Arts & Culture

Artist discusses image that went viral after Paris attacks

Jean Jullien, the French illustrator behind the “Peace for Paris” symbol, was on holiday when he learned about the tragedies in Paris. He quickly took his brush and ink and drew the sign on the first piece of paper he could find. He said the reaction was instantaneous. The world has taken to the Eiffel tower depicting the peace sign in a powerful way on social media.

Jullien, who graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2010 and is based in London, also created a viral illustration in reaction to the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in January. We asked him a few questions:

Q: Thousands of social networkers have shared your peace illustration. What is the message you hope people get from it?

A: Peace, unity, solidarity. This was for Paris, but so many people around the world can relate. We hear atrocities daily; we’re all fed up. I think the need for peace and hope is pretty instinctive and universal. I just tried to sum it up in an image.

Q: What thoughts were going through your mind when you heard about the tragedy and when you drew the image?

A: I was shocked, horrified, worried. All kinds of dark feelings. I felt compelled to reach out to show support to Paris, the Parisians, and to do so with a sign of peace, which appeared to me as the most desired reaction in the face of senseless violence.

Q: As an artist, how can you change your illustration mood and tone in situations like the Paris incident?

A: Well, it’s not something I had time to think about. It was a raw, spontaneous reaction, not calculated. The sign that went “viral” was the first thing I drew. I didn’t draw it as an illustrator trying to create a popular image, but my natural way of expressing myself is visual. I just wanted to communicate my feelings and support as a person.