The DART Interview: Jeanne Verdoux

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday December 16, 2020

Peggy Roalf: Being asked to create 40 drawings for the New York magazine cover for the “Reasons We Have Loved New York” issue must be a New York artist’s dream assignment. All in one week. What were you doing when the call came in?

Jeanne Verdoux: I had come to Bordeaux in September for a sabbatical semester from Parsons. The goal was to take a step away from New York, discover this city and its region, reconnect with France after 20 years away and reflect on my art practice. With France being on lock-down, the openness of my plans shifted. When the email from art director Randy Minor came, I was working on a new series of monotype titled ‘Mes bouteilles de Bordeaux' at La Belle Estampe, a local printshop.  

PR: Drawings of places that have closed since the COVID-19 pandemic—what was your initial reaction as you inked up for the job?

JV: It was shocking to discover the endless list of places that had already closed. As I was researching them, it turned out some had already disappeared from Google Street View! Gone, vanished, erased from the history of the city! And what about the businesses still opened but struggling to pay their rent day after day? 

From the perspective of a French citizen, it is incomprehensible to me that the US government is not supporting small businesses that make the life of NYC. I have been in conversation with small business owners in Bordeaux who are receiving some aid from the French government to hopefully survive this pandemic.

Mural for LES Enfants de Boheme restaurant

PR: Were there very many on the list that were favorites of yours? 

JV:  Yes. Places that had been around ever since I came to New York: B-Bar, Franks Cocktail bar, Century 21, Jeffrey, Carrol Gardens Diner, and more.

PR: Currently staying in France, did you have to stretch your imagination to have a “New York state of mind” for the assignment?

JV:  The New York state of mind came back immediately: Make 40 drawing in a few days! That’s the New York state of mind!

PR: Your drawings are so fluid and sharply observed—do you keep a sketchbook in order to always be ready?

JV: I never go anywhere without a sketchbook and I feel panicky if I don’t have a pen (I can always find a paper). I never know what might come up in front of me (or in my mind) that needs to be recorded.

PR: Your [primarily ink] drawings range from postcard size to mural size—and often are very architectural. How did you come to develop the strong sense of scale and space that informs your work?

JV: For many years I drew very small and with a fine pen, mostly in sketchbooks. With time, and maybe the practice of monoprint –in which you manipulate large amounts of ink—my drawings became bigger and so did my tools. I just purchased an XL brush #70, I buy ink in liter bottles and make drawings up to 13 feet square. At that size, the work just has to work on the wall. The understanding of scale came gradually and with constant experimentation. It was as if I always had wanted to draw big but was keeping it in.

PR: How hard is it to say “No, Thank You” to an assignment you really don’t want to do? 

JV:  I never turned down an assignment. I take each commission as a new challenge to complete, however difficult it might be. The ‘No Thank you bag” is an image I created for art director Marion Bizet for the 2018 A New Year’s Revolution:  100 ways to RESIST calendar.*

Trash Gouache, on cardboard, 2018

JV: PR: Did you ever think your art would be on the most in-demand tote bag not produced by you?

JV:  NO!

*Jeanne Verdoux’s image ‘Say no thank you to plastic bags’ illustrates the 2018  ’plastic free July’ action. Its design suggests the dangers of plastic bags for marine animals as large numbers are affected by plastic debris in the ocean by ingestion.’ 
Jeanne Verdoux’s website
Jeanne Verdoux 2012 DART Interview here