Francois Schuiten and Benoit Peeters working together.

16 Vintage Images of a Beloved Belgian Team


Schuiten and Peeters Working Together


This is a 12 minute video of a younger Francois Schuiten working alongside his writing collaborator, Benoit Peeters, on a page. It’s all in French, so it’s mostly lost on me (except when Schuiten grumbles that his page is “terrible”, which is universal), but getting to watch Schuiten do quick “doodles” with a brush pen is awe inspiring.  It’s the exact opposite kind of work from what you just watched on Friday, but it’s also impressive.

In the second half of the  video, we’re back to Schuiten doing the painstaking work with the colors and inks.

I try to picture a writer and artist in American comics working this way together and my mind explodes.

Disclaimer: this video comes from the late 1990s.  DVDs were around but the world wasn’t shooting everything in high definition yet, and people were still resisting 16:9 tv screen formatting.  Thank goodness we won that war.


The Process


Francois Schuiten and Benoit Peeters working together.

0:19 – Peeters sits shoulder to shoulder with Schuiten to work on a page.  In this video, you see them work through a page, with Schuiten throwing away multiple full-size pages as he works through the layout issues.  These “thumbnails” are not thumbnail-sized.


Francois Schuiten's ink holder is a thing of majestic Egyptian beauty.

(Lost the time code, sorry) – Schuiten wasn’t using his heavyweight ink bottle holder yet.  But he did have this lovely golden thing-a-ma-bobber.  Looks like an Egyptian pyramid souvenir.  I’m guessing that top would close over the ink jar to keep it from drying up.  I also love the blue and white pen with four different inks inside.  Those were a big hit at my school in the late 80s or so. And, yes, that’s a lot of pencils.  But not ALL of them.


The Many Pencils of Francois Schuiten


Francois Schuiten uses a lot of pencils.

8:11 – See what I mean? I bet Schuiten never looks around the room for a pencil to draw with. He’s already more efficient than I am.


Francois Schuiten sharpens his pencil

3:56 – He DID use a more traditional pencil sharpener, though!

What does he do with all those pencils?


Francois Schuiten spots his blacks with his pencils.

5:40 – He spots his blacks!

Francois Schuiten pencils in the color around this word balloon.

8:27 – He colors the comic in!  Here’s Schuiten coloring around a word balloon.  We’ll get to more of the lettering shortly….


Francois Schuiten uses feathers to brush away the pencil/eraser shavings.

8:49 – He brushes off the pencil/eraser shavings with — feathers.  That may be the most gentlemanly thing I’ve seen a cartoonist do since those pictures of comic strip artists in the 60s working in a suit and tie.





Francois Schuiten lettering

7:45 – Schuiten has drawn in the guidelines for his lettering.  Sadly, there is no section in the video of him running an Ames Guide across a T-square.


Francois Schuiten doesn't need an Ames Guide.

7:24 – Because he’s doing it by eye!  It’s possible he’s doing this as a rough, and that the final version will use the exact precision an Ames Guide offers.  Or, it’s possible that Francois Schuiten is the Chuck Norris of comics. At this point, it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that this tool isn’t even a T-Square.  It’s just a ruler and Schuiten’s left hand has a built-in level.  Maybe there’s a floating bubble built into his wrist to tell him when his lines are level?


As Schuiten inks the borders, you can see the penciled in lettering waiting to go just below.

9:42 – Later in the video, as he’s inking borders in, you can see plenty more letters waiting to be inked in below those borders.  Looks like he’s working on this page one tier at a time.


Francois Schuiten lettering!

9:48 – There might not be video of him inking the sound effects, but there   video of him inking in the balloons!  It’s just a lot of careful work, lots of short lines, and a ton of experience to guide his hand. Word balloons in France and Belgium are not often oval like they are here in North America. They prefer the rectangles.  (Have you read “Lake of Fire” yet? One of the tricks Nathan Fairbairn uses to make the book feel like an authentic Franco-Belgian comic is that shape on his balloons.)



Benoit Peeters writing on his Mac in the late 90s.

6:53 – The letters come from Benoit Peeters’ script, of course, and here’s a short clip of the writer at work.  It’s short because watching a writer work is ten times less interesting than an artist.

I didn’t convert to a Mac until 2004, so this shot over Peeters’ shoulder is before my time.  Which word processing program is he using here?


Finished Pencils

A Francois Schuiten page at this stage looks like the color layer in Photoshop.

11:46 – I find this shot of his finished colored pencils absolutely fascinating.  It’s like looking at a Photoshop document when you’ve hidden the art’s ink line layer and are left with just the colors.  But there are inks on the page:


Francois Schuiten inks over his pencil and painted work

10:29 – Here he is inking over his pencils and his colored pencils and probably some paints of some kind mixed in there, as well.


On a Personal Note…

He's working so hard that he's sticking out his tongue.

3:42 – My daughter has a tendency to stick her tongue out when she’s working hard.  If she’s trying a new skill in her dance class or trying to dribble the ball down a soccer field, the tongue sticks out.  As he’s penciling in some rough panel borders here, Schuiten is thinking so hard that his tongue is coming out, too.  Somewhere, there’s a scientific paper that explains this and, in all likelihood, a vaguely Latin-sounding name for the condition.


Francois Schuiten thinks so hard that his tongue comes out.

9:20 – That moment at 3:42 was not isolated…


Share This Article

In addition to all your usual social media channels, here are some extra images you can use.  I’m tempted to go the whole Chuck Norris route, but I mostly held back…


Francois Schuiten owns an awful lot of pencils. Francois Schuiten letters without an Ames Guide. Is he nuts? Francois Schuiten colors comics. In Pencil. Francois Schuiten and Benoit Peeters work together.


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