Open the door to unexpected

A second year of convolution


The passage

Continuation of the Fabulous project with a new episode. But what is the Fabulous project? The description of a movement that ends in a marvelous way. It is therefore a combination between movement, a classic theme for painters and designers, and surrealism, a more general movement since it also touches on literature and cinema.
Designing and then creating this 80cm high by 60cm wide page took me another whole year. And yet, the concept was quite clear from April 2022, I had carefully noted it down with Benoît when we were in Morocco. But I wanted to represent a dive very precisely, and then we had to decide what happened before and after the dive. The ideas therefore came gradually, the realization of the watercolors (8 in total) being the fastest part, over about 2 months.

Tribute to comics

Reference authors are not lacking, there are so many who are talented. My main character is a young woman, and to give her personality, I was inspired by the universe of Enki Bilal. The markers are fairly marked facial features, a dark urban setting, black skies, pale buildings.


The story told

A woman dives from a bridge. The jump is that of a swan, superb, worthy of a competition. But when she comes out of the water, she changes worlds.

The passage or the change of world was an idea of Benoît. Originally, he had offered me a character who opens a door and changes worlds when passing through the door. But I told him that representing a movement of crossing a door did not inspire me. Whereas a body carried away by gravity and describing an artistic figure...

At the end of the article, a few words about the clip .

You can download the music and the article on this link .

The composition of the page

The reading direction

If the format of the page was fixed in advance, it had to be identical to the format of the star fisherman, on 3/2 format in portrait. It remained to decide on the layout of the panels on the page. The main subject being the dive, I needed the vertical of the page to break down the movement. The diagonals make it possible to combine the verticality with the width of the page. The direction of reading is in zigzag, which contributes to the originality of the composition.

The 3 moments of the page

Since reading the page is a bit confusing, the panel structure is very simple. It is made up of 3 zones which correspond to moments in history.

  1. First of all the preparation for the jump, this is when the character is on the bridge.
  2. Then the plunge into three diamond-shaped panels.
  3. And finally, The Passage to New World.

A composition in X

The characters are bound in a large X, the center of which is the 4th panel.
The figure and the lamppost form the center of the X.
The diagonals of the 45° panels repeat the obliques that are omnipresent in the composition: at the top left, the perspective of the building. On the following 2 panels, the angle of the arms etc...

The page ends with the most important image, which is positioned as an opening to the marvelous world looming in the distance.

Color pallet


A palette of 8 colors

I kept the same colors as those used for the Starfisherman, 8 colors in all. For the record, there are over a hundred colors in the Winsor & Newton, so the sobriety of the palette is a watercolourist's choice. 8 colors is not enough, however I have sometimes painted some paintings with only the 3 primary colors (lemon yellow, alizarin red, cobalt blue). So what are the 8 colors of the palette?

  1. I start with lemon yellow. An alternative would be aureoline yellow, they are both transparent and very yellow. This brings sweetness to the yellows.
  2. Cadmium orange, it is quite light and provides a luminous color. At times, I completed it with transparent orange, a more intense and reddish color, but which allows several layers to increase the intensity of the color. .
  3. Permanent pink. This color is very covering, added sparingly, it allows intense reds when mixed with yellow.
  4. Quinacridone Violet. I really like this color which is intense when used alone, and gives very pretty grays when combined with emerald green.
  5. Winsor blue green shade. Combined with Vandyke brown, it gives very gray and stormy skies.
  6. Ultramarine blue, which is the main blue in the composition. Combined with Vandyke brown, it brings blacks that can be increased in intensity
  7. Brown Vandyke. I use it with the other colors to shade.
  8. Emerald green (viridian). This gives very pretty grays with purple, and then the color is quite transparent.

With this single palette, each color of which is present in each watercolour, the 3 moments of the Passage follow the following gradation:

  • dominant blue-gray on the first 3 images
  • Chromatic transition from gray to pure and saturated colors for the 3 middle images
  • Dominant orange-pink on the last 2 images.

Part 1, Old World

part1-s.jpg Part 1, Old World


The first paint is called Confidence. Both in the final page and in the painting process, it is the starting point. And from this point follows the continuation.

To decide between the two worlds of the painting, the old and the new, I started from a very dark world, drawing inspiration from the universe of Bilal.

I had arranged this with OAMM, who provided me with the soundtrack.
At the beginning, dialogues in Russian are mixed with the music.
When I have the chance to have the soundtrack of the painting before painting it, I play it on a loop to enter the universe.

bilal2-s.jpg Bilal Inspiration

It is taken from a low angle, with 3 main elements:

  • the sky, which goes from white to black, with the bluish-gray shades that I obtain by mixing Winsor blue green shade and Vandyke Brown. I was talking about it about the palette, and it's a sky I had already done for When the sea . The painter keeps his tips and tricks.
  • The character, which concentrates the colors. The pants go from black to ultramarine blue warmed up by purple colors, the jacket is between green and purple. The hair is red/orange.
  • The building is a kind of ruin, the windows give a glimpse of the sky. Construction is in light pinks. It brings perspective.

The drawing is quite bare. I added seagulls in the sky, and resumed on the pattern of the belt. Yes, it's one more Ricochet , but there's a reason to bring the seagull: this bird means travel , which is quite the subject for the young woman who is about to change her world.

On the following panels, we will discover a bridge, symbolizing a connection between 2 shores, which is a passage in The passage.


For the second panel, I had the markers from the first watercolor. I knew for example that the point of light comes from the character's hair, which is totally complementary to the colors of the sky. I added a backlight effect, to rock the face in the dark. Note the light highlighting on the back of the neck. This lighting effect was prepared on my 3D software, with which I shined a spotlight in the background.
The position has also been precisely studied. At the very beginning of the work, I worked on the movement of the character taking the position before jumping. How she kneels, slowing her movement to become motionless. I see it as a spiritual contemplation, a pause before the action, where I imagine the young woman diving into her thoughts, then emptying them.

It therefore seemed logical to me to represent a street lamp in the shape of a cross: it brings light, and echoes the religious tone of the painting.
At the foot of the lamppost, I represented a building in Saint-Petersburg, on which I installed the triumphal statue of the Vdnk (which is in Moscow).

The character remains in a slight low angle, but the perspective is almost horizontal. The character's arm follows the main obliques of the composition.

The swan

And she jumps.
A young woman jumping off a bridge, this could take a dramatic turn. But that's not my point at all, quite the contrary. Leaping into the unknown is an act of courage and faith, in the search for renewal.
So jumping had to be a sporting performance, and I looked for the position in the discipline that seems to me the most beautiful. This is how I found the figure of the swan: arms outstretched as a sign of victory, like the outstretched wings of a bird. I thought about bringing the seagull , but it would have been a diversion.

The gray sky is barely mentioned, the background is the arch of the bridge. An arch ? Yes, the bridge has become a triumphal arch. But I cracked it to prepare the next image. Brick colors are made from emerald green and purple quinacridone, resulting in a bluish gray.

If the position of the young woman was well studied, several details gave me a hard time.

  • How to express it? I chose to have her eyes and mouth open wide, like a gasp of air.
  • How to represent movement? The jacket opens, the pendant chain goes up in the sky, the hair is ruffled
  • Precisely, I had to paint this watercolor several times, because the coloring of the hair did not suit me. I brought the light from an orange red on the left to pink undertones on the right.

Part 2, The dive

part2-s.jpg Part 2, The dive


After the figure of the swan, suspended and triumphant moment, 3 paintings describe the trajectory of the jump. As I indicated previously, I reconstituted in video each moment of the movement, the duration of which is indefinite, because it depends on the depth of the jump.

The images are diagonal from right to left over 65 cm in length, giving plenty of space for expression. Above all, this diagonal makes the transition between the old and New World, and is positioned in the center of the page. So how do you go from one world to another?
The idea came to me to proceed with a colorimetric transition. Going from dominant gray blue to its complement, that is to say orange-pink.

For the transition to be explicit, the 3 images increase in saturation and brightness. It's not quite the same thing: saturation indicates whether a color is more or dull, while brightness whether it is more or less light.

Saturation and luminosity

For the collapse of the bridge, I documented myself. I remember the collapse of the Wilson bridge in Tours in 1978. This disaster occurred during a flood, and due to the movement of sand at the bottom of the river. The bridge was 200 years old.

Wilson Bridge Collapse

The sky is in the same colors as the first images, and it changes from very dark at the top left to light blue through the gap in the vault.
To be able to represent the bridge seen from below, I recomposed the bridge in 3D and I positioned my camera.

The character is "off", with a bluish light highlighting its outline. Only the hair remains intense, I consider it as a common thread from image to image.
The position is a bit that of a superhero, but at this moment of the jump, we can say that the character is flying.

Deep Water

The painting I call Deep Water is at the heart of the page, hence its importance. While respecting the colorimetric transition, I wanted to add a fantastic touch, to confuse the viewer.
So I change elements, going from air to water, and simply with the magic of ultramarine pigment (originally made from crushed lapis lazuli).

I worked on each droplet, to produce an aura and tornado effect. As you can see in this drawing, each droplet was drawn and then produced on the watercolor with masking liquid. The droplets near the hands and face reflect the color of the character.

The decor is bare: a few bricks to recall the bridge, floating planks, and especially the lamppost / cross.
In addition to this accessory allowing me to mark the center of the painting, the 3 facets of the lamppost bring lighting to the scene, a bit like a reference image.


The moment when the young woman cuts through the water is "off track".

Aside because in the composition it is outside the X. And it is the only image where the character is absent. She is only represented by her hands and elbows. Alright, also the top of the head.
So it's a complete creative space, I can get away from any figurative representation. Or on the contrary, go into hyper-realism. So I oscillated between the 2.
Let's see the colorization: I applied a background of purple quinacridone, to complete The grey-blue passage ultramarine purple.
This makes it possible to highlight other pure colors (yellow, red, blue verging on green).
My droplet experience is taken to the next level. I allow myself more complex shapes and multicolored reflections.

For the color balance of the character, I did some tests on my computer. As before, the hair is a transition from red/orange red/pink.

For the body, there is no shading, just bold colors juxtaposed to express this psychedelic vision.
Psychedelia as the revelation of the soul, reborn from the waters and springing towards a new life. It's good, I finished The passage.

Part 3, New World

part3-s.jpg Part 3, New World


Change of world, passage to the marvellous. I recall the theme of the Fabulous project: a movement that brings the marvelous.

After the saturated colors, I bring the softness of a gradient that goes from a pale orange to a slightly more intense pink.
The character is seen from a vertical angle, which responds to the first panel in a symmetrical way.
I worked on the texture of the hair to give a "wet" effect. I documented myself for this, because for a while now I lost the idea of having wet hair.

The panel is organized in the shape of an equilateral triangle. It is a fairly classic structure, which is restful and harmonious to the eye.
The shape is marked by the position of the character and the placement of the branch, while leaving large empty areas to allow the gaze to circulate.

At each point of the triangle, I place red details: the butterflies, the frog, some flowers. For the zen side, I insist on the circle of the lotus leaves. I explain the symbolism in the following image.

New World

I had found a drawing by Mezières / Valerian which expressed exactly this idea of a new world, I adapted the structure for the last drawing, but I removed all the SF part.
The colors are the same as those of the 7 for the left part (pale yellow, orange, permanent pink), and I used a coherent vegetation. I can even say very coherent, because I reproduced the vegetation in 3D, to represent the same scene from a different angle.

So if you follow me well, you should tell me “Not possible, since panel 8 follows the structure of the Mezières comic strip! »
Well yes, because I started from panel 8, and it was on panel 7 that I changed the viewing angle in 3D.

The big challenge was to represent an infinity of details while remaining readable. This is where taking up Mezières helped me a lot: on the backgrounds, I kept a great simplicity, with very blurred areas, which I interpreted on pretty watercolor gradations.
My drawing was very very precise, so I was able to concentrate on the painting techniques. I started with the character, then the seagull, then the background, then the foreground.

The drawing has many symbols:

  • lotuses, for new life,
  • The birds, in between air and earth: the seagull, the 2 parrots that come in Ricochet. Can you find the silhouette of the other 3 birds?
  • the frog, in between water and earth
  • Mushrooms (profusion of life, they were already there on Rebirth),
  • The apples (which I took from Meziere's drawing),
  • Butterflies (symbol of transformation),
  • My vision of Achille, Loriane's vigorous cat.

Here I come to the end of the explanation of the Passage.

This project fascinated me for a year, what does it express?
The main inspiration is The passage of a young woman to adulthood, according to the way a father can look at his daughters, in the continuation of American.
The interpretation can be extended to any life change, which requires courage, self-mobilization.
It tells what one can feel during the transformation (of the passage), this mixture of sublimation and anguish.
I tell myself that this painting is my perception of life.

The last watercolor takes up a composition by Meziere.


Musique The passage par OAMM

The music comes as a sound illustration of the passage between a cold blue-gray universe and a lush pink universe.
To begin with electro sounds, bass, punctuated at each measure by the chords of a resonating piano; on the other hand, a funky score with brass and electric piano.

To enrich the story and the atmosphere, a lot of sounds were added: heartbeats, the monologue with your feet in the water from "Stalker", Tarkovsky's film which was essential for the Passage.
And in the cold universe of the beginning, since it spoke Russian, fragments of conversation of Russian astronauts on a Soyuz mission.
Then several sounds to accelerate the fall until the glass breaks in the passage and a cork of champagne with bubbles.
On the second part, sounds of conversations in a restaurant (in Russian!) for the festive side.
And the sound of the bell at the beginning and end, which I associate with the fabulous and wonderful theme of this series, as a discreet hint of the presence of magic in our real world.

The movie

The 2mn33s clip (like the one from star fisherman) consists of of 3 elements: watercolors, of course, 3D sequences that break down the movements, and animations that bring fantasy.

Movie on youtube
The light from the street lamp is animated in this watercolour.

3D sequences

Images are composited in high quality
On the same movement, I multiplied the angles of view
The water below the bridge varies in brightness
Face and position express feelings
Bubbles are generated and animated
This part is not generated in 3D but animated

The movie on Youtube is here . Don't forget to leave a comment.


I used several techniques to animate the animals and plants

This seagull is animated frame by frame, from Adobe Animate
While these seagulls are animated from real images, which I then recomposed. It is a Motion Capture type technique, where the animation recomposes a real movement.
The parrot is animated stop-motion with Adobe Animate, like the 1st seagull.
Another technique for this cat (and the plants), moving parts of the body.

I end on the animation of the frog. She is present on 2 watercolors, and in the Movie, I make her jump from one watercolor to another.
Then she dances, and she jumps several times.

The animation mixes several techniques since the frog starts from the drawing and comes back to it.
Essentially, it's frame-by-frame animation, with invented movements, like Adobe Animate. I find it fun to reenact real movements combined with those I invent.

All of these animations help tell the story and convey a wonderful, yet living world.

Animation of a frog over ten seconds