What initially inspired you to create illustrations East Village storefronts this past spring?
As many of us, I became jobless. I normally work in visual merchandising and do store installs and windows so it's not something I can do from home.
I am super bad with computers — I don't even own one! So, when I want to share window design ideas with a client, I do a little sketch. Being without my professional activity during lockdown, on a rainy day, I sketched my apartment. I posted it on social media. People reacted very well.
So I asked my friends to send me a picture of their favorite wall. It's how it started.
Then, I got sick of sketching interiors. So, during my long walks in the deserted streets, I took pictures of the buildings — the storefronts with the gate closed. It was sad but beautiful at the same time. I started to sketch the buildings.
Then, when businesses started to slowly reopen, my friend Meagan from East Village Vintage Collective talked about me on an East Village Independent Merchants Association call. She told on a Zoom meeting that I will sketch the businesses in exchange of being tagged on social media and if they wanted to buy it or trade I was cool with it. It's how it started!
It was so amazing to see that people were excited about it, liked my drawings and that made them happy! It was warmth for the heart. On both parts.
Is there something in particular about a storefront that might catch your eye?
First of, I love this neighborhood. It's a community here. I am a EV resident for six years now. And it's like Montmartre in Paris where I used to live. Everybody knows more than less of each other. I think it's more a sentimental thing than an esthetical thing.
Plus, as a European, I love those brick buildings with the fire escape on the facade. (Dream comes true, I live in one of those buildings.) So, I would say, the sentimental aspect. And when you take the time to look at thise buildings, you discover that the window frames are sometimes different from one floor to another.
I also observed more of the beauty of the buildings walking in empty streets, or making line in front of a store. We are used to be so fast all the time here. I take pictures of buildings and things I want to sketch. I became obsessed with trash cans lately. I started a series. It's called Trash in the City. Making something ugly into something pretty. I like that.
What places and people — past or present — have inspired you?
I don't want to sound like a cliché, but I would say family and friends. My parents did something super awesome — they are in France and I miss them. When I became jobless, I was very cautious about my expenses. I wanted and needed markers to sketch. Those art markers are expensive. There was this box of 72 for almost $200! My parents sent me money on PayPal so I could buy them.
My brothers have been supportive too. My best friend, who has a corporate job and never stopped working, offered me markers too. It was great help! And it pushed me to draw even more!
And my EV tribe! I would not have made it without them. We all have looked at each other during this tough time.
Your Instagram posts are refreshingly upbeat during such a challenging time. How do you manage to stay focused on the positive?
I am glad you are asking this. Well, I am a very lucky person. I see the glass half full! I am not going to lie, I had a meltdown when everything closed one by one. When all my gigs disappeared. But well, what can we do? You can be miserable, or kick your butt and carry-on! It's how I have been raised. Luck won't knock at your door. You have to find it, chase it. And try to keep it.
I started to sketch. It kept me busy in a positive way. I had long walks. As a joke, I dressed up every day. A little provocation to people who were saying they didn't shower and wore sweat pants. I dressed up for myself. It makes me happy. And I took pictures. People loved it. So I kept doing it. It's as simple as that.
With Frank New, my good friend in the neighborhood, we dressed up to just walk to Tompkins Square Park or East River Park. We even dressed up for Easter! I had already made my hat for the Bonnet Parade that got canceled.
One day, I put my brain on happiness mode. And I tried to keep it this way. Call it being in the denial, but it works. I also do not own a television. I don't watch the news. I just know the big titles that I need to know to be a good citizen. That helps. I am not saying I am right, but it works for me. There always something beautiful and positive (in most things).
An other tip to be positive: say yes to (almost) everything. Support your friends. If someone ask you to join them at a art show, a concert, a whatever, just say yes and go! Life can be beautiful and full of experiences. Look around you, contemplate life. Even watching a bird. A weird bug is cool! I have a friend who sometimes mocks me because I am too positive!
What is your favorite part of living in the East Village?
The people. The old-school vibe. The solidarity. The spirit. The independence. The trash. The graffiti. The filth. The artists. The bars. Tompkins Square Park. My block. The East River Park. The hippies. The punks. The misfits. The fact that I run into everyone in the street to chit-chat. The bohemian spirit. The brick buildings. The fire escapes. The fact to be part of something. My neighbors. The red-tailed hawks. My nest. The feeling to be in the best neighborhood you can possibly imagine.
I will get the zip code tattooed one day.If you like her whimsical work, then you can check it out in person... she'll be one of the vendors tomorrow (Saturday!) at the Avenue B flea between 10th Street and 13th Street. You can also browse her Etsy shop here.