In early 1977, Joost Swarte defines what is probably the most important comics art style to have come out of Europe. No-one had a name for it before: the ligne claire. The Clear Line. The style of Herge, of Tintin. I’m sure you can picture it. The style where all extraneous lines are eliminated, and only the lines that do work remain. A single line of exquisite clarity and control, producing deceptively simple and open figures in a method that is in fact extremely hard to do. You can’t hide anything, in the Clear Line. Every shape must be rendered in the minimal amount of ink, but not at the expense of detail. There’s little or no weighting on the line – making the line thicker or thinner to create spatial bias in the panels – no crosshatch, no shading, and no skimping on the realism of backgrounds. The characters, especially in Herge, tend to be a little cartoony: in combination with the detailed background work, the effect defined by Scott McCloud as “masking” comes into play.
I knew what ligne claire is, I’m trying to take my art in that direction a bit. I didn’t know who named it.