Ghislain Barbe is best known for designing the visual aspects of several science fiction franchises such as Heavy Gear, Jovian Chronicles and Tribe 8. He also created the visuals for the characters of PBS’s cartoon TV series Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat and worked as Art Director in the videogame industry. Doodling Girls 2017 is a collection of girls illustrations taken from his 2016 and 2017 Sketchbooks. (From the publisher’s website)
All these doodles were made for the fun of it (i.e. no commercial purposes) between January 1st of 2016 and December 31st of 2017. Some might have been inspired by pictures seen here and there, other are pure products of the need to fill a piece of paper. (Book’s introduction)
The reason I find difficult to read books written by people I know is that I am always afraid that I might not like them and have to make negative comments… I really want to talk about this book, but unfortunately I found it quite disappointing. So, I guess it will be a case of “Qui bene amat bene castigat”…
Above all, I must say that Ghislain Barbe is without contest one of the best artist I have ever known. He is incredibly fast and extremely creative. His art is usually quite great. I particularly like his character designs (although he can do great mechanical designs too). I still remember this young man, both shy and quite volubile, from Quebec City knocking on our office door with his portfolio under the arm. We were impressed right away by his work and I have always had great respect for him. After doing cover and illustration works for Ianus Publication/Protoculture and, later, Dream Pod 9 (Alternate Reality Cyberpunk, Heavy Gear, Jovian Chronicles, Tribe 8), he worked at CinéGroupe as character designer (on animation like Sagwa the Chinese Siamese Cat, Lion of Oz, Pig City), and then as concept artist as well as art director for Behaviour Interactive (on videogames like Carmen Sandiego and the Secret of the Stolen Drums, Disney’s Planes or Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade MMO). He also illustrated Annie Bacon’s series “Le gardien des soirs de bridge” published by Les Éditions Druide. His talent is well recognized.
The Doodling Girls’ illustrations themselves are quite good even if they are simple sketches. Barbe made those morning doodles every day to keep is drawing hand and his creativity sharp (and probably also to keep his sanity through the vicissitudes and trials of life — a widower rising three teenage girls might certainly have its challenges). I understand that perfectly since that’s what I am trying to do with this blog, trying to write a few hundreds words each day to keep my mind sharp and my sanity. Here, this book gathers some of those doodles that all share one thematic: girls — in all styles or situations, from the silly to the macabre. It is an interesting concept to make use of those doodles, and gather them in an impromptu portfolio. He probably got tired of working on other’s people books and wanted to do one just for himself (and his girls) — for the fun of it ! So, he self-published it (under the name Clay Book Press) using Lulu.com. Hopefully more books will follow, like Doodling Girls 2018-19, Doodling Creatures (as he draws more than girls), or simply Morning Doodles, or even Meeting Doodles (as I know he was also doodling in production meetings!)…
If the artist is great and the concept is interesting and the drawings themselves are good, then what’s the problem? The disappointment lies in the annoyingly sloppy execution of the concept — although none of this is really the fault of the artist. First, the book offers very little introduction (less than fifty words!) and there are no page numbers, titles, descriptions, production dates or commentaries for the illustrations. This book definitely lacks text. Second, I am sorry to report that my copy has a defect in the printing of the cover (the cover is badly cut: the spine titles are actually on the cover itself and there’s a white bands on the left side of the back cover where we can see crop marks!). Very bad quality control! That printer should be hanged: defective copies should never make it to distribution!! Please choose your printer wisely! Third, the book was printed in the USA, purchased via Amazon.ca and shipped by Book Depository in the U.K. ! That’s the worse example of a wasteful distribution chain I’ve ever seen. Please choose your mean of distribution even more wisely! Finally, that kind of book would usually sell for $15 to $30… $53.76 [although it depends on the seller: from US$ 31.72 on AbeBooks and US$33.22 on Barnes & Noble to C$ 44.17 on Amazon.ca] is a little too much (particularly for artwork that are already available for free on the internet: Behance, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc.)! That’s what happens when there are too many intermediaries, each taking their share (Lulu.com, the printer, the seller, the distributor, the shipping cost, etc.). All inclusive “publishers” like Lulu.com are not always the perfect solution, unfortunately (but, I’ll admit, they are convenient). In a way, I don’t really mind because I wanted to encourage the artist in his endeavour no matter the price. Otherwise, it’s really too expensive! Sorry, Ghis! I am sure you could have done better!
All in all, despite its shortcomings, it IS a nice book. It is an artbook, so it’s not something you will really “read”, but it makes for a pleasing coffee table or bedside book. So, don’t hesitate to purchase this book to encourage the artist. However, if you want to see his best works, it’s probably better to buy one of his other books (like a Heavy Gear Rulebook for example)!
Doodling Girls, by Ghislain Barbe. Montreal: Clay Book Press (Lulu.com), December 2018. 160 pages, 15 x 23 x 1.7 cm, US$ 33.22 / C$ 44.17, ISBN 978-0-359-20459-5. For readership of all age. (See back cover).
For more information you can check the following websites:
© 2018 by Ghislain Barbe.
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