The cartoonist Philgreff tells the way to Compostela in comics

The cartoonist Philgreff tells the way to Compostela in comics

On your blog, you describe yourself as follows: “Neither beautiful, nor ugly, neither tall nor short, neither fat nor thin, neither very intelligent nor too stupid, I am a world-famous cartoonist…” Can you tell us a little more about it? on you ?

I was born on Christmas Day 1964, in Vendée. And today, I still live in Vendée, in La Roche-sur-Yon. I am a freelance illustrator, after having been a painter in letters then a trainer in history and geography in a training center for apprentices.

I’ve always loved drawing and wanted to make it my job, but for a long time I thought it wasn’t possible. Ten years ago, I decided to make it my main activity.

As for my ability to hike, I’m not a big walker. However, during my childhood, I accompanied my father in the mountains during the summer school holidays, and I have fond memories of the ascent of La Tournette and the Glières plateau in the Alps. But since then, I haven’t done any long walks (except for military service!)… until it was time to leave for Compostela.

What are the stages of this achievement?

I didn’t write a synopsis, I followed the thread of my notebook: two guys who walk every day to go to Santiago de Compostela. The first step therefore consisted in re-reading my notes from then, then finding the place. For this, I used the photos we took (quite few, however, because it was the era of film photography), maps, Google Earth, but also the many photos and videos that pilgrims put online. . But many places have changed in twenty years on the way: I tried not to be too anachronistic in my drawings.

Then came the slicing: I tried to give roughly the same number of pages per day of walking. I then did one cutout per day.

For the drawing, I made a kind of storyboard quickly sketched in ballpoint pen. When it suited me, I sketched it with a wooden pencil, then I inked it with a ballpoint pen. Then I colorized in watercolor before resuming a new inking with a ballpoint pen.

“Coquillards”: why this title which designated, in the Middle Ages, the false pilgrims?

I owe this title to the parish priest of Tonnay-Boutonne (Charente-Maritime) who hosted us and who mischievously called us this, seeing that we were not very religious pilgrims. He wasn’t wrong: as we didn’t have enough time to complete the whole itinerary, we skipped a few stages in Spain. We then said to ourselves that we were really “coquillards”!

Your comic strip is essentially descriptive: no apparent state of mind or introspection… Does it reflect your journey?

Not entirely. The path necessarily invites reflection and introspection. As you walk, you question yourself a lot; and even if the answers don’t magically appear, the questions open doors. I then realized that I probably had a concern for anchoring, even embodiment (according to the language of personal development). I am often told that I am “head in the air”, “in the moon”, “in the clouds”, “next to my pumps”… Confronting myself with a daily walk, backpack, for several days, I, who am not athletic, made me realize that I also had a body. While walking, we first apprehend the world in a sensitive way: the taste of a tomato that we bite into after a tiring walk, the rain and the wind on the face, the smell of eucalyptus trees, the beauty of the landscapes, the song of a river invites us to feel alive.

And then, how not to wonder about the “suchness” of the world? I said to myself that I was extremely lucky to be able to walk on this path, in freedom, in peace. I thought of all those people who involuntarily travel the world on foot to flee poverty or violence.

Finally, I often felt very small, especially in the mountains and under the immense sky of the Meseta, and yet part of a much larger whole.

In my comics, all this does not really appear, or else very discreetly. I don’t think I would have known how to write and draw it well. So I just represented two guys walking without really knowing why!

In 2017, you also published a silent comic strip entitled “Il est long le chemin”, featuring a funny man who walks… What does he have to tell us?

I don’t know if this character has something to tell us, but I know that a psychotherapist in the Paris region hung up copies of these drawings in the waiting room of her office: she therefore certainly found meaning in them!

We don’t know who this character is, or where he comes from, or where he is going. He walks with a determined step, crossing very different landscapes. He’s wearing a somewhat ridiculous costume, and he’s alone… For my part, I just had this image in mind when I drew him, without any particular intention. On reflection, it may be a metaphor for life. We cross it by wearing the costume of the role we choose: a role comprising certainties, beliefs, values ​​specific to each one. But we also doubt, so we stay on the move, looking for meaning. In the end, the little guy is just passing through, like my coquillards!

You also collaborate with the projects of certain pilgrims…

In effect. For example, Jean-François Boutineau, from Poitiers, who has surveyed several pilgrimage routes (he is currently once again on the Camino inglés), compiles stories, tales and legends on the way to Tours. He asked me to illustrate the texts of these stories. I have so far made three illustrations and I will continue once my Shellfish finished!

Another project related to a path?

For the moment, I don’t have any other plans: I must first complete my fourth and final volume, which should be finished at the end of the summer. But as I immerse myself in the memories of the way to Saint-Jacques, and crossing paths with pilgrims more and more often, the urge to get back on the road sometimes takes hold of me. Perhaps on the way to the Capitals, from Clisson to Mont-Saint-Michel?

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