Angrier with Time NOT Softer: Julie Doucet Interviewed

By Raighne Hogan on May 25, 2014

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Alt-comic readers are probably more familiar with Julie Doucet's Dirty Plotte and My New York Diary, work that was put out by Drawn & Quarterly in the early '90's. What many of her English language readers may not know is that she is just as prolific today, with much of her output being published exclusively in French via L'Oie de Cravan, a Montreal based publisher, or her new label, Le Pantalitaire. Yes, that's right, Julie Doucet started her own publishing house. In her words, Le pantalitaire is a monomaniac publishing house runned by Julie Doucet and that publishes Julie Doucet only!

Now, this interview is not by any means all encompasing. Some of it is retreads, discussing her comics, poetry books, connections, and where her new label fits in all this.

Let's start this with some talk on (what else!?) comics:

i quit comics 15 years ago. it's been such a long time i feel completely out of it. i don't really connect either with people, in the sense that i'm so out of touch i don't know what everybody's talking about. i don't know, i don't know, i don't know what to say........... ................................................................................

I feel like this reticence you describe to connect with or to be involved with comics is a great jumping off point. What is it about comics that makes you feel so disconnected or disinterested in the form?

i simply had more than enough of it when i quit. had enough of the all boy crowd (something i was confortable with for a long time) i simply lost interest in it. of course i kept reading my friends comics, but no more than that. when i say i feel i can't connect, i mean i don't know what's going on in comics these days, i'm totally out of touch, i don't know what the hell comics people are talking about, don't know the new names, the new titles, the new publishers etc...

Reading Julie Delporte's beautiful Journal recently, she mentions something about your new work still being comics in its own way. Do you think of your work in this way?

i am not sure i agree with what Julie Delporte says. i work pretty much with words only! what i do is more like Dada poetry, if you like...i swear comics people INSIST to death, i HAVE to be doing comics whatever i do!! i've heard that kind of affirmation one million times!!! i don't get it! why isn't it normal to to other things?? like in visual arts, you can do whatever you like and be coherent in your work. why why why why am i not allowed to do just that?

sorry...i've heard it so MANY times!

Haha! No, you are totally allowed to do other work outside of comics, of course! I think the problem with comics people is that it is a more popular form than poetry books (amazingly), and you made comics that were really personal -- work that really connected with people. And with you leaving comics to do poetry books and other art forms, I think for some, they miss that connection. I also think the definition on what is and what is not comics is certainly broadening.

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One thing I noticed with a lot of your new work is that you're pushing very strongly against drawing or comics -- like there is some distance in your work now in some capacity. I mean, it is sill a very intimate vehicle, you appear to be hand cutting out text or pictures for collage, but there is also a separation there in some capacity. There is very little figurative drawings, or hand lettering. It appears to be largely, mostly cut-outs. What I am trying to get to, is what has been the main compulsion for collage?

i keep forgetting that pretty much all i do collage texts now is all in french. that doesn't help...i should start writing in english, at least for one small book...so people can see read what i like to do now...

to answer your question : true, i will do everything i can to avoid using a pen! i find everything i do using one is terrible. i've always loved making collages, but had no time nor energy to make any in my comics years (i was living off comics, but not very richly, so i was working all the time). so when i quit comics at last i had some space for making them. i eventually had a drawing crisis, provoked by a burn out. i simply could not draw at all after that. i mean i can draw, but it's like being on an automatic pilot : it's no fun, there's no life to it. it sucks. i didn't choose to not draw, i wish i could and enjoy it, but no. not yet anyway. i love doing collages i love it i love it. so i don't really suffer from my drawing handicap. so many people are making amazing drawings... i kind of feel i did my part...may be.

It sounds like a living making comics was a lot of work and that maybe you were mostly just scraping by. How is life now, not making comics but still being creative, making books and zines and animations? How does life compare?

ah ah of course i'm am making even less money now that i don't draw comics! i manage, somehow...doing illustration jobs, selling original comics pages and sometimes getting an art grant (got one to make the animation films), selling my books...but i really can't complain : i spend all of my days working on my own projects, whatever they are...life is cheap in Montreal. it's probably the only place in the world i could afford to pay rent for a (shared) printing studio.

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In regards to your collage books vs your comics, how have sales and critical receptions on these two types of work stacked up? You've described that maybe you have more time and are feeling less stressed in how you pursue your creative outlets now -- maybe that's a lot of presuming on my part. What I mean is, if this holds true, how has this changed, going from comics to collaged poetry books affected your work and your general outlook on life -- if it has at all?

the reception of the collage/poetry books is pretty good. i haven't been that good with distribution and publicity but every now and then i get comments and always very good comments. no, changing the art form didn't change one bit the way i look at life. only, you get older, there is an evolution inside of you and outside of you... i get angrier with time, not softer!

Now, to get to the crux of it, what was the main drive for starting your own label?

i did start my own "label" because the book projects i'm working on are getting less and less lucrative, in the sense that you won't sell as many poetry books as a comic book. you work 6 months on a book that will have a 250 copies printrun you get 10% of the sales...that means you're paid at best $300. for 6 months work. it is just not worth it. also i had a few such small projects that publishers agreed to publish...someday...i got tired to wait. and since i can print and all, it really doesn't cost me much to produce the books

Did working with many of these other labels in the past in any way affect or inform your desire to self-publish?

i don't know...no.

Do you ever see yourself expanding to publishing other artists?

i'm not sure publishing other people would be a good idea...i thought about it, but, i don't think so. a book collaboration with another artist may be...i'm not quite there anyway.

How was the Picturebox published Elle Humour compiled? I mean, was it originally planned as 1 narrative book? Or was it more so a collection of your smaller self published books? Do you have any plans to do more works like this? And in english? ;)

Elle-Humour was actually a silkscreen printed book i made. it is an integral reproduction of it, not a compilation of different things. it was not really meant to be a narrative. just a big graphic party! i tried to sell the damn book but couldn't. there is no market for such things here, or, may be i just don't know it. i'd love to do another one like that, but it is an awful lot of work and time. i'm not sure i can afford it (time-wise). that's why i'm making small books, at least i'm sure they will be bought.

YES, i started to work on a book in english!! it will come out sometime, uh, i don't know when but this year for sure.

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How do you decide how a work will be printed / represented ? Like deciding whether to silkscreen or screen print or use risograph etc, what determines what format these works ultimately show up under?

the risograph thing is very new to me. it just seemed more interesting to NOT kill myself screen printing 400 books by hand. i'm not sure i like it...or may be the best way to get the best of that machine is to buy your own and explore it. i only screenprint otherwise.

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From the sounds of it, most of these works are printed by yourself at your own studio. How long have you been self publishing little art books in this way? I mean, I know you started quite some time ago w/ the Dirty Plotte fanzine, but was that the very beginning of self-publishing for you? What was your initial inspiration for this publishing route?

i am a member of a collective printing atelier, i don't have my own. i learned silkscreen printing in 2000. i started making small books a tiny bit later and never stopped. yes i suppose that my first self-publishing experiments were with dirty plotte. that was in 1987. the difference was that i had not other options...there was no comic publisher around. France was too far away. there was not that much going on in the states either (i mean if you wanted to be published) i had no clue anyway.

Do you have a day job or are you able to manage to make a living mostly off of you art? and or grants?

no, i don't have a day job. i still get royalties from my comic work. do illustration jobs. sell original comic pages...sell my own hand-made books...i live cheaply, and like i said don't have my own studio, don't have a car...i don't know how how do it but i always make it! i did get grants, but the last one was 4 years ago, for making animation films. i don't really have any big book project or anything like that i want to do so i don't apply.

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Much of Julie Doucet's work has a lot of bite to it, both then and now, having come from the fan-zine and underground comics era. If you'd to see and purchase some of it (which you really should!!), I'd recommend checking out her new website. There are links there to her new self publishing label, Le Pantalitaire as well.

On a seperate note, Doucet's Skizzenbuch and an exclusive new 8 page mini (the later of which will ship out this fall) are available via our subscription offerings. In addition, we have limited copies of some her work in our online shop.