The intensity of colored pencil
| His drawing style is figurative, almost realist, but the vivid strength and irregular charm of colored pencil always shows through his sketches.
Clément Thoby was born and raised in Nantes, where he watches the Marc Jacobs and Karl Lagerfeld documentaries that shape his childhood dreams of fashion design and haute couture. When high school comes around, Clément Thoby starts negotiating with his parents to head towards a creative job. An artistic pathway is not an option then, so he quits his scientific studies to come closer to art through literature.
He waits to get his baccalaureate before fully dedicating himself to drawing, then takes a one-year refresher course in applied arts. Instead of confirming his initial intuition for fashion, the richness of the course and the diversity of techniques open whole new perspectives: cinema, especially animated movies, is one of the numerous non-fashion ways of making a job out of drawing. With that in mind, he joins the animated cinema course at Sainte-Geneviève and then gets a spot at the EMCA (School of Animated Arts in Angoulême). There, he realizes that he is more receptive to production design than to character animation. In his third and final year, he is required to make a short film as his graduating project. He joins forces with Augustin Guichot and directs Le Client, an animated short with a David-Lynch-inspired atmosphere.
At the time, he draws in his free time and searches for his own style. “I mostly relied on others. I looked for people with a strong artistic persona to learn from them and join their projects by adapting to their style.” Clément Thoby admits he used to have mental block when it came to drawing for himself. “I couldn’t do it. I had no self-trust. Never did it come to me I could start my own thing, have my own style, do my own design. I just thought the best thing for me would be to work on the production design of projects I liked.” The time for his own artistic career is yet to come. He earns his first stripes on the series Lastman. There, he learns the basics of composition, perspective and directing. “It was very intense, very educational but also very technical. I didn’t do any coloring work. It was frustrating.” He keeps working on production design for animated series for a while. While working on Ariol and Chien Pourri (adaptations of Marc Boutavant’s books), he met Marie Lelullier, production designer, and Davy Durand, director and illustrator. Both give him valuable advice on rhythm and drawing simplification.
Even though sketching was a culture during his studies at Estienne and Sainte-Geneviève, he quickly becomes sick of it, and has already stopped when he joins the EMCA in Angoulême. It is years later that he rediscovers this medium and take a liking to it. During a trip to the USA in 2017, he has an experience that changes the direction of his work for good. For the first time, he uses crayons to draw. It is a revelation. “It really amused me. I was pleasantly surprised by my close family and friends’ enthusiasm when I returned to France.” This first glimpse into satisfaction from a more personal work gets him to persevere during his free time from the animated production on which he continues to work.
It is also then that he starts his Instagram account. He is lent a ground floor at an architect’s shop located passage du Ponceau in the 2nd arrondissement in Paris. There he puts on his first exhibition and sells his first drawings. The feedback he gets is encouraging, but he is not ready to quit the safety of big productions yet. One of his biggest dreams has yet to come to fruition: ever since he was in school, he has dreamed of working on a feature film. This step will be achieved when he works on the movie adapted from Jirō Taniguchi’s manga Le Sommet des Dieux (The Summit of the Gods). In 2019, Clément sells his first prints at the illustrators’ fair organized by the Campus Fonderie de l’image in Bagnolet. “A lot of people attended the fair. It was then that I met other illustrators and discovered this environment that I didn’t know well. I realized I was getting more and more interested.” On this occasion, he receives his first professional order as an illustrator.
In March 2020, while lockdowns take effect worldwide and slow down productions, Clément puts his newfound time to good use. He produces and publishes his personal creations on social networks. An article in media It’s nice boosts his online visibility and brings him his first clients from German and Japanese press. “I almost burnt out during that lockdown. I realized I could not do it all, that there were not enough hours in a day, that I was reaching a crossroads and had to make a choice. It was very clear to me that what motivated me the most was illustration.” Happy to have gone through his time in animation, he becomes a full-time illustrator in the summer of 2020.
Today, almost all his orders are made using colored pencils. You can find his work at the Inventaire gallery (across from the Centre Pompidou) or at Artazart, the art bookshop near Canal Saint-Martin. He confesses to preferring traditional techniques. “It is in fact a pleasure. I got tired of always working on a computer. It’s a unique pleasure.” Even though his technique is almost entirely by hand, Clément’s inspiration comes from the discoveries he makes on the Internet. The successive lockdowns have taken a toll on travelling and drawing from nature. It does however not bother Clément, as he confesses to preferring working from pictures in his studio. He travels to the Netherlands, Scotland, England, and Japan from his desk. He would like to roll out his work on other media and on a greater scale. “I would love to try new things, see my drawings on store fronts, frescos, places. I would love to work with set designers, graphic designers, architects and think the work and space at the same time.”
Lorenzo Mattotti, David Hockney, Andrea Serio, Kokooma, Beya Rebai, Gustav Klimt, Félix Vallotton, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jean Mallard, Kazuo Oga, Edward Hopper, Jorge Gonzales, Manuele Fior, Cyril Pedrosa, Stephen Shore, André Derain, Hayao Miyazaki, Tom Haugomat, Kate Bush, Joey Yu, Hiroshige, Patti Smith, Kate Bush
Wax chalk (great revelation during his trip to the United States in 2017), Polychromos Faber Castell pencils and especially Luminans from Caran d’Ache which are “very dense, well covering”, an enlarger scanner from the Cosy Pixel workshop, Photoshop for retouching illustrations.
Where to find him?
Many thanks to Chloé Antoine for the translation.