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Riel given graphic novel treatment

By: Adriana Mingo

Posted: 02/15/2016 2:00 PM

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Visual artist Robert Freynet holds a copy of his graphic novel Louis Riel, Patriot in his Ste Genevieve studio.

ADRIANA MINGO | THE CARILLON Enlarge Image

Visual artist Robert Freynet holds a copy of his graphic novel Louis Riel, Patriot in his Ste Genevieve studio.

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A visual artist from Ste Genevieve has released a graphic novel about Manitoba’s founding father.

Robert Freynet has written, researched, and drawn the life of Louis Riel in his new English graphic novel, Louis Riel, Patriot. Freynet, who is bilingual, has also completed the second volume of the French edition of the story called Riel, patriote: défenseur du Nord-Ouest.

Freynet has always had a passion for art and jokes that he was born with a pencil in his hand, as he’s been drawing ever since he can remember.

Though he’s made a living as a professional artist since the 1975, he studied the craft periodically for five years at École internationale de Bordeaux in France on a full scholarship. It was during this time in school that he learned the art of the graphic novel.

But Freynet isn’t only skilled with drawing—he creates art across a variety of media. His studio is filled with murals, paintings, graphic novel panels, and statues he’s restoring for a local church.

This isn’t Freynet’s first graphic novel, however it is his first one in English. He published Louis Riel en bande dessinée, another graphic novel about Louis Riel in 1990, and La Vérendrye, explorateur de l’Ouest canadien in 2002.

"That inspired me to do something more considerable with all the new technologies at my disposal," said Freynet. "I found the story was so engaging and so pertinent to Canada’s history that I thought one day I’ll do a bona fide graphic novel in full colour."

Freynet began working on Louis Riel, Patriot in 2008.

"I researched for a year or two. I sketched out the rough copy of the graphic novel and then I started colouring it," he said.

The French edition of Freynet’s graphic novel is two volumes and the first volume was released in 2013. For the English edition, both volumes are combined into a 70-plus page graphic novel.

"It’s really nice to take the time and the space to really elaborate on the story, because it’s such a complex story. There’s so much political intrigue involved and it was very much the talk of the day in the 1880s," he said.

Freynet said prior to writing and illustrating Louis Riel, Patriot, he was familiar with the story.

"I was familiar with the story, but ever since my first try in 1985 other things have come up. Facts have surfaced. A lot of books have been written," he said. "So I read about 20 books on Louis Riel—taking notes all along and sort of getting facts here and there and tying it all together."

Once the story research was done, the big picture of the graphic novel started to come together.

"One thing I wanted was for the graphic novel to be entertaining. I didn’t want it to be just an illustrated textbook. It is sort of like a film on paper. So you have the lighting, the directing, the acting, the sound effects, the costumes, the architecture, the camera angles, and the various shots. I did all that," said Freynet. "It’s sort of an author’s work, if you will. There’s not exactly the teamwork that you’d find in a film, but it all comes from my experience as a visual artist. I’ve also done a lot of theatre, which gives me a sense of drama."

Though he always has many artistic projects on the go, Freynet said he intends to write and illustrate a graphic novel on the adventures of Jean-Baptiste Lagimodière and his wife, Marie-Anne Gaboury.

Both Louis Riel, Patriot and Riel, patriote: défenseur du Nord-Ouest were launched at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg on Thursday.

Both novels are available for purchase through McNally Robinson Booksellers, Chapters, and amazon.ca.

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