For nine weeks this spring, I contributed a picture or two every week to a French publication entitled 9 Semaines Avant L’Election. The subject was politics and each issue had a theme.
The themes were not the basic talking points that usually fuel election rhetoric, drive campaign organizations and serve as platforms for politicians to promise things they know they can never deliver.
Instead they were the great backdrop issues against which a nation’s electoral politics always play out: death and taxes, love and sex, power and money, prejudice, corruption, deception and war.
In short, the themes were generally those conditions of organized life that lie forever beyond the power of politicians to remedy, but which politicos always promise, nevertheless, to fix or cure.
The title 9 Semaines Avant L’Election means Nine Weeks Before the Election. And it was not – as the name implies – an established publication, nor was it meant to last as a permanent one.
Instead, the idea was to count down from the date of the first issue – February 29, 2012, Leap Year Day – through the nine weeks leading up to the date of the French election.
Each week the name of the paper would change: 9 Weeks Before the Election; 8 Weeks Before the Election, etc. After the ninth issue was out, the paper was scheduled to end.
Since my pictures were editorial contributions and not illustrations for articles, I was free to avail myself of that old adage that a picture is worth as many words as it takes to fill an Op Ed article.
The only restriction the publisher placed on us was that we should NOT show or mention any of the candidates running for office.
Aside from that, we were invited to run with any subject we thought might be interesting, in the belief that by the time the campaigns got going, readers would be fed up with political swashbuckling in the press and would welcome a publication that didn’t beat them over the heads with topicality.
That was a policy that suited me perfectly. I’ve always preferred to come at politics from an oblique angle, convinced that if I ever started to think like a politician I’d start to act like one.
In the third issue, Nine Weeks published a series of 16 posters I had done. The quotes came from various articles I’ve written. The drawings were an effort to find a drawing style to match my handwriting.
For Nine Weeks No. 5, they published a special Drawings issue and invited us to contribute pictures on any subjects. Being a sucker for a free hand, I sent them several, most of them ink drawings.
For me, a drawing or a painting is always its own subject and works as an illustration only if it first works as a picture that can stand on its own. Still, I was happy to have this rare opportunity to send in pictures that actually did stand on their own, without any other editorial role to play.
The man behind this project was Frederic Pajak, publisher of the book series Les Cahiers dessinés in Paris. He brought together the authors, artists and cartoonists who contributed to the issues. Diane Veyrat was the person with whom I corresponded night after night for over two months. My thanks to both of them for inviting me to contribute.