Don’t be afraid to fail and don’t put too much pressure on yourself because you saw another artist having thousands of likes on Instagram, it doesn’t mean anything […]
After our first interview in the summer of 2016, Florian Aupetit’s life would change completely. He had two great job offers lined up in September of that same year. One of them asked him to be an art director on a feature film, and the other was The SPA Studios inviting him to be the lighting supervisor on Klaus (2019).
Sadly, even though he loved what art directors Szymon Biernacki and Marcin Jakubowski were telling him about Klaus, he rejected it. Accepting that job would mean moving to Madrid by January 2017, whereas the feature film project would allow him to comfortably stay in France. It was a hard choice, but he ultimately chose to stay.
He then told us that,
As you know, life can be quite complex… so a month after quitting my old job the film’s director called me to tell me that he had issues with the producers and that the movie won’t be made. […]
This hurt Florian. All of his excitement came to a crashing halt because he knew that opportunities like this only show up once in a blue moon. And when his chosen project was cancelled, The SPA Studio’s offer was rejected, and he quit his job, he was left with nothing but freelance work.
Still, as you all know today, Florian somehow ended up working on Klaus anyway. If you’d like to find out how that happened, the way his life’s changed so far, and what he plans to do next. So, here’s our newest exclusive. We hope that you enjoy reading it as much as we have enjoyed making it!
Hey Florian, it’s good to see you again! Can you tell us a little bit about what’s changed in your career and life since our 2016 interview? How has the journey progressed?
Well, my life changed completely. At the end of 2016 (around September if I remember correctly) I received an email from a French director asking me if I wanted to be the Art Director for his next feature film. Back in the day, I was doing commercial as a 3D generalist in a small studio in Paris, so it was a big thing for me. I met him, we talked about the project, and I was really excited to work with him on this movie.
The same week I received an email from Szymon Biernacki (Art Director and Production Designer at The SPA Studios) asking me if I wanted to be Lighting Supervisor on their next animated feature film Klaus. It felt unreal… so I also started to talk with him and the other Art Director (Marcin Jakubowski) about the job, the process and Klaus itself. I was even more excited, so it was incredibly hard to choose.
The thing is, for the French movie, I had a couple of months before the preproduction would start and on the other hand, SPA asked me to come as fast as I could so I had to be and live in Madrid by January 2017. But I had an apartment in Paris, my job to quit and lots of things to do before I could leave. So it was really hard for me, but I had to say no to the SPA and accept the other offer. As you know, life can be quite complex… so a month after quitting my old job the film’s director called me to tell me that he had issues with the producers and that the movie won’t be made. It hurt me a bit to be honest because I had no job anymore, this kind of thing doesn’t happen every day, and I said no to the SPA…
I had to find a solution, and I decided to be a freelancer while waiting to find another in-house job. So I freelanced for roughly a year doing 2D and 3D stuff until I saw that the SPA was looking for concept artists. I didn’t know what to do because I refused their offer to be Lighting Supervisor, but I would apply a couple of months later for concept art. At the end, I said to myself, “We only live once” and I did it.
Tell me a little bit about your role on Klaus then. What does a Lighting Supervisor do, and what were some of the challenges with this project?
So when they (Marcin and Szymon) contacted me the first time around, they showed me how they did the teaser for Klaus in 2015 with a program called Nuke. It’s a powerful piece of software, but it was too heavy for production. Instead, they contacted a French company called “Les Films du Poisson Rouge” to work with a really talented programmer named Anael Seghezzi. He then created this mind-blowing lighting software called “KLaS” based on our needs.
But the way we wanted to shade the characters in Klaus so they would blend with the background was something completely new, and to be honest, it was kind of jump into the unknown. At that time, my main goal was to find a good workflow for my future team. And the team itself was also a big challenge because based on production, the numbers for my team would reach 30+ artists. I never managed anyone before, so I was a bit nervous, but I knew somehow that I could do it. It took a while to find all those artists because we couldn’t tell them about the technique we will use to do the lighting on Klaus. It was something completely new. Something that no one had any experience with. So I had to find a test that would let me figure out who was up to the task. After that, during production, the biggest challenge for me was to keep producing the highest quality possible for Klaus, as well as trying to be a good supervisor.
I had to make the artists on my team feel happy to work on this project while working a whole lot. But I wanted to help everyone around me, making sure that the next department (compositing) had everything they needed from us.
So every day was a huge challenge, but at the end, when I watched Klaus and saw how people loved the movie, I think it was worth it.
Klaus SPA Studios
Tell me a little bit about how Spain is for an artist? What is there to see and which parts of that inspire you? What’s the art scene like?
Well, COVID-19 changed lots of things, but I really love Spain and the Spanish way of life. It almost feels like they don’t know what stress is, so it’s quite pleasant to live here in Madrid.
Spain is not the richest country in Europe, so you cannot expect to be paid like you would be in the UK or US. The cost of living is way lower, though, so it turns out fine in the end.
Oh, and on the other hand, they are one of the richest countries in Europe in terms of art and culture because through their history, they mixed many different cultures and you can see it in the architecture, painting and or music. A great example of this would be La Alhambra in Granada (located in the South of Spain). It is one of the most beautiful places on earth from my point of view. It’s a fortress on top of a hill, full of gardens and beautiful rooms where Sultans would fight with art through ages to show their power and show they were better than their predecessors. But then this place was then taken over by Christians and became the Royal court of Ferdinand and Isabella, so the whole place is a mix between Islamic and Christian art. It’s just fascinating.
They also have great painters and among them is one of my favourite (if not my favourite) painter Joaquin Sorolla who painted light like no one else.
So yes, Spain is a great country to live in, and I’m glad I will stay a bit more.
Speaking of art and culture, I’ve been seeing all of these wonderful resources from you recently… you create packs of master paintings, “things I found on the Internet,” etc. I’d love for you to tell me a bit about that and your intentions with it. You’re one of very few artists I know who seek out different sources of inspiration so often.
It started back when I was a student in my animation school. My Art Direction teacher asked us to bring 10-20 images about a specific theme he chose every week. It could be “blue,” “mountain,” “representation of hell during the middle ages,” etc. I was a bit of a sceptic at the beginning, but the more I was doing this exercise, the more I was learning about different cultures, and it never left me.
I feel personally a bit sad when I see all those talented artists doing the same thing over and over while they could do their own unique art. In my opinion, our differences are what makes us interesting and unique, and that’s why I’m sharing resources from any/all subjects or cultures. To make people a bit more curious because for example instead of designing the same alien we already saw a million time they could just look for what’s living in the abyss of our oceans and I’m sure it would blow their mind to later inspire them. I want people to be more curious and not afraid anymore to do their own stuff because it’s not mainstream or doesn’t bring likes.
Do you have any pieces of advice that you’d like to give to all of the beginners/aspiring artists reading this?
Be curious, don’t be afraid to fail and don’t put too much pressure on yourself because you saw another artist having thousands of likes on Instagram, it doesn’t mean anything. Try to put meaning in your own work instead, and it will naturally stand out. And like me, at our own level, let’s try to bring more art and culture around ourselves so we all progress.
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The little kitchen
Concept art for a short film.
It’s honestly rare to see a job title like yours (Head of Light & Shadow), so I wanna ask a little bit about that. Is there anything important you often see contemporary artists miss in their artworks when you’re looking around online? How could people improve their pieces in this department, and are there any master painters or books that you’d recommend?
It’s a tricky question since I think there are no “right or wrong” artworks. But I would say, at least from a lighting point of view, that a lot of young artists tend to use some lighting tricks that make their images appealing for the viewer without any real context or meaning. Lighting is also a vector of emotion that can help to tell the story you want to tell, so you should use it carefully. If a character is back in the shadow, it doesn’t say the same thing as if he would be in the light, same with an overcast lighting with soft shadows compared to the harsh light of a summer afternoon. Learning and studying as many different types of medium is always a good thing.
Look at Master painters for traditional painting, watch the filmography of any great cinematographer, study the composition and lighting of famous photographers, comic books etc. And if you want to be more specific about lighting, the most important is to study the real world and understand how light works. This means opening a physics book or a Wikipedia page to understand the theory and then doing studies from life. Not necessarily painting, for me it was going out with my camera and taking pictures. You just need to find the way that works the best for you.
Όλυμπος – Part II
3d scans by Benjamin Bardou from statues in the Louvre, France.
Illustrations for a cool exhibition in Paris.
Klaus boasts a unique art direction, how did the team at the SPA studios develop it over time? What ended up changing during the production of the movie?
The unique look of Klaus comes from our two great Art Directors, Szymon Biernacki and Marcin Jakubowski. They are some of the best artists I know, if not the best. And since they had a really strong vision for the look of the movie, we rarely tried to make any concession and kept matching the references that they provided. Sometimes, the result was beyond even our expectations. So in terms of visuals, nothing really changed during the production, and that’s something I guess we are all proud of, the final film looks as beautiful as the concept arts we did.
I’m guessing you’re a big fan of animation after working on Klaus. Please tell us about your favourites in that medium.
Oh wow, that’s a tough question, haha. I guess the one that hit me as a kid was the first Toy Story, it was mind-blowing, and I remember leaving the theatre really excited.
But there are so many other great films… It’s very hard to give you something organized, so let me list a few that I love for you randomly: Ghibli movies are almost perfect, like Spirited Away, Ponyo or Howl’s Moving Castle. Brad Bird is also a genius, Iron Giant and Incredibles are some of my favourite animated movies. I love bold visual statements like Spiderman into the Spider-Verse, Song of the Sea, Long Way North, Persepolis but also stop motion films like The Nightmare Before Christmas, Fantastic Mr Fox or even Coraline. Toy Story 3, Tangled, the new Asterix movies (in 3D), Rango, Tokyo Godfathers, The Triplets of Belleville, The Owls of Ga’Hoole, Shrek and I think I will stop here because I could go on and on forever!
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What’s next for Florian Aupetit?
For now, I’m still working at SPA. I really love the spirit of the studio and the people I’m working with because everyone is always trying to push the limits, trying to not stay in our comfort zone. On top of all that, our future projects are so exciting. Put that together with living in Spain, and you’ve got a recipe for something cool. Right now I just want this to continue for as long as possible.
Visit Florian Aupetit’s Website
By Vox Groovy staff writer;
All images used with permission by the artist
© Florian Aupetit or respective copyright holders
Article in Slovak language;