Artist Spotlight on Charlotte Prieu

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Tell me a little about yourself and your past creative work.

I am a French native and a PhD student in French Linguistics at the University of Illinois. I am very passionate about social justice, especially regarding anti-racism and intersectional feminism. Most of my artwork is related to social justice. My art is mostly graphite on paper, but I also paintsometimes with watercolors or oil. A lot of my artwork revolves around the Black Lives Matter movement. I have drawn a lot of portraits of Black people who were killed by police. I also created a series specifically about Black women, the #SayHerName series. I have written illustrated short comic strips on street harassment and micro-aggressions called Unbothered and Unimpressed: the Side Eyes Series.

What inspires you as an artist?

The people around me inspire me the most. In Champaign-Urbana we have  so many great organizers and activists. I have worked with them a lot in the past and I hope to continue doing work with them in my years in Champaign. Two artists also inspire me: Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, who created the Stop Telling Women To Smile campaign, and T.S. Abe, an amazing artist from the UK.

What do you hope your work inspires in others?

I hope my work shows the humanity in people. I did not want the victims of police brutality to be just names, I wanted to show them for who they are, happy, smiling, living beings before they were unjustly taken away so violently. I always try to question my positionality as a white woman drawing black people, and I do my best to be respectful of their stories and the pain that was caused by their passing.

Tell me a little about your artistic process. How do you make your work?

When I draw people who were killed by police, I find a photo of them that I would like to draw. I also choose a picture that is humanizing. I would for example never draw a mugshot, never. I display the photo on my screen, I listen to music—I have the same playlist I use every time—and I start drawing. I start with very light contour, and I start shading. It usually takes me an hour or an hour and a half for a portrait, and I do not stop until I am finished. For my illustrations, I have a story to tell, or I ask for anecdotes from people I know. If the anecdotes come from someone else, I draw that person as the main character of the comic strip. I try to make it humorous but powerful. The person I draw—only women for now—is always the winner in my situations.

What can we expect from you next as an artist?

I have been slowed down by my academic work and my job, but I am planning on going back to drawing. I try new techniques when I can, to diversify my work and have fun. My last attempt was to draw a portrait without lifting my pen from the paper. It’s fun and I will get better!

Where can we see more of your work?

Most of my work is not available online unless you are my Facebook friend, but I do have a Facebook page for the comic strips. It needs updating, but all my previous comic strips are on Unbothered and Unimpressed: The Side Eyes Series.


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