I used to think Sci-Fi was just about showing space ships, aliens, monsters…

Ugo Bienvenu

ART  .  January 5th, 2020

Hi Ugo, who are you?

I am a French drawer, director, publisher and producer.

What are your parents doing? Where did you grow-up? 

My mother was a graphic designer working for magazines in the 80’s and 90’s. She was working at Playboy when I was born (that explains a lot of things.) My father was a diplomat, doctor in philosophy (that also explains a lot of things). 

Because he was a diplomat I grew up in Guatemala, in Tchad, in Paris and in Mexico (that again explains a lot of things.)

When did you see 2001 Space Odyssey for the first time? How did you feel?  

I first began watching 2001 when I was 13 but I fell asleep after 20 min. I tried to watch it again several times but I never managed to finish it until I was 23. It was a blast, something closed to a religious feeling, as if I had gained access to something bigger than myself. The same thing happened to me when finishing Stalker by Tarkovsky.

How did you get into Sci-Fi ?

I hated SF, because of a « préjugé » (a prejudice) as we say in French. I used to think SF was just about showing space ships, aliens, monsters etc… But around 2014 I had to do a music video « FOG » for Jabberwocky, and I thought: ” Ok if I want to tell my story I can’t do it in the past or in the present, it wouldn’t allow my idea to reach its point“. I needed metaphors, I needed figures, if I put them in present or past it would have been a surrealist or a symbolist movie. I have to say I don’t really like symbolism and surrealism, it’s super easy to make and repetitive, and I already had done one named « Voyage chromatique » (“Chromatic Journey”) for Renart.

So I invented a future; from scratch because I knew nothing about SF. My publisher Jean-Luc Fromental called me after he saw it and said « It’s crazy it feels like K.Dick! » I answered I didn’t know that guy, J-L gave me Ubik AND I discovered that SF was doing exactly what I was trying to do since I began telling stories: talking about humans’ ancestral fears.

What can we find in your head? 

Nothing or everything depending of the time of the day. Horrible, beautiful, useless, or sometimes unique thoughts, like everyone else in the world.

When did you know you wanted to be an illustrator? A director?

An illustrator around 14, a director also after I watched « Princess Mononoke ». My teachers were always telling me that it was impossible to do both, I’m trying to prove them wrong. I like being free in my work and having several practices helps me reaching this goal.

What is your creative process?

My process is complex, as every process I think, I couldn’t describe it well. The only thing I can say is that you can’t use anyone else’s process, you can’t copy it because we are not robots. Process is YOUR tool, it’s your own way to catch the world, make it yours and deliver it back to the world. If you don’t have your own process/your own tools, it’s like having no voice, or zero vocabulary. You can’t talk to others, you can’t show them your world, neither deliver your exact feelings or thoughts.

I never proceed exactly the same way because every (big) project is different, but the personal tools I developed work for every project. What I am mainly asked to do now (in advertising, in my books, in illustration) is to deliver MY vision, MY personality. I enjoy every part of my work, they are all different in terms of timings and production imperatives but I find them all terribly logically related. Every step is determinant. 

Do you have an obsession for some specific art supplies?

I alway sketch and take notes in my Moleskine notebook with the same pen since 10 years. I use the same brush since ten years too, a Raphaël size 4 on Vinci paper.

What did you want to do before, when you were just a little Ugo? 

Truly I had no idea. My mother told me I could be a drawer (because I was ALWAYS drawing), she made me think it was possible. I’ll always remember what she told me one day: « Every object you see as been drawn » But she also told me, « if you go there you’ll have to work A LOT because it’s not an easy profession, and if you want to earn a decent living you’ll have to work work work ». She was damn right. But that is also what I like, in this job: HARD work ALWAYS pays. 

Tell us a bit more about Mikki, the robot. How did you create this character? Would you like to have him as a best friend?

Mikki appeared to me in a cemetery in my summer holidays. I thought when will Humanity really disappear? The answer was « when the child of Humanity will be dead too. » The child of Humanity, which we are creating now, is the robot. So I wrote this music video for Antoine Kogut « Sphere of Existence » about a dying robot (because it has no more battery) who buries himself in the family cemetery. I wouldn’t like to have a friend like him because it is cold. He has no feelings, he doesn’t see the world as a potential, as it can be, he sees it as it is. To him the world is just data, facts. But he is objective, like a god: facts are facts. He is kind of my Doctor Manhattan: seeing the world as it exactly is without judgement. Doctor Manhattan is not someone you want to spend Christmas with.

How did start you collaboration with Hermès?

They first called me to do strips on their Instagram. They really liked it and, because I also do animation, they asked me to do super short movies also for their Instagram. It worked super well, everybody was pleased so they asked me to continue and I was offered by the creative department to do my first « Carré » (Hermès’ classical silk scarf). I will be done with the third one in a year and a half.

I am super proud to work for such a beautiful house, they respect drawing, they know the practice perfectly, profoundly, it’s amazing working with them, it is peaceful and super creative, you can come up with exactly what you want. It’s even more than that: they ask you to have this craziness, then we work on it! Also they make you feel like you’re part of a family, and this is super pleasant, you’re not someone hired for a mission, you’re not disposable.

What’s your favorite project? 

Fog, Sphere of existence, Paiement accepté, L’entretien, Premium+ and Préférence système. I like them all the same way.

What do you want to generate for the viewer?

To me the best compliment is someone telling me « It gave me the will to draw, write or animate ». I like the idea of telling stories that include reflexions, questions that will stick into the reader’s head.

What’s your favorite occupation?

Smoking but I quitted so my life is a bit sad right now. 

What would be your dream project?

I don’t know… A project with enough budget so I could do exactly as I want, having enough time to do something big, precise and dynamic, something generous and risky.

What’s next for you?

I am writing my next comic at Denoël called « Appel en absence » (“Missed Call”).
Drawing my comic book for «Les Requins Marteaux » called « B.O, comme un Dieu. », and trying to write an animated feature movie.
On the side I’m preparing my next scarf Carré Hermès, I produce short movies, music videos and advertisements in my studio Remembers and produce the new books (3 coming next year) of my publishing house Réalistes.

What are you going to do tomorrow? 

Work, draw, telephone, check emails, some accounting, read, write, try not to smoke.

What are you going to do on December 2055? 

Hopefully live a peaceful life, be happy, serene, draw and write!

Hope so, merci Ugo!

Ugo Bienvenu is a French drawer, director, publisher and producer based in Paris. Find Ugo’s work on Instagram, Vimeo and Tumblr!

/ pictures by Axelle