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Beware the Champidragons !
The concept of “Champidragons” (“champignon” is “mushroom in French) by Coliandre, alias Xavier Collette, appeared by chance during a challenge between illustrators on Discord and quickly invaded the whole net. And for good reason: this mix between dragons and mushrooms is absolutely brilliant. Halfway between Pokémon and a World of Warcraft concept-art, the mushrooms come in many forms, and are remarkably alive under Xavier’s brilliant stroke. The next logical step? A book, massively financed on Ulule for the artist’s greatest happiness. A well-deserved success (you can still back it for a few days, don’t hesitate!) which made us want to know more about the author and his little mushrooms!
1/ Can you briefly introduce yourself?
Xavier Collette, sometimes called Coliandre. I’ve been an illustrator for 15 years in various fields: comics, children’s books, concept art for video games or advertising, novel covers, in board games. I touch a bit of everything.
2/ What is your background as an artist? When did you realize that illustration was your path?
So it wasn’t clear at first. I always drew as a kid but I went to science school until I entered engineering. I didn’t like it and that’s when I realized that I was interested in something else. So I made a big turn towards a graphic design school (ESA Saint-Luc in Liège, my hometown). Then I took up drawing again during my studies because if they are similar fields, graphic design and illustration are quite different. It is thus in self-taught that I trained in illustration, being sure that it is what I wanted to make!
3/ What are your sources of artistic inspiration?
A bit of everything, I want to say. Both the artists I appreciate (there are too many of them, so I won’t go into a long list, but we can mention at least: Brian Froud, John Howe, Hayao Myiazaki, Akira Toriyama, Katsuhiro Otomo but also Gustav Klimt, Arnold Bocklin, the pre-Raphaelites or in another field, 123Klan) and everyday life, my environment. The books I read, the series or movies I watch. It’s a mix of all of that.
4/ What is your way of working (technique, creative process etc).
I work a lot on instinct. I don’t think for hours before doing something. I have a vague idea of something I’d like to do… if I need references, I’ll look them up. Then I go for it. Technically, I work mostly on a PC, a Wacom tablet screen and Photoshop. I leave the pencil and the notebooks for the relaxation spaces, when I feel like drawing without being behind a screen.
5/ What is the project you are most proud of?
Rah. None and all at the same time. For different reasons each time. I don’t think I have ONE in particular. There are things I prefer to do because they are closer to my personal universe.
If I had to name really only one, I would say “The cat who was afraid of the shadows” because I did it with my partner Rozenn Illiano. Go see her work: www.onirography.com) on the script and that makes it very special to me.
6/ What would be your dream project?
I don’t know. I often settle for the one I’m working on.
I think animation is crazy. So I think that having one of my worlds adapted into an animated series or movie would be really cool. Or a video game, too.
Otherwise, I’d like to work on a huge artbook one day. Kind of like Brian Froud’s World of Faeries.
7/ Can you tell us a few words about the Champidragon project?
So… at the beginning, it’s a fun little project that was born on my Discord. There is something called the Smaugust, which is a challenge for illustrators on the internet. During the month of August, we draw a dragon per day, following a series of themes on a list. Then in 2020, the mushroom theme was on the list. At first we laughed (with 3 other people: Chane, Svan and Sifhel) imagining to make only dragons mixed with mushrooms.
In the end, we really did it. They were a huge success.
Then a few months later, after many requests for prints, goodies… I wanted to find something different. Then came the idea of a book where you could detach the pages to make prints if you wanted to. The project of the Small Book of Champidragonology was born.
8/ The campaign is already well founded, bravo! How do you explain such a quick success?
I think it’s the logical consequence of a lot of expectations and requests following the success on social networks. My twitter account has quadrupled almost solely because of these little creatures. The biggest tweet reached 40 000 likes… it was insane. Then I teased, little by little… the idea of the book, then how to finance it… etc. Until the campaign opened and was funded in… just under 10min, I think.
9/ What would be your advice to young artists who would like to follow in your footsteps?
To do what they love. Not to fit into a mold or a fashion. You have to keep in mind that people are going to look for you for what you show. And if we show something that doesn’t suit us, we’ll have to do work that we’re not happy with. It’s bearable at first, but in the long run, it can really take a toll on morale.
And second advice, more important: don’t exhaust yourself. Working 12 hours a day is not a life. It’s not a feat of arms either. It’s just destroying your health in the next 10 years. Rest, retreat are necessary to maintain the body on the one hand, and your creativity on the other.
Apart from that, it sounds a bit silly, but train yourself, don’t compare yourself to others, just to yourself. We are not, between artists, in competition, let us help each other, without being jealous ;).
10/ What is your favorite pop culture work of all media?
The Lord of the Rings. The movies (yes, sorry ^^). The work behind the visuals, the atmosphere, the fact to see that yes, you could have a great saga in cinema, without it being kitsch. It was beautiful, great, ambitious. And it made me want to do the same in my illus at the time.
Thanks Xavier !