book , Ame Rouge. A glass of wine or two later, I fished out my pen and handed him back the book. He knew why and didn't bother to protest. Below, are photos of the two of us, (me, with the better end of the bargain).
After dinner, Guarnido was kind enough to drive me back to my new place near the Luxembourg Gardens. Having changed my sleeping arrangements three times since arriving a week before, I was a bit confused about exactly where my hotel was located. When we finally figured it out, Guarnido let out a sigh of relief and confessed he was glad he didn't get us lost, which apparently happens to him all the time. We were both laughing as he drove off and just as he turned the corner and drove away, I realized I was in front of the wrong hotel.
Oh well, there are worst things than being lost in Paris.