Stopover in Sète 2024: meeting with Jean-Benoît Héron, apostle of maritime illustration

Stopover in Sète 2024: meeting with Jean-Benoît Héron, apostle of maritime illustration

Jean-Benoît Héron, une présence naturelle à Escale à Sète. Midi Libre – Patrice Espinasse

An agri-food engineer by training, Jean-Benoît Héron was drawn to architectural design where maritime heritage is omnipresent. Meeting with the illustrator, faithful to Escale à Sète, distinguished guest of the A l’abord festival.

Since he was very young, when his interlocutors did not understand his surname, he would add "petit patapon" so that we remember it. At almost 62 years old, Jean-Benoît Héron has now made a name for himself.

Faithful d’Escale à Sète, he is one of the distinguished guests of’A l’a festival within the festival dedicated to the band’ ;nbsp;drawn and marine illustrations.

Jean-Benoît Héron is an encyclopedic illustrator. Never far from the water. For more than thirty years he has devoted himself to drawings of naval or coastal architecture. The truth is that he had already fallen into it when he was little. With a charismatic father who created the monthly Voiles et voiliers, co-founder of Cahiers d’architecture at Gallimard, and a mother who illustrated the famous Hermès scarves, the virus was inevitably in my skin.

You need to understand how the boat was built to be able to convey it through illustration.

Studies engineering in agri-food, "just to do something other than my parents, just to owe nothing to my father", could have brought him closer to another emerging passion, agriculture. He was caught up by the big ships. During its reconstruction, the Hermione gave him his first drawings of naval architecture, 27 years ago. "It was necessary to explain, through illustration, what this boat was. There was the keel, the first couple but the visitor had to be able to project himself. I had made a large section, an exploded view of the boat." Later, there was the Belem, at different stages of his life.

Jean-Benoît Héron was launched. Boats, lighthouses, things of the sea: the call of the coast or the open sea is never very far away. "I’ve always been close to the sea. To draw it well, you have to look at it, see how the elements move. Be thorough, too. When you are asked to draw a boat that you don't know, you have to find out how it's done. You must have understood how the boat was built to be able to convey it through the illustration."

The liquid element has its typicalities: "There are more curves. When drawing a boat, it is important to add the sea. A wave or a wake gives information on the speed of the boat and the power of the elements. It enlivens. The illustration must be lively, while remaining rigorous on proportions and colors."

In Sète, we feel the involvement of the population and volunteers in the festival

Solidly anchored on the Island of Yeu, the Vendéen"does not tell a story" ; his drawings are there "to describe, not to serve as a setting for a story". "On I sometimes say that a little sketch is better than a long speech and that’s why I like to describe my job as another kind of writing that explains things. "

His writings are without sea boundaries: the Atlantic or this Mediterranean "whose waves are shorter, but the storms are more violent and sudden". Jean-Benoît Héron appreciates it and takes renewed pleasure in making a stopover in Sète every two years. "These are meetings, reunions. We enrich ourselves there. Sète is a port that is alive and you can feel it. We feel the involvement of the population and volunteers in the festival. They are very nice people who believe in it."

From Gallimard to the collaboration with Jean-Yves Delitte

Jean-Benoît Héron began doing illustration at the end of the 80s for the Cahiers d’architecture of the Gallimard guides. His creations have served as support for numerous guides. He worked for ten years for the Italian magazine Bell’Europa and collaborated for a long time for the Center des monuments nationaux and  the Musée de la Marine before joining Éditions Gléna.

It is with this publisher that he published, in 2017, a book on the boats of the great sea adventure novels (The boats from my library: from Noah's Ark to the Nautilus), awarded by the Marine Academy, and of which he would like to make a number  2".

His meeting with the Belgian comic book author Jean-Yves Delitte, at the Étonnant voyageur festival, will kick off a collaboration and a collection beautiful books on the sea and boats. Already five volumes strong, the collection will soon be enriched with a sixth, devoted to rescue and assistance at sea.

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