Interview w/ Renee French • Artist

SM: When was the last time you looked over your shoulder at something important?

RF: Yesterday I looked over my shoulder at a crow who was clearly upset with somebody. He wasn’t talking to me.

SM: Barring a funeral, when was the last time you found yourself in a cemetery?

RF: We were at a Japanese Cemetery in Hawaii admiring a huge yellow spider (arachnophobic) and not paying attention to the eight hundred mosquitoes that were all over us. We were covered in bites at dinner that night.

SM: What was your last encounter with a stranger that left you wishing it had been longer?

RF: A girl at the mall had a tea cup Chihuahua.

SM: When was the last time you gave in to spontaneity?

RF: Three days ago I was in Vegas, leaving a casino, looking for my friends who were sitting at Starbucks, and I saw a vendor selling your-name-on-a-grain-of-rice pendants. I got one that says “woolyman.” It took the lady 5 minutes to make it. She used a rapidograph with a teeeeeeeeny nib.

SM: Please regale us with an anecdote.

RF: In the early 90s I was working on the cover of Grit Bath #3, a pen & ink drawing of twin girls, one with a bag over her head, both of them screaming. It was early evening, and I was freaking out, and I called Jim Woodring, and he was nice enough to talk me down and give me some good advice, even though he was in the middle of a dinner party. He went back to his dinner and I went back to drawing but my nib was buggered and it was stuck in the holder. I used my teeth to try to pull it out but it was so tight that it slipped out from between my teeth. My arm pulled away and snapped back, and I stabbed myself in the face with the nib. It punctured the skin over my mouth on the left side injecting ink under the skin. It was bleeding and I tried to get the ink out, but it was too far in.
It’s still there.

SM: Which moment do you prefer, the last one before sleeping or the first one on waking up, and why?

RF: That’s easy. The one before sleeping. Lots of creaking ships and giant waves in my head before I go to sleep, and nothing but white noise and crabbiness when I wake up.

SM: If you were drawing a picture of something barely hidden beneath a pile of leaves, what would you be sure to include?

RF: Skin folds I think. Maybe a naked wing nub or something.

SM:Please give an example of a perceived Synesthesia you’ve experienced. (Synesthesia is a crossing of senses i.e., tasting shapes, seeing smells, etc.)

RF: My crotch hurts when I hear batter being mixed with a wooden spoon in a plastic bowl. Does that count?

SM: If the trees kept everyone’s secrets, what sort of tree would you tell your secrets to, and why?

RF: There was a big ass tree that my brother and I called Mr. Tree when we were little. We fed it rocks. So, a big ass tree I guess.

SM: Please describe an impressionable moment from your childhood.

RF: I was in 7th grade and we’d just heard some of the teachers say, “An old golfer never dies, he just loses his balls,” and I’d drawn an old golfer who’d lost his balls. I was getting ready to pass the drawing secretly to my friend Amy and a voice said, “MISS FRENCH, what is that?” I panicked and shoved it into my desk and said, “Nothing, Mrs. Jordan.” Mrs. Jordan came to my desk and reached her hand in to find the paper but I grabbed it first and backed up against the wall with it. She put her hand out and I dropped it on the floor and got down on my knees to grab it.
She stepped on my hand with her high heel and said, “Let go of it MISS FRENCH.” I held onto it as long as I could, but she pushed harder with her heel. She drew blood, man.
I let go and she took the drawing out of the classroom and when she came back she ordered me to the principal’s office.
Never hide what you don’t want people to see.