Florent Chavouet, From Hideaway to Vista

I’ve recently given in to a long-time interest (a fool’s dream is realized‘) and purchased one of those pretty miniature book nook kits. In case you are not familiar with them, they’re usually the size of a big hardcover book once assembled, and are meant to be inserted on a bookshelf and provide a bibliophile with an intriguing glance into an urban landscape, a Victorian street, a bookshop, a train station, or whatever it is bookworms tend to go for. One painstakingly (and crookedly, at least in my case) glues together furniture and houses, cuts out tiny pieces of paper or slices of fruit, and connects wires to provide background illumination. The one I’m currently working on is a peaceful Japanese street with a sushi shop, a tea store, and lots of cherry blossoms.

I’m clearly not alone in my love for house miniatures or drawn isometric projections of a room. One can do without too much unnecessary psychoanalysis (perhaps it allows us to feel organised and in control when real lives and houses are quite messy), but most of us find such things soothing. Placing a tiny plate on a tiny table is profoundly satisfying; the 2021 game Unpacking makes good use of this, consisting of pulling various objects from a box and placing them where you want through different rooms of the house.

The art of French artist Florent Chavouet (see my earlier post Spotlight on Florent Chavouet) hits a similar note for me. His love of isometric projection and his elaborate sketches of storefronts and people’s rooms immediately attracted me, though at the time I didn’t think to verbalise the reason for it. I concentrated on his excellent graphic novel Petites coupures à Shioguni last time, so here are more glimpses of his other books.

Tokyo Sanpo : Promenades à Tokyo (2009, Philippe Picquier)
Manabé Shima (2010, Philippe Picquier)
L’île Louvre (2015, Futuropolis)
Touiller le miso (2020, Philippe Picquier), his latest book (which I haven’t bought yet, shame on me!)
A poster created for Zoom Japon magazine, 2021.

On a more seasonal note, two of his window panoramas drawn for the famous Galeries Lafayette in 2022:

Another thing I really love is imaginary food (which is why the duo of comic artists James Stokoe and Brandon Graham is going to be a post topic sometime in the future), and Chavouet did a beautiful job with his Gloutisphère, a map of the best food in the world… completely made up. Enjoy it on his blog!

~ ds

Spotlight on Florent Chavouet

Once in a while, I come across an artist I’ve never heard of before but whose work I really like. It’s always a delight to stumble upon an elegant boat afloat daintily on a sea of crap. (Life is full of new things to love that we just haven’t discovered yet, but the trick is to discover them amidst all the noise.)

The chief of police dreams of food… but will he be able to find a tasty bowl of udon before all the noodle stalls close for the night? Panels from Petites coupures à Shioguni (Éditions Philippe Picquier, 2015).

Florent Chavouet is an accomplished artist who prefers bright colours, which predisposed me to liking his art before I even considered the potency of his storytelling. He mostly draws in a cute, cartoony style that’s perfect for all the travelling-around-Japan chronicling he has done. However, architecture doesn’t stump him at all – a lot of his drawings are successful, detailed sketches of streets and apartments – and he’s amply capable of realism when the situation calls for it. And he’s an excellent storyteller, to boot.

My favourite book of his (so far) is my most recent acquisition: Petites coupures à Shioguni (Éditions Philippe Picquier, 2015), a complex story involving many characters and the ways their lives intersect and influence one another during a typical night in Japan. (Well, maybe not typical.) As the story unfolds after sunset, we get treated to a lot of pop-right-out-of-the-book, light-on-dark-background scenes, something Chavouet excels at. The art is his most accomplished yet; his latest book came out in 2016 (L’île Louvre), but I haven’t read it so far. I think we can say with certainty that he’s still developing his talents!

The cab driver has distinctly bad luck on that night. Petites coupures à Shioguni (Éditions Philippe Picquier, 2015).

Another lovely feature of Petites coupures à Shioguni (Éditions Philippe Picquier, 2015) is the hand-lettered dialogue – it’s an integral part of the artwork.

A promotional presentation of Petites coupures à Shioguni (Éditions Philippe Picquier, 2015).

This graphic novel hasn’t been translated to English yet, so non-French speakers will have to wait for a bit until it is.

Going back in time, but remaining in Japan, here are a few samples from Tokyo on Foot: Travels in the City’s Most Colorful Neighborhoods (Tuttle Publishing, 2011).

A page from Tokyo on Foot: Travels in the City’s Most Colorful Neighborhoods (Tuttle Publishing, 2011); it came out in the original French in 2009. You’ll be encountering scores of intriguing characters if you take Chavouet along as your guide.

Tokyo on Foot is full of such isometric-projection layouts of people’s apartments.

Tokyo on Foot also has plenty of beautifully rendered night scenes.

Page from Tokyo Sanpo (Éditions Philippe Picquier, 2009).

Visit Chavouet’s blog here – if you don’t speak French, you can admire the art (though you’ll be missing the stories he likes to make up for each of his drawings/paintings).

An example of the critters you’ll encounter – which Chavouet calls Yokai, the Japanese word for demons or monsters – on his blog.

~ ds