On one of my recent Instagram art hunts, I came across the work of French illustrator Bertrand Aznar, one of my new favorite storytellers. Having been influenced by Franco-Belgian comics he read as a child and equipped with the love of drawing, Bertrand uses clear lines and colourful palettes to bring detailed compositions to life. He was more than happy to share his artistic journey with me for this interview:
You've been on Instagram for just a few months. Is illustration something you picked up or have you studied it?
I’m going to say both. I've been drawing since I was a kid, it’s something that I've always had and that has always fascinated me, I drew for hours almost every day. I learned the basics by myself, if I may say so. Then I did artistic studies and at that time, I really improved all the technical part of the drawing. I improved my vision, understanding of color, composition, etc.
How do you capture and keep track of ideas?
It depends, if I have the iPad with me, I make a sketch with annotations and a little bit of color. If I don't have it, I take notes on my phone. I have hundreds of them! I also have an "inspiration" album where I put the photos that inspire me or evoke certain feelings. I don't often have paper or pens with me, I should fix that, by the way...
Are you a Studio Ghibli fan? Your work reminds me of Ghibli a lot.
I like Ghibli, but I'm not a fan. I like the aesthetics, particularly in films like Porco Rosso, Howl's Moving Castle, The Wind Rises or Spirited Away. But I prefer other things in Japanese animation, like the work of Katsuhiro Otomo with Akira, his compilations Memories, Short Peace and even Steam Boy. I also like Mamoru Oshii with Ghost in the Shell, Hiroyuki Okiura with Jin Roh and other. I understand why you find this Ghibli vibe or even anime vibe in my work. I was a big consumer of manga and anime when I was younger and this universe influenced me a lot too.
Who are some of the artists/illustrators you follow whose work inspires you?
There are so many ….I will not make an exhaustive list for it would be too long. But to start, I would say Bruno Mangyokun or Tom Haugomat for their style and their mastery of color. There is also Sua Balac or Sebastien Plassard, Simon Bailly, Kim Jungyoun, Joe Prytherch, Maxime Mouysset, Simon Lamouret and many others ...I feed on everything I see. I also like works that are not necessarily in my style, like the work of Thomas Rouzière, Egle Zvirblyte, Zdzisław Beksiński(1929-2005) and others, for example. This is always inspiring and I am always amazed by their work.
I recently started using Procreate, and love how intuitive it is. You've clearly figured out the tool beautifully, and are doing wonderful things with it. Can you talk about your relationship with art and technology?
Technology has brought me a lot of comfort and freedom in my art. I have everything I need on a single tool, I can zoom in, go back if I make a mistake, experiment with my colors, and modify my work as much as I want. It’s an excellent medium. Like I said, I have been drawing since I was a kid and we didn't have access to all this technology back then, so we can say that I always been inclined to art.
What are your thoughts on Instagram? I'm sure it's nice to have strangers from around the world discover your work and interview you :)
Haha! Yes, it’s always nice, but the best thing about Instagram is the opportunities it can create. For me Instagram is a place where you can show, get inspired and meet people. I was able to meet people from all over the world, to exchange with them, it is really an opening on the world. And then the fact that Instagram is based on the image is something that I like a lot. Since I was a child, the image had a very strong impact on me, when I couldn’t read it was the images that told me the stories and I think this impact is still present in me.
Process shots for Aurora
What are the apps you can’t live without?
The first one is obviously Procreate, and then Gmail, Instagram maybe. And on my Macbook, I will say Google Chrome. I’m ALWAYS on internet to listen to music, to watch things, etc.
You grew up reading Franco-Belgian comics. That comic style is very apparent in your clean outlines and use of colour. Can you talk about what it is about the medium of comics that appeals to you?
What I like most about this medium is the image and how the image alone can tell a story. My first memory with a real comic book is with Tintin Objectif Lune. I must have been three or four years old. I couldn’t read but just with pictures and this timeless graphic style, I understood the whole story. I spent time on each box to look at everything and discover all the details. I think this was the founding moment of my artistic life.
How would you describe the arch of your career so far? What would you ideally like to do with your work?
I’m at the very beginning and I hope it will continue to go up like it does now. Ideally, I would like to work for brands on advertising campaigns and in publishing too. And why a bit of comics too, more the illustration part than the scenario part.
Any themes or styles you're keen to explore?
Not really, I don't close any doors. I have other styles besides my professional work but it's not necessarily something that I want to work on. I really enjoy my illustration style, it is constantly evolving and I like to see it evolve.
Do you live somewhere surrounded by nature and beauty? I get a sense of that from your illustrations.
Unfortunately no, I live in an apartment in the city centre of Bordeaux, in France. That's why I draw so many landscapes, I guess. Maybe to fill the lack of nature and the emotions it gives me.
You're on the roster of illustration agency Oskar Illustration. What's that like, and has it changed your approach to art?
No, I don't think it changed my approach to art. However, being part of the Oskar Illustration agency is great! Oli, my agent is really cool. He is very attentive with all his artists, he takes care of everything.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
I have often been given the same advice in different forms but the background was the same. If you have a goal, do whatever it takes to get there, be active, do whatever you can to reach it. If I have to summarise this advice, it would be "Do it". It sounds like Nike but it’s a great advice for me.
Thank you, Bertrand. Good luck with everything!