Zoè Delautre Corral is an illustrator, comic artist and printmaker based in London. With a background in Fine Arts, she decided to pursue a path of drawing and telling stories.
She might be poor forever but pencils are cheap!
Can you describe something that has recently amazed you? How did it make you feel?
There’s a music album that I keep going back to, because even though I discovered it more than 10 years ago it still is a thing of beauty, mystery and inspiration to me. The album is Grace, by Jeff Buckley. I have always used music to take myself to that introspective place where I feel I can create work and articulate an idea, and this album always takes me there. When I listen to it I feel fire in my chest, and that’s what I want to feel before I take a pencil or a brush.
What have been the key moments in your artistic journey?
Looking back I think that every time someone gave me a chance, reached out a helpful hand or had a kind word for me about my work was a key moment in my journey.
From a word of encouragement from a teacher at art school to the support from a stranger, they all inspired me to believe that I should pursue an artistic career, even when I didn’t have faith in my own ability to pursue those aspirations. So I’d say, if you have a kind thought about someone’s efforts, voice it to them, you may give them the inspiration they need that day to continue their path.
Is there a piece of work that you’re particularly fond of? Maybe because of the recipient’s reaction, the doors it unlocked for you or that exemplifies your work.
The first short comic book that I did keeps a special place in my heart. I used to go to the Hunterian Museum in London to draw the anatomical specimens. One of them caught my attention. I didn’t know whose remains they were, but after drawing them I found out it was the skeleton of Charles Byrne.
Intrigued, I researched his life and learnt that because of his unusual height he earned a living exhibiting himself. I was sad to see his remains displayed after his death against his will. I felt compelled to tell his story in the way that I know, drawing. So I made a comic on his story and the way in which his remains were treated. This led me to research on the subjects of mortality, death traditions and end of life moral issues, which cemented my interests and define my artistic practice to this day.
I’m particularly intrigued by printmaking as it’s something I’ve never done. What are the appeals and frustrations with using this medium? Do you think we are seeing a resurgence in this medium? Has technology changed this old craft?
The printmaking craft is so vast that I can only speak from my own limited experience. I’m generally quite impatient when doing my work. I like to draw and paint fast. Printmaking forced me to practice patience. Whether I’m working on a screenprint project or carving a woodcut, I have to face more steps on the way. You can of course be spontaneous and experimental with any printmaking technique, but it is not quite as simple as picking up a pencil!
I think this is what keeps drawing people to printmaking. Its possibilities are endless and there’s always room for experimentation, especially now that technology allows us to merge traditional with modern techniques, such as etching and digital photography. It’s an exciting world!
It’s currently mid-October and your taking part in inktober. Can you tell me more about your theme of “memento mori” for this year?
I believe having a close relationship with the reality of death is good for the soul and empowering. To talk about death it’s often regarded as morbid and negative. I like to challenge that because I think accepting and even celebrating death could elevate people’s quality of life and help them with the grief of losing someone.
That’s why I wanted to create a series of memento mori, pictures that celebrate the certainty of death. I also wanted to create work to draw attention towards the pressing issue of climate change, so I decided to combine the two, and create a campaign made of images to draw attention towards these two issues that matter to me. I thought that Inktober, the yearly illustration challenge that takes place across social media, would be the perfect platform to share these illustrations.
A previous interviewee said this “I don’t think art has to be ‘wonderful’ in that sense, but it has to have layers of meaning. If a piece of work is simply saying what it appears to say, and doing nothing else, it is not art.” What’s your thoughts on this? Do you agree, disagree, have a different take on what is art?
I think I agree, art doesn’t need to be “wonderful”. I don’t believe an artists’ work has to take my breath away to be valid. I do also appreciate art that has “depth”, or a message.
But as an illustrator, as someone that creates images, I’ve sometimes faced my work not being taken seriously (“It’s just a picture”) because its only reason for being was my impulse to create it.
So I do believe that a piece of art that says what it appears to say, being a drawing a sculpture or a song, is also valid. Because that’s someone using their voice and it doesn’t have to have a transcendental message. Expressing yourself with authenticity is transgressive and inspiring enough.
Do you think being an artist has made you better at ‘noticing’? If so, how can we all in our daily lives be better at observing?
Definitely, not only about noticing but also about listening I believe. Listening to others and listening to myself. With time I realised that whenever I felt most aware and connected with the place and the moment, as well as with myself, I created better work.
I think being aware of life and others around me made me realise the urgency of life, how quickly it goes, and that we shouldn’t miss our chances to experience it.
Scientists often like to label and categorise their object of study. It’s like they’ve trying to capture and contain something big and complex. Do you think there’s an element of this in how artists sometimes work, trying to capture on a piece of material something (an object, experience or concept) bigger than they are?
I couldn’t speak for other artists but in my case, I think so, yes. Even though at the time I might not realise it, when looking back at my work I can see I was trying to make sense of something I didn’t understand or that I couldn’t articulate otherwise.
I might not be trying to give an answer to the meaning of life with my work, but maybe just to some of the questions in my own life. And even though I believe our life and experience is unique, we face universal challenges about life, love and death. And maybe that’s what artists try to do, answer universal questions through individual experiences
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