Always never. That’s the title of the romantic and unique volume by Jordi Lafebre, a Barcelona-born in 1979 who tells us a love story starting from the end. Spoiling it, in a certain sense, but not too much, because discovering its background page after page excites even more. This is not the space for a review anyway, you can read one here; those that follow are just some questions to better know the author and investigate the work of the man who had beautifully drew Zidrou’s A summer ago.
Let’s start with some classic questions: how did you start? What is your artistic path?
I was a kid who never quit drawing. Al kids draw and most of them stop at some point and a few of us never did. I was interested in great in great painting masters and comics and animations films and I tried to emulate them all the time. I was pretty bad but I loved it anyway. When I was teenager I started to get some classes and when I finished high school I was pretty convinced to became an artist. I studied two different art degrees and start my first art jobs when I was 19. And never stopped since.
Who are your reference authors?
Big references change with time and taste, along the different stages the self-learning process. I was amazed by French comics – Asterix, Spriou…- and American animation – WB, Disney films…- when I was a kid, and at some point everything became interesting. Manga, superheroes comic books, classic paintings. I remember save and study for hours some Michelangelo prints I founded in some magazine. I was really curious about art in general.
Always Never starts from the end. Why did you choose to “ruin” the ending?
Love story is most of the times about the end “Do they stay together or not?” but I was interested on the process, the how and whys. Discover is beautiful, but comprehend is very powerful.
Your interest, I read, is in human nature: but how much of you is there in Zeno and how much in Ana? How much of you can we find in your characters?
I am pretty much them. I put a bit of myself in every character; it is part of the job. The same way painters and photographers take portraits and self-portraits to understand human nature, writers wrote about themselves and people around them. The I think subjects is always humanity, and is the author’s point of view what makes it different every time.
Once you said that Spain is not a country of readers. Yet there is a beautiful tradition, which also has your name: the festival of Sant Jordi, in Barcelona. The party of lovers, in which a flower and a book are given away. What period do comics live in Spain?
I’d love to give you a proper answer but I can’t, I am sorry. My perspective is as an author, very subjective. I am not aware of the numbers or statistics about how the market is currently going.
What’s most difficult when making a comic with another person (like in A summer ago)? And what is the most difficult when working alone?
Books work in a similar way like traveling. One struggles with different things when do it alone or in company. When with company, it is important to be in constant communication about the goal and the way of do things, and have to adapt to the team and not only to your need or wishes. But then you can trust on the other person and you never feel loneliness.
When working alone, you can do all things as you wish and feel, but sometimes you feel insecure and uncertain about the outcome; You feel a bigger responsibility, I think. I love both ways to work; all that matters is if the projects are interesting and exciting.
Does the positive and luminous energy that pervades your comics come from your land, Spain? That energy also passes through color. Can you tell us a little about how you choose colors and how do you apply them?
The colour palette of an author is very personal; I think I could recognize most of my favourite artists only by the shapes and colours, without the line work; The list of influences is always long and not always conscious; like an actor body movements and language, its core beds on the inner personality. I wasn’t ware about my colour work until – quite late in my career- an editor make me notice it. And still today I work mostly by instinct. I use very basic colour rules – we all do -, but then, how ones choose the particular green or red is on the subtlety of personal taste, don’t you think? One of the most exciting things about art and creativity is that it doesn’t works like a science, is always subjective and in a way, mysterious.
Are there any scenes that you had to cut for composition reasons?
I had a few scenes on the draft at didn’t make it to the final cut, yes. Some of them until the very last minute. For that kind of decisions, my dear editor was very helpful, her point of view was always on the good tempo. Authors can lose a bit of perspective and editors can give it back. ( I won’t tell you how were the scenes that got cut, ha ha, I like the book the way it is)
There is a beautiful scene in which the two protagonists dance at both ends of the receiver. What are they dancing on? And what were you listening to at that moment? Or what kind of music do you usually listen to, drawing?
They are dancing “Minor Swing” by Django Reinhardt! The music sheets on the panels are actually the good ones, at least parts of them. I choose and change of music on every project I work, again by instinct. It comes naturally as I look for inspiration. For Always Never I was on very melodic sad pianos and poetics lyrics.
What is the part that you enjoy the most about making comics?
I do love make comics but I struggle every line, written or drawn, I do. I think what I like the most is had finished them; but then I feel empty I slowly start to think about the next one.
When do you understand that a character is the right one?
I try to feel empathy about my characters. Treat them if they were as real as possible, and at some point, they get solid in my mind. Authors should try to know their characters as much as an intimate friend, or oneself.
I sometimes think happy stories are not very often rewarded at festivals: do you? And if so, what do you think is the reason?
Do you think so? I think there is no general rule for all awards and festivals. I guess every jury makes its decision and I thinks is always very difficult. I got very lucky in my career with awards and nominations in general, and I feel very grateful every time.
And let’s finish with some other classics… Any advice for beginners?
Sure, a classic answer: be curious about the world, and passionate about Art and patient about yourself.
Jordi Lafebre was born in Barcelona in 1979, where he studied comics and fine arts. He publishes for several Spanish magazines, in particular Mister K, in which he signs El munda de Judy with the screenwriter Toni Front. His meeting with the screenwriter Zidrou is decisive, and marks the beginning of several collaborations: in 2010 Lydie comes out, in 2014 La Mondaine, and then in 2015 begins the series A summer ago (Lucca Comics Award 2020, Best Comic category) published in 2019 in Italy by BAO Publishing. In 2021, again for BAO Publishing, comes out Always Never, that just won the XXVI Premio Scrivere per amore of the city of Verona.