Les deux artistes

A young girl in a well-worn pink T-shirt and shorts sits at a table with her coloring book. She is smiling, but working intently.  Her colored pencils are ground to near nubs, so that the color is faint and barely recognizable.  She looks to her right, where her mother is handling a fine brush, painting moon-like faces onto the very thing that drives this family, her partner’s sculpture.

Another child, the girl’s brother, quickly scampers up between the mother and daughter.  With his roughly constructed Lego car, he elbows his way past the coloring book and painter’s palette, rolling the toy over a freshly prepped piece of canvas.  The mother does not fume over this but has to put down her brush to stop her son’s meddling.

Sabine Pritchard puts the finishing touches on one of the Summer 2010 collection, a bare-chested woman sunbathing.

“It is very difficult to work with the children (in the house),” says sculptor Eric Pritchard. “Four, five minutes to paint, then they say ‘I want go out. I want ice cream.’ It is very difficult.”

Eric and Sabine Pritchard live and work in Perpignan, France.  To residents of this Catalonian town, they are the painter and sculptor with erotic tastes. But what most people don’t see is the love and time that go into their artistic creations on a daily basis. When it comes to balancing a dynamic family with the high pressure to create, difficulties often arise.

“It’s harder (working, especially during the summer) with the kids because I need to keep them entertained,” Sabine says. “They need more activities and they need to get out some of their energy.”

The Pritchards have four children — the two eldest, Jules, 19, and Louis, 16 and the younger pair, Leon, 7, and their only daughter, Adele, 4.  They are not legally married, but have been working together for the last 29 years, and all family members have the same family name.

“We have the two (boys) first, wait a while, then again.  It’s like a series.  And they’re all different,” says Eric, “The older ones, they are very practical.  They like chemistry and pharmacy.”

Sabine confirmed Eric’s notion of the older boys, noting they are not interested in pursing the same sort of profession as their parents.

“They want the stability (of a scientific job),” says Sabine. “When they’re little, they do some (art), but now they study.”

Many of the Pritchard pieces feature opposing characters, like well-to-do businessmen alongside prostitutes on a crowded street.

Eric Pritchard, who sports graying mutton chops, never studied art.  And yet his work is widely recognized throughout Perpignan for his voluptuous and sometimes risqué figures.

“They all have big tits,” says Eric, “Like big mama, you know? They all have the dark hair, dark eyes,” says Eric.“ I come from Perpignan, but people, they look at my work and say ‘You come from the South, from Espana,’ and I say, ‘No, I am from here.’”

Through Sabine’s organizational efforts, their work is displayed in two to three galleries per month.  On their website, they put together short, silent animation videos. The videos, while simple in plot, involve the struggles of people living in the shadows, such as prostitutes.  Eric says that he never works, whether on his sculptures or on the website, without his girlfriend.

He met Sabine at a café outside of her art school in Paris where she took painting classes. At the time, he was practicing a different sort of creative profession.

“Before (sculpture), I was doing hair – for high-fashion, top models,” he says, “Now, I make a new life for myself.  Quiet, in the country with children and the sculpture.”

Sabine originally preferred to paint landscapes but then dedicated herself to painting Eric’s erotic characters.

The studio, which doubles as the Pritchards’ family home, is cluttered with these finished pieces. Their paintings hang from every wall.  Many of the paintings are organized like comic books, where different squares hold different scenes, though all of a similar sort of people.

The dining room table is more often used for painting large, joyful and possibly intoxicated figures than for sharing a meal.  But that suits the family just fine, being that what is crafted one day is transformed into baguettes a week later.

“Many of the people who like our work cannot afford it,” says Eric. “Our work (looks) cheap, but (it is) expensive.  If we need money, I make a piece for someone.  Otherwise, we just work on (pieces for the) gallery.”

Despite the current state of the French and global economy, the Prichards’ paintings and sculptures are still selling at a rate adequate enough to support the family.

They credit their success to the unique and sometimes graphic nature of their work, which gets attention from customers and gallery owners alike.  But Eric insists that it is the story behind each Pritchard piece, not the nudity, that is the most important.

“It’s not like pornography,” Eric says. “All of the time, young boys or young girls, their parents say, ‘Don’t have a look’…but always, when they (the parents) are not looking, the children are touching the tits.”