What made you think of painting like that?
I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, and I used to go with my family to the South of France where I watched artists performing in public for the tourists.
I understand but I mean painting so quickly and on such a large scale.
I went to art school and I would sneak in to an empty classroom and draw huge caricatures of the teachers on the black board. Some of them were not amused so I decided to paint more realistic likenesses.
When was your first performance?
In Belgium when Pope Jean Paul 1 visited my university.
What did you do? Were you hired to paint the Pope? You must have been very young then.
No I wasn’t hired. I had a bet with a friend that I would paint the Pope while he was giving his sermon. We went amongst the crowd with a big board that said “welcome to the Pope”in French on one side, the other side was paint black and I started to paint his portrait. It was only half complete when I was stopped by security. However I did eventually finish it.
Was it the first time that you painted outdoors?
Aerosols were kinda new then so we would spray paint graffiti in derelict places.
Had you seen performance art before?
I visited Yves Klein’s Exhibit and he was the precursor of performance art, but his work was totally abstract.
What made you think of doing this as a show?
When I started my experience in entertainment was very limited. I’d taken some drama classes at art school. Later I developed an interest for magic shows which I did professionally for 5 years and had a routine called “the artist dream” were I painted a quick portrait of my assistant and produce her of the painting. But painting was always my bread and butter; I travelled around painting at art festivals and on the streets. I had many techniques and always added a twist of showmanship to it, the crowds loved it.
When did you appear first in the US?
In 1982 I went to LA and Miami where I appeared on the Don Francisco show on Univision.
Are there other people who do what you do?
Yes to a certain extent. I think the first person to do something similar was Rolf Harris. He used to host his own TV show on BBC back in the seventies during which he would sing and start a painting and the audience would have to guess what or who it was. You never really knew until he had virtually finished it. I added the high energy to it!
Does it bother you that others imitate your work?
Yes and no. Initially it didn’t affect me as I was too busy working to be aware of what was going on. Today however the Internet has made it a lot easier to copy other peoples work and now my style has become more of a genre versus something that was very unique.
Aren’t you flattered by people copying your art?
Yes for the most part. It’s one thing to be inspired by others and then add your own unique art form but to blatantly copy and even try to imitate my performances doesn’t say much for that person’s ability or integrity. It reminds me of the Elvis impersonators but I’m not dead yet!
Are you always creating?
Everyday I get up with the urge to find new ideas. I’ve developed a new concept with art and comedy, along with a sculpting show which is unique and has never been done before.
How do you prepare for a show?
My show is very high energy. I have always been a keen sportsman. I competed in judo, running, and triathlon. I workout every day for two hours, mostly cardio as my show is very physical. For the art side it is all in my head, on the comedy side I start on the morning of each show by writing jokes that will make the performance uniquely tailored and special for that night’s audience.
What type of paint do you use?
I use water-base house paint as I use large quantities and they are more liquid than Art supplies type of paint.
Finally who is your favorite artist?
I have two, Salvador Dali because I met him and because he was a creative genius and a master painter and Pablo Picasso for his daring approach to art and his personality.