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Review and Interview: Emmanuelle Walker (‘Dogs In Cars’)

// Featured, Interviews, Reviews (Book)

Brand new from jolly publishing house Flying Eye Books is a collection of bold, tail-wagging delights by Emmanuelle Walker. Dogs in Cars, created with writer and Skwigly favourite Felix Massie showcases the duo’s love for our four legged friends as well as sleek automobile design. Emmanuelle is an illustrator, animator and director who has worked with The Walt Disney Company, The Hollywood Reporter, Orange, Xbox and many more. Currently working as an animator/director at Nexus in London, her digital style and sleek line work has been developed over her years working in industry as well as studying at some of the world’s leading arts schools including Gobelins L’École de l’image in Paris.
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The book itself is a countdown of cars and dog breeds that takes the reader on a journey across the mighty highway from One Afghan hound to a surprising ending that you might not expect. The combination of the deluge of dog breeds, unusual mishaps (a trademark of Massie’s humour) and sharp design makes this book not only a brilliant children’s read but a dazzling book of design and character for any fan of visual arts.

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It’s Emmanuelle’s use of graphics and design as well her characteristic eye for detail and colour that makes this book pop. Her knowledge and sense of layout is a tribute to her talent as an artist, and Skwigly were glad to have the opportunity to learn more from Emmanuelle herself.

What inspired you to create a book full of dogs in vehicles?

Dogs in cars always make me smile, and about 6 years ago I did a series of dogs in cars illustration. When Alex from Nobrow saw it, he told me that it could be a great book idea. I just had to think of something that could link all the illustrations together. That’s why we decided to make it a counting book, because the more dogs in a car, the best!

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What was it like to work with co-writer Felix Massie and how did you split the work between the two of you?

I don’t personally write, at least I haven’t yet! Well… I could have tried but the result wouldn’t have been as funny as what Felix came up with! He’s a fellow director at Nexus, and he often sketches people from the studio and writes a little story about them. They are always hilarious and fresh, so I thought he would be the best person to collaborate with. I simply gave him a spreadsheet of a list of dog breeds from A to Z alongside an A to Z car brand list and I told him to mix and match the breeds and brands he preferred for each letter (A-1, B-2, C-3) and make a little rhyming poem from 1 to 100 and A to Z.

Your work is so clean and graphic but is still full of character and heart. Can you pinpoint a lesson or an event that led you to your current style?

I don’t think there’s a special event that led to my style. I have just always liked to work on clean graphic things, but I really admire the people who work in a more rough style like Quentin Blake, or Ronald Searle. I think that the fact that I work in animation helps me give life and personality to characters even if the lines are very ‘strict’.

Your work looks like such fun to create; do you have any influences you can think of that massively inform it?

I’ve been in this world since 2001 when I started studying animation at the CVM in Montreal, so yes, I have had a lot of different influences since then. I’ve always been to museums/galleries for inspiration, movies are a big part too, I also have a huge fashion folder and quite a few L’officiel magazines. And of course I follow the work of fellow illustrators/animators, my favourite at the moment are Pascal Blanchet, Yamana Fumio, Jasmin Lai, Véronique Joffre, Evah Fan, just to name a few.
But the best way by far for me to generate ideas is to go away on long walks, retire somewhere in nature for a few hours or days, even if I don’t do it that often, I think that taking the time to think away from computers and wifi is the best for creativity.

Now for divisive question- which is your favourite dog? And what is your favourite panel from the book?

My favourite dog in the world is probably the Whippet because of all the crazy positions they can take thanks to their long limbs. If I had a garden big enough I would have one. The dog I had the most fun drawing was probably the Old English sheepdogs, because I love drawing hairy things, could you count all the hair on that spread? I like all the book spreads, but the special one is probably number 10, where I drew my dad in his blue Jeep and myself as a child with our 10 Jack Russells (even if we never had a single Jack Russell before).screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-16-33-03

This is your second children’s book, following on from Beautiful Birds, which was a big success. What did you learn from that book and how did it influence this one?

I think the two books are pretty much diametrically opposed, I guess I wanted to try something a bit different with this one. The Beautiful Bird book is super colorful, ‘beautiful’ and more serious. All the work went into creating nice spread compositions, with a bright colour palette and a decent number of birds. In the Dogs in Cars one, all the work went into drawing the 477 dogs in the book. The composition had to stay simple, on a white background with only the important elements illustrated. I think that this one is also funnier, and more ‘interactive’ than the bird book. There’s also a list of other things to count throughout the book on the back end page that will hopefully keep the children (and adults) busy.

Have you received any interesting responses to your work from adults or children?

Yes I have! All the time! Parents send me pictures of their little ones reading my book and this is probably the most satisfying part of my job. Having the confirmation by the kids themselves that they like my book, because we all know that truth comes out of children’s mouths. The funniest thing I received was a video of a little girl naming all the bird breeds on the cover. I also signed an enormous amount of books for adult friends of friends.screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-16-33-36

You’re also an animator and director – how did you find time to create this book around your work at Nexus?

Well Nexus acts like an agent, so I only really work for them when they find me a project. And when I first started working on the book I didn’t have any project with them and decided to take a few months to make the book. Until unexpectedly after a week or two working on it, my French animation rep, Wizz, contacted me about a project for Lancôme – the type of project that you can’t refuse. I pitched, and I won. I needed to create – with my team it goes without saying – not one, but 24 fifteen second films…and the delivery was the same as the book. I had to ask Flying Eye to push back the book delivery because it was simply not humanely possible to draw all these dogs on top of directing the 24 films.

Can you tell us a little about the work you do at Nexus?

The last projects I worked on with Nexus were two films for Christie’s, the world renowned auction house. They are available on my Vimeo page. When I don’t direct films at Nexus, I sometimes work for them as a freelance 2D animator when they need help on a project. Or I work on personal things and freelance illustration/animation for other clients, etc.

Have you worked with Felix on anything whilst at nexus?

No we haven’t, but who knows what the future will bring ;^)

You moved to the UK after living in Paris for many years where you studied at the world renowned Gobelins school, being originally from Switzerland and growing up in Montreal, Canada. Is travel or location important to the work you create ?

I think that traveling is important, to see new things, meet new people, take time to recharge your batteries and brain with new ideas and you don’t need to go too far! I moved all my life for different reasons each time, it surely changed me and the way I see things but I could not say how. 

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-16-33-14Working as an illustrator, director and animator, have you ever felt torn between the three disciplines or have they all naturally informed each other?

At times I feel torn yes, I think that if I concentrated only one one of the disciplines, I would be much better at it. But at the same time, by experience I think that I need the three to feel balanced. Animation is great, and bringing characters to life is extremely satisfying, but it can be very tiring to draw the same drawing over and over, (and then retracing/cleaning up everything afterwards). Illustration is great, you can take all the time you want to create one single image but it doesn’t move! And finally directing means that you often get to work on bigger projects, with a team to help you, but it can be stressful and the clients are not all always easy to manage, luckily I work with great producers who take care of them most of the time.

You can buy Dogs in Cars as well as Emmanuelle’s earlier book Beautiful birds online at the Flying eye books shop as well most good high street book shops. 

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