Il­lus­tra­tor Lu­cille Clerc ex­plains the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind her screen­prints fea­tur­ing nymphs

Il­lus­tra­tor Lu­cille Clerc takes us be­hind the scenes on this self-ini­ti­ated project where she cre­ates im­ages of nymphs that em­body the plants of the world

Computer Arts - - Con­tents -


Ko­dama is a per­sonal project rooted in my love of na­ture. I was re­search­ing le­gends and tra­di­tions re­lat­ing to na­ture and that’s when I fell in love with Ko­dama: for­est spir­its from Ja­pa­nese folk­lore. I de­cided they would be the fo­cus of a se­ries of im­ages I would cre­ate.

My Ko­dama in­habit trees and are gen­er­ally peace­ful, but some­times they are cross with us be­cause of our at­ti­tude to na­ture. They’re like nymphs that are half hu­man, half veg­e­ta­tion, and they hide in our gar­dens and in the last bits of green­ery in our cities, re­mind­ing us of how dif­fer­ent our re­la­tion­ship to na­ture could be.

The area I come from in France plays a big part in my love of na­ture. I grew up near a for­est, my fam­ily owned cat­tle, the soil is rich and peo­ple work in the min­ing and wood in­dus­tries. I’ve lived in the city for 15 years, but still feel the need to go back to where I grew up. Peo­ple who were born on the coast need to see the sea, I need to see forests and fields.


I’ve been sketch­ing plants for a long time, in my gar­den and in the botan­i­cal gar­dens in Lon­don and France. My sketches form a large col­lec­tion.

I use Mole­sk­ine and Fabri­ano sketch­books be­cause I like the for­mat and the pa­per qual­ity. I don’t like draw­ing on white pa­per; off-white or coloured with a grain is bet­ter. It doesn’t have to be fancy though, I also love draw­ing in old note­books found in flea mar­kets.

The draw­ing is done with ball­point pens, or Bic/Muji Cri­terium me­chan­i­cal pen­cils. The hard­ness of the graphite varies and the sizes I use go from 0.5mm to 3mm, which is very thick. I use Win­sor & New­ton wa­ter­colours and Le­franc Linel gouache.

I draw all the el­e­ments by hand. It is time­con­sum­ing, and is metic­u­lous work, but I find cre­at­ing the de­tail is re­ally ther­a­peu­tic. It puts me in a sort of hyp­notic state, which is both sooth­ing and quite ad­dic­tive.

When my draw­ings are com­plete, I scan them and ar­range my com­po­si­tion in Pho­to­shop.

I see the work done on the com­puter as be­ing like the tape that holds the mon­tage to­gether.

The fig­ures in the Ko­dama draw­ings are like totems that rep­re­sent the sea­sons. Each im­age in the first se­ries uses dif­fer­ent types of plantlife; woods, suc­cu­lents, al­gae, rain­forests, man­groves and flow­ers in bloom.

Guilt is fre­quently used to get peo­ple to think about ecol­ogy. I wanted to re­mind them of how mar­vel­lous na­ture is, and con­vince them to care about con­ser­va­tion through view­ing this pos­i­tive and sooth­ing mes­sage.

The colours are meant to har­monise, and one print leads on to the next. Cre­at­ing them was tech­ni­cally chal­leng­ing, but after try­ing dif­fer­ent set­tings dur­ing the print­ing process, I’ve man­aged to make it work with­out hav­ing to sim­plify the art­work.


When an im­age is com­plete, reg­is­tra­tion marks are added and I sep­a­rate it into four colour chan­nels – cyan, ma­genta, yel­low and black. The lay­ers are con­verted into bit­maps, and each is printed in black on a layer of clear ac­etate. This is the print pos­i­tive.

The screens are alu­minium frames with silk mesh. I use a very fine mesh to pre­serve the de­tails. The fab­ric is coated with light sen­si­tive emul­sion, which has to go on thinly and evenly in or­der to get the de­sired ef­fect.

I then place the pos­i­tive onto the screen and ex­pose it to sun­light, to a 500W halo­gen light or

to a UV light in a vac­uum ex­po­sure unit. After ex­po­sure, I wash away the un­ex­posed emul­sion and when the screen is dry, I tape over the edges to pre­vent ink reach­ing the edges of the frame. I can then print by sat­u­rat­ing the screen with ink, which goes through onto the pa­per wher­ever the emul­sion wasn’t ex­posed to the UV light. The trick is to use the reg­is­tra­tion marks very pre­cisely so that the colours go down ex­actly where they should, pro­duc­ing an im­age that is as crisp as pos­si­ble. Pre­par­ing to print and sort­ing out reg­is­tra­tion are def­i­nitely the most time-con­sum­ing as­pects of the process.

My Ko­dama sea­sonal im­ages use var­i­ous dif­fer­ent inks – metal­lic, shiny and matt – so the colours in­ter­act in com­pletely dif­fer­ent ways. This is the great thing about screen print­ing: you can cre­ate some­thing that can’t be done in a dig­i­tal print. It’s much more sub­tle. The pig­ments are strong and long-last­ing. I printed 40 of each and I’m sell­ing them on my web­site, on Out­line Edi­tions and at three gal­leries. My goal is to keep ex­per­i­ment­ing and try new tech­niques. I have a new set of Ko­dama art­works based on the sea­sons, which I plan to screen­print soon.


03 Lu­cielle as­sem­bled cards and old pieces of pa­per and drew the sil­hou­et­ted char­ac­ter, which is the cen­tre­piece of each spirit, in pen.

04 Lu­cielle has been col­lect­ing sketches for years, adding to them with each visit to a botan­i­cal gar­den. Some of them be­came part of the Ko­dama spir­its. 04

01-02 From in­trigu­ing trop­i­cal leaves to del­i­cate fid­dle­head ferns, dozens of el­e­ments were metic­u­lously sketched by hand for Ko­dama. 01



06 Work in progress se­quence show­ing the four dif­fer­ent ink sep­a­ra­tions of the suc­cu­lent print: yel­low, ma­genta, cyan and black.


05 Test screen­prints. When screen­print­ing four colours, reg­is­tra­tion is one of the big­gest and most time-con­sum­ing chal­lenges.


07 The Man­grove screen­prints, with colours far sub­tler and richer than you can achieve in a dig­i­tal print.

09 09 Bloom is an op­ti­mistic im­age and is full of petals of many de­scrip­tions – each painstak­ingly sketched and shaded..

08 08 Man­grove’s Ko­dama spirit has a semi-sub­merged hint about it.

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