It all started with Dragon Ball Z.
When he was young, Nicolas Delort's friends were watching the anime and collecting the cards, but he fell in love with the black-and-white manga that inspired it all. "Akira Toriyama's ink work is so clean, precise, and elegant and I spent a lot of time tracing, at first, pages of the manga, and then eyeballing and eventually just doing my own fanart," the Paris-based artist explains. That fascination has since turned into a career, as Delort has taken up the classic technique of scratchboard and adopted it for his own incredibly detailed, monochrome creations.
The technique involves creating images by literally scratching them onto a piece of clayboard. Delort has used it to illustrate a wide range of images, and not just the dark and gloomy ones you'd associate with black-and-white drawing. His portfolio includes everything from art books based on Blizzard games like Diablo III to magazine covers featuring soccer stars like Clint Dempsey. He's illustrated fantasy book covers and posters of the likes of Charlie Brown and Where the Wild Things Are.
"I have a clear preference for vast compositions where human presence is minimal — ruins, trees, landscapes come much more naturally to me than people," he says of his work. "I'm trying to force myself to experiment a bit more and step out of my comfort zone, but it's sometimes hard to do so on jobs with strict deadlines."
While his work has a classic vibe, like many modern artists, Delort also dabbles in the digital, using tools like Photoshop to get his illustrations from the clayboard to your computer screen. And he doesn't see the two as being in conflict. "I couldn't do the illustrations I do on a computer, but at the same time I couldn't work as an illustrator without Photoshop," he explains. "They're all just different tools for different goals."
It's early, but 2015 is already filling up with new jobs that will keep Delort pretty busy. That said, he's hoping this will be the year he gets to break away from commissions for a bit, and create something of his own, an illustrated story that explores more personal topics. Then again, there's one commission he'd never say no to.
"I certainly wouldn't mind being asked to illustrate the entire Harry Potter series."
You can find more of his work on his site.