David Cessac is an illustrator and cartoonist based in Paris. His drawings, characterized by fierce humor and expressiveness, have attracted various magazines, communication agencies and cultural organizations. His educational background combining Art and Political Science has given him perfect insight into human interactions. With pens, pencils, pastels and ink at his finger tips, Cessac weaves a universe of poetic and friendly characters and environments.
I think I started as a kid, you know, you start drawing and I never stopped drawing, so I don’t know where I first had my initial inspiration. But right now what inspires me most, let’s say when I’m in New York, just like when I’m in Paris, it’s the people I can meet on the street or situations you can find. You just sit at a café and you look at someone, a different face or a different attitude, or a funny situation like the drawing I showed you the other day at Le Bon Marché–this funny scene, this old bourgeois couple arguing about socks. “What would you know about socks?” This is so funny–just this sentence–and I have this feeling, I am the only one who heard that. I have to share it with the others. So I have this daily inspiration. I don’t try to find something inspiring; I just let things come to me.
It’s quite different when you work for a magazine because they ask you to illustrate a certain article, certain subjects, you have to focus on this. My global inspiration, it’s just this. That’s why I like to walk around so much. It’s by walking that you can meet new characters.
What artists do you admire?
Of course I love a lot of cartoonists, and my references, my background, it’s the Franco-Belge School, with people like André Franquin, who is a big reference for me. I also saw a narrative of many cartoons in New York, like–sorry for the pronunciation, but Peter de Sève for example– I really like his work because it’s so subtle, and it’s very lively characters that he draws, and there are a lot of funny animals, I really like it.
I’m also a big fan of music. I listen to a lot of music, and it’s also very inspiring. Classical music, jazz music. Classical music can be a big source of inspiration as well. I wouldn’t be able to give you precise names, probably, but yeah. Let me think. This is a difficult question, actually. I could actually write such a long list. I was thinking of this friend of mine, David Greilsammer, who was in New York a good time ago, who made so many great performances with his program mixing Mozart and John Cage and Ligeti, and you know this is so inspiring. This is a way to reinvent classical music, to create bridges, and this is something I really like.
I read a lot of books too. My favorite author is Italo Calvino. My favorite book ever is The Baron in the Trees. I have read it so many times. I was drawn to Italo Calvino–there’s a book where, on the cover, he drew this baron with just a pencil. It’s a very light, very minimalist drawing, but I like it.
So, of all of the drawings that you’ve done, which one is your favorite?
If I had to answer–I like my drawings for different reasons. It’s like if you’re asking which one of your kids you would prefer. Of course you prefer one, but you keep it as a secret. But, my series about the Parisians might be my favorite one. Maybe the one with a dog, or maybe the ones I drew for the Geneva Chamber Orchestra. I liked them because it was for posters, and I was very happy for that. Families came with their children, all asking, oh can I have one poster, and I was so happy because it validates the goal you have to make people happy, and they are like “Oh, yeah, I want to have it, please.”
That’s it. If I have to pick a few drawings, it’s my series “A Few Parisians” and then my series for Geneva, centered around the works of music.
Well, we love your series, “A Few Parisians.” I think here at Untapped, everyone loves them. Are you planning to draw more of those?
Yeah, actually, I’m working on it right now, because it’s usually a few samples of drawings, and it’s getting bigger and bigger and bigger, so I’m working with someone else right now to start something bigger very soon with this series. It’s like it’s something with no end, you know. Every day you can find a new character on the street. I have a long list of Parisians that I’ve met. What I like about this series is that it’s a new way to–a way to reinvent, or reappropriate, the city of Paris. It was the first idea I had.
When you come to Paris, you’re a tourist, first time. And you see the main buildings like the Arc du Triomphe, Champs Elysées, Tour Eiffel. The second time, third time, you get more attentive to the people around you. And I think that what really creates or defines the identity of Paris is the Parisians. And you would find a certain type of Parisian in a certain area. A guy who is on the Rue Saint Honoré is obviously on the Rue Saint Honoré, because of the breed of his dog… And it’s always like the entrance for me, it’s like the beginning of a story. It’s also something I like because it might be a simple drawing, but you’re also at the beginning of a possible story. A scene with a waiter drinking, stealing a drink, or something like that. And in each part of the city, you can find so many stories. So it’s mainly, it’s very literary you know. There are funny stories everywhere like this.
This old couple again, at the Bon Marché, it’s the beginning of a short scene. Something very short and simple, and that’s why when I draw, the background, is sometimes very simple, because, as I said, for me, the characters, the Parisians, are the most important, and they are the ones who define the character of the whole city.
I think if you’re familiar with Paris, it’s very easy to connect that person in your drawing to the place that it’s identified as. Are these drawings based on real people that you see?
Sometimes, yes. And then I rearrange things. That’s why always I bring my notebook with me so that when I see someone, like oh, this is interesting, or just a scene, I have to take a few notes. And some of the characters I invent, you know. It can be a mix of different people that I have met in a few days or a few weeks. So, in the end, they become my Parisians.
Do you think that an American audience would have the same reaction to the cartoons as a French audience would?
I don’t know, but every time I showed my cartoons, lets say the Parisians, to an American audience, the reaction was quite immediate and enthusiastic.
There’s one drawing I do; it’s this girl, this very Saint-Laurent girl. She is at Jardin des Tuileries or Jardin de Luxembourg. She is reading and she’s wearing this leopard coat like every Saint-Laurent girl and she is barefoot and her high-heeled shoes are beside her with red soles, and every time I show this girl, they say, “Oh, Louboutin!” You see this is immediate; it rings a bell sometimes for people. So yeah, I say the reactions can be different, but I have good reactions whether in Paris or in New York.
What is your favorite “untapped” place in Paris? So, by “untapped,” I mean a place that’s not visited by all the tourists. Something that the Parisians would know about, but it’s not in the mainstream. Maybe it’s like a little bit hidden or secret.
My last question is: New York vs. Paris. What do you think?
Hmm. There was a book recently”¦ you saw it. It’s very well done, I really liked it. There are a lot of differences, I think, and of course the cities are different. And when I look at the people around, they are so different. I feel like the New Yorker can be more colorful in many ways I think”¦ it’s not just the way they look, it’s the way they behave. When I first arrived, I saw a woman breasts-naked at Union Square, and I thought, oh wow! It must be New York. I didn’t think that exactly, but I’ve never seen something like that in Paris.
Paris can be more quiet in some regards. It’s always difficult to compare two cities. I try not to compare because you give something more value”¦ I enjoy Paris for certain things, I love New York for many reasons. In Paris you can lay in parks, you can buy fruit, and it’s not pejorative in my mind, not at all. It’s more like a village, you know, it’s more closed. And of course New York is like a big city”¦ So I don’t know if I answered your question, but of course there are so many differences. People are a bit closed in Paris. I don’t know. What was your impression of Paris when you lived there? We are not so open”¦ it’s harder sometimes to make friends, and to get to know Parisians quite well, but maybe we deserve it.