Multi-media artist: musician, graphic designer, painter, music video director…and now author and illustrator. If you haven’t heard of Vincent Marcone, otherwise known as My Pet Skeleton, your world is about to further expand. With mischievously infectious enthusiasm, Vincent is a panorama of eclectic visions transformed into multi-sensory experiences. I first chatted with Vincent back in 2015 – like many, I was hooked on his perception of life and his experimental journey to become the artist he is today. Over a year on, it’s clear Vincent has continued to flourish at full force along his personal odyssey. There are still many questions left unanswered – and some new ones that have sprouted along the way.
To find out more about Vincent Marcone and his work as My Pet Skeleton, head to his website for more information and to keep up to date with the latest events.
Natalia: When we first spoke, we focused a lot on your artwork under your persona. I suppose the real question is, how did Vincent Marcone even become My Pet Skeleton?
Vincent: When I first started back in 2001, I wanted to craft a memorable name that stood out and was easy to remember. Not many artists had a good online presence at the time and so I knew that a well-designed website would give me an edge and would be key to getting any sort of attention. I wanted to come up with something whimsical, original and authentic to my voice as an artist. While brainstorming up names and flipping through portfolio pieces I came across a tiny skeleton painting that I had always been fond of… “My Pet Skeleton”… [it] came to me as I stared at the image. That stray thought had a certain whimsy about it. It was a little dark and yet it contained a kind of child like presence about it in its phrasing. Those opposing forces are the root of what interests me. Light and dark. And so to this day “My Pet Skeleton” has followed and even eclipsed my own name. The logo is the silhouette in the original painting.
N: You are also in the band Johnny Hollow; there is definitely an echo of your artwork within the music you guys create. It almost feels as if there is a symbiosis between your visual outlets and the musical. Was it the music that brought you to the band, or did you help to mould the band’s style?
V: That’s a really great question. There is a symbiosis between the visuals and the music. My presence has definitely encouraged a style in the music that comes out of the band, but it is by no means responsible for it. Janine (who does most of the musical composition in JH) and I have been great friends for many years. We know how each other think creatively, and at this point, the songs naturally take a certain shape when we make them together. I would say that Janine and I are creatively symbiotic with each other and that energy is comes across in the music.
N: Are you performing at the moment with Johnny Hollow?
V: We JUST released a remix album called “The Mongrel Mixes” that we are very proud of! It is accompanied by our very first stop motion music video that was completely crowd funded by Johnny Hollow fans. The film was written and produced by yours truly and directed and animated by Sarah Legault.
N: As part of your multi-media approach to creating, it’s really exciting to see how you continue to apply different outlets to share your work. Your short animations have gathered a lot of ardor from the masses – both critics and ‘regular’ folk alike! Take The Lady ParaNorma for instance. It won Best Animated Short at the New Orleans Film Festival in 2011 – and now the children’s book of the same name that you have turned it into has won Best English Graphic Novel Aurora Award!
V: The Lady ParaNorma was originally created to be a short film but I had always thought of it as a fairy tale… and so a making it into a book was inevitable for me. I can tell you though the journey to crafting it into a book was a much tougher road than the decision to make it. First off, I had told my publisher that to adapt to the film into a graphic novel would take about 3 months to do. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I foolishly thought that I could take some of the stills of the movie throw them into Photoshop and quickly craft a graphic novel.
That didn’t happen. I discovered that movies and books are completely different creatures. Finding the beat of a story in a movie is different from finding the beat of the story in a picture book. And so I decided to start completely from scratch and repaint the entire book. To add to that, the original concept for the book was to have the words on the left page and a simple picture/illustration reflecting the words on the right. But as I got deeper into the project I decided to really push the rhythm of the poetry by painting them directly into the spread. This meant I needed to design my own font, and paint a double page spread for each line of the poem.
Sneak peek inside The Lady ParaNorma book #I
As I moved down this rabbit hole, I also decided to paint in full colour rather than keep to the duotone look of the film. I was a Canadian kid of the seventies… and many kids my age were forced to watch some strange government funded cartoons that had disturbing imagery that was embellished by muted and swampy colours. They would always come on early in the morning before the ‘good’ cartoons came on. I swear some of those animators were on crack or something… Cartoons like “Fables of the Green Forest”, “The Mighty Hercules” and the weirdest of them all, the French Canadian cartoon “The Secret RailRoad”. These cartoons have stuck with me into my adult life, so I knew there was something special about their (unintentional) creep factor. I spent hours revisiting them all on Youtube to get a sense of those colour palettes to bring them into my book. All in all, the book took me about a year to complete before all of these details were carried through. I’m lucky to have had a very supportive and encouraging publisher!
N: How was the process?
V: Both tedious and invigorating. The initial spreads were kind of stiff… I printed them off and felt they needed something… and so I started painting directly on top of the prints. Sometimes I would scratch into them with a knife… other times I’d use my left hand and a large clumsy brush to paint over the finely rendered figures. This allowed me to paint like I was a kid again and create some really great textures and line work over top of the tightly rendered compositions. When I figured out this process, it brought a lot of life into the work.
N: I hear that there are a lot of hidden treasures within the pages of The Lady ParaNorma… Why did you build a game into the book?
V: There are all sorts of hidden things in the book… faces in the landscapes, faces in the atmosphere… When I was kid, I was infatuated with the book “Anamalia” by Graeme Green. The book had all sorts of puzzles and games hidden within the illustrations. I wanted to have this kind of energy in my first book and so I’ve hidden a cardinal on every page. Also by building a game into the book it encourages the viewer to spend more time pouring over the illustrations which I feel adds another layer to the storytelling and reinforces some of the subtle messages that I painted into the book.
N: Can you tell us something you haven’t told anyone else about the book?
V: Well, yes… I’m not much of a romantic, but the cardinals are a symbol for my partner and I. At the end of the book, if you turn the last page upside down, there’s a message for him there hidden in the tree branch…
N: That’s amazing – I’m definitely re-exploring my copy of the book as soon as possible! You have so many outlets for your creativity. Do you have a particular form that you tend to go to first?
V: Drawing. Pen to paper is where I start if I want to take an idea and give it some life. The type of life it gets is always in question. But my first outlet is in my drawing.
N: With the success of The Lady ParaNorma, have you considered creating further connections between your artwork and other mediums, perhaps?
V: I will definitely do more films and books. It’s a great deal of effort, but I love the end result. A painting is a moment, a book or film forges a deeper connection with other people. I really appreciate those connections and would love to build more of them.
Sneak peek inside The Lady ParaNorma book #II
N: Your ability to transcend your ideas into many different mediums while keeping the fundamental ‘essence’ of Vincent Marcone so pivotal – it’s very inspirational. Are there any other surprises in your pocket?
V: I’m also very excited to say that I’ve just launched the NEW “My Pet Skeleton” site! I’ve re-crafted the space to focus on making my work accessible with all sorts of price points. It’s important to me for patrons of all types to be able to afford my work. The exclusivity of the art world kind of turns my stomach.
N: With all of these exciting projects going on, do you have any upcoming shows?
V: The official date has not been announced yet, but I’m working on a solo show curated by Aaron Soto that I’ll be doing in Mexico in 2017. I’m really excited about it! The details are still in the works.
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