Austin Walsh/Daily Journal
Laurel Duermael, right, shows the art of her comic book Cerise from the living room of the Burlingame home she shares with her husband Adrien Duermael.
Duermael works from her artist studio where she is developing a comic that she hopes to publish independently with the support of a crowdsourcing campaign.
A Burlingame couple are crowdsourcing an online fundraising campaign to independently publish a comic book which tells the tale of their journey relocating from their native France to San Mateo County.
Laurel Duermael, 33, has established a substantial international following from the success of a Cerise, a children’s comic book series written in French which she has published through the same press company that printed the Adventures of Tintin, and other famous books for children.
Now she and her husband Adrien Duermael, 28, are now looking to build on that success, as they branch out on an independent venture, which has been met with unexpected enthusiasm and support, according to Adrien Duermael.
Initially, the Duermaels asked for roughly $10,000 to get the project off the ground, with the intent to use their own money to supplement the effort. They have received more than $180,000 from supporters.
Laurel Duermael said she was caught off guard by the outpouring of support fans have shown for her effort, and is ready to test the waters of independent publishing.
“I was surprised,” she said. “But I prefer to try [self] publication to see if I can do it in the future.”
Though Laurel Duermael has published more than a dozen books already, Adrien Duermael said in France it can be challenging to truly gauge the enthusiasm of an audience because there is so little connection between an artist and their fans.
French publishing companies frequently act as the middle party to reap the benefits of a popular piece of art, isolating the artist and leaving them to wonder how well their work is actually being received, said Adrien Duermael.
The financial disconnect that had previously existed between Laurel Duermael and her fans is part of the reason why the couple is so overwhelmed by the tremendous wave of backing the new project has received, he said.
“Sometimes you feel like community is not supportive,” Adrien Duermael said. “It is great to see they are actually supportive.”
The adoration of fans did not occur by accident though.
Laurel Duermael draws a new page of Comme Convenu, their independent project, every day, then uploads it to her website, and spends much of the rest of her time interacting with fans and responding to their comments about the recent work.
The willingness to engage with fans has developed a deep sense of connection between the artist and her audience, said Adrien Duermael.
“It’s like a love affair with the community,” he said.
Laurel Duermael spent more than a decade developing her fan base, said Adrien Duermael, as she was one of the early adopters to publishing her work online when she started an art blog in 2003.
Her appreciation for art started much earlier though, stemming from her parents’ love for comic books, said Laurel Duermael.
She spent her childhood drawing and honing her skills before eventually making her projects her profession, she said.
“I love books and comic books since always,” she said. “It is my passion.”
Comme Convenu is inspired by the Duermaels moving from France in 2013 and assimilating to culture in Burlingame, said Laurel Duermael.
“It’s the true story of when we moved,” she said. “It is inspired by reality.”
After two years, the two are beginning to feel comfortable living and working in San Mateo County, said Adrien Duermael.
“We really like this place,” he said.
The Duermael home is enveloped in art, and her characters and drawings are ever present in each room, as doodles printed on stickers and framed drawings decorate many of the walls throughout the house.
The drawings are vibrant and playful, as much of it is inspired by the couple’s daughter Cerise, who is also the focus of the book series Laurel Duermael had previously published.
Adrien Duermael, who works a coder for a technology company in San Francisco, said Cerise Duermael is growing a passion in Burlingame schools at the intersection of her parents’ work as she is learning to love art and mathematics.
Should their daughter continue down the path to pursue a lifelong appreciation for art, she would be following in the footsteps of her mother’s development.
Laurel Duermael was named after a comic book character herself, as her parents were dedicated fans of the artists who drew the material which was eventually translated into “The Fifth Element,” the movie starring Bruce Willis.
The beauty of appreciation for art being passed through generations and culminating with a new venture inspired by a family’s journey is not lost on Adrien Duermael, he said.
“To be named after a comic book and become a comic,” he said. “That’s like destiny.”
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