Where did you grow up? At what age did you start thinking about pursuing an artistic career?
I grew up in a really small village (of about 200 people) without even a bakery, which is a very rare thing in France! But I love it all the same. Naturally there weren't many kids of my age around, so growing up I used my imagination to build worlds and stories in my mind. That’s the reason why I started drawing so young, and doing that made me realised quite early that visual arts were my natural medium to share ideas, stories and also crack some funny jokes.
Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? How did you develop your skills?
I attended art school and since I've always known that I wanted to be an artist, my formal education began very early. I joined art programs, classes or groups of people who draw any time I had the possibility of doing so. At 15 years old I left home to attend Applied Art School (a boarding school) and it was amazing. I studied architecture, object design, visual communication and I learned how my art could connect to people, serve a function, and be so much than just a tool for self expression. After graduating high school I attended a two year applied Animation Film program in Clermont-Ferrand. This was where I learned the principles of traditional animation, stop-motion, 2D digital animation and (of course) character design.
Afterwards I studied at Supinfocom Rubika in Valenciennes for three years where I discovered the 3D universe. I felt my technical skills evolving and I learned to adapt my drawings for CG films and to work within anatomical and volumetric constraints. After this I was finally accepted into the Character Animation and Film-making program at Gobelins where I perfected my drawing, character design, animation skills and ultimately earn my Master of Art.
Have you always been supported in your artistic path or has it been challenging to let your family and friends understand your choice?
There are no artists in my family, so to most of them my path seemed strange and insecure. And yet, they have never been anything but amazingly encouraging. Their support has been (and continues to be) a light in my life that dissipate any doubts or dark thought I have. I am forging a path ahead that none of them have made but they give me the confidence to stick my foot out and take that next step. Their trust in me has taught me to trust in myself and it's the greatest gift a young artist could receive.
Did you have a favourite subject to draw when you were a child and do you still have one today? If you do, what makes it so special?
When I was child, I loved to draw monsters, animals and humans. I particularly enjoyed transforming my friends, family and teachers into such and weaving them into funny stories. These little comics always got a big reaction and I love that art has the power to shock or make friends laugh. For me one of the most stimulating parts of the creative process is imagining the reaction of the public when they discover a character.
From the initial client idea to the final work: What goes through your mind and what is the method you use when starting a project? Could you describe it?
Everything originates from the story. When I read a script I'm searching for the intent that drives the entire project. With this in mind I begin to answer essential questions about the characters. From a narrative standpoint, what purpose does each character serve? What does the character have to share with the audience? How does their unique personality shape the way they do this? And finally, how do I communicate these ideas visually? The shapes, lines, and rhythm I use will instantly communicate this informations. I'm looking for the perfect relationship between the psychology and motivations of the character and his or her morphology and behaviour. The quest isn't to find the most beautiful design but rather the most accurate depiction of the character.
What is your process in creating your art and what are your favourite tools?
I'm not afraid to incorporate new tools into my process and I do it regularly. But more than anything my favourite tool is still a simple pencil, because so much can be communicated with just a line. I always adapt my tools based on the project. If the artistic direction requires something more digital, I incorporate digital tools. It's important to optimise the relationship between the tool and the project.
What part of the creation process is the most fun and easy and what part is the hardest?
It’s hard to choose. I enjoy the research phase; playing with lines of the character, contemplating how their personality will be shown physically and what I can do to make them unique. I really enjoy the freedom of this stage and exploring all the possibilities! But I also love the model sheet stage when I define clearly the character and what his emotions are. It's at this stage that I experiment with posing and facial expressions. I love getting to know my character and imagining how they look when they are sad, how they laugh, how they move.
The turnaround is probably the most complicated stage, depending on the character, because it’s when I have to make the character “animatable” (in 2D, 3D or stop Motion). I'm at war the whole time trying to preserve the essence of my design while keep it recognisable from every angle. It's incredibly technical but ultimately that's what makes this part of the job so interesting.
Is there something that you have designed that you are most proud of?
Once I designed a sweet potato for a project with a friend, I think she was one of my best design I’ve ever drawn.
What projects have you worked on in the past and what are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
I've worked on several projects: short films, commercials, music video clips, TV show and Feature Films. The most recent projects I worked on were a feature film for House of Cool, a small participation on an amazing short film by Google Spotlight and Chromosphere called "Age of Sail", a commercial for Greenpeace titled "Rang Tang" (drawing attention to a very important ecological issue) and I’m currently working as a character Designer for Laika Studios on their next stop-motion feature film! I also co-directed (alongside some amazing friends) a film called “Hors de l’eau”. That has got to be one of my favourite work adventures to date.
What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work, collaborate or share your creative time with?
Wake up at 6am, have a coffee, go to work, have another coffee, work, have another coffee, work, go back home, watch a series or film while I work for myself, have a black tea and go to bed around midnight.
Working in-house for a company or freelancing: what suits you best? And why?
I like both for different reasons. Freelancing is interesting because you manage your time however you want and you can juggle several projects at once. There's more diversity of work also and who doesn't want to work from the beach? But ultimately I think I prefer working in house for a company. I like that feeling of being entrenched in a project with a team and I love being around other artists and collaborate with them. It’s just harder to stay so committed to a particular project when you work remotely.
Finally, where can we see your art online and get in touch with you? How can we buy your creations and support your work?
You can find me on multiple social media platforms, Instagram ( instagram.com/thibault_leclercq ), Tumblr ( thibaultleclercq.tumblr.com ) or ArtStation ( thibaultleclercq.artstation.com ).
Thank you Thibault :)