Caroline Péron: Sport Sketchbook
Do you really appreciate how your body moves? Fascinated by the complexity of the human body and how it works, Caroline Péron’s illustrations beautifully capture movement through sport
Illustrations by Caroline Péron
Illustrator and designer Caroline Péron could never see herself doing anything other than art form as a career. As a child growing up in Paris, she loved to draw and it soon became not only a hobby but a passion. She studied at the Arts Décoratifs de Paris, as well as 5 months at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Fascinated by the complexity of the human body and how it works, most of Caroline’s illustrations are sport-themed to show bodies in movement such as a tennis player, runner, skateboarder, underwater swimmer. And there’s no stopping this busy French artist, as amongst other commissions, she’s currently working on a new series of drawings for her first exhibition to be held in New York and a collective comic book.
Glorious: What came first, a love of drawing or sport?
Caroline Péron: Drawing came first! I have been drawing since I was very young because my parents encouraged me to do so. My grandfather painted in his free time and he gave me drawing and watercolour materials, and amongst my ancestors, there are two watercolour landscape painters. In my family, there was always a painting or a drawing hanging on the wall, a picture to behold, so I probably already had this sensitivity within me. At the age of 6, I started classical dance. My older sister danced and she used to show me books with photos of classical dancers, and I was inspired by the beauty of the costumes and their elegant poses.
Glorious: Do you play/have an interest in sport?
Caroline Péron: I practised ballet twice a week for 14 years. I loved it because it gave me artistic expression and took me out of my comfort zone. Ballet is such a rigorous practice that you have to constantly push yourself and try to go beyond what you already know. Over the years, I have become accustomed to working my body, and although I no longer practise this dance, I still enjoy the physical effort and the search for improvement.
Glorious: Why did you choose sport to be a key focus in your work? What is it that you love about sport and the elements that surround it?
Caroline Péron: Seeing dancers on a regular basis led me to appreciate the complexity of the human body and how it works. I am fascinated by morphology and constantly want to understand, through drawing, how the body is arranged. Visually, I appreciate curves, arabesques, lines and I find them pleasant to draw. I started to draw sports because I find that bodies in movement are all about curves and elongation. There is also something graphic about sport, both in the colourful clothes sports people wear and, in the places where it is practised. The colours of sports architecture also inspire me, like the turquoise waters of swimming pools, the green grass of football pitches, the straight white lines on a tennis court etc.
Glorious: Tell us about the process of your illustrations, from an idea through to completion.
Caroline Péron: I draw inspiration from reality. Sometimes I sit on a bench from where I can observe bodies moving or dancing: on the streets, in front of a basketball court etc. I always have a sketchbook within reach. I also use my phone to film or capture scenes, landscapes, or picture what I regard as attractive. When I’m in the studio, I sort them out and screen capture the items I want to use. I do photo editing, cropping, and colour retouching from the images I collect every day. I am also inspired by films and videos that I dissect on the internet. I examine them image by image until I get the right pause and the picture I’m looking for. It is a real work of documentation and research that leads to a coloured pencil drawing.
Glorious: Do you always base your illustrations on real people?
Caroline Péron: My illustrations are always inspired by real people or places because I prefer to get closer to the exactness of the movement or the informal atmosphere.
Glorious: Who do you draw for, and where do you promote your illustrations?
Caroline Péron: I draw for magazines (French and international), publishing companies, enterprises, events, and advertising agencies. Twice a year, I also produce a series of drawings that I sell at Inventaire, a gallery in Paris. I am currently working on a collective comic book that will be published by the French publishing company Nathan Bande Dessinée.
Glorious: How do get inspiration, and who are the people/other illustrators that inspire you?
Caroline Péron: I get inspiration from other artists, books and movies, podcasts, exhibitions, and my travels. I am inspired by the work of illustrators Catherine Meurisse), Émilie, Pierre Seinturier, Alfred, Yukiko Noritake, as well as painters Pierre Bonnard, André Derain and David Hockney.
Glorious: What do you want people to see and feel through your work?
Caroline Péron: I don’t particularly try to give an audience a definite feeling. I think that emotions can be individual, depending on the period of one’s life. On the other hand, what I like when I contemplate a piece of art is to feel appeased and to escape, to let my gaze come and go from one point to another of the piece, and to abandon myself, which is a lovely situation.
Glorious: If you had to pick a favourite illustration, which one would it be and why?
Caroline Péron: I love Bonnard’s paintings intensely. I remember seeing his paintings for the first time at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris before entering the school of the Arts Décoratifs in 2015. I had not yet started working with coloured pencils, I was drawing in black and white. I don’t know how else to say it, but his paintings captivated me. His colours enveloped me, the abundance of warmth was comforting. As I discovered the paintings, I felt at ease and I had a strong feeling of pictorial love. This moment reinforced my belief that art can be beautiful, necessary and powerful. I sat on a bench at the exhibition and contemplated his painting La Table de Travail for several minutes. It is a moment that will remain forever engraved in my memory.
Glorious: You have exhibited a number of your works including a series Little Swimmers. Tell us about this project and how it came to fruition.
Caroline Péron: Shortly after the French lockdown in March 2020, I met the owner of the Inventaire gallery in Paris, who invited me to create a series of drawings. At that time, I was no longer practising sports because of a knee injury and my travels had stopped due to the pandemic. It was impossible for me to continue with ballet, but I felt that I needed a new physical activity. I thought of artistic swimming because it reminded me of the grace and voluptuousness of dance, yet in an aquatic environment. I found pictures and videos on the Internet, but I was more attracted to see what was going on underwater rather than on the surface. I wondered how the swimmers could hold these poses and I had the answer with these images. It made me want to draw the movements of women’s bodies underwater.
Glorious: If you could invite four inspirational women to dinner, who would they be and why?
Caroline Péron: As a teenager, I was very inspired by the 16th century Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi. Reading the book of the same name by Alexandra Lapierre, I became aware of the invisibilization of talented female artists of the time, sidelined in our collective art history because of male supremacy. When I started ballet, Marie-Agnès Gillot was a principal dancer at the Paris Opera company. Her charisma, her determination, her incomparable style of dancing always impressed and inspired me. I only discovered the work of Annie Ernaux, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2022, very recently. Her interviews, thoughts and writings are an inspiration for my life as a woman. Finally, I am fascinated and inspired by adventurous women in predominantly male environments. I am reminded of Sonia Popoff’s story in the French podcast series “Les baladeurs” about the challenges she faces in her job as an emergency doctor on the mountains.
Glorious: What’s next for Caroline Péron?
Caroline Péron: I’m excited about everything that can be achieved through drawing. I would like to diversify the medium for my drawing, collaborate with interior designers, dancers, textile brands, set designers. Otherwise, I am currently working on a new series of drawings for my first exhibition, which will be held in New York City next June in The Fridge gallery. As previously mentioned, I’m also working on a collective comic book and editorial commissions. Finally, I’m aiming to create my first children’s book this year. Work in progress!