The 2023 Angoulême Festival brings women colorists out of the shadows

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“When we get dressed in the morning, how do we do it? It’s very simple, the choice of colors. » Isabelle Merlet, renowned colorist, cultivates the modesty of her art. She has however worked on dozens of albums signed by the biggest names in comics: Catherine Meurisse, Blutch, Jean-Marc Rochette and even the famous mangaka Katsuhiro Otomo.

Some of the boards on which she worked were exhibited at the Angoulême Festival, within a course on the profession of colorist. “I realized that comic book colorist was a job, 15 years after I started doing it”she wondered, during a masterclass organized on the sidelines of the exhibition.

Work in the shadows, often carried out by women confined to this task, the coloring is intended to give light back its full freedom of expression. “I play with colors as with an instrument, by adjusting the decorations, by making the line vibrateexplains Isabelle Merlet. The biggest job is knowing how to read a drawing, and then knowing how to hide the mistakes, the details that don’t matter. »

“It’s a hammer thing, what! »

Her art is therefore based on intuition, the sure gesture of the one who, until the arrival of graphic tablets and digital retouching software, had no room for error, under penalty of having to redo a whole board by the designer!

“At the end of thirty pages, I am installed in the density of the air, I feel its temperature, its moistness, the degree of transparency of the light. It is a question of intensity of juxtaposed colors, a game of contrasts determined by the eye in search of the right vibration. It’s a hammer thing, what! » exclaims Isabelle Merlet, facing an audience as fascinated as it is amused.

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Admiration is at its height when she tells how she proposed to the duo Ruppert and Mulot to color Tiled floor (L’Association, 2008) with a shade of gray!

“Good pear”

“When the author receives the colors, he is sometimes surprised, because he does not always find his drawing. There are adjustments, in particular to review the contrast problems related to printing », recognizes Isabelle Merlet. Asked why designers who know how to color call on her, like Catherine Meurisse, she jokes: “Because I’m a sucker!” »

Still, this very special profession is not recognized at its fair value. Paid between €50 and €150 per board, colorists are not considered authors and therefore do not receive royalties on the works to which they have contributed. “We have been demanding 1% from publishers for years. In vain ! » are indignant Isabelle Merlet and all the great colorists present in the room, including Brigitte Findakly, who gave their colors to the Rabbit by Lewis Trondheim and Rabbi’s Cat by Joann Sfar.

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