I met artist and graphic designer Pierre Bernard Jr. many years ago over Myspace when we were both two NYC based illustrators doing our thing in the big city. Pierre at the time was an artist for Late Night with Conan O’Brien and I was the lead artist at Maxim Magazine. Over the years we have kept in touch sporadically as he moved to California with Conan from Late Night to The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien, and now to Conan on TBS. As Conan does with much of his staff, Pierre has been used as an on-air character, playing himself throughout the years.
Some of you may remember on Late Night he had his own segment called “Pierre Bernard’s Recliner of Rage” where he would “rage” about different art related issues while sitting in a recliner. Pierre is a very laid back and passive guy, so his version of raging never exceeded normal speaking voice levels, which is what made it hilarious.
I recently wrote about the various competing Drink n’ Draw live drawing sessions happening in NY, and apparently this isn’t just an East Coast fad. For the past 3 years Pierre has been tightening up his drawing skills by attending multiple live drawing classes every week in Los Angeles. He is a huge proponent of drawing from live models, and even talked about the benefits of it with Conan on the air back in 2010 (see above video). After three years of live sessions, and amassing a giant collection of drawings, Pierre has decided to make an art book:
18″x 24″ And Other Sizes: A 3 Year Collection Of Life Drawings.
Pierre decided to take a swing at crowd sourced internet funding for the printing of this book, which is very dear to his heart. Five days ago Pierre’s 18″ x 24″ And Other Sizes Kickstarter campaign ended unsuccessfully, just shy of half way to his funding goal. In a facebook message to his fans following the Kickstarter closing Pierre posted:
“Sad news, I did all I could and many of you were there for me but it just wasn’t enough to make this campaign succeed. But it was a good fight and I can’t thank everyone of you enough for backing and believing in me and my book. That said, I am still pushing 18″ x 24” forward. This past week when I saw where the campaign was at, I started looking into alternative funding strategies and came up with one. I didn’t spend half a year working on this to quit now. What I’ve put together in my book is worth getting out to the public, not just for my dreams and passion towards life drawing but to help start defining an area of art that up till now very little has been publicly seen. I strongly believe once people see what’s been going on at these various events it just might encourage some to go out and take part in this creativity activity. So even though this campaign was a lost, you still backed a unique and inspiring project and in the end you will be glad you did so cause 18″ x 24″ will come into existence and it will be a winner! Again, thank you everyone, and keep watching, you haven’t seen nothing yet!“– Pierre Bernard
Undeterred Pierre is still confident that he can get this book printed before Summer is over. I caught up with the artist, and asked him about the project, drawing from life, and his experience with the odd and sometimes cruel beast known as kickstarter.
Artiholics: “What got you into going to these live model drawing sessions? Was it because the show moved to LA and you didn’t know anybody?”
Pierre Bernard: “I was attending life drawing events in New York. The two that I knew about at the time was the Tuesday or Thursday night drawing at the Society of Illustrators and the Friday night drawing at the Art Student League. The league was very traditional, a nude model doing standard poses. At S.O.I., it was a little different. There was a small live jazz band but I always felt that the band was there because in a section of the space was a bar and though artist in the room did mingle, there was still an air of formality in the room.
Here in L.A., there are formal classes but many of the places I attend are more like events then workshops. And the vibe of the rooms are far removed from formal drawing classes. I did start attending many of these drawing events as a way help me deal with the move at the time, I didn’t know a lot of people here and drawing has always been the one thing that makes me feel comfortable.”
Pierre Bernard: “Drawing from photos is ok, not good. The reason I say this is that in this day and age a majority of printed images have been altered through photoshop. There was a time when looking at Playboy was worth while. Recently I saw a copy and the amount of distortions and anatomical mistakes that are in the pictures are insane. I can only assume that these images are the result of retouchers who don’t have a clue what correct anatomical proportions look like on a woman.
Drawing from a model forces you to look and study what the form really looks like, the limitations of the joints, etc. If you are shooting your own reference then you’re better off.”
Pierre Bernard: “A live drawing event is a great place to socialize and meet people in general. I love meeting women at these events but if that’s your main reason for going, don’t bother. One of the things that usually happens at these drawing events is people learning from each other, studying the other peoples art work, getting a different perspective on what’s going on. If your only goal is to get numbers and not contribute, you’re just going to get in the way of others who are trying to get something out of the experience. And trust me, women can tell when you’re just wasting time.”
Pierre Bernard: “A friend of mine who moved out here back in August of last year came over to visit my new place. She wanted to see some of my artwork and after seeing a couple of box worth wanted to know what I was going to do with all the artwork and I told her I was planning to put it in storage. She said why not make an art book and that was the beginning of the idea.”
Artiholics: “Why is the book so dimensionally large? Do people in LA have giant shelves?”
Pierre Bernard: “Actually, the book isn’t all that big, the final size is 9″ x 12′. Originally, I wanted to do an actual 18″ x 24″ book (that was the thinking behind the title, 18″ x 24″ And Other Sizes), but the size and weigh of such a book wasn’t a great idea, scaling it down proportionally made since.”
View Pierre’s Kickstarter video interviews, where he introduces the various models he has drawn in the book.
Artiholics: “Did you make a book just so you could hug-up on all these art models?”
Pierre Bernard: “I didn’t need the book to hug-up on them, that was happening well before that started! Seriously, I’ve been going to so many of these events out here that the majority of the models working know me or know of me. Many of them have become close friends and as a result when we’re in a room together it take on an extra dimension of fun. The videos I shot for the Kickstarter were totally natural and unrehearsed. What you saw were real friends having fun and I think that’s what comes across in my drawings of them in the book.”
Artiholics: “When you are live drawing do you work in pencil and then color later, or do you work full color in real time? Also, do you think this intense live drawing practice has sharpened your on-air design skills? Has the quality of your work on Conan gotten better?”
Pierre Bernard: “My life drawings are in real time. In my book there are 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 and 25 minute poses. Often when people watch me draw they tell me afterwards that I am fast, I think its from working with Conan all these years. Everyday is a deadline with very little time so I’ve been trained to think and draw quickly over the years. There’s no question that working with Conan has sharpened my skills as a draftsman. If I was a mutant, my powers is my quick skills of drawing and Conan is the Charles Xavier who help me develop them.”
Artiholics: “Since facebook was limiting in how many fans were viewing your messages about your Kickstarter, how do you plan to get the word out on the next go round?”
Pierre Bernard: “Kickstarter was an experience worth having, that said I wish I had given the funding part more thought, had I done so, I doubt Kickstarter would have been the path I’d chosen. The amount of over head that I had to tack on to the printing was the problem. Original reward printing, packing material, shipping cost and Kickstarter fees created a goal that couldn’t be reached easily, not to mention a lot of the people who said they’d back it, disappeared once the campaign started. When the Kickstarter was down to 2 weeks left I saw where it was and decided to start looking into alternate ways to get the book done, something I should have done at the start. I came up with a personal solution that will work for me and so the book is still on track to get done hopefully before the summer is over.
My love for life drawing is deep. This book was a labor of love, everything I am as an artist in the last 3 years is in there. I put too much of my time into this project to allow any one or anything to get in the way of my finishing it.”
Pierre Bernard: “If ever there was a time I needed my recliner…”
To learn more about Pierre Bernard Jr., his art life, what he’s raging about, and the status of this book, be sure to follow him on twitter at twitter.com/pbdotman. You can also Like His Page on Facebook. There is an underground Facebook Campaign to get Pierre on The Big Bang Theory. And as always, keep an eye out for him on Conan, you never now what he’ll say next, but you will know it’s always funny.
Interview by Cojo “Art Juggernaut”