I drew the Peace for Paris symbol as a sign of solidarity: Jean Jullien

French illustrator Jean Jullien on how he combined the Peace sign with the Eiffel Tower to show solicitude for people affected by the tragedy.

French illustrator Jean Jullien on how he combined the Peace sign with the Eiffel Tower to show solicitude for people affected by the tragedy.
His bold, black strokes in the backdrop of pristine white bringing together the peace symbol with the Eiffel Tower — went viral within minutes of being uploaded on Twitter and Instagram. The world was quick to embrace the image, Peace for Paris, with people across cultural divides printing it on flags, posters and even wearing it to show their solidarity with the victims of the terror attack. But the man behind the symbol, French illustrator Jean Jullien is far from overwhelmed by his brush with fame. In an email interview, he tells us why this exposure is actually the worst of its kind.

Excerpts

As French designer and illustrator, what was your immediate reaction to the carnage in Paris?

I was in a state of shock, worried for the people I knew in Paris and for everybody else there.

How did that lead to your sketch combining the Eiffel Tower and the peace symbol?

I checked to see if everybody was okay and, the same way that people wrote messages, I decided to draw a symbol of solidarity for the people affected by the tragedy in Paris. I merged two symbols universally known: the Peace sign to symbolise peace as a reaction to violence, and the Eiffel tower, as a symbol of Paris. The two seemed to combine logically.
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The image made in minutes went viral on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, with celebrities like Harry Styles and Jamie Oliver sharing the picture online. Did you expect such a response?

No, I didn't do it for these reasons. I did it as a personal show of solidarity as an individual. I sent a beacon of hope, and it travelled. That's part of how things work these days with social media. The image has now been identified as a symbol of hope and strength amid the grief.

Isn't it also your first such work, as by your own admission you make images to "make people laugh or communicate"?

Yes, in a way. But I also do visual commentaries on the news. But this sign was different as it wasn't a project or anything planned; it was just an instinctive graphic reaction. Your work was meanwhile mistaken for that of a prominent artist: Banksy. You even said that did not matter. That's because my drawing was an act of solicitude done spontaneously as a human being, not a carefully crafted illustration done as a professional. It was a genuine reaction, I didn't care much for the credit then, all that mattered was sending out a message of hope in the wake of the tragedy.
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With back to back attacks in Paris, do you feel safer living in London?

No. Though you have become famous, what do you feel about the exposure that this symbol has brought to you? It is the worst kind of exposure, it's tragic. I want to make people happy and laugh, not draw symbols of tragedies. But if I created something that was helpful for people, then I'm okay with it. It's a practical image.
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Going back a little, what do you feel as an artist about Charlie Hebdo's stance on publishing anti-Islamic cartoons?

There is a misconception there. Charlie Hebdo is a satirical newspaper that uses humour to mock violence and aggression. But a lot of people don't understand that and take it seriously, which it's never intended to be. Charlie Hebdo mocks extremism to defend religions. They never publish anti-religious cartoons. It's very understood in France but it seems like other countries still think Charlie Hebdo is violent or hateful, which it really is not. They also mock extremists of other religions, they mock everyone, but always to promote peace and harmony in the long run.

Do you think we are living in the times of censorship?

Is that bound to take a toll on creativity? I don't think we live in a time of censorship more than before. I think there are more people in the world in 2015, therefore it's easier to offend people and we try to avoid offending people fearing that it might generate violence. But my goal is never to offend people, so I don't feel threatened by censorship.
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