Clément Thoby invites you in to his peaceful and atmospheric landscapes, devoid of any people
The French illustrator has become a mastermind at his chosen subject. Here, he tells us about his softly composed scenes and his reasons for avoiding the depiction of any characters.
- Ayla Angelos
- 24 March 2020
Clément Thoby knows a good landscape. Like something from a beautifully clouded dream, his hazy brush strokes, poignant colour palette and wild empty scenes transcend the viewer into a moment of magical bliss. “I try to give a mysterious atmosphere to my drawings,” he tells It’s Nice That. “I believe my goal is to make people feel attracted to my landscapes without knowing why.”
Raised in Nantes, Clément moved to Paris after high school in pursuit of the applied arts. Having originally planned to venture into fashion design, due to his fondness for fashion illustration, the gentle steer towards animation art was an unexpected, but welcomed one. Then, two years down the line, he zipped off to Angoulême in the southwestern part of France to learn animation at École des Métiers du Cinéma d’Animation (EMCA). “There, I quickly specialised in background design. It was a good way to mix illustration and animation.” He graduated in 2015 and has since been working on animated productions while working on his own personal endeavours in his free time.
As you can see, Clément’s work is dominated by landscapes and the wild compositions found within. His inspiration comes mostly from painters or from literature, including artists such as Lorenzo Mattotti, Edward Hopper and Féliz Vallotton – not to mention the photographers, Stephen Shore and William Eggleston. “I already have an obsessional mind in my everyday life, but when it comes to illustration it’s even worst,” he continues to explain on his influences. “I have never drawn characters – many people do it perfectly and I am more fascinated by the power of an empty landscape.”
The illustrator’s process is as natural as her subject. Working “handmade”, he composes her pieces with wax pastels and pencil colours – chosen for their ability to create punchy colours, marked details and rough textures which are “closer to impressionist painting” than illustration. More often than not, he will commence a piece with a photograph he’s taken, or with screenshots from random Google Street View as a reference point. “Then, I recompose the frame, choose my colour palette and start working!”
Resultantly, Clément’s portfolio is filled with utter serenity. As we enter into spring, the warmer months are replicated into illustrated form and as we turn through each image, no-one, not ever, could dream of being anywhere else. An example of this can be seen in one of his recent paintings depicting the view of the Eure river in Chartres. “I was in the city for a single day and I was mesmerised by the view of a little bridge in the centre of the city,” he says. “I took some pictures and then when I got back home, I started drawing the place. It has all I love about a landscape: a path to the unknown, a mysterious, peaceful and timeless atmosphere that makes you want to go there.”
Without the presence of any people, Clément has created an idyllic backdrop for the audience’s imagination. Here, you’re able to fill in the blanks of your own summer-filled dreams. “I like to keep my drawings empty so that you can imagine whatever story you want,” he concludes. “I also try to produce sensitive and soft drawings, something that can give you a break when you look at it.”
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she became online editor in 2022 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.