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The Sketchbook of Quentin Vien
Photo ©Quentin Vien /
January 2012

Quentin Vien currently lives in London, England and works in the animation industry. He has been filling a blank book with sketches for a couple of years now and is in the early stages of transforming the sketches into an animated short.

How did you acquire the blank book with a Deadman's Reach bag cover?
My mum was in Sienna, Tuscany, a few years ago (probably around 2006) and discovered a workshop where a guy would sell handmade books. She can't remember the name but it was close to the Piazza Del Campo. (If any one knows the shop, I'll be interested to know.) The only hint I got regarding the book shop is a stamp on the first page, the Sator Square, which gives it a spooky twist. She got me a blank book bound with the Deadman's Reach coffee pack. She picked it because it reminded her of the Mexican Day of the Dead and she knew I'd love that. (We used to live in Mexico.)

The book has references to classic rock, cowboys, US culture (as well as a cigarette and booze refrain) - what do these things mean to you?
I didn't touch the book for a year or so, I was too afraid to ruin it with crappy drawings.

I moved to London, and started working as a CG [computer graphics] render artist. Back in 2007 that meant lot of waiting and I started doodling at my desk. At the same time it also meant earning money for the first time. So with some friends we decided to save some money to go on a road trip, Chicago to LA, via Highway 66.

To set the mood, I started making a playlist. It had to be 60 min, which meant a tough selection. I listened not only to the music but also to the lyrics.

A few days into the trip, I thought I should do a proper cover for the CD, and decided it was about time I used my awesome (yet empty) DEADMAN's reach book. The plan was to draw what was on my mind, no stress, the quality would come from the quantity...

I then started to like what I was drawing, so I paid more attention. I drew mostly in the tube [subway], picking the lyrics that would explain best how I felt at the time. I thought "Well, they said it better than I will ever do. Let's put some pictures on it."

That's it for cowboys, music and the States.

For cigarettes, well, I smoked a pack a day at the time - and for booze, I would just say England. Drinking is the best social lubricant. Also I moved to London to forget, and London helped me to do just that. They were in the drawing naturally, like a representation of my personality.

Explain the role of the color red.
Nice color isn't it. Funny enough red is what I wanted to run away from, but London is full of red: buses, mail, even underground... On a more artistic level, I think red, black and white go together very well.

Where do you want to go with your drawing - or is it a fun break from CG film work?
My drawings are my get-away place. No screen, no key board, no undo. Fast results. Drawing is what made me start CG it was just natural to come back to it.  We're a group of illustrators in London, there is a good scene here, so we all do as much as we can with no expectations. It makes it more fun and gives more freedom. I believe that when you draw what you like and don't care about who is watching (but have self criticism) it brings the best out of yourself.

Can of cheese

You enjoy creating tangible items - can you explain the satisfaction that you get from making something that you can touch vs. something that lives solely inside of a computer?
I feel like making objects satisfies a part of me that my CG work doesn't. What I do in CG is mainly looking and reproducing - a tree, a table etc. The closer I observe, the better the CG will be. I love looking, and learning (if I'm working on a coat, for instance, I like to know the process of making it so the seams are right). The step I miss from CG is actually using what I learned. When I make a guitar, I not only look at how it has to look, but I also need to make it so it works. If I cut slightly wrong, then I have to change the design! I made cigar box guitars with a friend. He is the most meticulous person I've worked with, and his guitar is amazing, it looked like he bought it. When we finished he told me "Thanks man, without you I would have still be wondering if I should or shouldn't cut the wood." During the making I was jumping into it every step of the way and then going, yep, I shouldn't have done that.... But it's more fun than an undo button.

I never keep what I make by hand (except the t-shirts). It's mostly for gifts. I used to make gifts on the computer, but they had no flavor. It harder to have a true emotional response to something that you can't touch. If I gave a film, I would make an awesome box set to put it in.

What I love about computers though, is that visual art can be shared really easily. And you can show what you do to people you would have never even thought. It makes discovery so easy.

But I'll tell you that, when I discover something on the net and I really like it, I buy the book.


Will the upcoming Deadman's Reach film be animated frame by frame using your sketches? A combination of sketches and CG animation?
The medium will reflect that, it will be fully drawn. The original idea was to not use any computer at all. Make a film like 30 years ago, meaning xerox and multi planes. But that was when the project was just a pipe dream. Now that I'm actually starting it, it seams stupid and unproductive to stick to that rule. I will stay as far as I can from a computer, but not in a stubborn way.

Starting to work in CG brought back passion for drawing. After 5 years of work in CG, I'm needing a bit of fresh air and I hope that's what this animation project will bring me.

Film canisters & film

How long do you think that it will take to complete?
The film will be 9 minutes, with around 150 shots. I'm planing to complete it in 6 months, more - if I can afford it. (Its self financed.) I want each shot to be the equivalent of an illustration.

What are your plans for the soundtrack?
I have selected 5 songs for the sound track. I'm planing to get them covered. The covers will be by my friends and some other bands that I still need to contact. At the moment, Mooe ( and McBess ( will do two of them. I need to see how this works legally. I also have some lyrics in the film. I have no idea what the laws are on that.

In the worst case, I have really good musician friends, and maybe it would be a chance to have a strong classic-rock-influenced but original sound track.

Will the feeling of the film be dark? Isolation with an "American" esthetic?
I believe that the sadder you are, the more creative you are. The book was drawn when I was very creative. I don't think I should water down the film.  Although, I need to say that for me black and white and skulls doesn't make it dark. I see it more like the Mexican Day of the Dead, where death is a celebration. I know people will think about death, but it will be about renewal.

Without revealing the film plot, the esthetic will be a mix between London and the States. Not in an obvious way, but more like when you dream and everything is slightly off.

I will be posting daily updated of the film progress on my web site, starting April.


Desert valley with camera

Why Not with red square


Cowboy boots, enjoy the silence

Skeleton hanging

Cassette tape, full of songs I love

view from inside a car

camper set up

Ink, flask, sketchbook

Coffee and cigarettes at a cafe

plate of meat and fries

in the bath with boots on

Shaving with sunset: It's Shaving Day.

Decorated skull

Burning guitar

matches: Burning Love.

Passport and ticket on a table

Coffee & water & ashtray on a table

London postbox street scene

red pen

All images ©Quentin Vien

Check out all of Quentin's sketches on his website
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