It is not easy for an artist to live in “the most painted town in the world”, as the illustrator Javi Aznarez calls Cadaqués. To make things more complicated, the gallery that he runs with his partner – also the artist Elodie des Longchamps – and his partner, Ilich Roimeser, is located in what is probably the most picturesque corner of this postcard town. A place where, as the journalist Cristian Segura says in his book People of order (Gutenberg Galaxy), “former Red Flag militants and businessmen with a private helicopter can meet at noon in the same boat.”
The illustrator Javi Aznarez in his house-studio in Cadaqués (Girona). Anna Huix
Those who enter the Tabakov Workshop may hope to find a marina, a beautiful watercolor to put in their second home. Instead, they come across Aznarez’s drawings of little men playing petanque with their heads and poisoned lovers. “I have my dark side,” admits the 42-year-old comic book writer who is an admirer of Quino and Sempé.
The Tabakov Workshop, which is named after a Russian painter who is said to have died there, in that same cave three steps from the sea, also usually goes to Octavia Peissel, the producer and right-hand man of Wes Anderson, who spends the summer in Cadaqués since I was a child. It was she who proposed the name Aznarez when the director was looking for a cartoonist for his film The French Chronicle, which recreates a fictional magazine based on The New Yorker.
Poster for the movie ‘La Crónica Francesa’, made by Javi Aznarez.
After many delays due to the pandemic, the film will be seen from September 23 in the Pearls section of the San Sebastian Festival and will be released in Spain on October 29. All the regulars come out of the troupe by Anderson: Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Saoirse Ronan, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Timothée Chalamet and also many drawings by Aznarez. “They asked me for a test, they sent me a frame of the storyboard in which the cartoonist of the magazine was seen [que en el filme interpreta Jason Schwartzman] with eight posters behind and had to reinterpret them. I lost four drawings in two days and they already saw that it was fast, ”he says.
One of the illustrator’s drawings. Anna huix
This is how Aznarez entered Anderson’s universe. And what had to be a specific intervention, ended up becoming a job of much more scope. The movie poster is his, in which the entire cast appears in the magazine’s offices, with the imaginary city of Ennui-sur-Blasé in the background, as well as the more than 30 magazine covers that appear in the film . He also did the end-credit drawings and doodles that adorn the magazine’s offices on set. His own hand appears on a plane. “Wes wanted a stylized pianist’s hand, but I have more of a butcher’s fingers,” he laughs.
Tabakov workshop, the gallery run by Aznarez in Cadaqués. Anna Huix
His best and worst memories of the shoot took place in Angouleme in 2019, when Anderson asked him, in front of Bill Murray, the art director and the entire technical team, to improvise a Jason Schwartzman cartoon to fill a gap in the set. The illustrator had been awake for almost 36 hours because he had to stay all night drawing on the walls of the set. “Luckily, after so many hours working, my hand was going alone. It was kind of very calm. When I left the nerves came to me and my whole body began to shake ”.
As happens to so many comic authors, drawing was for Aznarez, first of all, a bad vice that sooner or later would have to be eradicated. He lived in Barcelona and studied at an elite Opus Dei school for boys only. “I was terribly bored, I was unable to listen to the teachers. In the end, one, Professor Viñeta, with that prophetic name, decided that he would give me the texts that we were going to give in Literature so that I could illustrate them. They also asked me to do caricatures in the cloister meetings ”. He wanted to study Fine Arts, but his parents told him not to talk. “I managed to finish Business and Marketing at Icade. It was not very difficult. That was like a branch that had been opened for silly children. ” One day, wandering around the Saló del Còmic, he came across the stand of Joso, the school of comics and visual arts, and enrolled to try. “The first morning I was already delighted. At last I could draw calmly ”.
Another drawing by the artist. Anna huix
His first book, a futuristic humorous story that he published in Casterman – the historic Tintin publishing house – was conceived over two winters in Cadaqués, where he has also acted as a taxi driver and a waiter. October to May is when the sinister side of the town is most noticeable, he says. “You go down the street, you hear the noise of the wind and you think: ‘Here anyone could kill me and no one would know.’ The sun goes down right away because the mountain takes it away and you feel a bit helpless ”. The vacationers disappear and the usual patrons remain, who all have breakfast – including him – in the town’s casino, a highly andersoniano. “Of course, Wes could make a movie in Cadaqués, because there are some important characters. This is where elephants come to die ”. People like Juanillo de la Isla, the boatman who crosses tourists to Port Lligat, or like the English twins who were Dalí’s models. One of them passed away a few months ago. Of course, everyone in Cadaqués has their own history with the painter.
The head of Tabakov, a Russian painter who is said to have died in the illustrator’s workshop.Anna Huix
And all, including Aznarez, move through the whitewashed streets of the town somewhat possessed by the wind, whoever plays that day. “It is the first thing that is talked about in the casino. The garbí, for example, is a strangling wind, very humid and disgusting that leaves us all wet and wrinkles the papers in the gallery ”. Together with his regular collaborator, Xavi Homs, Aznarez has spent years developing a whole mythology around the winds, which they have already captured in a self-published book, Strangler Ventvolgut, and will soon be finalized in another. Above all is always the tramontana, which in his drawings has the shape of a naked woman, huge and felliniana, due to a very specific childhood memory. “When it blew, my mother would take us to the beach of Sa Conca, which is more sheltered. It has a nudist part and one day, when I must have been about six years old, I saw a huge, naked woman, which shocked me a lot. For me it is related to the ignorance of Opus Dei and its problem with women, whom they see as the source of all problems ”.
For years, Aznarez has balanced gallery sales and her own projects with the kind of food jobs that sustain freelance creatives. He made videos for a liquor brand and drawings for orthopedic bras. He knows that after the repercussion of his work with Anderson all this could change. You have already been asked for an illustration to The New Yorker, the real one. But the cartoonist doesn’t seem particularly eager to capitalize on the opportunity, find agents in Paris and New York, and do whatever he’s supposed to do. In nothing will the terraces of the town be emptied and the good will begin.
The illustrator at his desk.Anna Huix