Aude Bertrand ascribes the narrative quality of her illustrations to her love of cinema. Based in Montpellier in France, the creative graduated in film before she even started studying illustration, but like most in her profession, she tells us she’s “been drawing since I was a kid … I’ve always done artistic activities for fun, whether it was music, video or photography, and drawing was part of that.
“What I like about drawing is that it’s very instinctive, it has a great narrative power and it can be done anywhere.”
Alongside her illustration work, Bertrand has spent the past four years championing women filmmakers through the 11% project that she started with her boyfriend. When it dawned on the pair that they’d barely heard of any women directors, they set about helping to redress that through an Instagram account (@lesonzepourcent) that shares posters for films directed by women. “Beyond making their work known to others, it’s also a way for us to compensate for our lack of personal culture,” says Bertrand.
Having graduated from art school two years ago, Bertrand has since built up a body of work that’s playful and whimsical, but with a distinctly surreal edge: skies take on a deep peachy hue, houses are stripped back to four-walled cardboard-looking constructions, and image panels sit within larger compositions to create a feel that’s part graphic novel, part dream sequence.
What unites her work across illustrated card sets, standalone portraits and gifs is a bold use of colour, hand-wrought textures (thanks, at the moment, to Promarkers) and a distinct knack for storytelling. “Like everyone else, I’m fed by what I see,” she says, crediting her love of movies and independent comics with informing the characters she draws and how she draws them.
She’s also spent the past 18 months working part-time in a children’s bookstore, “which is very inspiring because I’m surrounded by illustrated books all day!” That frees up the rest of her time to draw, affording her the choice to take on “projects that I like, that are not in the mainstream publishing circuit,” she says.
It was during lockdown that her lifelong love of cinema really found its way into her illustration. “I watched a lot of movies and redrew my favourite scenes,” Bertrand explains. “At that point I realised that there was a lot to learn from films about composition, colour, light, the characters, their clothes, their hairstyles, the set, the props, the framing, the dialogue … I try to think about all that when I draw or write a story.”
The idea of “copying” what she sees on screen hasn’t always been such an easy concept for her to grapple with, however. When she was young, she loved nothing more than spending her summers copying drawings with her best friend. But the sheen wore off, thanks to the gradual infiltration of a particular kind of creative self-doubt. “I had a kind of complex about copying, because I felt that style and talent should be innate, which was not the case for me,” says Bertrand. “I learned a lot by redoing and still today when I read comics or go to an exhibition, I spend a lot of time analysing other people’s drawings to understand their technique.”