Artist Port­fo­lio: Pas­cal Cam­pion

Gary Evans maps out the suc­cesses – and set­backs – in the French il­lus­tra­tor’s globe-trot­ting ca­reer

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We chart the highs and lows of the French il­lus­tra­tor’s globe-trot­ting ca­reer.

A fter fail­ing to get into his firstchoice art school, Pas­cal Cam­pion took a job as a dish­washer in Stras­bourg. It was Christ­mas, dishes piled up all around him, and he’d re­cently lost half a tooth af­ter be­ing jumped by mug­gers out­side the restau­rant. The French­man re­mem­bers think­ing: “Man, I’m so go­ing to en­joy be­ing an artist.” Pas­cal knows how to roll with the punches. He got into the art school the fol­low­ing year. In fact, many of the an­i­ma­tor’s great­est achieve­ments have fol­lowed ma­jor set­backs. The first of these came when he was very young. He still thinks about the in­ci­dent to this day.

Pas­cal was born in River Edge, New Jer­sey. When he was three years old, his par­ents sep­a­rated and he moved from Amer­ica to France. His mother is French. He de­scribes his child­hood in Provence as “pretty idyl­lic” and re­mem­bers be­ing sur­rounded by the “sunny, beau­ti­ful, vi­brant colours” that now char­ac­terise his work.

His fam­ily owned all the Tintin and As­terix sto­ries. Older brother Sean was into Mar­vel comics and would let Pas­cal read them, but only af­ter get­ting him to copy the cov­ers. Pas­cal says Sean is the main rea­son he’s an artist.

Yet not ev­ery­one was so sup­port­ive. When he was 10, Pas­cal told an art

teacher he wanted to be an artist when he grew up. He showed him work. “In a very se­ri­ous tone,” the French­man says, “the teacher said I should prob­a­bly not con­sider this, be­cause I just didn’t have it. Up un­til that point, I re­ally liked that teacher. That crushed me.”


Pas­cal stud­ied at the Arts Dé­co­rat­ifs de Stras­bourg. To get in, he sent a port­fo­lio, then trav­elled to the school for a week of tests. He picked nar­ra­tive il­lus­tra­tion as his ma­jor. But be­fore that, the teach­ers – un­usual in their meth­ods – worked out what stu­dents liked to do best and made sure they did the ex­act op­po­site: ev­ery­thing from engraving to met­al­work. In his fi­nal year, Pas­cal cre­ated three projects. Two of them had to be paid jobs, oth­er­wise he couldn’t grad­u­ate.

“They didn’t tell us how to do things at all,” Pas­cal says. “We had to come up with that on our own, which was very frus­trat­ing at first. That said, the big thing we did fo­cus on was on how to tell sto­ries, how to con­trol what you’re say­ing with your images, and how to make sure the au­di­ence un­der­stands what you want them to un­der­stand.”

Be­fore grad­u­at­ing, in 2000 Pas­cal spent a year as an ex­change student at the School of the Mu­seum of Fine Arts in Bos­ton. He also worked at Tom Sny­der Pro­duc­tions. It was his first job as an an­i­ma­tor.

Pas­cal flew to Kansas City to live with his brother. He wanted to work in

The teacher said I should prob­a­bly con­sider not be­ing an artist, be­cause I just didn’t have it. That crushed me

the comics in­dus­try. But his ca­reer plans changed af­ter Sean built him his first com­puter. Pas­cal be­gan play­ing around with soft­ware called Macro­me­dia Flash.

“All I had to do was press En­ter and the com­puter would play back all the frames I had just drawn,” Pas­cal says. “I fell in love with it be­cause I could make an­i­ma­tions in­stantly.”


He posted these an­i­ma­tions on­line and job of­fers soon fol­lowed. He worked at stu­dios in San Fran­cisco (where he worked on a web show), in Port­land (where he be­came a sto­ry­board artist), in Hon­olulu (where he met his fu­ture wife), and in Port­land again (where he be­came a

direc­tor). He put so much into his work, his per­sonal life suf­fered.

“I was re­al­is­ing how empty my life was. I had noth­ing go­ing on out­side of work and had a hard time mak­ing and main­tain­ing con­tact with any­body. I had bro­ken up with my girl­friend a while back. I was very sad about that.”

Pas­cal moved back to San Fran­cisco to be with his girl­friend. He ac­cepted a po­si­tion at a com­pany called Leapfrog as a lead an­i­ma­tor, but he spent most of his time man­ag­ing oth­ers. So he de­cided to come into work a lit­tle ear­lier each morn­ing and draw. The French­man now has over 4,000 of these daily draw­ings.

“I start with a colour,” he says, “and work with it. Some­times I draw a char­ac­ter or an en­vi­ron­ment and see what hap­pens. In al­most all cases, though, I have an idea of the emo­tion.”

His Sketch of the Day se­ries led to some big free­lance jobs. DreamWorks asked Pas­cal to do devel­op­ment work on a fea­ture film. “I ac­tu­ally got fired, be­cause when we got to pro­duc­tion work – that’s the part where you stop do­ing con­cep­tual work and you have to start ren­der­ing the el­e­ments as they will ap­pear in the movie – they re­alised I didn’t know how to do that.”


DreamWorks put Pas­cal on another movie, Mr. Pe­abody & Sher­man. He’s also worked on projects for Dis­ney, Para­mount, the Car­toon Net­work, and many more. He cre­ates cov­ers for books and comics, does ed­i­to­rial il­lus­tra­tions, and works on video games and com­mer­cials.

Pas­cal de­scribes work­ing in these var­i­ous fields as sim­i­lar to speak­ing

I try to keep a spon­tane­ity of mo­tion – a flow and rhythm

dif­fer­ent lan­guages. They each re­quire a dif­fer­ent part of his brain. “In an­i­ma­tion I don’t care too much about the qual­ity of the draw­ing, be­cause all I’m do­ing is match­ing it to the ap­proved de­sign, which is usu­ally a sim­pli­fied de­sign.

“I can’t lis­ten to mu­sic or talk to any­body, be­cause my whole brain is fo­cused on get­ting ev­ery­thing to work to­gether. I’m also mov­ing pretty fast be­cause I try to keep a spon­tane­ity of mo­tion – a flow and rhythm.”


Pas­cal de­scribes his style as “loose and pretty util­i­tar­ian.” He wants the au­di­ence to un­der­stand in a split sec­ond ex­actly what’s hap­pen­ing in the im­age. So he makes each vis­ual el­e­ment as clear as pos­si­ble. The same goes for the over­all mes­sage – the au­di­ence shouldn’t have to work any­thing out. He uses light to set the mood, some­thing that’s be­com­ing an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant part of his work. And he ed­its ruth­lessly. No

chills “I was play­ing around with build­ings in this one – how to sug­gest build­ings with­out show­ing build­ings. Build­ings fea­ture a lot in my work.”

WHEN THE SNOW FALLS “I love do­ing fa­cades; I love peo­ple watch­ing. I do a lot of these types of images and I’m al­ways try­ing to fig­ure out what other peo­ple’s lives are like.”

“At the be­gin­ning of my Sketch of the Day se­ries, there was a pe­riod when I was draw­ing an­i­mals do­ing funny things. I still like do­ing some for my kids now and again.” A LI TTLE CL EANING, A LI TTLE DANCI NG, A LOT OF LOVE “I’ve done 4,000 Sketch of...

MEET ME AT FIVE? “This im­age was orig­i­nally cre­ated for a work­shop for Imag­ineFX! But af­ter­wards I did this ver­sion, which is slightly dif­fer­ent.”

“Ev­ery day in the af­ter­noon we’d go with the kids to the park next to our house. They were still small enough that I could bal­ance them all on the see-saw. I loved those days.” THE GOOD KIND OF HEAVY

TA­HOE “When I drew this im­age, my fam­ily and I had just come back from ski­ing in Ta­hoe, the largest alpine lake in North Amer­ica.”

“This im­age was in­spired by my time liv­ing in Kansas City, Mis­souri. I stayed there with my brother Sean, who built me my first com­puter.” BLUE­GRASS AND FIREFLI ES

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