Wednesday, November 18, 2015

In Lucca with Claire Wendling

-By Jesper Ejsing


The Comic and Games con in Lucca is a fantastic convention. It has around a quarter of a million attendants and takes place within the walls of an Italian medieval town in Tuscany. I was invited down for signing Magic cards and painting live in the performance area of the convention. As a bonus, I knew that my favourite artist; Claire Wendling would also attend, so I tried to set up a meeting before I left for the airport. We agreed to meet when we got there, but it turned out to be more difficult than I expected.

The city was so packed with fans of games and comics that just leaving the area I was at, and get to the tent Claire was at, for the few hours she was signing was too complicated. I got stuck in the crowd when trying to go into the city and had to go back to be at the painting area for the time when I was announced to paint. The day after our schedules had no overlapping lunch breaks and the evening came without us having found each other. Later there was a Gala show in the old Theatre of Lucca. It was all in Italian and I understood nothing. Suddenly I was dragged up to the stage with the rest of the invited artist and there, on the other side of the stage, was Claire waiving at me. "Okay, I will find her outside when the show has ended", I told my self, but when the crowed was leaving the Theatre I looked everywhere and couldn't see her. Our phones did not work, no wi-fi, no Facebook. After half an hour I went to dinner with friends.

The next day at lunch we set up an appointment at a small cafe outside of the city walls and finally we could get to meet and talk a little about art.

When I arrived Claire had come early and had time to do a little drawing in red pencil that she gave me as a present.

"You did this one for me?", I said. I was acting cool but tears were forming in the corners of my eye.

"Sure Jesper, I was waiting and had to sketch something".


I gave her a crushing viking-hug as opposed to the French and Italian cheek-kissy-kissy, that I can never seem to do right, and used the chance to wipe the moist from my eyes. I ordered a lot of espresso and food and we talked a bit about the convention and what had happened since last time we met in Angouléme, before I started to ask some serious questions.

Try to imagine what you would ask if you had your all-time favourite art idol in front of you? It is really difficult. I wanted to avoid questions like: "How can I be more like you? Let me have some hair so I can consume your DNA? Teach me your secret! ( Which is more like an order and not even a question) What brush do you use?"... and so on. In the end I decided we should talk about process orientated issues. Something that is familiar to every artist. And possibly during that conversation I, and you, would get to know Clare Wendling a little better.

JE:
How do you push yourself out of your comfort zone?

CW:
I am pushed out constantly by doing commissions. I do not like to experiment too much while trying to complete a job for a client, but just the fact of doing a figure like Batman or Catwoman, somthing out of your own choosing is a huge step out of your comfort zone. I prefer to push myself at my own sketches instead. There I know it will be more useful and will fit me better. I try different subjects and will often switch materials to see the drawing from a new angle. I try to ink different every time. I do not feel I have a specific inking style. It has been many years since I inked comics. And I am never happy with doing the same thing time and time again. I try to adapt the inking to the drawing, I never know if it will work, but I feel the changing is very rewarding.


JE:
Do you feel you have a very solid style?

CW:
People say to me: Your style look like this one or that one. Sure, but what style are you talking about? which drawing? I have so many different styles or ways if you ask me? They try to define: who did I copy?

JE:
But you do seem very well defined within your own sketching style?

CW: Your think so? well you have to tell me what it is?
I try to change all the time. I can sketch so many different ways, but my natural way is that very loose line or soft line. But it also becomes boring. I like to surprise myself. Like when I pick up a drawing the day after and do not recognize that I did it. I like that.
I try different brushes and different paper to challenge myself into creating new stuff and to see if I can surprise myself.

JE:
So when are you going to do more colouring? You have been line sketching so much that it might be a new way of surprising yourself?

CW:
Maybe when I get a bigger table... ( she giggles)
It is a mater of thinking. I think I am still training a lot. I tend to think to much in line and edges that I never get to think about colour. I never get that many commissions for full colour work and I am happy with that because it takes ages to do colors. I try to do things, as fast as I can, before I loose concentration. I hold on fast to the pencil and go in there before I loose interest. I am a very impatience artist.

JE:
So every illustration is like a fight against yourself?

CW:
Gotta finish this before I do not like it

JE:
Is that why you havent finished the sketchbook publication? Because you want correct stuff all the time? Like Frazetta who went back into his own museum to fix his paintings?

CW:
Yes I totally get that. I will never let anyone reprint old illustrations from the past I do not like that. When I look at older drawings i think there is so much to change, so much I can do better.

JE:
Is that why you did the sketchbook Iguana Bay 2.0 with the redrawn versions?

CW
Yes, But not out of vanity. It is not because I am embarresed about them or anything. You learn something about drawing them again and whatever I learn will help me for the next ones. I take my old sketches and look at what I missed and how can I make it better? I see it as a learning process.
I see it as a process. I will feel more satisfied by going back and re-thing the illustrations. Like in my sketch book, I often go back and draw on older sketches. Some I even leave undone on purpose to go back later and see what I can get out of it and thereby push myself.
The way I work comes from animation. My drawings are more like notes. Animation has helped me to explore more pose and angles to see which is best.


JE:
When are you super happy with an illustration?

CW:
You never know.

JE:
But is it the same thing every time that makes you happy?

CW:
No. Often it is not even the particular drawing. It is more when you are in the zone, not comfort zone but more like when you are in that perfect mindset and it just flows out of you. You feel like you are just holding on to the pencils and it is sooo pleasant and logic. Every thing feels logical. everything comes out from you so natural.
It is like a conversation between you and the drawing, like a dialog you are only here for that illustration. You have to connect to your emotions to get into that zone.

JE:
I paint in the area of 50 paintings a year and I only like about 2 of them.
Most of the ones I like are the once I did in one sitting. Like I barely remember how I did it, when I move away from the finished painting.

CW:
That is exactly what I mean

JE:
Do you ever wonder what it will take to go into that zone more often? Perhaps every day?

CW:
I would love that and I find that it happens more often with practice.

JE:
Or if you sit at the same place everyday, like that strange Cafe you asked me to meet you in France

CW:
It wasn´t stranger than this place you picked

JE:
True that. I sit at a studio. have been at the same place for 20 years. It helps me to go into the zone faster. But a bad day ruins the transit, if you will.


CW:
I struggle still with a lot of aftermath of my illness and with Tinnitus and headaches. When I have a bad day I cannot connect with myself and everything goes wrong and I hate all the drawings I did and feels like everything looks bad. So I know, when I feel good, I have to work. And get it out fast.

JE:
Uhhh! I think this is an essential thing about being a creative artist. I am happy to hear you have it like that. Sorry, not happy, you know, but relieved to find out that you and I react in the same way. When I have uncreative days I try to push through by working and working and forcing on, even if nothing works, and then suddenly it clicks.

CW:
...And when you feel bad about it all you have to accept it. Accept that it is a part of you. It is hard, but necessary. That wall of uncreativity is very difficult to explain to other people especially to clients. I cannot guarantee that, at that time, I will be able to do anything. Cannot say if I am able to connect.

JE:
It is awful that you know you can do a passable illustration at anytime, but your mind says: "Everything is shit"! When you are in that mood.

CW:
It feels like you are not present within yourself and I always fear that this is the moment where it will never come back. Because when I was sick I lost it for months and even years, and I still dread that time and feeling. fearing that it will be back.

JE:
But when you look back at a uncreative period, I always realize that it was all bad vibes from things that had nothing to do with the actual illustration. It was something from my every day life: Family troubles, unpaid bills or things I did not fix or attend to that keept me in a sour mood. Not the drawing, and it feels like waking up. I stare at the discarded sketches and find them actually useful, many of them. Only then it is that I realize that the draught has ended.

CW:
Yes and I often think: Why did I choose this life? I could have had a regular job.
Instead I spent my every waking hour thinking about drawings...Who cares?
After all why do I care that much? sketching is the only way I can feel better.
I am not looking for success or anything just happiness at my drawing table.
What if I was doing nothing in my life; would I be happy? I think I would, maybe.

JE:
I am not sure. Four days into any vacation I want to go back and paint something.

CW:
Really? I forget about work quickly, maybe I am lazy.

JE:
I have the urge to leave a giant nasty Ejsing footprint on the world when I leave.
Do you think you are more process orientated than results orientated?

CW:
Yes: To me it is more about proving that I am worth something to myself...
I am not envious off other artists work but of envious of their energy and drive to constantly create. I miss that energy.

JE:
But you have something I think many artist miss. You know what you want in drawing and have defined what makes you happy. Not just solving client work but focusing on your own style and artwork. Not many artist reach that point or make that conscious decision.

CW:
For now I want to close the chapter of the sketchbooks I have been working on so I can move on to different things. I have worked on those 3 sketchbooks for a long time.
The travelling I just did was great. I was away for almost 3 months. People gave me compliments all the time, it was great and I feel now stronger than I have felt for a long time, but now I feel the pressure of having to live up to all the nice things people are saying about my art.

JE:
You think that is the downside about drawing something personal? They are talking about you and not just the drawing.

CW:
Yes, But as long as I am happy doing personal drawings, I think it will show and shine through to my artwork. The happiness you get while creating is absolute.

...it is when I am walking away from the café that I decide to start on my own personal painting project that have been tugged away in the back of my mind. Next year I will paint giants eating humans for no reason other than that I like it.

4 comments:

  1. These cafe "chats" with Claire are some of my favorite interviews- they are just so damn honest and inspiring. Thanks Jesper!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great interivew, Jesper. How wonderful. I look forward to your giant eating humans.

    -Chris

    ReplyDelete
  3. I really enjoyed this! I don't feel Claire has anything more to prove as an artist; she is forever inspiring, despite her ups and down, I am so glad that she continues to share her experiences with everyone and still give us sneak peeks of what she's up to :) inspiration for all.

    ReplyDelete
  4. It's always encouraging to read an artist revealing the process with such candor. Also, Claire has bad drawing days too?! Well, I always suspected but never dared to take that for granted. The praise artists like I have for far more talented artists is such that they could never live up to our vision of them. I'm not being sarcastic when I say that I'm so glad she doesn't try to. She has time enough to just live up to her own. That's a refreshing a hopeful revelation, even at my age. This is an excellent interview and worth more than you can imagine, and THANK you, Claire.

    ReplyDelete