The beautiful landscape and the way of life in France has been inspiring artists for centuries…
Caroline and Perry Taylor moved to the town of Puydarrieux, in the Midi-Pyrénées, south west France for the “culture, gastronomy and wide open spaces”. This mountainous area with its medieval towns and villages, unhurried way of life and a love for tradition has also proved the perfect source of inspiration for artist Perry. His drawings reflect the heritage and daily life of the residents, the look and feel of an area that embraces its past and its present – all with his unique sense of affectionate humour.
Perry spent 15 years in London, working in graphic design and advertising, designing everything from theatre posters to record covers, wine labels and soap packaging. He moved on to art directing for ad agencies in Amsterdam for 12 years where he met Dutch girl, Caroline and they decided that “it was time for a change”. France was Perry’s first choice as he was “hooked after his first trip on a train from Paris to Narbonne at the age of 14, with a school chum. Encountering two twenty-something, scantily-clad French girls and their garlic-oozing parents in a couchette, he was sold”. Caroline also loved France having spent many holidays at her French grandmother’s house in the Somme.
They decided on the Hautes-Pyrénées/Gers region because of the “rolling landscape, reminiscent of the Cotswolds and Tuscany. The weather is mild and the air is clean. The Gascon people are really friendly. We are close to the Pyrénéan Mountains, the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and Spain. The ski slopes are an hour away and Biarritz is two. We love the Basque country and the unspoilt nature all around us. With no motorways, or industry nearby, it is a forgotten corner that many pass without stopping”.
The couple bought a farmhouse with two barns and 7 hectares of land. It came with “quite a few tenants in the roof and the walls, such as owls, rats and mice”. They visited the region several times without finding “THE property” and eventually drove to the area “with a trailer, two bikes, four suitcases, two cats a laptop and a toolbox”. They were determined to find the house of their dreams and rented a one room hunting lodge as a base.
It was 2004, a seller’s market and prices were sky high. Nothing seemed suitable in their budget but Caroline and Perry persisted, making friends with local estate agents and builders in their quest for the perfect French home. Eight months later, a builder friend told them of a house where the people “were thinking of selling”. The couple visited and the roof, electrics and plumbing needed replacing and every room needed to be renovated, but they knew immediately that their search was over.
Perry says they have fallen in love with the “ever-changing view of the mountains and the rustic landscape. We value the unchanged traditions and activities all around us. From hunting, the vendange, slaughtering and preparing pigs, ducks and chickens to sharing from one’s vegetable garden. We went to visit all our near neighbours to introduce ourselves, which opened doors that have never shut since.”
It is those things, the daily way of life that is unchanged for decades that inspires Perry’s drawings and is gaining him an ever increasing following.
Perry feels that “big city populations are closed off except from their own small clan. Here, one can go to the market, spend half an hour buying and another hour shaking hands, talking and listening to people of all ages. These moments sometimes give me an idea for a drawing. Humour is international and I can sketch out something funny that everyone gets”.
His cartoon drawings perfectly capture the people he sees, the café life style, the chickens and ducks waddling across the road. Perry admits that he loves to draw “farmers’ wives with their house coats, calf stockings and wellies… I love getting their stance and force into a drawing as they garden and pluck. The duck with the big eyes and a beret has become a bit of a trademark and I love drawing human traits and expressions in them”.
Perry has been drawing cartoons for as long as he can remember; as an advertising director he would draw his colleagues for fun. His humour is not aggressive or political, it is subtle, often gentle and sometimes profound. “My drawings are set within a time when we all seemed to have more time for everything; all the cars and tractors are from the 1960s. As the mamies and papis leave us, one by one, the patois, traditions and heritage will be almost gone. I hope that I have managed to capture that ‘époque de bonheur’.”
Perry’s drawings are loved not just by people around the world who want to have a little bit of France in their home but also by the locals. Perry recalls that “One little old lady used to come to my stand every Monday morning for what she called her ‘dix minutes d’optimisme’. Another time a middle aged woman came into my gallery during the Jazz in Marciac festival. She saw my drawing of the old lady standing with a funnel behind her back, looking up into the barn where her duck has flown up. The woman started crying and left. A few minutes later, she returned with her elderly mother. The two of them both began to cry and hold each other. I asked if I had offended them and the youngest said no and told me that I had drawn her grandmother down to the smallest detail. The hair stands up on my neck as I think of it.”
His gallery echoes with laughter as visitors look at the drawings, laugh and shake their heads as they recognise the spirit of French country life and sometimes themselves.
Perry confesses that it was actually two famous Frenchmen who set him on his path to the humorous drawings. Jacues Tati “ a master of the visual joke, his awkward, yet confident, walk and gestures are comic genius” and Jean-Jacques Sempé “ his simplicity of line and poetic scenes of French life are what motivated me to stop using text and just use my drawings to tell a story in one image”.
Perry’s prints start at just €20.00. All his drawings are to be seen on his online gallery www.perrytaylor.fr. He also sells limited editions and originals, as well as taking commissions.