Lines and Colors art blog

Travis Charest

Travis Charest
Over years I’ve been enjoying comics I’ve noticed that many comic book artists get to a certain level of proficiency and “hold” there, evidently feeling that they have sufficient skills to turn out acceptable work on a continuing basis.

I’ll certainly grant that drawing a 24-page comic book on a monthly schedule can be a demanding task, and is not always conducive to creative explorations and artistic growth. Some comic book artists, however, are not satisfied with “good enough” and insist on growing and changing, rising above the limitations of the monthly schedule, even if it makes them incapable of keeping up that pace.

Canadian comics artist and illustrator Travis Charest (pronounced “sha-RAY”) started his career working with Jim Lee and the Homage Studios stable of artists. His early work shows the influence of the Homage style at the time, rife with over-muscled, grimacing superheros and a rendering style thick with superfluous hatching (sometimes referred to as “hay” by those who took a dim view of that inking style).

Charest soon outgrew that niche style and began to exhibit the influence of comic art greats like Al Williamson, Alex Raymond and Jean Giraud (Moebius). As he matured as an artist, he kept a high level of detail and hatching, which he seems to enjoy, but he graduated from lines for their own sake to a sophisticated rendering style more reminiscent of classic pen and ink illustrators.

He has done comics work and covers for Wildstorm on titles like WildC.A.T.s and for DC Comics on Flash and Darkstars, among others (checklist here). He gradually moved away from monthly comics, unsuited to the level of work and detail in his images, and began to do specials and covers, developing a detail-oriented painting style in the process.

There is an Unofficial Travis Charest Art Gallery site that includes galleries and features lots of convention sketches. His “official” site seems to be a MSN discussion group, The Art of Travis Charest, which includes tutorials, news and galleries (note the gallery sub-categories in the navigation bar on the left).

Also on that site is a delightful comic strip that Charest is posting to the web called Spacegirl (image above, top).

Charest almost apologizes for Spacegirl, saying: “This is just a bit of fun I get to have for an hour a week, don’t take it too seriously.”, but it is among my favorite of his endeavors. Perhaps because it’s “off the cuff”, his art for Spacegirl is wonderfully loose and has a freedom not always evident in his more polished work. Plus it has an Alex Raymond meets Moebius look to it that I just love, as they are probably my two favorite comics artists.

Charest left Wildstorm and made a logical move to French comics publisher Humanoïdes Associés, publishers of Metal Hurlant and home to many of Europe’s top comics artists. (The American branch is Humanoids Publishing). There he is currently working on a Metabarons graphic novel (promotional image: above, middle and detail, bottom) that has been a long time in development and promises to be spectacular.

As always, Charest continues to push himself to new levels of accomplishment, never satisfied with “good enough”.

Link via the heights of sublimation


6 responses to “Travis Charest”

  1. I’m a huge fan. It’s funny because if I were to describe him, I too would mention his constant growth and exploration. If you look at Darkstars and then he recent stuff, you’d see how far the guy has come. Amazing. Awesome post..

  2. Hi, I enjoy checking out Lines & Colours most days so thanks for all the hard work you put in.

    I can’t say I like Charest’s comic book work. Yes, it’s very detailed and incredibly well rendered but I find it lifeless, dull and boring. Entirely lacking in emotion. I can’t say I’ve read any of it because whenever I saw it I couldn’t get past how stiff it all seems which put me off reading any further. Nothing flows, many of the figures in the panels seem to be from photo reference, which is fine but I think it works best when the end piece looks completely natural and not hodge-podged together from a variety of photographs. From what I’ve seen of his work I don’t think he manages to pull that off.

    For single illustrations that kind of work is fine but in comics where readability, movement and flow are paramount I don’t think it works. It’s almost anti-comics, asking you to stop and look at each panel too much rather than moving your eye on to the next panel.

    For me, comics aren’t necessarily about technically great artists but about telling stories and there are people out there with less technical chops but with far superior storytelling abilities and with an ability to give the illusion of life.

    If somebody can do both they’re onto a good thing. You wrote about the late Alex Toth recently, I think he’s a fine example of somebody that’s a great comic book artist. Technically brilliant but never over-rendered and always in service to the story. Alex Raymond and Moebius are also excellent examples of people with their foot in both camps, able to do both very well.

    Sorry if I’ve ranted on a bit, it’s all a matter of taste, of course, and usually I enjoy the work of whoever it is you’ve chosen to highlight but in this instance I felt compelled to comment. I’m not saying he’s a bad artist, far from it, I just don’t find his work suits the comic book medium very well.

  3. smacleod, Thanks for the comments. I think a side by side comparison of his work over the course of 10 years is not only dramatic but should be a source of inspiration for those who are struggling to improve their own drawing ability.

  4. Faz, Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I agree that too much detail and rendering can slow down or even stop the pacing of a comics story. This is a criticism often applied to artists like Alex Ross. One of the reasons it occurred to me to write about Charest at this point is that the post about Toth got me to thinking about the spectrum of comic book art from simple to complex.

    Control of detail is one of the ways artists can control the pacing of a story and I agree that Charest can sometimes be a little too busy for the flow. I find, though, that enough of my enjoyment of comics comes from the “illustration” aspect of it that when a story slows down because I’m being dazzled by the illustration, I’m happy as can be and not disturbed to take a break from the story and appreciate the art.

  5. Thanks for the reply Charley, reading your explanation of going from Toth to Charest I understand better the contrast you were highlighting. Whilst I’m not a big fan of that kind of work I know there are many people that appreciate it.

    One of the great things about comics is the variety of styles and methods and we’d probably be a lot worse off if everything looked the same.

    What I like about your site is the diversity of work and that you write about your subjects with eloquence and intelligence and along with Drawn it’s a blog I try and visit every day.

    It’s always interesting to see who you’re going to write about next and I commend you for posting as regularly as you do. I’ve come to realise that maintaining a blog isn’t always easy and writing something considered and thoughtful only makes it harder.

    Do you know the work of Yves Chaland? He’s been quite influential on my own work and if I may be so bold I feel he might make an interesting piece for your site. For want of a better description I’d say his work is highly influenced by Hergé but inked with a brush. There’s quite a dark element to some of it that is an interesting conrast to the ligne clair style. Beautiful work with some amazing draughtsmanship.

  6. I’ve been drawing for years and studying tonz of different style from Frazetta to Capullio trying to find someone who had “the look” I was going for myself. Finally I think that Travis Charest and Adam Hughes have nailed the subtle combination of Realism and Art Nouveau to create a new form of “Comic Nouveau” for the modern artist to imulate. Thanks Guys for having the vision. Now, let’s get back to drawing.