Anne Vuitton is a French illustrator who delights young and old with her drawings for the whole family. She lives in Connecticut, but remains inspired by the classic French and Belgian comics of her childhood. Her work is also inflected by her earlier career as a restorer of old paintings at Galerie Vivienne in Paris. Join us in a conversation with her and discover her special touch of humor, with a bit of magic and the sweetness of a cotton candy drop in a cocktail sprinkled with frizzi pazzi!
French Wink: Where did you get your love of drawing?
Anne Vuitton: Since childhood, I have drawn and written. I grew up surrounded by comics, paintings and books. Drawing and painting have never left me, they have always been a way to express my feelings, my perspective, and maybe smooth my boiling mind!
How long have you been a professional illustrator? How did you decide to make it your career?
I studied painting restoration and then I had my studio / gallery in Paris, Galerie Vivienne, for 20 years. I have restored over 2,500 paintings for collectors and major auction houses. And at the same time I was still drawing. At first I was drawing for myself, then for friends. For my children, I created a character named Cleophyle who follows them on all their adventures. We moved 3 times, most recently to the USA. That is when I decided to focus my work only on illustration. I always dreamed of taking the time for this and on top of that it is a job that I can do anywhere on a corner of cardboard or table. I cannot go a day without drawing or writing. It is a need for me.
France is very present in your work. Is it important to you to express French culture?
Being French is not something that I claim but it is in me. I am proud to be French especially if it involves history, a style, gastronomy, open minds, great ideas and a way of life! I’m a Parisian with burgundian origins. For me it means good food, good wine, large open tables, “bon vivant” warmth, where everyone can speak their minds, often with conviction, but always with humor and respect for others (even if they are often wrong)! I teach my children humor and self-derision, even if it means making them tease me sometimes! It is important for me to put what is happening to us in perspective and to learn to love ourselves.
What is your creative process?
Everything feeds me, like people, a conversation, a landscape, a situation, smells, sensations, my friends, colors. Ideas arrive naturally. I am passionate about a lot of things. I have always been hyperactive and drawing allows me to control this boiling mind. I am just very frustrated by the lack of time! Please open back the schools!
What are your favorite subjects?
Childhood and decoration. I love the candor and humor of children, I like that they can dream without limit. And it is really not original but I am passionate about decoration, trends, style...
Do you and your life make their way into your illustrations? Do you use real people for inspiration?
I have always been told that getting up in the morning and smiling at yourself in the mirror is the first step for a good day. My dream: I would like people to feel the same when they look at my illustration on their walls, make them smile or dream and have a good day. All my illustrations are inspired by my daily life, the people I meet, my reading... Of course for the personalized illustrations they must be as close as possible to reality. All my illustrations reflect a moment of my life.
Those who followed the series Les Triplés in French magazines might recognize a nod to it in your creations. Is it voluntary?
Of course I grew up with Les Triplés. I never realized that there were nods, probably because I also have 3 children and that I grew up in a fairly classic world with a traditional education of classic French families from the 16th arrondissement of Paris! I remember the mother of Les Triplés in a black backless dress that I found gorgeous when I was a little girl. I remember as a child dreaming of being like her one day! This was without counting on the nutella effect, cocktails, cheeses, and 3 children which had a slightly different result on me!
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love to create a backdrop, a suspended moment. I do not like drawing adults too much.
What materials do you use to create your illustrations?
I used to draw everything on paper with black ink, watercolor, and acrylic. Now it is 100% iPad and Apple Pen.
How long have you been in the US?
I came to the USA a year ago for my husband's job. We had been asking for 10 years; my husband's company made us move several times in France and for the first time internationally. We were delighted with this new family adventure.
How do you promote your work here? Are there big differences compared to the French way?
I am still working a lot for France; here, word of mouth starts off smoothly. It is easier for me in France where I have all my contacts and all the codes. Here I am learning, but now my illustrations are well received. What a joy to meet people like Claire and Myline who support and guide French designers.
You created a “family rewards box.” What’s the story behind it?
I have 3 children and quickly noticed that children like to be rewarded for their efforts. I won’t lie, the rewards are super effective! So I started to set up some cool and easy rewards like movie nights or extra minutes to play video games… and since I think parents need breaks too I added cards for parents! Getting a reward card is really a goal for my kids sometimes!
Can you explain to us what it is and how it works?
I incentivize my kids to show good behavior and help with the family chores. When they demonstrate specific effort (like not biting their fingernails, helping with the dishwasher, the garden, etc.) I reward them and they can pick the card of their choice. For them, that is half of the reward and the excitement! It is probably the recognition effect they feel. Then they use it on the day of their choice (in agreement with the parents) by returning it to you. The cards are reusable.
Do you want to create comic books one day?
I dream about it but I’m waiting for the right partner. I have written several children's books but so far nothing appeals to me enough to give it a go. I am waiting for the right encounter to develop a project together.
How did you discover French Wink? Why did you want to collaborate with Myline and Claire?
I have a childhood friend who lives in New York and told me about French Wink and her crush on Claire and Myline. She told me about 2 wonderful women who support French designers. I immediately wanted to meet them! I was glad they liked my illustrations. I hope we are going to live a beautiful American adventure together with a French touch!