Christian Cailleaux: The comic book over water

© Christian Cailleaux

Christian Cailleaux is a French artist who will embark on Tara during this expedition. He illustrates maritime life through the comic strip. He gives us some keys to decrypt his universe.


Christian, you are an illustrator and cartoonist. Can you tell us about your work?

I’ve produced about fifteen comic books and some in collaboration with a screenwriter. Although I sometimes evoke different topics, I’ve used them mostly to tell my relationship with the world through fiction because travel has been part of my life since I was twenty. I first went to Brazzaville, Congo, where I lived for some time before traveling across French-speaking Africa, the Indian Ocean, then India and Singapore. In the meantime I moved to Montreal for two years, although I never stopped working with French publishers.

Christian CailleauxChristian Cailleaux on one of his earlier expeditions © French Navy


This is not the first time you’ve boarded a boat for a long trip. Can you tell us about your previous expeditions?

Thanks to meeting, about ten years ago with the late Bernard Giraudeau, I embarked for the first time and it’s become an obsession! Since then, I have been on several Navy vessels. I’ve experienced a transatlantic from Brest to New York, visited Kerguelen and the Desolation Islands beyond the roaring forties, and spent 8 days diving in a nuclear attack submarine!


What impresses you about being surrounded by water? Do these emotions have an influence on your drawing?

I feel more alive! I have mixed feelings which are esoteric and difficult to summarize as part of a whole, a great force and a mystery, which can be hostile as well as compassionate. This of course greatly affects my drawing, especially since I’m quite frugal with detail, seeking instead the “right” line. And trying to capture a moving wave on paper becomes a real challenge!

©13EtrangeCover illustration of the first edition “Le troisième thé”, a comic book published by Treize Etrange. The setting takes place in Paris, Montreal and Saint Louis of Senegal


Your works have the sense of escape. Do you know the Philippines and the south of China that you’ll travel to aboard Tara?

I was pretty close to them while spending time in Singapore and Cambodia but I don’t know these two places. It seems that the path of my life since my early years in Africa, is slowly leading me further and further to the East. It’s exciting!


What do you expect from participating in the Tara Pacific expedition?

I already know it will be an extraordinary experience with real sense and commitment. I am proud and happy to be a part of it. I can’t wait to “harass” the scientists and shipboard specialists to recreate it with images and a story. Twenty years ago I travelled with a light heart and carefree illusions. Today it’s no longer possible! The upheavals of the world are such that it’s necessary to give meaning to our use of it. That said, I also intend to make images for the sole pleasure of drawing and creating.

©Cailleaux_2Illustration by Christian Cailleaux aboard the helicopter carrier Jeanne d’Arc off Punta Delgada (Azores) during his transatlantic between Brest and New York


In your opinion, what role(s) can an artist play in publicizing environmental issues? Do you feel concerned?

Yes, I feel concerned, especially since I have a child growing up in this world. Before that I just felt disarmed and disillusioned. Today I’m ready to fight. I’m convinced that the particular language of comics is an ideal vector for these kinds of topics. Without being simplistic it can be a wonderful tool for popularization and awareness.

 Mathieu Poulhalec

Check out Christian Cailleaux’s work here

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