Chapleau: 50 years of undermined drawings [PHOTOS]

Chapleau: 50 years of undermined drawings [PHOTOS]

Serge Chapleau publishes the retrospective Since my beginnings. The thick large format collection shows the talent of the cartoonist from La Presse, but it is also a window on what has marked Quebec during this half-century.

Share September 30, 2020 Update October 3, 2020 at 9:15 am Share Chapleau: 50 years of undermined drawings [PHOTOS]Chapleau: 50 years of undermined drawings [PHOTOS]

Karine Tremblay La Tribune Serge Chapleau is used to seeing his cartoons live on glossy paper. For 27 autumns now, The Chapleau year, which he has published, has brought together an anthology of his best drawings. He is accustomed, therefore, to leaf through a book in which his ideas and his pencil stroke shine. But this time it's something else. The collection Since my beginnings illustrates the entire career of the cartoonist from La Presse. In summary, the book traces nearly 50 years of career; five decades during which the Montreal artist has tracked down the news. Politicians, artists, athletes and other actors in the public arena trembled under the lead of his ruthless expression.

“It's special, it takes me back to the days of my youth, when I was still looking for my way. We talk about my time on Perspectives and Le Devoir, we also cover Laflaque's period, which lasted 15 years on Radio-Canada TV. “

The 304-page brick is launched at the same time as a large retrospective exhibition is being held at the McCord Museum in Montreal until March 7, 2021.

“All my drawings are stored at the McCord Museum. We're talking about 7,000 caricatures… The exhibition was initially supposed to start on April 15, but since we were in the midst of a pandemic, we delayed. The whole exhibition is in the book. The paper we have chosen is of high quality, the printing is wonderful, but I admit that seeing the originals well framed, well lit, in a museum context, it allows you to appreciate the work like nowhere else. I have reviewed periods of my life. I drew nonstop, with pen and later with lead, for hours on end. I was completely crazy [laughs]! Normally, as a cartoonist, you find a style that is very, very light and easy that allows you to do multiple illustrations and keep up with the pace of daily publication. Me, I embarked on a drawing and I spent the day on it! “

Chapleau: 50 years of undermined drawings [PHOTOS]

Photo provided, image taken from the book Since my beginningsChapleau: 50 years of undermined drawings [PHOTOS]

Self-portrait dating from 1973. Photo provided, image taken from the book Since my beginnings

Of history and irreverence

This attention to detail and the right line has deep roots. We learn in the first pages of the large format book that, at the Chapleaus, we drew like others ski or play hockey.

“It was probably due to the fact that we didn't have a lot of toys,” sums up the cartoonist, laughing. But we had paper, pencils. “

The seven boys in the family could create worlds and characters from these two essentials.

“My brothers were also talented. I am not the one who was the most skilled. But I'm going to take a cliché that I believe in: in success there is 10 percent talent, 80 percent hard work, and a final 10 percent luck. “

After that, to make its way in the newspapers, you still had to have the ability to watch the news with acuity and dare to play daring.

“That had been a part of me for a long time. I was a little guy a bit apart from the rest. Not only was I drawing in the margin of my notebook, but I was in the margin myself. I was not the greatest of sportsmen, I was thin as a peak, I did not evolve in the good gangs. When I arrived at the École des beaux-arts, that changed. But hey, this sharp and irreverent side, I only sharpened it with time and practice. “

He also sharpened his ease in flirting with the limits of the acceptable.

“We compare the cartoonist to the king's madman. If the royal jester made a bad joke, he could have his head cut off. To caricature is to walk a tightrope. The image that comes to me to evoke my profession is the edge of the precipice, when you are balanced near the cliff. One step too far, you fall. One step back and it's boring. We must stay on the line. “

And observe to tell in an image what moves society.

“It was my editor Pierre Cayouette who spoke of this book as a history lesson, a way of looking at what has happened over the past 50 years. Caricature is a good medium for that. In a drawing, we dive back into what has marked the ages.

Chapleau: 50 years of undermined drawings [PHOTOS]

Many public figures have been immortalized by Chapleau's pencil stroke. Here, Sonia Benezra and Francine Grimaldi, in the 1990s. Photo provided, image taken from the book Since my beginnings


The Charlie Hebdo earthquake

With Serge Chapleau, it's impossible to talk about different eras without mentioning our own, which makes life difficult for newspapers.

“I think things are changing, the means are changing, but the need for social criticism remains. Caricatures in the 19th century were woodcuts. Now we make them on the computer. We will see in 15 years where we will be, but there will always be someone to criticize, and it is not the internet troll who can do that, because the profession of cartoonist requires persistence over time, a signature and a little talent to aim in the right place, in the bobo, where it hurts. »Pushing the tip of the pencil into delicate areas necessarily means wiping off refusals of publications. Along the way, there have been some bosses who are cautious, others less so.

“But it's up to us to try to convey our message subtly. If my design is refused by the boss, I have two options. I can send her for a walk, slam the door proudly, her head held high, and be gone forever. I'm going to have my 15 minutes of fame, they will talk about me in the newspaper, and two weeks later, it will be over. I like much better to chomp, go home, do another drawing and come back with the same subject, treated in a different way. It might be better, too, because the easy and obvious way is rarely the most effective, in caricature. “

When we scratch the sensibilities, we expose ourselves to gnashing of teeth, to sometimes ferocious grumbling.

“You have to assume it, live with it. Fools are everywhere. I receive terrible hate emails daily. What has changed is that before they were anonymous, now people sign them. It doesn't make sense. I never answer that, of course, but being hated is part of the game. “

Fear for his safety, no, that shouldn't be in the contract. Obviously that the conversation slips on Charlie Hebdo and on the attacks of 2015. The press rooms everywhere trembled in front of the unspeakable, while eleven people were killed in the enclosure of the satirical newspaper.

“It is appalling, what happened… It was the trial of the accomplices of the attack, in recent weeks in France. Charlie Hebdo reprinted the drawings of Muhammad which had aroused the ire of fundamentalists. They did not have a choice. If they didn't, it was like saying the fools of God had won. We must continue to defend the right to express oneself. If I can draw Jesus, I should be able to draw Muhammad too. “

Chapleau: 50 years of undermined drawings [PHOTOS]

The Sherbrooke politician, Jean Charest, has been drawn many times by the cartoonist. Photo provided, image taken from the book Since my beginningsChapleau: 50 years of undermined drawings [PHOTOS]

Chapleau's first cartoon was published in Perspectives in 1972 and showed a Gilles Vigneault in the snow. Photo provided, image taken from the book Since my beginnings

Man with a black coat

The memory brings back another, which dates back to fifteen years, more or less. In a Montreal bookstore, with his friend from the Gazette, Aislin, Chapleau signed copies of his latest book.

“We both had a couple of 'crazy god' sketches. The police came because someone had entered with a large black coat. They took us out the back door and it didn't go any further, but I was very scared. I would not stop drawing, but there are times, like this one, which are more difficult, ”says the one who also claims the right to make mistakes.

“If we are wrong, we start again the next day. That's all. “

So, when you stumble, do you keep some regrets about what was published?

“Not a lot, but when I was young I used to draw heavier drawings. I had drawn Jean Drapeau as a pig, in a window, and I titled it: View of the Montreal pig. It was a bit free and not necessary. Today, I am a little more “wise”, but that does not prevent me from criticizing the world. “

It's about finding the right idea. Daily.

“You may not have any ideas at all for days. And at some point there is a light that comes on, you find your flash. These days, at 5 p.m., you are so happy, you prepare your dry martini while whistling. It lasts ten minutes. And after, it starts again. Something else must be found for the next day. Except, you know – and here I'm going to pull out the cartoonist's oldest line – people think you work completely alone and abandoned. In fact, we have some amazing humorous authors who provide great material. We call them politicians. “

Chapleau: 50 years of undermined drawings [PHOTOS]

Serge Chapleau, Since my beginnings , Essay, Les Éditions La Presse, 304 pages. Provided

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