Features Claire Wendling
One of France’s most popular comic artists is in a state of rude health and keen to get back to her pencils…
The French comics artist on her love of nature, getting back on her feet after a period of ill health, and why she’s picking up her pencils…
ack in the summer of 2013, the world of comic art nearly lost one of its finest. Claire Wendling found herself in hospital with kidney failure. She also suffered from lung edema and other infections. It was the culmination of three years of serious illness for the French artist, who’d already been dealing with a heart condition. To top it off, she was being driven mad by chronic tinnitus.
She was at her lowest ebb, but thankfully she pulled through and recovered. Today, not only is she getting back to full health, but she’s also drawing again. Everybody on the French comics scene and beyond is looking forward to seeing what she’ll come up with.
“I’m better, but everyone who has experienced this kind of stuff will tell you that it takes time to jump back into your life, your routine and your work,” says the artist says. “I have had to learn how to live again, I guess.”
out of practice
Claire continues: “It’s taken a lot of work to be able to draw again. I was only drawing on and off for three years and that’s definitely not enough to keep your imagination and skills going. I’ve spent four months trying to recover all of that, doing one or two small jobs besides practising every day. I’m like an athlete who was forced to stop doing their sport
July 2014 after an injury. You can train, but you have to wait for the Olympics.”
Despite her hiatus from the industry, just about anyone who knows comics will bring up Claire’s name when they think about the scene over in France. Yes, there have been great works from the likes of Moebius, Jean Claude-Fournier and Fred, but Claire has always been regarded as an artist’s artist. Perhaps it’s the way her talent for drawing comes through in everything she does. Her style is all about figurative, natural and expressive line work, sometimes finished in inks and watercolours, but often left in raw pencil sketch format. It’s comic art, done simply and beautifully.
I’m like an athlete who was forced to stop doing their sport after an injury
Right now, Claire is working on a retrospective book that’s coming later this year from Galerie Daniel Maghen, a French publisher of special editions by comic artists. She’s also considering reviving the Alice in Wonderland project that went on hold when she became ill, and doing some smaller personal projects. She hopes to publish a book of sketches soon.
One of the projects that Claire is best know for is a series of comics drawn throughout the 1990s entitled Les Lumières de l’Amalou, or The Lights of Amalou. It was her first major work after leaving l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts d’Angoulême, where she was a prize-winning artist. Working alongside writer Christophe Gibelin she drew five books in total, which were later released as a stunning 250-page graphic novel.
As she drew Amalou, Claire was able to express her passion for nature, which
dates back to when she was a child. The artist grew up in the countryside in the south of France, and remembers running around the fields, and all the animals that she encountered. If she had to stay indoors, she spent all her time drawing. “The revelation came one Christmas when I was given a small, plastic projector with part of a Robin Hood movie that I could watch on my bedroom wall,” she says. them to think about a bigger piece. Amalou was born, and drawing it filled up half the 1990s for Claire. In 1997, she went to Los Angeles to work as an freelance concept artist for Warner on the 1998 animated production Quest for Camelot, which featured the voices of Celine Dion and Gary Oldman. She also did some work on The Iron Giant. “I was happy to draw again,” she says. “Comics had driven me away from
Claire’s interest in nature meant she wanted to study biology, but she couldn’t achieve the grades required. So she fell back on her prodigious drawing skills and attended art college at Angoulême. While there she launched her own comic, and did a range of small jobs, even demonstrating drawing pencils at art and toy fairs. People were offering to buy the work even then.
At college she met Christophe and after they’d made a few contributions to comic collections, the publisher Delcourt asked drawing a little. I even held a small exhibition at Warner showing some of my personal work. My book Desk is full of this kind of work.”
Claire returned to France and continued doing an array of small projects including comics, posters, illustrations and further collections of her own work, such as Daisies and Drawers. “Drawers was a selection of jobs I worked on in animation and illustration, including some work-inprogress sketches. It went back to my first years in the job,” she explains. “Daisies was first printed by Stuart Ng Publishing, then in France by Soleil. It contained twice as many drawings as Drawers, relating to posters I created for fairy tales or music conventions we had here. I indulged myself sketching and doodling more than I had been asked to do.”
You’ll find more of her work in two tomes of blood-sucking imagery entitled Chasseuse de Vampires, and in several collections by Delcourt. In 1996 she released a book of sketches entitled
WILD CAT In 2005, Delcourt reprinted the Les Lumieres de l’Amalou graphic novel with a fresh cover, drawn by Claire. Another reprint appeared last year.
Develop a style
“Try to understand and to feel what you draw, and know why you draw in a particular way. Copying a style might be good practice, but every artist has their own mental path and reasoning. Your work will be 10 times richer if it comes from yourself.”
ME Claire’s upcoming sketchbook release will feature this feline character, who has a strong affinity for teacups. once upon an X-MEN Claire Wendling pencilled the covers for the mini-series X-Men Fairy Tales. This image is taken from issue four, featuring Rogue and Gambit.