Here are the results of our question and answer session with Sylvain Jolivault, author of Esprits et créatures fabuleuses du Japon: Rencontre à l'heure du bouef. Enjoy!
Sylvain, who is your favourite Japanese artist, and would you say your work is influenced by any one in particular?
SJ: I'm fond of many ukiyo-e artists such as Hokusai or Hiroshige. I also very much like Toriyama Sekien’s works about yōkai. But I think my favorite one is Utagawa Kuniyoshi, among others for his depicting characters fighting huge monsters in a kind of super heroic style !
As far as modern mangaka are concerned, I like Akira's Ōtomo Katsuhiro, and, of course, Lone Wolf and Cub's Kojima Gōseki.
I've read Pierre Souyri’s book, translated into English as The World Turned Upside Down, which gives a very vivid portrait of medieval society in Japan. What else has he written - I guess he was great to study with.
SJ: We (me and my wife) much liked to attend his lessons. Unfortunately, that very year, I had to do my military service in the same time, so I couldn't attend all of them. His teaching is very lively. He is a very concerned and passionated teacher. His usual field is the study of Japanese society. I haven't read any other book he has written, except Histoire du Japon, which he wrote with several other authors and was edited by Francine Hérail.
(Here is Pierre Souyri's bibliography)
What medium did you use to create your pictures (water color, oil paints, ink) and are they computer enhanced?
SJ: I usually draw it first with a pencil, then I ink it with a fine felt-tip pen, and erase the pencil. After that, I color it up with watercolor.
I sometimes use my computer to clean up a drawing, erase unwanted stains. The computer is also useful for superimposing different drawings. For example, after having drawn a nice character, I may not want to waste it with a messed up background. So I can separate it and use it in different ways.
As far as the kyūbi no kitsune (above) is concerned, it has been drawn this way: with a water-colored setting, and then photoshopped!
Being involved in the haunted attraction industry, I'd be interested to know how you went about putting together your 'oni tetsubo'-materials, processes, sculpting, and molding. I seem to recall it being light (so likely foam) and 'customer safe', making it a possible template for weapons to supply our 'American yōkai' with.
SJ: Indeed, it's a safe weapon I made for LARP. The inner core is a wooden staff. On the handle part, the staff is wrapped in an insulated foam tube. The "hitting part" is made out of a long block of foam sculpted in a split hexagonal cone. The staff is glued to the foam cone up to its half-way point and an hexagonal cap is glued on top of it.
The big rivets are in fact split foam balls (like the ones used for beach tennis balls). The loop at the tip of the handle is made with a ring-shaped baby toy (made out of rather hard plastic, so you'd better not hit opponents with it.
At last the whole of it is coated with a mixing of black acrylic paint and pre-vulcanized latex. I finally added a light silver acrylic-paint dry-brushing on balls and angles.
And here it is!
Of the Japanese ones you've seen, what do you consider the definitive book on yōkai?
SJ: If you want to look at a good collection of yōkai woodblock prints, I can recommend you Toriyama Sekien Gazu Hyakki-yagyô Zengashû 鳥山石燕 画図百鬼夜行全画集 (Collection of a Hundred Ghost Night Parade's Drawings by Toriyama Sekien).
As far as descriptions and explanations are concerned, Nihon Yôkai Hakubutsukan 日本妖怪博物館 (Museum of Japanese Yôkai) , by Kusano Takumi 草野巧 and Tobe Tamio 戸部民夫, is my favorite one. And Shibuya Yûji シブヤユウジ's pencil drawings are really fine.
Thanks to Sylvain and all who participated for the fascinating interview! Stay tuned for further interviews from the Samurai Archives.