Aurore Petit: the body in action
Aurore Petit: the body in action
Illustrator of children’s books, Aurora Petit made the relationship to the body and senses the central theme of her work. She rejects the topic by questioning the relationship to the other, as in The little sister is a diplodocusrepresentations of the body, especially with its series Dolores Wilson superheroine with a thousand jobsor even the appropriation of a book subject, with a term Singing books.
Born in Haute-Savoie, Aurore Petit started drawing and illustration almost by accident, after she enrolled at the School of Decorative Arts in Strasbourg through the lens of photography. She graduated in 2006 and now lives in Nantes where she juggles her role as a mother, working for the press, communication and her illustrated books, which are still the heart of her profession. Sometimes an illustrator, sometimes an author, her works are published by Le Rouergue, La Martinière jeunesse, Les Fourmis Rouges and Milan editions.
Four questions by Aurora Petit
Viva – How do you approach the subject of the body with children?
Aurora small – Approaching the issue of the body at the age of 4 or at the age of 11 is completely different. That’s what I find interesting about this experience with the school. I meet children from the small class up to CM2. If there’s one thing they have in common, it’s a growing, ever-changing body.
In kindergarten, we approach more the mobility of the body, its structure and what constitutes its identity. One is never far from a self-portrait. With the elders we will talk about what is inside the body, what we cannot see. Depending on the age, the students know more or less things, it is interesting to put a picture on the invisible, or to translate by drawing what we know: veins, organs, skeleton… inside the body he uses very rich iconography.
The subject’s challenge is first to get them to express themselves, first in words, about what the body is for them. After the first week of the residency, I found their artistic productions to be very powerful. Already at the end of the first day, I realized that we could go further than I imagined. Therefore, I decided to use this time at school to experiment with drawing and painting devices with the students. I test a lot of things, it’s a laboratory.
How do the workshops take place in practice?
I meet with all school classes four weeks out of five months, two hours per meeting. Each time I do eight classes, so through four workshops. It is with these students that we will write the book. This is what I call a strong project. At the same time, there are “satellite” projects, classes that I see only once: students read my books, sometimes they worked on one of them. We talk and do a workshop related to one of those readings that I focus on the subject of the body.
The first week was more dedicated to meetings and discoveries. The second week, which took place at the end of November, we explored the large format: the body in scale 1. We painted on windows and on very large sheets. The last two weeks of the residency will be dedicated to the publishing project. We’re going to make this book with 180 pairs of hands, it’s exciting!
In parallel, I am preparing an exhibition that will be held at MLIS. But it’s too early to talk about it!
What do you think this work brings to children?
For them it’s an opportunity to draw, which is nothing because since CE2 children draw much less in class, although they may still want to. I try to adopt a different approach to the school environment by offering them educational activities, but not academic ones. I show them that you can be creative with almost nothing.
And what does that bring to you, as an illustrator?
Drawing with children in workshops requires a completely different energy than the one I use when I create my children’s albums: it is the energy of the present, of action. It is much less cerebral and much more spontaneous.
With this residency for the book festival, it makes me think about the subject in a more immediate and frontal way: what is the body? who is that ? how is it ?
The approach is fascinating because the questions don’t have the same meaning for a 3-year-old or an 11-year-old. We are talking about movement, representation, mechanics, biology, sensations… It is very rich.
And then contact with children and my parenting inspire me: I watch them live and I want to write stories in which parents leave the field to leave the entire room to the children. The fact that I make books for young readers also puts me in front of a demand for readability: I make sure that my work is straightforward and accessible, a simplicity of purpose that flows elsewhere into the rest of my work.
> “In the flesh”, 24e edition of the Book Festival for young people in Villeurbanne
>> From March 29 to April 2, 2023