Interview by Jenkin Au and Alan Ng
Words by Cornelius Suen and Jenkin Au
Photography by Jenkin Au
Please tell us about yourself.
My name is Alexandre Brakha. My nickname has been Osmoze since twelve years ago and it is my graffiti name. Since I started working in animation this has been the name that I sign all of my works with. I have been working as a professional animator for ten years and I have been director of animation for six years. I like my work because it is not just work. It is my life and it is what I love. Even my hobbies are related in some way to my work. I feel like I am working all the time and I really enjoy it. I think I have a lot of passion for graphic design, art, and movies.
How did you get the name Osmoze?
Osmosis is a physiological and chemical process. It is the perfect fusion between two elements. It is antithesis of the concept where two elements are at odds with each other, like how water and oil cannot possibly mix. Osmoze evokes the idea of perfect harmony in the fusion of two things.
While you perform in different mediums, you started as a graffiti artist and now you are an animation artist. Tell us a bit more about what can be achieved with animation that cannot be achieved with graffiti
First off, graffiti is very important for me because without graffiti I would not have become an animation artist. Graffiti helped me to become an artist and I would not be an animator today if I did not start out in graffiti. I studied graphic design at first and never thought that I would end up becoming an animator but I discovered that love images and movement and I love movies as well, so animation was the perfect thing for me. I started to work in animation and after that I had the opportunity to create some characters for web TV series. Becoming an animation artist allowed me to embrace my love for moving images and movies. It is the thing for me.
There are different fields of style in animation, like Japanese influences or North American influences, and your artwork seems to cross the boundaries of different cultural styles. Which of these cultures are you most attached to?
Yeah, for me it is important to understand and to know all cultures to find my own style. I love Japanese animation. I love European art, and I love North American graphic designs. When I like something, I try to understand it and to use it in my own creations. Whenever I direct something, the first idea that I usually have is to try and think of the movies that I love and to see if I can pay homage to them in my own work. For example, I try to think like Japanese artists because in Europe, you build a plan from left to right and in Japan, it goes from the right to left. I love to start my story right to left and I don’t know why – maybe because a lot of the movies that I like are Japanese. I think these influences are very interesting for a guy who accidentally found himself in animation. So for graphic design and animation, I try to mix all the things that I like into my work. Factorial design is the perfect tool for mixing all of these types because the culture is very clear. If you can draw in the European style and mix in images and pop culture references from the North American style and the lines and simplicity of Japanese style, you can have a very good mix. This is what I try to do.
Can you tell us a bit about the creation of the pink rabbit?
Yes. The pink rabbit is a private joke I have with my girlfriend. She told me, “You can’t use a pink rabbit for your logo.” I told her, “Yes, I can.” And it became my logo.
Pink is not the first colour that you would think to associate yourself with, as a man. But I don’t care because I love this opposition of styles. Whenever I sign a drawing with a creature or creation or action I like to put my pink rabbit on it.
On our first examination of your card, we could not see any words on it. But upon closer inspection, we noticed that at the very bottom it says, “Everyone wants to be a pink rabbit.” Tell us a little more about why everyone wants to be a pink rabbit?
Well, it’s because my pink rabbit is pretty cool, right? He is wearing sneakers! I think it is just a joke. Every graphic designer wants to find a good world for his imagination to create and inhabit. Big brands have pitch lines to help people identify their brand from others. The pink rabbit is my pitch line.
While we are on the topic of using characters and different icons of pop culture, sometimes corporations or creators of established licenses, like Star Wars, will not allow other artists to use their creations and complain about copyright violations. Have you ever encountered problems with utilizing popular icons in your own work?
I think it is very cool for character designers to take established icons and re-appropriate them with their own logos or their own typography. I did a design a few months ago titled, “May the Pink be with you”. It is an appropriation of pop culture and movie culture and I think that it’s really cool because while it’s not very original, it’s just a joke and a homage to Star Wars. I like doing things like this. I did a design where I took the motto, “God Save the Queen” and I re-appropriated it to, “God Save the Pink”.
I have a lot of things like this.
A lot of artists develop a personal connection with the characters that they create. A lot of artists become attached to their creations. Other than the pink rabbit being an inside joke between you and your girlfriend, do you have a deeper connection with the character?
The pink rabbit is just me. For me, it is not a rabbit. It is a projection of myself, maybe of my inner child. It is like a kid, with sneakers and with big eyes which can see a lot of things. Maybe the pink rabbit is just the animated version of me.
You started your first web TV series back in 2000.That is when you directed your first web series and discovered flash animation. Can you tell us more about that?
Ah yes, La Claim de la Rue(14:14-15). The English name is Street Pennies(14:19-20). It was my first real project that I wrote, directed, animated, and edited. The only thing that I wanted to do with that series was just to have fun. It was not a big budget series with intricately animated action scenes. It was just a simple story full of comic situations. It was not really good. Looking back on it, I can see maybe ten problems right off the bat. However, it was a pretty good experience because it was my first animation project. I met lots of good guys and for me, that project was my real start to becoming a director.
Since that was ten years ago, and you have definitely been learning and progressing as a director since then, how have you progressed and grown as a director?
I think I will be learning new things all my life. It is very important to learn. I think Quentin Tarantino learned with every film that he has made and that he will make, and so will I. It is very difficult for an artist to see his limit. If I can see my limit, I will stop being an artist and pursue something else. I need to be continually progressing. I need to learn and I need to be constantly changing my style. I need to do this to find out what I want. It’s just what I need. I need to constantly challenge myself.
Have you ever thought of challenging the art world with your designs? For example, there is always a standard of design or animation. Have you ever tried to challenge the norms or standards of animation and design?
I think it’s necessary to try and increase the limit every time with my designs.
Do you do this all the time with your designs?
I think so, yes. It’s important. Some days, I will be working on a character and I will feel that it is not good. If I am not happy with a design I will redo it. Perfection is not possible, but if I am not happy when I see the final work, I will redo it. The most important thing is to take pleasure from your work. If I cannot derive pleasure from seeing my own work, it is not necessary to show it to the world.
You have worked with many artists from around the world: Paris, San Francisco, Berlin, Singapore – the list goes on. While other artists prefer to stay within their circle of friends, you chose to branch out and have created a name for yourself worldwide. Tell us more about these collaborations.
I keep in touch with some artists. It is easier to keep in touch with French artists due to the lack of a language barrier, but since I live in Montreal, I have met lots of Canadian, American, and English artists. And about my collaborations, I think I am an easy going guy. I love talking with people and if I don’t know their language, it is okay. I will just drink a beer and carry on the conversation as best I can. Meeting people is very important for my personal exposure to different cultures and for my own work. It is very important to know lots of people and while it is very hard to have long conversations with a lot of the people I meet due to the distance between us, we always try to keep in touch through e-mail and other methods. Just getting in touch with people, even if it’s only for a minute to ask them how they are doing, is very important to me. For example, I talk with Zuluk in San Francisco, from time to time. We have a business relationship but we will still get in touch from time to time to see how the other person is doing and talk about the new Pixar movie and whatnot, it’s really important to me. A lot of producers that I have worked with became my friends because I am, I hope, a cool guy. It’s important to have fun in my line of work and to have fun with our broadcasters, our producers, and other artists. Sometimes, even though I don’t like the artistic style of some artists, we can still be friends. it’s cool. I don’t care which country the guy is from. With internet and Facebook it is easier to keep in touch with them.
Where is your artwork going now? Where are you planning on taking it?
For now, I will try to finish five trailers because the company that I am working for is giving me a lot of work. However, my dream is to create a home animation studio and work on an animation project with music artists. I love to mix images and sounds. That would the perfect project for me because it mixes all of the things that I like. For me, I hope that my project in the next few years will be my home studio and to explain the vision of my art to the world. When you are working for companies and producers, your work is always being scrutinized by outside forces that may not always get your artistic vision. On the other hand, when I am working apart from studios it is simply about creating something beautiful and something that gives me self satisfaction as an artist.
While you continue to pursue your goal of creating your own studio you are still working for other clients in design and animation. Have you ever thought of putting the pink rabbit into an iconic pop culture license that you have been commissioned to work on?
Not necessarily. The Pink Rabbit is just me. I think this is the logo of my studio and I think that I will use it for my company. But I don’t think it would work as a TV series. I might use it in a video clip or in a collaboration with other artists, but I have no immediate plans to do so. I have a lot of characters so maybe I will do a television series on one of my other characters.
What is HYPE?
It is an attitude. It is what you want to be. I think HYPE is when someone or something is just trying to be cool, to be noticed.