SEARCH THE UPPER DECK BLOG
For over 25 years The Upper Deck Company has been at the forefront of quality and innovation. We are proud to maintain an award-winning portfolio of gaming and entertainment products that contain some of the industry’s best original works of art. We are excited to share exclusive interviews with some of our top artists bringing a look at the amazing people behind these amazing works. This is the Upper Deck Artist Spotlight Series.
Upper Deck: Fred, would you like to introduce yourself?
Fred: My name is Fred, and I’m living in the North of France where I was born 46 years ago. I studied art in architecture and then fashion design in Paris because I loved working more with the living than the inanimate; the plans bored me deeply. I worked for a few years in this environment as an illustrator and designer (for Lacoste or Guy Laroche, among others) before becoming a freelance illustrator for style offices. A few years ago, I started painting oil paintings on canvas; first realistic portraits, then on the advice of friends on a site dedicated to Superheroes, I adapted this style to the world of comics. There followed two exhibitions in a Parisian gallery. I work as a duo with Ian (Ian from fred.ian, my artist name) who checks my artworks, corrects my anatomy errors, and doubles as light and hands on all our paintings.
UD: What does “being creative” mean to you? How did you create your own style?
F: I love giving a face, a body to our favorite superheroes. I do some researches about them; I look at everything that has been done in the past, I try not to betray their essence, their origin while giving them some humanity. It’s pretty hard to describe my style myself, but if it had to be summed up in a few words, it would bring some reality to fantasy.
UD: Can you describe the time when you first realized that creating was something you absolutely had to do?
F: It was not a real choice, but an obviousness. As a child, I drew all the time. There was not so much marketing around the universe of superheroes, at least in France, and few or no figurines with which I would have liked to play. So I made them myself by cutting out paper silhouettes inspired by John Byrne or Paul Smith. A few years later, when I had to choose a career path, my parents helped and supported me, and I was able to study art in good schools, with a solid education, for 6 years. Obviously, living with my passion has been difficult, and still is, but despite all the difficulties, the discouragement sometimes, I do not see myself doing anything else in my life. That’s what I am, for the better, and for the rest.
UD: What kind of creative patterns, routines, or rituals do you have?
F: Even if I think I know the character that I’m going to paint, I’m starting from scratch; I am doing a lot of documentation before I start painting. I try to forget the various interpretations to find the basics, the source. Who. Why. How. From time to time I have been asked to observe myself while I paint, or ask to draw in convention, but I can only work alone. I do not like to be observed while I paint: it blocks me, I can not really concentrate. Otherwise, I like to design my paintings, and their composition using Photoshop; it allows me to have a fairly accurate idea of the final result even before the first brushstroke.
UD: Who are some of the artists that have inspired you?
F: I love the portraits of John Singer Sargent, his pictorial touches that give character to his models, even children, and that removes all affectation to his portraits. Otherwise, Mucha, Klimt, Boldini, Schiele, Boucher, Fragonard, Tiepolo, etc. For comic artists, I’ve always been a total fan of John Byrne’s style, Paul Smith is my number one, and Arthur Adams’ enchanting work on X-Men and New Mutants has always captivated me. Bill Sienkiewicz is out of categories: so much talent, creativity; his drawings will always prevent me from being proud of mine. What a slap each time. There are too many for me to quote them all, I will fill pages and pages, but Kirby obviously, Alex Ross, Dave Cockrum, Adam Hughes, Simone Bianchi, F.Cho, Mignola, Romita Sr, Paul Renaud, Stéphane Perger and Stephanie Hans for the French. I forget so much of my heroes!
UD: Who is your favorite Marvel comic book hero or character?
F: Easy question! I have always loved X-Men! Dense and complex stories; beings apart, banished, and who have always echoed my own story. I found myself a lot in Cyclops, lonely, taciturn, mute, very “inside” character. But my favorite character, yesterday and today, remains Storm, a magnificent character as well on the form as on the bottom. My hair whitened when I was still very young; I suspect they wanted to imitate the hair of Ororo Munroe.
UD: What type of work do you most enjoy doing?
F: I like everything that is a new challenge. I refuse almost nothing of what is proposed to me, or if it is the case, it is because I do not find it there, or that I lack time. I try to get out of my comfort zone, not to limit myself to my paintings, to push my limits, even if I could spend the rest of my life painting, alone in my workspace.
UD: What’s your favorite piece of personal work you’ve ever created?
F: With time, I always take a more and more critical look at my work; I see what I missed more than my successes. But I like my Spidey Symbiote portrait. The model was an American student in Paris, who had agreed to pose to be our Peter Parker. I work very slowly usually, but this artwork was obvious, I made it in three or four days only. I’ve sold it since, but it’s a painting I would have liked to keep.
UD: What is your dream project?
F: It would be to see one of my paintings become a cover of a comic book. My biggest kid dream is an X-Men cover, a homecoming.
UD: Who would be your dream collaboration with?
F: Collaborate, I do not know; but I’d like to watch Adam Hughes, Alex Ross, or Bill Sienkiewicz working. I would certainly learn a lot …
UD: What was your favorite part about working on this product?
F: I am still looking forward to receiving the cards. Obviously, even before receiving them, I prepared the job by doing my researches, but the moment of the discovery of the blank cards is always exciting. What I like the least, however, is to ship them back, I’m always afraid they will get lost! It’s my biggest anxiety!
UD: What were some of the challenges that you faced?
F: Paint on small formats! I had to totally rethink my way of working because I usually do my painting on large canvas. I really like working on the expression of faces, and trying to give the same quality as on large formats has been and remains very difficult. I can not do it all the time, but I take my marks.
UD: Anything else you would like to add?
F: Just thanks to Zak and Upper Deck for contacting me and allowing me to work on a Marvel license. Being able to put my name on a Marvel stamped card is a kid’s dream come true, and can be a step towards my ultimate dream, who knows?
If you’re interested in looking at more of Fred’s art, you can find him on various social media and art platforms below;
You can find more of fred.ian’s art in our upcoming 2017 Marvel Annual trading card set!