Vous avez dit weird ?
Ludovic is quite the character. We would never have imagined that Posca’s contest winner would be so eccentric; positively so, of course. Sometimes nicknamed Loubard [translator’s note: means “thug” in French], Ludovic the artist is a doer, despite being a doubter.
He meticulously cuts, but dreams of handling a chainsaw; he hates school, but teaches visual arts. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, once you’ve talked with him for about an hour, he finally gets serious and will tell you all about why he drew yetis for 5 years, what he loves about outsider art, his fascination for surfing and of course, his famous trip to Australia.
An artist, a funny character, a cultured guy full of references, a good natured chap with energy galore who loves communicating.
* Could you briefly introduce yourself?
I’m 31. What else? I left Les Beaux Arts in Paris 5 years ago. Before that I attended a visual communications school. At Les Beaux Arts, I studied engraving quite a bit, I did some silk-screen printing, but I was mostly interested in the publishing and printing trades. I came to cutting through wood engraving. I started cutting my engravings to make them into puzzles of some sort; I would paint each piece a different color. It was archaic,
I used a kitchen knife but it was interesting because the end result was always unexpected. Nowadays, what I do is a bit more thought through, the cutting is cleaner, but there is still room for chance, fortunately.
And yes, surfing! I love surfing as much as I love drawing, it’s such an experience, it makes me feel like I’m flying. It’s the feeling of being hypnotized by nature, it’s quite crazy. And I like traveling a lot, although I don’t travel! But I did go on a 6-month trip to Australia that impacted me a lot.
My friends say I talk about it every day, I’m a bit excessive. It was 7 years ago, but I felt that I went through a rebirth; I was surfing, drawing and meeting people. It was crazy, and sometimes so were the people…
* When did you first start drawing?
I started drawing when I was very young. I can’t quite situate the exact time, but I remember that every time I saw the doctor writing on medicine boxes, I enjoyed the sound of the pen and the fact that his handwriting was undecipherable. I couldn’t read back then but I could see my mom struggling with trying to read what he’d written.
I started drawing early on, I was drawing all the time, in school, with my brother, each in our own room, he was usually drawing cartoons and I, pictures that weren’t telling any story. In school, I drew from the 4th grade to the 12th grade.
My head was always down and I remember the teachers wondering if I was in the right class. Physically I was there, but not mentally, I was buried under my drawings, hiding (smiles). I hated school, I used to look out the window, at the gate that was separating us from the world out there and I just couldn’t focus. I felt like I was in prison! I hated the fact that they were not teaching us the basics, like how to make fire. Now, I’m the one teaching! It’s not a school, it’s an organization, we don’t have the same rules, and it’s not as strict.
* Where did you get the desire to draw?
It wasn’t a choice, it was a vital need. I think it’s the same for everyone who draws. There are times and moments when you feel you can’t do it anymore, when the desire seems to have disappeared, but eventually, you always go back to it. It’s a constant need, I’m sure of it.
* You’re always drawing?
Yes, ever since kindergarten. I remember we had to draw a monster, which was turned into a template of plaster and wire mesh. Then, somebody, probably an architect, came and worked on the structure which eventually became a playground structure, with a slide. We even played on it. I think it’s still there, on the school’s playground. Our teacher was great, that’s one of my only positive memories of school!
* Who or what has inspired you?
I read loads of comic books, more than European comic strips. I read a few Asterix but I was more interested in the fate of super heroes. And this! (takes out thick binders) These are comics’ collector’s cards. I have them because they’re beautiful. They’re all different, some are shiny, and some have hologram effects.
I have DC Comics, Marvel, and even Les Crados [translator’s note : French version of the Garbage Pail Kids], I’m sure you’ll enjoy those… Collecting, to me, represents respecting the value of something. This collection has inspired me as much as anything else.
Apart from that, I go to quite a lot of exhibitions… But it depends on the mood I’m in. Sometimes, I need to see other things, sometimes I need to focus on my work only. As soon as my mom noticed that I was interested in painting, in artists, in drawing, she started taking us to various exhibitions.
We were able to get acquainted with the work of people like Bacon, very early on. More recently, I went to see Alfred Kubin. It’s incredible, you really feel like you’re dreaming when you look at his work, sometimes it’s monstrous, fantastic,… When I was a teenager, I loved Basquiat, but then I grew out of it. But a couple of years ago, I saw an exhibition of his in Paris, and it affected me dramatically.
* What do you appreciate in Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work?
The generosity, the energy, the clarity, the type of relentlessness he exhibits. For some strange reason, I did not feel the suffering, although I’m sure it’s there. It grabs you, gets under your skin, goes straight to the heart. You feel energized and at the same time exhausted. I remember, once I’d left the gallery I was starving and so thirsty, as if I needed to overcome a taxing experience.
* Why did you put Basquiat on the side?
I think it’s the same as literature, sometimes it’s the right time for a specific book, sometimes it’s just too early or too late. At that time, Basquiat was interesting because of the things I was going through and discovering.
* He was influenced by super heroes, he drew them…
That’s right. And when I speak of generosity, I mean the love of the art, you can feel it. He’s generous with formats, when you look at paintings that are 20 feet wide, you can’t help but be impressed.
* Are you attracted to this type of format?
I don’t particularly want to paint on huge media, but I like the idea of entering into a piece of work, rather than looking at one. You feel as if you were inside. In my line of work, I’d like to create a piece in which you’re able to go in, one day. I’ve painted walls and added dimension to them. When you do an entire wall, the whole room becomes the piece of art.
Somebody once talked about a child’s bedroom and I can imagine this type of work being placed into a museum as well as into a child’s room, both would make sense.
* Can you tell us about the artists you admire?
There are so many, it’s hard to list them all. I love all of Odilon Redon’s work that has a dream-like dimension, but the exhibition was a disappointment, it was too repetitive. I love Max Ernst, all that he explored, illustrated, his strange vision of worlds that you don’t know but can guess. And outsider art has loads of members that are not officially recognized as artists.
More recently, I’ve come to appreciate Pierre la Police, he draws paintings and cartoons. I’ve never laughed as hard as when I read him. His humor is so off-beat. I can’t describe it, he’s a genius, I like everything about him, his sense of humor and his style.
I also like Stéphane Blanquet, he recently was the general commissioner for the United Dead Artist exhibition; my brother was showcasing there. Blanquet started making fanzines when he was very young, and would sell them to stores. He is very productive; he must be about 40 now. I would also put Moolinex on my list, his graphic and raw work is very interesting, I especially enjoy the historical references, and the positive energy that comes out…
* What do you like about Outsider Art?
We mentioned earlier the vital necessity to draw; I think it’s the same. Outsider art is not about people who want to show off their work, it’s first and foremost the need to express oneself. That’s what I’m interested in, the compulsory side of the art, what the people have to say, the excess. I like being excessive as well…
* Is there excess in your work?I’m not sure… Excess or disproportion, that’s close to the essence of super powers. I don’t know if I can explain it, it’s an indescribable need to illustrate an atmosphere or a super energy that links various energies!
* When you’re cutting, does it put you in a type of trance? You also said you’d like to try sculpting with a chainsaw…Actually, I believe that the true identity of someone only comes out in their drawings. I’m 100% present in my drawings, even if exterior elements influence what I do. Drawing is such a focused activity, a type of self-hypnosis. That’s when I’m able to free my mind of any thought. Cutting is like drawing, it’s drawing on wood, making sure at the same time the two elements come apart.
I’ve maybe gone into a real trance state a couple of times, but not often. My state of mind definitely goes through a change when I’m working, but what I know for sure is that when I come to that point, the only thing I think about is that.
*And surfing in all of this?!Hmmm… It’s quite the same for surfing, I’ve been surfing for years but I’m still a beginner… Just watching the crashing waves does me a world of good, it’s hypnotizing. Being in the waves, letting them carry you without a board, to feel nature’s force, that’s one of the most amazing sensation I know.
I feel like I’m in harmony with myself, just like when I’m drawing, sometimes you mess up what you’re trying to draw, and sometimes you miss your wave… (smiles). There is freedom in drawing like there is in surfing and both have a spectacular aspect to them.
When you watch Laird Hamilton catching gigantic waves, you can feel the adrenaline rising just watching the video. I have as much adrenaline when I’m perched on a 3-foot high wave. These are the times when you do not think about anything, when you live your life to the fullest.
* It’s like this picture, you like the concept of man taming nature…
[Editor’s note : There is a picture of Abbot Fouré’s hill in Ludovic’s living room, see above.]
No, for me, Nature is untamable and that’s why we can find refuge there. We can play with it, but we can never overcome it. Nature is the original source of inspiration. What I admire about Abbot Fouré is the need he had. He couldn’t speak nor hear, he couldn’t move his lips, and that’s probably why he felt the need to carve.
He mixed mythologies and made a throne for himself. He was king of the cliff. Being able to feel like the king of the world at the top of a cliff and to realize all that you’ve accomplished, that’s amazing… (Smiles.)
There are loads of guys that went through similar experiences who managed to make amazing things. Postman Cheval (translator’s note: Ferdinand Cheval was a postman who built a stone palace) to name one, and other less famous ones who have done crazy and generous pieces. They are “never-say-die-ists”.
I remember a guy who had the crazy idea of digging a whole all the way through a mountain. You find people like that all over the world, but they’re not always famous. A film was made about this one guy in France who dug a cave. It was amazing, fascinating. Despite a certain voyeurism, I would say this guy is a total never-say-die-ist; he wanted something and he went all in for it. He is like a man made of stone, he resembles his work. What an extraordinary story.
* How does all this fit in your professional life?
I have a paying job, I teach visual arts in a non-profit structure. My brain is divided into a million parts that keep changing. Sometimes I think teaching is boring, sometimes I think it’s rather enjoyable, and as soon as I think that, it bores me again. In other words, it’s tough to try to teach when I’m not a teacher. And what should I be teaching? It’s a lot to think about, making decisions for others, helping them figure out what they like, trying to direct them towards something.
At the center, we organize exhibitions to which people from all over France, and sometimes Europe, come. It’s a very dynamic environment, the people there want to be there, it’s not at only a livelihood.
I appreciate the concept of master and apprentice, of being able to communicate knowledge in a certain way, following a specific protocol. Craft and engraving, both are highly technical trades in themselves, but I’m not sure I possess the necessary skills to communicate them. It makes me question myself a lot. But the job allows me to meet people outside my friends’ circle. If I stayed in my workshop, I’d be alone most of the time.
Drawing is a choice, just like it’s not a choice, you choose to isolate yourself. That works for some people. When I work on personal projects, I do so in a collective workshop, we all come in at different times, so it’s not crowded. And it gives me the sense of being normal, with all the positive and negative implications of the term. Just like all the people I see in the metro carrying a briefcase, even if I hate what they represent…
* Why do you use the term hate?
Because there are so many things I can’t stand. The list is too long to go through and I’m not sure I could even explain it. Hate is a strong word, I don’t really mean it (laughs). What I dislike is the idea of making money for the sake of making money, there is no ideology behind the numbers, and it kills me! (laughs again) I couldn’t live like that; maybe those people manage to, better than me, that’s for sure!
Creative zeal appeals to me, it doesn’t come out of nowhere. And when you’re transforming things, in group or individually, it becomes really interesting…
* In your case, the creativity does seem to come out of nowhere…
Indeed, but I also know people whose parents are artists. Sometimes it doesn’t affect them, other times it limits them. My parents have been supportive and open from the beginning; I know I wouldn’t be able to continue without that. I need to feel like I’m being supported, it takes so much out of you that if you are not supported, you can’t last.
* Do you sometimes doubt yourself? You’ve mentioned the fact that drawing comes and goes…
Yes, I doubt all the time, from morning till night. At times, I even stopped drawing completely. It’s really bizarre; on a few occasions, I was drawing and realized suddenly that I didn’t enjoy it! (laughs). Watching myself getting bored while drawing is horrible!
* How did you hear about the Posca competition? You told me you made several customization attempts…
I was in Bayonne, vacationing at a friend’s house. We used to go for walks along the beach, I even surfed some, it was quite beautiful compared to the waves in Vendée that I’m used to ride. I saw the tents set up by Posca and Rip Curl, and saw an ad in a surfing magazine, so I decided to check it out online. I immediately knew the competition was for me. I’d always dreamed of customizing things. I’ve attempted screen-printing on scarves a few times, and I’d like to create color patterns for clothes, utensils, boards, etc.
When I started working on things, I realized that you can’t put any image you’d like everywhere you’d like. Sometimes, a specific drawing will fit a board but will not fit a t-shirt. A surfing board is a very specific shape, you can try to draw on it what you would draw on a horizontal page, or let the board be the window through which you see what is outside. Or it can be a zoom on a detail of the drawing you have in mind… Good luck transcribing those ideas!
I customized a dozen of surfboards during that vacation, every day, until my colors and my markers were all gone. Then I had my friends and family vote for their favorite. I also talked with a surfing board shaper and a stand-up paddler, Pierry Douche. That one, a friend of mine drew with her feet! [editor’s note: he points to the drawing of another board].
It took me a while to decide what it was going to be and since I’ve been drawing lots of thistles and leaves lately, I decided to use that as a basis. The scanning process was also a big headache for me, especially when I saw that the boards appeared in large format on the Internet. You could see that my marker pen had worn off! I went a little mental when it came to the finishing.
* Finally, could you tell us more about your Yeti phase?
It lasted at least 5 years. Again, we come back to the relationship between Man and Nature. Is he part of Nature? The Yeti, although strong and personified, is not a man. He’s covered with hair, he’s part of Nature, but no human being can see him, they can only see traces of him. He’s one of the forces of Nature, a little bit like a God. The God of the Forest, the God of the Mountain….
In Epinal’s picture, he has a bull’s neck, a pointy forehead, is several feet tall, he’s extraordinary. The Yeti exists in every culture; sometimes he’s 4 feet tall and hairless, sometimes he’s a giant with long nails who stinks. What I love about mythology is the mystery associated with the witnessing of strange occurrences, like aliens, for instance. I believe every testimony I hear because I love believing!