BENOIT JACQUES BOOKS
I address this note to the eventual reader(s) of the Guardian who, in search of an explanation for the end of my illustrative contribution to Tim Dowling weekly column, might be adventurous enough to browse through the english version of this web site.
I have read some of the recent reader’s comments on the Guardian web site, and, surprised if not flattered by the concern expressed by some about the disappearance of the drawing, I feel I might as well use this little personal space to set the record straight and avoid wild speculation.
No I’m not on holiday, yes I’m nearly 60, no I don’t consider retirement (the concept escapes me)…
Right from the start (the collaboration with the Guardian goes a long way. It started in 1992 and for about 14 years, I illustrated Alexander Chancellor’s column… I hope some of you remember his great work), I have been well aware of my luck and enjoyed doing the drawing too much to consider letting go at some point. The decision to put an end to my contribution came from The Guardian, a little abruptly I must say, two weeks prior to the delivery of the last drawing.
The reasons, from what I have been told, are economical. Even if I don’t think saving the cost of the illustration is likely to make big difference to the Guardian’s economy*, it seems that the Guardian decision is final and it’s unlikely that I will illustrate Tim’s column again.
It makes me sad because, besides my pride in working for this prestigious newspaper, this drawing was a symbolical link to a country that played a huge role in my professional life. I came to London from my native Brussels in my early twenties, full of hopes and dreams and totally naive. I soon felt adopted by a culture I admired but knew practically nothing about. My first working opportunities were given by english designers and art directors, brave enough not to mind my poor professional experience of the time or my bizarre use of the english language.
The result was that I ended up spending 12 years in London where I got married and where my two sons were born.
When I left, to come and live in France in the early nineties, I was concerned about the need to remain strongly connected with the country where I had started my working life.
But then, I must be totally honest.
First of all, I’m truly grateful to the Guardian for the opportunity that the paper has been offering me over the years.
If anything, I’m amazed they have kept me for so long.
But the drawing for the Guardian has never been at the core of my creative activities.
Through the experiences gained during my years in England, I developed amongst other things an adventure of self-published books that have been the center of my creative life for the past 30 years.
Therefore, being freed from this weekly constraint, is also nice.
It’s like a breath of fresh air, an opportunity to focus more on what is really my own work.
My illustration for Tim’s column was one of the plants I really enjoyed tending too.
A quick glimpse at this web site should help to see that there are many others.
3 August 2017
(* In the press, the fees payed to illustrators or photographers are decided by the newspaper, not the artists. I never argued over the fee, that, in contrario with the cost of living, has dropped over the years.)