When I started writing about Life ’n’ Living, I did not imagine the kind of wonderful experiences I will have when interviewing soulful people, people who are adding beauty and goodness in the world because they work with singular focus. They are people who understand that life is a gift and so they enjoy their work, every single day. These people spread happiness because of what they say and do. They are naturally kind and gracious. Art is a creative expression of thoughts that mostly bring out a sense of beauty. There are few artists who bring in peace and harmony by their artworks, reminding us to be more present and mindful.Francois is an artist with a flair for drawing Zen like characters. His Yogi –petz are popular all over the world simply because everyone can relate to his sketches. His site is aptly called sketchesinstillness. I stumbled upon his fascinating works and knew that I had to write about him and his unique work.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
1) You have been an artist for a long time now. What draws you towards art?
I have been an artist even before I remember, since I was little. People always knew that I would be an artist since I always drew, and drew and so I cannot remember a time where I wasn’t drawing. It was not like an inspiration that came and told me that I want to be an artist. It was evident I will be an artist from the reactions of everyone around me, from the time I was little.
The reason I am asking this is I mean we often find children old doodling on paper or on the wall but somehow you know they are not encouraged beyond 5 or 6 years’ maybe, so it’s interesting that probably your parents supported you.
Yes, because I was so passionate about it and was always drawing, so my parents supported me and they bought me all the materials to nurture that skill. I am blessed with my parents nurturing my talent and that was the art part. What is interesting is that which inspired me when I was very little to draw. The funny thing is when I was tiny I used to draw Jesus, the actual character everywhere and all the time. I was born in Paris and raised in Africa because my parents travel. My dad used to represent the airlines Air France in all parts of the world especially in Libya in Africa and then we came to France. They put me in a catholic school with all the nuns and the convent and we had to study the Bible, being raised as catholic. When I was in the church, I would listen to all these beautiful stories and I was drawn to the love part of the Jesus. Jesus is a combination of all love and non judgment – I was fascinated by the character. I didn’t understand the condemnation; it was the non judgmental part and love that I was drawn to. My mom was always spiritual – she has been meditating , and we meditated together since I was very little. It was more like she was interested in the teachings of Buddha), but she never really followed any religion or was part of any religion, she always searched and enjoyed a more universal message and path that was non-denominational. So my mom and I are non-denominational .The message of Jesus that I enjoyed was the more Gnostic and mystical message of Jesus, that is more aligned with a message of oneness and total forgiveness, found in teachings like “A Course In Miracles”, that my mom also used to teach, a message of waking up from the dream we think we are in and awakening to who we truly are which is pure spirit, the formless, that which never dies. I was not religious but more drawn towards love. It’s funny that I was always drawing Jesus – and my teachers used to tell my parents that he would probably become a monk .My mom was okay with it but not my dad.That’s how I used to express – instead of writing, it was drawing that became my tool to express. I used to draw lot of people and portraits very accurately, and draw all my friends at school. Art was thus encouraged and that’s how it started
2. Your drawings of Yogi – petz give a sense of bliss and remind us to be in the ‘now’. What has been your source of inspiration to create Yogi-petz? How did you choose animals to represent the Zen part of life?
It was as a symbol – I could have drawn humans but I was drawn towards this image of people – when we feel heavy while meditating, it seemed like the rocks we carry become heavy – who we think are, what society thinks we are ,the stories we carry on our backs. In the beginning, I used to draw images of humans carrying rocks – dropping rocks, dis identify and disassociate at will. Put down the rocks – free from the rocks, free from the past, free from judgment, relate to one another without judgment. Pick up the rocks and you race to the mountain – fight, fall and fight. Then this was the character that loved the deliciousness of not holding rocks and just standing next to a flower, just being there, and the piece that emanated from that character – Other characters were drawn to this character. I thought if I use humans questions like what dress would they wear, what country will they represent appeared .So I thought it is best to maintain neutral , use anthropomorphic images like the French Artist, Boris O’Klein. I then thought about animals that move, carrying something and the first image was that of ants. That’s how Yogi-ant appeared. This is expressed in the first book I made – a clear idea of people who hold something and drop it.
Then for any quote with lights, it was the fire fly that appeared – for instance, be the light. And then came the animals; the ideas came with grace. It keeps unfolding every day. Your mail and this interview itself is a miracle and I loved your blog too.
What we put out into the world is what we get.
3) Travel is one of your favourite ways to experience life. Which place resonates with you the most?
I traveled so much and that still seems less. I love the vibration of Norway. My mom is from Norway. Every place has its own vibe. Norway is such a pure place – the nature, the people, and the water. And people are naturally ZenI love the beauty of France. My father is from France. Am certain I will come to India too as my mother comes to India often. I have many friends from India in America.From very little if you travel, you are not conditioned in one place as you do not have much time. You are more in acceptance when you are in a different place, different culture – in some country, you become the minority. You understand from your heart, rather than appearance. You become more unconditioned.I used to tell my teachers “I am from nowhere” or “I am from the world”. I love that am a world citizen and am grateful for this.
4) Creativity, solitude and self care are integrated in your sketches. How does a regular day in your life look like?‘
Me’ time is most important. I don’t move out of my bed till I feel completely connected and in the present moment. Meditating till there’s a click and then I disassociate myself To be curious about where fear comes from, you become alert and compassionate with what comes up. Drop the rocks and you become more alert. Most of the day I spend my time like this. From that space, the Yogi petz come and they come to me. I listen to music and sometimes I wish to push them away and instead be in that delicious moment of being. Sometimes you just want to be. And when you are ready, you put in colour in a magical way, in a graceful way .When you become more aware – you become innocent – not young/old, male/female – you are simply that awareness. You let that awareness use your hand. You share that work with others and that snowballs. You draw from that state. You see the power that it has on others, and enjoy that selfless love and the presence of being. When you become present, presence emanates in you and your work.
I do normal things too – watching TV etc. but keeping presence in the background. I call it reporting from heaven. Heaven is a state of being – when you are free from suffering and I love that the sketches created from stillness come out from that place of peace. I let the inspiration to come to me and then the sketches come on paper.
I spend a good part of the day to let inspiration come to me and then work on it
5) What medium do you use to create these soulful sketches?
For years, I worked on normal paper with colour pencils, paint, water colour and airbrush. As I travel, someone suggested iPad. So I tried the apple iPad pro with the pen though I prefer the organic way of using the brushes. But am now sold on that and I use the iPad as it looks like watercolor.
Few of us comprehend, ruminate and appreciate life. When you connect to your divine self, your life encompasses all of Nature and your life’s work becomes a masterpiece- Francois is indeed a reporter from Heaven.
Just head to his site,www.sketchesinstillness.com and get ready to embark on a different journey.