I wanted to begin my page Entre toi et moi with an interview with Michel Canetti, French illustrator based in Australia.
When I went to visit Michel Canetti, I found a beautiful cosy house. From outside, the house looked perfectly Australian with a Victorian style. My surprise was when I came in the house. I was totally captivated by the decoration sooo Parisian. No doubt, I was in the right place. An artist’s house as I love with a baroque style, admirably decorated expressing a creative soul. A glass of red wine, we could start the interview.
“I have a style in fashion illustration although I can work for everyone”
Michel Canetti – French Illustrator
Michel has always wanted to make illustrations “I have always drawn, so after the baccalauréat* I went to the University. I chose Arts Plastiques (arts) to follow my girlfriend”. An emotional man, I can recognise the French romance (smile).
In the 70’s “we spoke about art but we didn’t touch a brush or a pen. It was Conceptual Art, we spoke a lot but at the end of the day nothing happened.” At the same time, Michel was determined to learn more and it’s for this reason he also studied painting restoration; but his misfortune, same problem: too much talk and not enough practice! “I learn nothing, I learned by myself”.
“At this period, the painting restorer used the same recipes so they wanted to train new restorers with techniques more modern for paintings more modern but the problem they didn’t know exactly what to teach us. We learned history of art that’s it”. Fortunately in France, the studies in art have changed now.
A self-taught artist!I can’t help myself and think how amazing Michel’s art is. From this time of the interview, I have a different eye, more admiring and I already look forward to hearing what’s next.
In winter, Michel was at the University and in summer, he was working for the Club Med**. “I made the scenery for the shows (indeed, every night Club Med suggested different shows for the tourists). This experience allowed me to learn how to work fast because I was alone and I should do everything: paint, make the flyers, write the menus for the restaurant, make the signalling in the village, etc. So I learned to not waste my time for details.”
After this summery experience during few years and his service militaire (military service mandatory at this time), Michel decided to become illustrator when he was in Paris. He was also learning aerograph***(by himself… again, this man is definitely a perseverant and patient artist). “I started to canvass magazines, draw for disc covers, I changed my style and finally work with prestigious magazines such as L’Officiel; then, I found an agent, and it’s from there I really started and I continued”.
French artist in Australia
What (or who) made Michel come to Australia? I have my little idea. Was it for a woman? (giggles) and I was right. “It’s a long story but yes for my ex wife. I was married with an Australian woman who I met in Tahiti but 14 years earlier. In 14 years, we haven’t seen each other often. After we got married, we lived in France during 5 years and we wanted to stay in France. Sadly, she has been very sick and she wanted to come back to Australia. I followed her of course, and we got separated few months after we arrived here. But I stayed in Australia for my son.
When I arrived in 1996, it was only the beginning of Internet in Australia. My agent was still in France, when there was work, she sent me a fax and I sent my illustrations by FedEx or DHL but it took 4 days to arrive and because there was always something to change, it was too complicated so I couldn’t work here.” (merde alors as we say).
Fortunately, Internet became more popular. In spite Michel lost few clients, he could work again.
As every French person who arrives in a new country, I couldn’t resist asking to Michel what surprised him in Australia.
“It was a huge difference for me, I couldn’t speak English, no family, no friends, no job (mmmmm that rings a bell for me). It was difficult.”
It’s only for 12 years that Michel has decided to exhibit his paintings (and lucky for us). “I always painted on canvas but it was only for me; then I decided to contact galleries and to sell my paintings”. And when I asked him why, he replied with a big smile “I didn’t have enough space at my place”.
In spite of more than one string to his bow (painter, photographer, illustrator), Michel defines himself as an illustrateur de mode (fashion illustrator). “I have a style in fashion illustration although I can work for everyone: a bank, a catalogue of toys, I worked for nuclear companies or Renault but always with the same style.”
What characterises Michel in his work with fashion is his traditionalism “I work manually when lots of illustrators work with computers. I only use the computer to scan my illustration and send it. It’s prehistoric (giggles). The longest is to have the idea and to draw. Once I paint, it’s quick because my style is fast.”
An anecdote please Michel? Oui.
“One day, I made an illustration for a politic man in the South of France. He wasn’t well known. He wanted to have an illustration for his campaign instead of a photo. It was modern, new, and a good idea. As I didn’t know him, he sent me few photos of him but my problem was that all photos seemed different and it was like it was a different person on each photo; therefore I needed to make a loooot of illustrations.” (laughs)
Michel is also a lover of photo
graphy. Now he evolved again with his
style, indeed he takes photo of models and from these photos he starts his illustrations. He loves the shapes of women.
Surprised? Not really, French men have been always surrounded by the body of woman (in our cheeky advertisings for a shower gel, in our movies, and even with our Marianne, symbol of freedom with a boob revealed).
“I’m more interested in the woman herself.”
Since I live in Australia, I haven’t stopped hearing about the French woman myth (with her effortless chic) so I can’t help wondering how a French man and more precisely a French artist sees the difference between a French woman and an Australian woman. Did I ask him? Of course! “Actually, I’m not really interested in fashion, the way a woman dresses. I’m more interested in the woman herself. I think the French woman is more coquette and the Australian woman more sportive. It’s maybe more natural for a French woman to dress with a distinguished style and be sexy without doing too much.”
Well what I know for sure it’s French women dress with her gym clothes for the gym; which means almost… never (smiiiile).
After a very good wine and few giggles, I left the Michel’s Parisian stylish home. My day was pleasantly filled. I felt inspired; I had a beautiful time speaking in French about art, fashion, and France.
Michel is an artist very humble who loves to share. We can find in his illustrations a lot of emotions and a sensitive eye on woman. He translates perfectly the femininity and sensuality through a man’s eye.
And every night, I see this sensuality in my bedroom. Nooo Michel is not with me, cheeky reader, but one of his illustrations called “Le Baiser d’Amour” (The kiss of Love) is. Merci Michel for bringing a breathe of French glamour in my daily life.
* colloquially called bac, the baccalauréat is a diploma that marks the end of the secondary studies)
** Club Med is the short name for Club Méditerranée, a company specialised in vacation villages