“I am touched by the beauty of the human body,” begins the illustrator Caroline Péron. “I am fascinated by morphology, and I constantly want to understand, through drawing, how the body is arranged.” Hearing this, it comes as no surprise that in the past year and a half Caroline has focused her practice on illustrating the human body at its most nimble, active and alert: in the midst of sport. “I think I started to draw because I find that bodies in movement are all about cures and elongation,” Caroline continues. “There is also something graphic about sport, both in the clothes you wear to do it, and the places where it is practised.”
It’s fair to say that Caroline’s sporty series was somewhat forecasted from childhood. From as early as she can remember, Caroline has loved drawing; she would endlessly reproduce pictures from magazines, telling stories aloud while doing so. Later, she would go on to study in the printed image department of Arts Décorartifs de Paris. At the same time, from the age of six until she was 22, Caroline did ballet, an integral factor in informing her admiration of physicality. “I think that seeing dancing bodies on a regular basis has led me to appreciate their complexity and the way they are working,” she details.
To capture the specific characteristics and visual aspects of each individual sport so well, Caroline relies on close observation. Often, she will sit on a bench, watching the various activities and movements taking place in front of her, mentally noting different positions and forms. She's always armed with her sketchbook to take on-the-spot drawings (sometimes done without even looking at the paper), or her phone – which she uses to take photos or videos for later reference. Pencils have also always been Caroline’s chosen tool, firstly in black and white and then colour. “I love the feeling of the pencil touching the paper, the way you can get a tint by blending and varying the pressure,” Caroline adds.
Earlier this year, Caroline completed a commission for the independent magazine, Exercise, a publication which looks at the world through the prism of ‘the city’ and its architecture. With this in mind, Caroline wanted to create a piece that showed a moving human form “in dialogue” with its surrounding architecture. Conveniently, Caroline’s studio sits right next to Place de la République, one of Paris’ most busy and bustling areas. Here, she focused on the skaters – which Caroline says are always slaloming around the square – and filmed them on her phone. “My attention was drawn to this boy with a green T-shirt – I liked his attitude.” When completing the piece, Caroline decided to place the figure into a “graphic space” that is also reminiscent of inner-city sports: the basketball court. This contrast also helped Caroline to visually realise another of Caroline’s fixations with the sporting world: the often dramatic use of colour. As such, the bright blue floor clashes vibrantly with the distinctive orange of the court, and the boys green T-shirt.
Caroline has also exhibited a number of her sporting works, including the short series Little Swimmers, which was shown at Paris' Inventaire Gallery in December 2021. Throughout the series, Caroline wanted to represent women’s bodies in movement under water. “I find that there is something very dance-like when we are underwater,” Caroline muses, “our movements are more graceful, our bodies are as if weightless.” Focusing on circular movements, creating sun-like ripples and fluid body movements, the series has a calming tranquillity about it. In one, Caroline shows a group of swimmers grouped in a loose circle, a piece she loves for its visual similarities to Matisse’s The Dance. Often solely defined by sweat, tears and gritty determination, Caroline Peron’s charming drawings show the more peaceful, beautiful side of the sporting world.
Caroline Péron: Running in the Park (Copyright © Caroline Péron, 2022)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.