It’s not often that a writer gets to interview or feature a dear friend but that is the circumstance of today. Marc-Antoine Coulon is that person; he the most generous of friends, one of the most talented people in my world and above all a person that possesses great warmth and grace. No, please don’t think I paint him as an Albert Schweitzer or Mother Teresa but the man occupies a permanent place in my being because once upon a time he offered what he thought was a simple gesture of friendship and that seemingly simple gesture turned into one of my most treasured memories.
Friendship aside, Monsieur Coulon is a rare breed of artist who harbors no animosity towards others and still manages to retain an endearing almost childlike nature about him. He is the man of the world and the child with dreams, he is an artist with the heart of a saint and he is loyal to a fault. My question to you is just this... “Aren’t you sorry that you don’t know him?”
Please meet my friend who has my unending respect for his body of work as well as for the man who has become a cherished friend. Please meet Marc-Antoine Coulon….
1-you have been compared to Rene Gruau and to David Downton, how do you feel about that and what do you think separates your work from theirs?’
I have always admired René Gruau’s work. I discovered him when I was 4. It was love at first sight! I discovered a whole new world where women could have bleu hair for instance. Gruau was a genius. He created everything in terms of illustration - though he got much inspired from previous illustrators. Compared to mine, his work was perhaps more disciplined. He used much more backgrounds too. His characters’ faces were treated in a much more impressionist way. He reinvented his style all his life through. He knew how to put outrageous perspectives in his images. I loved everything about it - the lines, the colors, the atmosphere… I was very flattered when compared to such a genius.
I am not in the best position to judge my work. But I think my French Italian roots show in my treatment. I love unfinished work, because I want my viewers to take part in the image they are looking at. What you suggest may be much more interesting than what you actually show. I want it to be erotic, then promising, evocative. I give hints. I want it to be simple and apparently easy, effortless - though it is never effortless.
As for Downton, we have been admiring the same glorious fashion illustrators - Gruau, Viramontes, Lopez, Constance H. Wibaut …
2-if you could invite any 6 people to dinner who would you invite and why?
I would invite Colette, Madame de Maintenon, Edwige Feuillère - I would love to see the three of them talk together! I could even just sit by their side and listen - I love every novel by Colette. She has been my first literary love. I love her kind of cruel sense of humor, and the way she attached words to common undefinable feelings. Madame de Maintenon was such an exquisite yet strong woman - I feel so much tenderness for her. I would also love to have Flannery O’Connor at my table - her whole work was such a shock to me, I would have loved to discuss some aspects of it with her.
I would also love to chat with Federico Fellini and Winston Churchill.
3-what future projects do you have on your schedule? What has been your greatest achievement so far?
It is always difficult to speak of projects before they actually go public. There are many exciting things coming in 2015… among which are collaborations with world famous fashion magazines, book covers, and American exhibitions.
I loved almost every project I worked for. I am very proud of my work for French Vogue, for l’Officiel de la Mode, for Dean Rhys Morgan Works on Paper, my 5 month exhibition at the Carita salon in Paris and my collaboration with Olivier Nicklaus for his documentary film “Pop Models”.
4-who has been inspiration to you and who would you most like to collaborate with and why?
I have been inspired by René Gruau of course since the age of four. Apart from that I have admired Toulouse Lautrec, Degas, Ingres, Saul Bass, and Max Huber… as for my favourite subjects, Italian women and French legends are very important in my work. What a sensual joy to draw a black line of makeup on Deneuve’s or Silvana Mangano’s eye.
I also have projects with some famous photographers. I can’t wait to do those images. I am always fascinated to get the opportunity to work with these giants because they are so elegant as they allow you to think that you are worthy of working with them. Less talented artists usually don’t make you feel that way. They can’t give what they don’t have...
I think I am ready to collaborate with anybody. I want to draw for everybody. I want to get to know so many people. They all have their specific stories and I am interested in them. I love people with their flaws as long as they are giving and nice.
5-do you have any specific reasons as to why you select someone as a subject? Who would be your top 5 choices as subject and why?
There are two aspects here - live portrait or portrait from a photo.
For a live portrait, I need to feel something for my subject, even if it only lasts the time of the drawing session. And my subject has to welcome that feeling. It is a beautiful yet strange experience. It creates a bond, something strong and charming.
My top five subjects? So hard to tell - they all are my top subjects as I am drawing them. Yet I must admit I love to draw Catherine Deneuve, Ines de la Fressange, Marpessa Hennink, Mina, and… so many others!
6-are you surprised at your success and what would be the most desirable situation for you in the future and why?
Yes I am always surprised at my success. I would love to live in Italy and work there - it is in my blood. I would also love to reside in the United States. I would like to work for each and every fashion magazine in the world. I have so many images yet to draw and so much love yet to give...
7-tell us something about you that few people know.
8-if you could live anywhere, where would that be and why?
Rome!!! By all means!!! I feel home each time I am in Rome. It is a city where I belong. The music I like, the food I like, the colors, the fragrances, the way people dress up there, all of that makes me a true Roman guy. There is so much art everywhere that you need a whole lifetime to be able to say that you actually know Rome.
9-do you think your main focus is fashion or do you not really have a specific choice? Why?
I really chose to focus on fashion. Fashion and art are very close friends. They are meant to meet, but fashion opens to so many other worlds too. I must add that fashion people love artists. When you do fashion illustrations, people are interested in your own special style. It means freedom to an illustrator. They want your style. They want you to do what you do and they respect your style. They almost never ask you to re-work your images. They never choose you at random.
10-how would your job description read? Would you be portraitist? Illustrator? Artist? Painter? And why?
I like to say that I am first and foremost an illustrator. But I can be anything you like to call me as long as my images seem interesting.