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POW Chats: A Conversation with Cartoonist and Illustrator Renee French

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Renee French is revered for her uncanny ability to work with detailed and meticulous cross-hatching illustration methods to create tiny characters and beloved cartoons with anthropomorphic tendencies. Well-known as a respected illustrator and cartoonist, Renee is as well a treasured author, constructing children's books under the pen name Rainy Dohaney for little art enthusiasts in the making. Scroll below for a conversation with Renee about her inspirations, dream oddities and more.  

1. Hi Renee. Tell me about your first print release with POW titled "Stu." Who is this little guy, how did he come about and what's his backstory?

Hi Kim! The whole POW process was a great experience. Stu was part of a collection of animal portraits that started with my muse, Ivey Breiman -- an incredibly cute, tiny, round, chihuahua with her tongue sticking out -- and morphed into other animals who had similar emotional pull for me. I fall in love with each character as I'm working on them. I really wish they'd just start walking around in the real world, but I guess that would be terrifying.

2. What ideas or themes do you find are consistently revisited in your work, if any?

Cute animals with tiny hands and emotional eyes. Swarms of insects, and sometimes those things together. 1970s hair, unrealistic facial deformity, water, islands, and cliffs. And flies.

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3. When beginning on an illustration, how do you prepare for the story you're looking to evoke?

It depends on what kind of image it is, but almost always, it's got to do with my mood when I sit down. If it's a character, it doesn't matter how much I try to control the emotion, it ends up looking the way I feel at the time, and it can change midstream since the drawings rarely take less than a day to finish.
4. Can you describe your current studio/work space for readers?

Mostly I end up working in rooms other than my workspace; wherever there's a comfy chair or couch, or in hotel rooms on the bed. I draw on a board on my lap, on top of throw pillows, or a rolled up jacket, or whatever, and I wear magnifying glasses and listen to podcasts while I draw, so it can be almost anywhere. My workspace is a little room with a stand up desk, and a computer and a tiny tv.
5. What artists do you find yourself inspired by in this era of your life?

I love the whole LA art scene lately, but the artists I look at the most lately are Scott Teplin (@steplin ), Benjamin Constantine (@plumpe_ostere ), Allison Sommers ( @allisonsommers ), Mike Lee ( @immikelee ), Matt Gordon ( @mattgordon_paintings ) William Kentridge, Anke Feuchtenberger, and Paul Barnes, and the ones I forgot.

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6. Do you dream? If so, do you remember any of your recent ones? Do you have any reoccurring dreams by chance?

Yes, for sure. I have a lot of cliffs in my dreams. Pushing Mark Ruffalo off a cliff (I love Mark Ruffalo so that was a nightmare, man!), flying up to the edge of a cliff and seeing it covered in snails so I couldn't grab on... and last night I dreamed that I was living in a carnival tent that was half hanging over the edge of a cliff, and training tiny monkeys to drink from tea cups, and apparantly it was a crucial job, like serious Interpol business with tea drinking monkeys.

7. What themes/lessons of life do you feel you're encountering right now? 

Life is short. Do what you love. The classics.
8. What work/ creative projects do you have coming up that you're looking forward to?

Scott Teplin -- an amazing New York artist and friend -- and I are working on a 2 person show where we're drawing and painting our school teachers from memory. Some are hazy, pretty, giant hair studies (the hair is giant not the drawings) and some are grotesque and some are sad. I think the exhibition will be at La Luz De Jesus.

I'm also working on a portrait for the Archibald Prize in Australia, and some portraits for the next issue of Tiny Pencil Magazine, and a secret picture book project that involves tiny animal hands.

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