Author in residence in Angoulême, Colombian artist Camilo Vieco is working on his first long-form comic book that shows underrepresented stories of Colombia’s culture.
by Julia Migné
Always passionate about comic books, Camilo Vieco studied graphic design in Colombia and worked in an advertising company for a while before deciding to give his dream a shot. His persistence to follow his passion led him to be accepted at a Master’s degree in Angoulême, a commune in France that is known be the international capital of comic art.
Last year, he won the Regional prize at the Young Talents contest during the International Comics Festival. He is now currently developing his first long-form comic book which shows a side of Colombia that is rarely talked about, Le Jour de Saint Pascal.
We talked to Camilo about what inspired him to become a comic artist, what kind of stories he presents in his comics, and what he has in store for the coming months.
INKLINE: Where did your passion for graphic design come from?
Camilo Vieco: I was actually very interested in studying animation, but there are not many schools that have these types of programs in Colombia. I found out that a graphic design course had some classes related to animation and illustration so that’s why I did it. But I had always been interested in cartoons and comics – that’s where it really came from. Once I did the graphic design, I found out about editorial design and multimedia and all those things.
I: How did you go from working in Colombia to studying comic books art in Angoulême?
C: I started studying French back in Colombia five years ago. I had a plan with a friend; we said we should go to Canada and study French to be able to go there. In the meantime, I found out about the International Comics Festival here in Angoulême so I thought ‘wow, it’s really interesting. I would love to go there!’
I started looking into it and I thought that it would be such a shame to go all the way there just for three days for the festival and then go back to Colombia. I found out about the Master’s class at the École Européenne Supérieure de l’Image and about Campus France, an organisation that helps students to go to France and study. I presented my portfolio and everything just went really smoothly and after two or three months, I was ready to move to Angoulême. I came to Angoulême to make my dream come true: to study comics and do comics!
I: Your portfolio is really diverse in term of themes and techniques. Where do you take your inspiration from?
C: Most of my work is very personal because I haven’t done many commercial work as an illustrator or as a comic book artist. I have this incredible freedom and I just try to do what I feel in the moment. Sometimes, I’m inspired by comics that I read, sometimes by a movie. It’s changing a lot. But I usually present stories that talk about madness, schizophrenia, so I thought I would try to do something like that. I like exploring different styles and graphics.
I: You’ve moved away from using the computer towards using ink and paper lately, why?
C: I really started doing graphic design with the computer. The story boards -the first ones I did- I did them with pencils and sometimes ink but it was not very practical. When I found out about the tablets, it was incredible so I bought one and worked with that for three years.
When I came here to Angoulême, the program was more driven in an artistic way so I found out about all these new techniques. I had studied the ink and manual techniques before but I had never really explored them or built the confidence to just get into it. I decided to let go of the computer for a while and I’m really happy working on paper and sort of mixing.
I: Can you tell us a bit more about what your doing right now at the Maison des Auteurs?
C: It’s the first comic that I do that is this long. I think it’s going to be 60 or 70 pages. When I was in my Master’s, I did some research on the pre-Colombian cultures on comics. And I thought, ‘well there is a lot on the Incas, a lot on the Mayas but there is not a lot on the pre-Colombian groups that were in Colombia or Venezuela.’
I thought it would be interesting to show a little bit more of Colombia. Actually, I found out that modern Colombian culture has kept the roots of the Indian culture and traditions, but it’s hidden under Catholic traditions nowadays. I wanted to take that theme and talk about it.
Right now, I’m sort of in the middle of the process. I’m working on the storyboard. It’s not quite as I expected but I’m happy with it. I’m actually story boarding the second part of the comic book and I’m just thinking and throwing out ideas, writing scenes, and seeing how it goes. It starting to all come together.
I: What is a typical day for an artist in residency in Angoulême?
C: Usually I like to get up a little bit late, like around 10am, have an early lunch, then I go to the Maison des Auteurs. I check my emails and a little bit of Facebook and start working at 3pm. Maybe I start drawing a little bit, sometimes I warm up by copying a photograph or something like that, and then I go on until midnight or 1 am drawing or inking. There were two weeks where I was just inking pages and then two weeks where I was just doing the drawings and layouts and now it’s been a week that I’m working on the storyboard.
I: What has been your biggest challenge?
C: It’s been keeping up the rhythm, being constant, and really trying to make it the best comic because I’ve seen the other authors’ work and it’s just really amazing. They just put everything into their work so it’s been a challenge to keep up with that level of quality.
I: What’s coming next for you?
C: I would like to make another comic more for adults; maybe set it in Bogota. It’s very personal and I think it’s a mixture of these ideas that I had, like a fairytale story, but it’s more about the feeling that you have after being robbed in the city. I wanted to explore this and maybe make like a metaphor where the city becomes some kind of monster where the buildings become monsters.
I: What advice would you give to young people with a passion for comic book art?
C: Have confidence in their ideas! Keep going until the end; be constant. It’s really hard; I have many friends who do a lot of comics all the time and I’ve seen some that have just persisted and finished the work, and became so good! I think it’s just a thing of doing the whole comic – be it five pages or 20. It doesn’t matter if the result is good or bad, you just do it until the end and then you can make better decisions on the next project.