Castles, coats of arms, and curious tales are Pia-Mélissa Laroche’s bread and butter. The Paris-based illustrator does, however, have an interesting take on bringing these tales to life. While the themes in her comics and zines seem to sit somewhere between Beauty and the Beast and Chaucer, her method of narration is a lot more fluid and non-verbal than such stories. Rather than, say, following a knight or woodcutter, step by step, through a storybook adventure, she plays with sequential images to meander around the edges of a narrative. “I like when the images leave enough room for everyone’s interpretation and when their reading is not unequivocal”, Pia-Mélissa tells It’s Nice That.
To achieve this effect, the illustrator draws stories as she goes along, “without prior structures,” she says. “The theme, the story, the colour, the layout and even the shape of the book will impose themselves as I progress.” Always on the hunt for new narration possibilities, Pia-Mélissa plays with a range of binding and printing techniques to enhance each new story.
One such wonderful example is a book she worked on titled Si ce n’est pas par le feu (If not by fire), a flammable graphic novel published by Cacahuète Editions. The book is miniature; the illustrator tells us that Cacahuète Editions only publish books that are small enough to fit into a peanut box, so they can be distributed in peanut dispensers around cafes and cultural spots in Paris. Loosely following the story of a city where nothing burns, the printing techniques on the work allude to the concept of setting things alight – although, Pia-Mélissa adds that the form actually had little to do with the story; it was initially conceived when the illustrator was experimenting with creating sculptural book covers.