Toronto-based illustrator Graham Roumieu's characteristic style, consisting of inked lines and watercolor washes, always accompanies an offbeat and often irreverent sense of humor. Whether it's a bee flirting with a gardenia over a glass of wine, God asking Adam to become his Facebook friend, or a housekeeper vacuuming the tomb where Romeo mourns Juliet, Roumieu's images consistently provoke both thought and laughter.
Roumieu regularly works with a number of publications throughout the U.S. and Canada. His clients include the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Business Week, and the Washington Post. He has also authored and illustrated six books: Some Really Super Poems About Squirrels (Andrews McMeel), 101 Ways to Kill Your Boss (Plume), Cat & Gnome (Blue Q Books), and the cult classic Bigfoot series - Me Write Book: It Bigfoot Memoir (Plume), Bigfoot: I Not Dead (Plume) and In Me Own Words: the Autobiography of Bigfoot (Manic D Press).
His most recent publishing project is a creative collaboration with postmodern author Douglas Coupland, titled Highly Inappropriate Tales for Young People (Random House Canada). Coupland, who authored jPod, Life After God and the international bestseller Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (which popularized the terms 'McJob' and 'Generation X.'), are well matched in their irreverence and love of social commentary. In the book, Roumieu and Coupland combine their talents to create seven hilariously improbable tales, featuring characters like Donald the Incredibly Hostile Juice Box, Hans the Weird Exchange Student, Brandon the Action Figure with Issues, and Kevin the Hobo Minivan with Extremely Low Morals. The highly anticipated book lands in stores October 25, 2011.
In 2003, Roumieu published the first in a series of Bigfoot autobiographies. Written from the perspective of a jaded, egomaniacal ex-legend whose hobbies include terrorizing forest critters and composing screenplays, the books have quickly become a cult favorite. Bigfoot's antics have inspired readers to write Bigfoot songs, make Bigfoot dolls, and even bake Bigfoot cakes. The very hairy leading man has thousands of followers on Twitter, where he regular charms fans with sayings like, "Secret to great smile is use Lee Press On Nails as veneers" and "Wearing two sashes and a cummerbund. It just feel right."
Bigfoot's charm stems from a stubbornly juvenile outlook that is by turns abrasive and endearing. In one chapter, Bigfoot admits that his less-than-eloquent speech patterns made him the target of bullying in high school. His confession accompanies a flashback of teenage Bigfoot tearing down the opposition (literally) at a high school debate. A decapitated head lies on the linoleum as two recent amputees cower in a pool of their own blood. Red ink, smeared and spattered throughout the page, vividly relays the relish with which Bigfoot dismembers his competitors.
Roumieu's wildly energetic, and sometimes gleefully gruesome, brushwork sometimes seems at odds with his underdog sensibilities. In a recent interview, he says, "I think I have a tendency to gravitate to subjects that are sweet, naive and innocent in nature because it gives more impact when I inevitably throw them into situations that are bizarre, human and dire." With Bigfoot, Roumieu has combined all of the above, producing a creature whose displays of ego rival only his bouts of crippling insecurity.
Roumieu's 101 Ways to Kill Your Boss has been universally applauded and published in many countries worldwide. Imagine eviscerating your boss with a giant laser pointer, quitting your job via ninja courier service, laying a trap by way of urinal guillotine. Roumieu takes office politics to the next level with increasingly extreme tactics for boss-icide. His illustrations find the bizarre and the funny in even the most mundane office environments. Linked together by a deep yet twisted look into the human psyche, Roumieu's work continually surprises viewers with its insight and its ability to elicit gut-wrenching laughter.
In addition to illustrating for publications and graphic novels, Roumieu has worked on a number of successful ad campaigns, including "Ink Amnesty" for HP, "Early Bloomers" for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada, and "No Peeking Event" for Sears. "Ink Amnesty" for HP featured an out-of-control squid character that warned against using third-party ink cartridges in HP printers. The Big Brothers Big Sisters campaign used Roumieu's humorous peer pressure illustrations to encourage people to mentor a child though the Big Brothers Big Sisters In-School Mentoring program. The "No Peeking Event" for Sears took place in downtown Toronto and featured a 2,200 square foot maze, an electric train, ice sculptures and plenty of free giveaways. The event took place at a major Toronto intersection and went live right before the holiday season. Roumieu's work for the well-publicized campaign was animated and projected on a several-stories-tall screen above the maze.
His work has been honored by American Illustration, Communication Arts, Society of Illustrators, Applied Arts, the HOW International Design Awards, the Advertising & Design Club of Canada, the Coupe International Design Competition, the SPD Spots Annual, and the National Magazine Awards. His site Roumieu.com was recently named one of HOW Magazine's Top 10 Sites for Designers. When he's not illustrating, Roumieu teaches at OCAD University, Canada's oldest and largest art and design school.
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Q&A with Graham Roumieu
Best way to end a long day of work?
Satisfied. Waist band full of money. Wait. Wrong job.
Favorite way to spark inspiration?
Sometimes if I am stumped by something I...
If you weren't an illustrator, what would you be?
Probably a gardener. When I was a kid I was obsessed by a show called The Victorian Kitchen Garden which was a BBC series documenting the restoration of a derelict manor house garden, and re learning techniques that resulted in people being able to grow tropical fruit in dreary English conditions.
When I was in college I spent some summers planting trees. Sometimes thousands in a day. That cured me of wanting to garden for a while, but it did eventually come back. It's only been fairly recently that I live in a place that has a back yard where I can mess about with plants and to put it quite simply, I enjoy it quite a bit.
Why do you prefer ink and watercolor over digital media or other forms of traditional media?
It's what I am used to and it best approximates what is in my head. Plus the idea of making something meaningful with a piece of paper and a stick covered in some stuff that stains the paper is pretty awesome. Trying to do the same thing with a machine that can also plot the orbits of spacecraft is pretty awesome too, but in my opinion, somewhat less so.
What's the last book you read?
Hot Art by Joshua Knelman, a mind-blowing investigative book on the world of international art theft.
In your Bigfoot series, the protagonist is a narcissistic megalomaniac with impulse control issues. Is his story inspired by your own life experiences?
No, unlike Bigfoot, I am pretty much perfect.
What is your ideal studio like?
Self-cleaning, well stocked, workshop-like, prone to interesting visitors that bring me lunch and news of the outside world.
Who is the funniest person you know?
Funny 'ha-ha' or funny 'hmmmmm'? Or both? Like that clown I know that is always muttering stuff about the government.
Which fictional character do you most identify with?
Sometimes, C3PO, sometimes, HAL. Sometimes Arthur Dent, sometimes Dave.
When did you decide to become an illustrator?
Aside from going to art school to study illustration, I think I kind of just became one. I do have a vague recollection of originally wanting to be an animator.
What's one tip you want to share with other creative professionals?
If you're moving the pen around and nothing happens it probably means it is out of ink or the cap is still on or you are holding it upside down or you have mistaken a hot dog for a pen.
Also, having the discipline to sit down and work at something until you get it right is a surprisingly rare trait in people, so if you have it, or feel you have the potential to have it, make use of it. Protect it like your life depended on it.
What is your guilty pleasure?
What do you do when you're not working?
Hang out with friends.
Look out your window. What's the first thing you see?
Darkness. It's night time. My own image reflected back at me. Hey there handsome. See question 6. (Wow! That there was some poetry.)
If Hollywood produced a movie based on your life, which actor would play the leading role?
Best decided by a winner takes all no rules casting call death match.