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…

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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.

Leading light

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.

Think­ing big

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.”

TEATI

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.

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