LIFE IN SKETCHES
By Catherine Vanesse
22 January, 2017
From New York to Tokyo, Senegal to China, French artist Virginie Broquet travels, draws and observes the world. Always with her sketchbook and pen, she captures scenes away from the street, snapshots that tell of her curiosity of others. Every image, like a painting, then becomes an adventure!
The artist, drawer and comic-book writer, Virginie Broquet, born February 5, 1968, in Nice, also illustrates for publications, the press, advertisements and fashion. For this insatiable world traveler, every adventure is an opportunity to bring back illustrated travel logs of scenes and snapshots from everyday life. From her travel logs, she then creates large paintings using mixed techniques combining line drawing, watercolor and collages.
In September 2016, Virginie Broquet presented her work in the Thai capital at the two simultaneous exhibits “Bangkok Mon Amour” at the Alliance française, and “Les Caprices de Maggie” at Maggie Choo’s, with illustrations of the famous club that takes guests to Shanghai circa 1930. Through her drawings, the artist expresses her passion for the Land of Smiles. For her, “Bangkok is China, Vietnam and India all at once. It’s beautiful and magical. It’s a trip through space and time.”
What project led you to present your work in Thailand?
I visited Thailand for the first time in 2008 as part of the “Carnet d’Ambassade” project, where I traveled through several countries to illustrate the embassies of France all over the world. I then returned in 2015 to visit some friends and for the pleasure of seeing Bangkok again, revisit the embassy and sketch the new chancellery. During this trip, I met Christian Mérer, the director of the Alliance française, and he proposed that I create an exhibit which represents my own telling of Bangkok, what touched and inspired me, my favorite things about it, like with Maggie Choo’s. I love the atmosphere and magic of the place and the people there. When I came back to France, I sent my drawings to the artistic director of Maggie Choo’s, Sanya Souvanna Phouma, and he loved them! This is where I got the idea to do a double exhibit.
Do you do drawings everywhere you go?
I love drawing in France, but exotic locations have always inspired me more. I make about 2 or 3 sketches per day. I always have a sketchbook and a pen in hand. I really got started with travel logs after my first trip through Asia. I went to Vietnam in 1994 with my stepmother, who is Vietnamese. It was the first time she had returned there since the war. The trip turned out to be so interesting and moving that I wanted to retell it. Since then, I make 3 or 4 trips per year. In between them, I like going back to Nice to revitalize myself. Where I live is timeless, and I like going to my workshop and getting out my colors to reproduce my sketches in large formats.
With more than 20 years of traveling the world, what places do you like the best?
I really like Asia, especially China, but also Thailand and Cambodia. As part of an assignment with the Institut Français in Cambodia, I walked around for one week in the streets of Phnom Penh with fine arts students. They drew things like me, with a sketchbook and a ballpoint pen. For them, it was unusual to do art this way, far from the academic style. For me, it was wonderful because I wasn’t a tourist. They opened doors to me and places where I would never have dared to knock. I felt like someone from the country. I love sharing my art.
You also share your art through literature…
In 20 years, I’ve done about twenty books. My favorite heroine is Suzie Wong. Suzie Wong and the Spirits is a blend of comic book, travel log and soft eroticism. To create it, I was inspired by Richard Mason’s novel, The World of Suzie Wong. For now, there’s only one book, but I’m working on a second one. In this first book, she leaves New York for Bangkok, Pattaya, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo and Kyoto. In the next one, I’d like to have her travel a bit in other regions of the world, in Africa or South America, places loaded with spirituality and stories.
Do you have other projects?
The So Sofitel has offered for me to do a work to exhibit in one of the suites of the hotel. I’d also like one day to paint a mural on a building. When I see all these empty buildings in cities, I want to draw on them.
I’d also like to spend six months in Thailand to create a log of all Bangkok’s neighborhoods. This city is really fascinating. You never know what century or which country you’re in. It’s a real source of inspiration.