ASTANA – French artist, animator and designer Nicolas Journoud was born in 1978 in Lyon, France. He received his first education in Canada, choosing biological studies, but later understood that art was much closer to him. Journoud subsequently entered the Fine Arts Academy of St. Etienne in France.
Since 2006, Journoud has been working in Kazakhstan. He began as a teacher at the Zhurgenov Academy of Arts and later was the art director of the Voxpopuli.kz project. He is now working as an animator for the production of short promotional cartoons. In an interview with this newspaper, he spoke about the way he sees the fledgling art of comics and cartoons in Kazakhstan.
How did you get to Kazakhstan after studying in France and Canada?
I graduated from university in Canada to become a biologist, but when I returned to France, I realised that it was not me. Then my purpose was to become a comics author. So I entered the Academy of Arts in Saint Etienne. I quickly left the Academy because comics were not very popular there so I began to draw on my own and my first works received some awards. One of the projects I drew in the Japanese mountains took the first place in a festival and the prize was a trip to Canada, where I got by chance my first comics order. In 2006, I was lucky enough to visit Almaty, planning to stay only for one year. Here I’ve been offered by the French Embassy to give a small master class for the Almaty Fine Arts Academy. After initial success, I decided to stay a while and it has been prolonged for the last eight years. In addition, I worked in Almaty and Astana, but I drew few comics.
Is it difficult to earn money on comics?
The comics market in France is already full. New comics are published every day, but they don’t appear to new customers. I think this problem is similar all over Europe.
Kazakhstan is a new market. There is a lot of space for new projects and magazines. In my opinion the comics market in Kazakhstan will grow in the next decade. Nowadays comics can be here as a hobby. In Kazakhstan, I published comics as social projects. In France and Canada, I have been able to draw comics for several publishers.
You started working in Kazakhstan as a commercial artist, then you changed jobs several times. Why did you start working with animated cartoons?
I am always looking for new ways to develop. Once I wanted to draw just comics. I began to study animation itself through the Internet. It turned out that there is also need for pictures and this craft gripped me with great opportunities. This new innovation gave inspiration to my life. It has also increased the number of orders not only from Kazakhstan, but also from France.
At the moment, I have drawn seven cartoons this year. The last order was from the United Nations Development Programme of Almaty and the Almaty Mayor’s office about driving safely and bike riding. Now I am working on three new cartoons.
How much more difficult is animation than work as an artist?
Animation is more difficult than drawing paintings, but more interesting, too. You don’t work by yourself. You work with a team, specialists in music, voices and scripts.
Usually I spend one day of work for one second of cartoon. But it depends on the script. If it is an action moment, surely I would spend more time.
You worked one year in the Art National Academy in Almaty, although you studied in the Fine Arts Academy of St. Etienne. What is the difference between Kazakh and French students?
First, I think the biggest difference is based on the manner of education. In Kazakhstan, artists pay much more attention to technique. You have a strong technique. Students can draw anything they like, but if they have received the script, they do not think much. In Europe, students have to learn more about how they feel the arts. In Europe, students are asked to think wider, students can argue with their mentors. In Kazakhstan, students are not very used to draw by their initiatives.
When I was a teacher, I checked the reaction from Kazakh students. One day I asked them just to draw stories about themselves, how they saw their nature. They were surprised. It was difficult for them.
Does Kazakhstan have good studios which make animated cartoons?
I can see how Kazakhstan is developing. I have many artist friends in your country. I know that Kazakhfilm has a great history in the cartoon industry. Kazakhstan has many other studios and enough specialists. I can acknowledge my friends Murat Alimov, who ran his comics in Kazakhstan, and very strong artist from Karaganda Evgeniy Yakovlev.
What are your plans for the future?
You always have what you want to do and what you suggest to do. I am now passionate about animation and try to take such orders. I also try to look for orders that can teach me something new.
What is your wish for Kazakh artists?
It is very difficult … but I think young Kazakh artists take pretty much from foreign art. I wish for the new Kazakh art generation to create a new Kazakh-style artist school with common West and East contributions but based on traditional Kazakh life and art tradition. French comics style was formatted in 120 years, so it will take time too here, but the result could be amazing.