Hire This Woman: Artist Elsa Charretier
In the overwhelmingly male comic book industry, it has been a challenge for some editors and readers to see the ever growing number of talented women currently trying to make a name for themselves. With that in mind, ComicsAlliance offers Hire This Woman, a recurring feature designed for comics readers as well as editors and other professionals, where we shine the spotlight on a female comics pro on the ascendance. Some of these women will be at the very beginning of their careers, while others will be more experienced but not yet “household names.”
Artist Elsa Charretier has primarily produced comics in her home country of France, including previous works Aeternum Vale, an issue of Le Garde Républicain, and backup pages for the Image comic One Hit Wonder. Her current project, The Infinite Loop, which she’s pencilling, inking, and coloring, had a very successful crowdfunding campaign.
ComicsAlliance: Which is your preferred form of creative output?
Elsa Charretier: Since I pencil, ink and color my own work, I see all the steps as a whole. It’d be hard for me to pass my pencils for somebody else to ink, or ink someone else’s pencils. Not that I wouldn’t trust their work, but it’d feel like turning in unfinished work. I have a lot of fun at every step. Layouts and pencils are all about excitement and creativity. There’s the magic of putting a feeling on paper, to translate every little detail of the script, and most of all, express yourself! Although it can be hard and frustrating, it really makes me feel alive. Since my pencils are pretty detailed, the inking process is easier. But the challenge lies in rendering the pencils’ looseness.
CA: Do you work on paper or digitally? Why?
EC: I work on paper, except for colors. To tell you the truth, last year I seriously thought about moving to digital. I thought it’d allowed me to work faster, but in the end I think I love boards, as an object. I like the work environment it creates, paper all around the table, ink on your hands. And nothing replaces the feeling of putting the first lines on a big empty board. It has a reassuring, even comforting feeling that I don’t feel when I digitally color.
CA: What’s your background/training?
EC: When I decided I wanted to become an artist, about three years ago, I had absolutely no money. So since art school wasn’t an option, I bought a book called Drawing Characters for Dummies. It contained everything I needed to know as a complete beginner to understand shapes, anatomy and facial expressions. I studied this book thoroughly, applied what I’d learn, and drew 10 hours a day. Right about that time I met [The Walking Dead artist] Charlie Adlard who very nicely offered to help me though my learning process. So although I wasn’t in an art school, I had the best teacher I could have hoped for. He’d point things I should improve, things I should work on… I can never thank him enough for what he did for me.
With time I bought more books, got interested in animation, in inking, in body language, and met tons of new people who helped me improve my art work.
CA: How would you describe your creative style?
EC: I try, as much as I can, to bring “fluidness” to every aspect of my work. Traditional animation inspires me a lot. I like everything about it, the smoothness, the energy, the emotions it creates. I’m not saying I’m an animator, very far from it! But I always try to translate this sense of motion, the character’s energy, their body’s energy, make them really alive. My other main concern, is the smoothness of the storytelling: guide the eye through the page, and bring a sense of dynamism and energy.
CA: What projects have you worked on in the past? What are you currently working on?
EC: I previously worked on two French comics, Aeternum Vale, a four-issue comic you could describe as Frankenstein’s myth adapted during the industrial era, and an issue of Le Garde Républicain, a superhero book. I also did two backup pages for One Hit Wonder, a comic published by Image Comics.
I’m currently working on my third book, The Infinite Loop. Pierrick Colinet (the writer) and I crowfunded the book last June, quite successfully I must say! We asked for $6,700 and eventually collected more than $17,200. I like every aspect of this book, the story, the characters, but the funding in itself was an amazing adventure. Crowfunding is not as developped in Europe than it is in the US, so we were all the more surprised by the backer’s enthousiasm. Kickstarter’s success already showed a while ago that readers are fond of indie projects, and I’m glad to see European readers are getting into it. It opens fantastic perspectives for creators.
To tell you more about the the book itself, it’s a science-fiction love story between two women that mixes suspense and time-travelling. From the beginning, we wanted to create a unique visual universe, and set ourselves challenges. I focused on developing storytelling that would be more inventive than what I did before. A way of telling this story that would engage the reader, and hopefully, support the story. I have the greatest time drawing these pages.
CA: Approximately how long does it take you to draw a 20-page issue?
EC: Before starting The Infinite Loop, I would have said about a month and a half. My art style was a bit different back then and I was feeling less comfortable. I had all the trouble in the world to meet deadlines. Luckily, the context allowed me to work at my own pace. But on this book, things are completely different. My actual style, less realistic, suits me much better. I feel like the characters just draw themselves, I’m a lot faster, and I’m having a lot more fun! Which is good, because our deadlines are tight. Basically, I have turn in 24 pages every three weeks (pencils + inks). I’m not going to say it’s easy… but it’s manageable. I also notice that the passion I have on this project, the love I have for these two women gives me an insane energy. I really feel like drawing all the time.
As for the colors, well, I have no idea of how long it’s gonna take since I’ve never colored an entire book before… I think I’ll have three weeks to do all three issues, so, it will have to do!
CA: What is your dream project?
EC: What I like above all is having the opportunity to create, having the room to use my imagination. Whether it’s the character designs, the environments, the vehicles, the layouts, I like to invent things! So, by definition, science-fiction and fantasy are my favorite genres, although I like lots of other things.
Also, one really important thing for me is to have a real artistic connection with the writer. To be able to share our work, talk about the pages, the script… I like the exchange.
And last, but not least, I like drawing women!
CA: Who are some comic creators that inspire you?
EC: There are so many… and the list keeps growing every week! I keep discovering fantastic artwork, fantastic techniques, fantastic stories… On the top of my head I’d say: David Aja and Matt Fraction on Hawkeye, Tim Sale, Darwyn Cooke, Bruce Timm, and all these geniuses who do so much with so few lines. Also, JH William’s III’s run on Batwoman blew my mind. These people have a real vision, their personality shows through their art and that’s what touches me. A lot more than mastery of perfect anatomy and perfect inking.
CA: What are some comics that have inspired you either growing up or as an adult?
EC: Like I said before, I got into comics pretty recently. I had a completely different job, in a completely different culture back then. Until a friend encouraged me to dive into it and suggested I read Watchmen. It was a true revelation, mindblowing. Like a lot of people who don’t really know comics, I thought it was mostly about big muscly guys and naked girls. Alan Moore opened my eyes on what comics could be about. From that moment on, I gave up my former job, completely turned my life around, started drawing and decided I wanted to create comics! So obviously, his work had a huge impact on me.
One other big influence, (and it’s not comics per say but still) was Batman: The Animated Series. It’s one of the only cartoons I was allowed to watch as a kid, and I’m sure it had a significant impact on my tastes regarding art. Even today, I am, we all are, still amazed by how perfect the show is. It’s a true inspiration, on so many levels.
CA: What’s your ideal professional environment?
EC: I think it must be the same for lots of artists, but I need calm. I sometimes like music when I draw pages that are easier, but mostly, I like silence. Besides that, I don’t need much: a light table, my pens and that’s it. Of course if I can be outside, surrounded by trees and nature, it’s ever better.
CA: What do you most want our readers and industry professionals to know about your work?
EC: I consider comics as a second chance. A career that have brought me more joy and fulfilment than I could have imagined. So I put all my heart in it. I always keep in mind the readers, and try to provide them the best comics experience I can. I also try to be a good workmate.
I guess I’d like them to know I’m very passionate about what I do, and also that, now I’m here, I intend to stay!
CA: How can editors and readers keep up with your work and find your contact information?
EC: I post a lot on Facebook and DeviantArt. You can also contact me by email at elsa-dot-commission-at-gmail-dot-com. I will also be at New York Comic-Con in October. I’ll have a table in Artists’ Alley, so feel free to stop by and say hi!
If there is a woman you’d like to recommend or if you’d like to be included in a future installment of this feature, drop us a line at comicsalliance-at-gmail-dot-com with “Hire This Woman” in the subject line.