As a colleague reminded me just last week, words to the effect that in order to move forward, one must look back and so keeping that in mind … within today’s world of fashion there seems to be a renewed interest in the art of fashion illustration. Once upon a time that world was inhabited by the likes of Rene Gruau, Erte, Kenneth Paul Block, Joe Eula and so very many eponymous designers and their brands. If your knowledge is broad enough or you are old enough to remember, there was a time that all fashion advertisements in all newspapers were the ownership of top tier illustrators. Today there is a huge rebirth or possibly a reimagining of the medium and within this new wave is an illustrator who can rival the best of any of them, no matter the era, and his name is Marc-Antoine Coulon.
It’s not often that a writer gets to interview or feature a dear friend but that is the circumstance of the moment. Marc-Antoine is that person; he is the most generous of friends, one of the most talented people in my orbit and above all a person that possesses great warmth, style and grace. No, please don’t think I paint him as an Albert Schweitzer or a Mother Teresa but the man occupies a permanent place in my life because once upon a time he offered what he thought was a simple gesture of friendship; that seemingly simple gesture turned into one of my most treasured memories/possessions.
Friendship aside, Monsieur Coulon is the rare breed of artist/illustrator who harbors no animosity towards others and still manages to retain an endearing almost childlike nature about him. He is a man of the world, a 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?”
Jeffrey Felner: Do you have a mentor or some inner drive that fuels your creativity … who or what would that be?
Marc-Antoine Coulon: Love and friendship have always been my inner drive. I like what Sagan wrote – “You write for three or four persons you love and who think you are strong – whereas you are vulnerable – they don’t know that they can put you down with one single word. Sometimes it hurts so bad that everything around you starts floating.” When you create, you are always insecure. I have always been drawing to please people. It is a piece of my heart that I want to offer to them – a gift of love; the kind of gift that says “love me back, please.”
JF: Can you give us a brief history and then a present day accounting of who you work with as well as whom else is on your radar for future work?
MAC: I first worked for the music and movie industries in my twenties. Then Marpessa Henninck got me published in Italy. Soon after that I was commissioned by a famous French erotic magazine “LUI”. At that time I decided to focus on fashion illustrations – which I had always wanted to do. I worked in Germany and France. I did my first exhibition with Tom Marcireau at the famous Carita beauty salon. Ines de la Fressange noticed me and got me commissioned by French Vogue. That’s how I met my present agents. Since that I have been working for Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Givenchy, and various magazines among which my beloved “Madame FIGARO”, “InStyle magazine”, “Transfuge”, “ELLE magazine”…
JF: if you could invite any 6 people to dinner who would you invite and why?
MAC: 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.
JF: who has been inspiration to you and who would you most like to collaborate with and why?
MAC: 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.
JF: are you surprised at your success and what would be the most desirable situation for you in the future and why?
MAC: 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…