Petite-Madame Talks Art, Expression and Fandoms

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A few months ago, I came across the artwork of Petite-Madame, in the form of a Bucky Barnes Instagram account.

“This is awesome!” thought I, “but who is this mysterious and talented person?”

Petite-Madame, self-taught artist from Paris, professional illustrator, and self-proclaimed fan, is changing the way fandom looks and art and pushing the boundaries of artistic expression.

 The artist’s unique perspective on fandom compelled me connect with her in hopes of getting some insight into why and how she does what she does. The following discussion on art and social media is insightful and telling, while her commitment to creating fanart, a medium meant to help audiences understand and explore the characters we love, is commendable. If you haven’t checked out her MOL journal or Bucky art, please do. The links can be found below.

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The Collectiva Diva: Your use of art and social media, particularly the Bucky Barnes Instagram account, intrigues me. What is it about Bucky that fits this particular content (Instagram) so well? 

Petite-Madame: I find it rather funny that a super secret spy who’s described in the The Winter Soldier movie as “a ghost” could have as a main mode of expression an Instagram account where he shares his everyday life with his boyfriend Steve, his work problems, or what he ate for dinner. Superheroes are supposed to have secret identities (even if in the Marvel movies everybody knows that Tony Stark is Iron Man and Captain America has his own exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum) so, exposing Bucky’s life on a public medium such as Instagram is delightfully absurd, precisely because of this contradiction.

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Also, it is very interesting to explore art wise because I have a lot of fun as an artist, trying to emulate an Instagram account and creating fake pictures of food and people in their natural environment; cooking or doing their laundry. I can play with the depth of field, the frame, the intensity of the blurs, the subjectivity of the point of view and of course, my weapon of choice, colors!

The 3rd reason is far more pragmatic: posting a drawing with a short caption on Instagram and Tumblr requires FAR less work than a 1500 word fic and the complex drawings of Journal of a Man of Letters (JOAMOL). Launching the Bucky equivalent of JOAMOL would be impossible for me or I would have to win the lottery and leave my job for good!

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TCD: I really love your Journal of a Man of Letters (Sam Winchester’s Journal) project. How did you decide on the unique blend of art and fiction and how long do you think you will continue working on it?

PM: To be really honest, at the beginning, the project wasn’t meant to be this big. I was planning to draw a couple of artworks here and there, sometimes posted with a short ficlet (250 words, no more) and…that’s it! It was the “cool little project on the side”. JOAMOL wasn’t even supposed to follow the show mythology so closely but as time went by, I started to post one entry a week and to devote more and more hours to it, encouraged by the amazing reception and people’s feedback on Tumblr (we are close to 25k followers now and I receive messages after every new entry!)

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I guess that this project is a bit like Audrey II in The Little Shop of Horrors: it was small and cute at the start but it became very big in less than a year. Not that I am complaining about it, of course! I’m just very surprised that after about 80 entries, the project is still on and that my betas, three friends from the Supernatural fandom (Maichan, Quickreaver and Becc-j) are still so enthusiastic about it.

With JOAMOL, I was interested in creating something from Sam Winchester’s point of view and focusing on topics such as childhood, family, and nostalgia. In addition, if you know a bit about the show mythology, Sam is the Man of Letters, the kind of book worm I could totally picture writing a journal and carry on the legacy of his grand-father by telling about his memories, his life as a hunter but also things he’ll never be able to share with his brother or his friends (the ones that aren’t dead of course *cough* ). Also, I love, in my short fics, bringing into the light what isn’t seen on screen and recreating from the character’s POV “missing scenes” or canon points that were only briefly evoked on the show, due to a lack of time or interest from the show runners.

I hope to carry on working on JOAMOL until the end of the show, even if it’s a bit difficult sometimes to be on time and to post a fic and multiple artwork every Monday.

TCD: According to your Tumblr, you work in Photoshop CS6, Photoshop CS6 + Painter 12, Manga Studio, Ballpoint pen, graphite on paper, Watercolor, Prismacolor pencils & Copics. What is the first medium you fell in love with and why? What is your favorite tool now?

PM: I started to draw at a time when there was no Photoshop (circa 1984, I was seven), so the first media I fell in love with were pencils (traditional and mechanical) and ballpoint pens. People tend to underestimate what can be done with a simple BIC pen but believe me, the possibilities are endless. Later in my life, I explored watercolor, gouache, acrylic, oil painting and markers but in the end, I always come back to the good old pencils and ballpoint pens. I can bring them everywhere, they are not expensive, and I can draw/sketch everything I want!

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Now, even if I still love pencils and ballpoint pens and have so sketchbooks at home, I could open a shop, I tend to (lazily) prefer Photoshop because it’s very convenient for sketching, I can easily add or delete layers and create great effects in a minimum of time. It’s really a user-friendly, flexible tool that I use every day for my job and for fandom stuff.

TCD: Do you have a favorite character to draw or a favorite piece you’ve done? 

PM: Even if he’s more difficult to draw than his brother Sam, I really enjoy drawing Dean Winchester from Supernatural. The bridge of his nose is tricky, his eyes are a nightmare but there is something in the structure of his face that I find extremely fascinating and beautiful. In addition, I love the character himself because he’s a bit the embodiment of the “old school hero”, with his worn-out leather jacket and 60’s muscle car.

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As far as my favorite pieces are concerned, I love this one, this one and this one. The last one required so many hours of work that I stopped counting after forty but it was very interesting to draw such a complex scene with, in the middle of the ragging battle, two superheroes taking a selfie for their Instagram.

TCD: What inspires you? Or, specifically, what inspired you to start either one of the big projects talked about above?

PM: A bit of everything to be honest. Book, comics and mangas I read in my youth, music videos from the 1990’s too.

As far as The Life of Bucky Barnes and JOAMOL are concerned, I have a need to tell stories through art. I want people to understand in one glimpse and without reading the caption, the mood of the picture and the story behind it. I try to draw subtle details to give hints to the viewer on the image so that they can connect with it immediately, even if they know nothing about The Avengers or Supernatural. I leave hints so that a viewers eyes collect them and the imagination does the rest. For instance, through Bucky’s Instagram, viewers understand right away that Buck is a grumpy guy, a bit (a lot…) cynical about life, that his recovery isn’t going that smoothly and it isn’t always easy. He also sometimes enjoys peaceful walks in the park with his boyfriend, like the average Joe. I do write short fics as companions to some of my artworks because the goal is to tell stories. Sometimes, people contact me via Tumblr to share their head canons or their own interpretation of my art. It’s extremely impressive how far they can go, but I love receiving this kind of message.

TCD: Is there a piece/scene you want to create but haven’t yet?

PM: There’s this double A3 piece in one of my sketchbooks that has been rotting there for about a year and a half now. It’s Sam and Dean in the bunker surrounded by their weapons. I hope to finish it before my 90th birthday.

I also want to draw a full color food journal (I had one that was mostly in B&W) and a children book about a giant spider.

TCD: Any words of wisdom for aspiring artists?

PM: Very simple ones: practice (all the time, whenever you can), don’t compare yourself to other artists particularly people who have years of training (it’s counterproductive) and don’t give up. If you are interested, I wrote a kind of FAQ for inspiring artists HERE (for their very very beginning on the Internet) and HERE (more general advice).

Thank you for reading!

No, thank you, Madame!

ALL artwork above is property of Petite-Madame.

Find her work here:

Petite-madame (Tumblr)

Bucky’s Instagram (Tumblr)

Bucky’s Instagram (Instagram)

Journal of a Man of Letters (Tumblr)

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