Hi all, this week I wanted to talk about the late French comic book artist and illustrator, Jean Giraud, more commonly known as Moebius. Moebius’s influence in the world of comics can’t be exaggerated. As someone who can’t claim to be a comic book enthusiast, I wasn’t exposed to him at a young age. By the time I found his work, I was in high school– and I was completely blown away by his sheer inventive ability and unparalleled linework, as well as his evocative use of color. His most famous comics include Blueberry, The Incal, and Arzach. He also worked as a concept artist on science fiction classics like Alien, The Fifth Element, and Tron. The image above, called Starwatcher, is one of his most well-known.
I feel there is little to say about Moebius that his art doesn’t already exemplify. In an age where the internet allows people to access to many different images, it’s easy to think you’ve seen it all. I’m guilty of this sentiment, and to an extent, it’s true: artists look to other artists for inspiration, so there’s the risk of stylistic consonance. The first time I saw Moebius’ work (and every time thereafter), I was struck by how wildly different it was in every way: subject matter, form language, design aesthetic, coloring, and the prolific use of lines to describe forms. His art seemed like it was from a different world, and it seemed to solely depict worlds other than ours. There was no limit to his wild imagination: that none of his machines would work practically was no object to him. In one word, his art was fresh. His art, which predated so much of the illustration and concept art I’d seen until that point, was so much newer, and so much more unique and ambitious, despite having been around for decades. I know his art will continue to exhibit this quality for decades after his death.
I am a person in love with environments, so I stood no chance against Moebius’ work, which by far and large depicts far-off, wondrous lands. But there is another quality to his work which I may admire even more: every single one of his pieces looks like he had the time of his life drawing it. They retain a sense of childlike wonder, a fantastic element that hasn’t been curbed by pragmatism. The vibrant gradations of color and compelling subjects: flying boats, endless sand and sky, monolithic crystals, and yawning canyons a hundred leagues beneath the surface of the sea- to me, these are the embodiment of joy. His work is the embodiment of happiness. So much of art is suffering and dedication, so much of the time. We forget that the first push, the first feeling of drawing- was one of enjoyment. It was merely the thought, “drawing is fun.” I’m not naive enough to think Moebius spent his life thinking that way, but his art exhibits clearly that first pure sentiment.
Moebius was a prolific artist, and worked constantly until his death in 2012 at the age of 73. The result is an expansive collection of artwork, of which a tiny portion can be seen here. One of my favorite series of his is entitled the Voyage D’Hermes, consisting of 9 images that French fashion house Hermès commissioned from him in 2011. It was unique in that they didn’t stipulate any requirements, and not a single inkling of their products shows up in the series. His imagination was given utterly free rein, and the result was astonishing. You can see some of the series above and below.
In 1996, the Mexican newspaper La Journada published a conversation with Moebius where he discusses 18 tips for aspiring artists. You can find the entirety of the transcript here. I’ll share a few of my favorite lines:
“When you draw, you must first cleanse yourself of deep feelings, like hate, happiness, ambition, etc.”
“Another thing to embrace with affection is the study of [the] human body — it’s anatomy, positions, body types, expressions, construction, and the differences between people.”
“It’s also very difficult to draw a sleeping body or someone who has been abandoned, because in most comics it’s always action that is being studied…It’s much more difficult to draw people that are talking, because that’s a series of very small movements — small, yet with real significance.”
“There are times when we knowingly head down a path of failure, choosing the wrong theme or subject for our capabilities, or choosing a project that is too large, or an unsuitable technique. If this happens, you must not complain later.”
“Drawing is a medium of communication for the great family we have not met, for the public and for the world.”
May this extraordinary artist rest in peace.