Art Instruction · Commonplace Book · Drawing · Here, Read · Moebius

Jean “Moebius” Giraud on drawing from the work of other artists, from life, and from photos…


[KIM] THOMPSON: You attended art school, right?

[JEAN] GIRAUD: Yes. I began as a self-taught artist, copying other artists; then, luckily, I entered an art school, which freed up my hand and opened my eyes to a degree. It’s very dangerous to work only second-hand — referring only to other artists, that is. My teachers were of the old school: they insisted that in order to transcribe reality with any degree of freshness or personality, the eye had to be confronted with the three-dimensional image. Of course, I didn’t do it enough, and when I met [Belgian artist Joseph] Gillain, that’s what he told me. He said that one could work from photographs in a pinch, but the work wouldn’t have the same intrinsic quality. It’s true: you can be very adept at drawing from photographs, and yet completely lose the scope, the dimension of the original…

THOMPSON: It has a tendency to flatten out…

GIRAUD: Yes, you lose the perspective; there are so many details to transcribe that you get lost within the billions of pieces of information. Working from nature teaches you to synthesize.

THOMPSON: Have you ever worked from photos?

GIRAUD: Oh, yes, when I began working with Joseph Gillain, he taught me how to draw from photos. It’s a very special kind of skill; if you’re too loyal to the photo, it swallows you up. If, for instance, in the middle of a whole page of “personal” drawings, there is suddenly a drawing that is too…


GIRAUD: Not overworked, but too dependent on a photographic vision, it’s as if there’s a sudden hole in the page. You have to take the elements from the photo that you need, and retranscribe them through your personal computer, in order to get a personal vision. The same rule applies to drawing from nature. It’s very difficult, but it’s what enables the artist to bring his vision to a work. Otherwise he’s nothing but a parrot, or an ape. [pp. 86-87]

SOURCE: Jean Giraud, “The Other Side of Moebius,” interview by Kim Thompson, The Comics Journal #118 (December 1987), pp. 85-105.


Brandon Graham > That elephant rumble — a loose, baggy monster of a blog post that includes two pages from National Geographic displayed alongside two pages by Moebius (see also below).

kiCswiLA? > Un, Dos, … — a side-by-side comparison of a publicity still from the move Hondo and the Apaches starring Ralph Taeger and Moebius’s cover painting for the Lieutenant Blueberry album, The Trail of the Sioux.

quenched consciousness > Comics artist Leland Purvis sent me this photo… — a side-by-side comparison of a famous photograph by Horst P. Horst and one of Moebius’s Angel Claw drawings.

quenched consciousness > Approaching Centauri Page 3 w/photo reference

BONUS IMAGES (added 30 June 2013):

The following two swipes from National Geographic were noticed by Brandon Graham and posted on his blog:

A link to Graham’s post is included in the bonus links above as well as right here.

4 thoughts on “Jean “Moebius” Giraud on drawing from the work of other artists, from life, and from photos…

  1. Thanks very much for the feedback, Pablo, but it’s really just a small snippet of a much larger conversation that was published in The Comics Journal #118 (December 1987), pp. 85-105. I transcribed the questions and answers you see above from the hard copy of the magazine that I bought new from my local comics shop, back in the day, but time marches on, and subscribers to TCJ can now read the entire issue online via the link on this page.

    Good luck, btw, with your new website! I remember your work from the Warren and Marvel black-and-white magazines that I bought off the newstand when I was a kid. Great to see you’re still in the game!


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