Author-illustrator David Sala moves between children’s books and comics. In each of these two worlds, he has created some real gems.
Artistes Actuels has already highlighted his comic strip “The Chess Player” based on the work of Stefan Zweig.
Today, the spotlight is on his latest comic book “Le poids des héros” published by Casterman.
David Sala pays tribute to his two Spanish grandfathers who escaped death many times. Here he tries his hand at autobiographical storytelling in the shadow of History.
A comic book with a violent blast of colour
Opening “Le poids des héros” is like opening a window and feeling a violent gust of colour.
However, at the beginning, it was not the colour he had chosen…
Indeed, David Sala started his career as an illustrator with beautiful creations in a dark and realistic style. This was the case, for example, with “Replay” published in 2000 by Casterman with the Argentinean scriptwriter Jorge Zentner.
But in 2010, David Sala embarks on the adventure of children’s books with “La colère de Banshee”, still published by Casterman.
Thanks to children's books, a new career and a wind of freedom !
My first books tended towards realism and I realised that I was losing my freedom. The children’s books gave me the opportunity to start a new career.
In “Le poids des héros”, the author evokes this professional turning point when he explains to his mother: “I feel like throwing everything away at the moment! I don’t know… Change direction, go and see elsewhere, open the windows.”
With children's books, David Sala deploys a free use of colour
I removed the drop shadows which gave me a realism I wanted to get away from, it opened doors for me, gave me more freedom. The technique of flat colours allows me to focus on the emotion of the colour.
In the course of his children’s books, we discover soils, trees, leaves, ponds, rivers, clothes and interiors of great beauty, as if they had come out of Gustav Klimt’s paintings. David Sala has already mastered the use of colour in his comics with “Le joueur d’échecs” and this is the case again with “Le poids des héros”.
Some scenes in “Weight of Heroes” are more experimental. How to tell the horror of the camps? This period was transmitted to us in black and white. Colour allowed me to get closer to the event.
Pink to express a massacre or a mass grave
Isn’t magenta (or fuschia or Indian pink) the sweet colour of joy, cheerfulness and vivacity? This pink is not part of the light spectrum, but it asserts volumes by attracting light.
David Sala uses it as a background for scenes of extreme violence. A deportee trapped by barbed wire (is he already dead?), two soldiers massacring a naked man, a multitude of bodies emerging from a mass grave…
Yellow as an expression of pain
Is yellow not the colour of life and light ? David Sala uses it for the floor of a hanging scene of his maternal grandfather or for his face grimacing with pain.
Colours give rhythm to the stories of these two heroes. The scene in which his paternal grandfather manages to escape from the SS is a frantic race that begins in the green of the forest, then the red of the brambles and ends, with the page just turned, with a slap of blue, the blue of freedom !
With a superb mastery of movement and colour, the race to freedom is summed up in a few frames in a breathtaking sequence.
Are the colours fixed in their meaning ? I don’t think so. I found that when they were placed in another context, they suddenly took on a whole new meaning, a whole new strength.
Autobiographical comic book but not a documentary
I thought I should talk about myself and not directly about my grandparents and it opened other doors for me
In this autobiographical comic, David Sala has deliberately chosen not to work from documents. His memories are the basis of his story: it is the David of 8, 15, 22 or 35 years old who tells the story with the uncertainties linked to the memory of emotions.
Only very few factual elements remain. This is the case with the painting of his maternal grandfather or the super-8 camera film of his paternal grandfather, which David Sala took as a young adult.
This film I took of him is the only direct testimony I have of my paternal grandfather
With “Le poids des héros”, David Sala raises his art as an author, illustrator and colourist to a very high level. To conclude, he confides to us :
The more I progress, the more I realise that it is difficult to draw because my level of demand increases with time