Some Days I Feel Tangerine, Some Days I Feel Blule
Musicians often use their art to create another world to escape to, but seldom do they invite an entire community into their universe the way Prince did. It didn’t matter to Prince if he was playing for a crowd of 50,000 or for ten lucky people because he always played to each individual in attendance. After changing his name and being shunned by much of the industry, Prince found a genuine exchange of energy with the loyal community members that chose to stick around. He then filled his professional environment with those who truly loved him as an artist and as a man.
The constant outpouring of love for Prince motivated him to continue working, and this connection to the community has also inspired Prince-related artist Clementine Campardou to continue painting after Prince’s passing. For the last year and a half, fans have messaged Clementine with stories of personal healing through her art. After months of struggling to paint after April 21, 2016, these messages were the final push she needed to pick up her brushes and continue working. Six months ago, Clementine felt inspired to move beyond creating individual paintings to something much more bold, but we’ll get to that part later.
At the age of eight, Clementine, like many artists, had trouble communicating through traditional methods. Words didn’t come easily, but she found colors to flow fluidly as a means of expression. “Since then, I always followed a path where art and creation were around in some form or another. Very early, I knew I would make my living out of it.” In school, Clementine studied fine art and industrial design then began her career as a designer for brands like L’Oréal and Fila. Her real passion in life is contained in a paintbrush, so her career naturally led back to painting when she created her brand, “Blule,” a simple mash-up of the word “blue” and “blulle,” the French word for bubble.
Her recognition of Prince’s artistry came much later in life, when Clementine met her husband, Raphael, who she describes as “the nerdiest of fans.” Through him, Clementine discovered hours upon hours of live recordings and got to experience live performances and hear Prince stories from her husband. Experiencing Prince through someone else’s passion has allowed Clementine to view him as a mystery and create without any preconceptions of what’s “accurate” in terms of Prince’s image.
Clementine’s first visual interpretation of Prince happened about six or seven years ago with a gift for her husband. This painting was then used a few years later in a newsletter series called “Colour Up Your Day” where subscribers would receive a free painting in their inbox every single day. A week after publishing the painting in this series, Clementine received an email, “I know firsthand that Prince loves your work.” Soon after, she received another brief email from Prince’s manager at the time; when asked how she felt in that first moment of contact, Clementine gave me a response as simple as the email she received: “Incredulous.”
The events that transpired that morning are ones that only Clementine can tell:
“I received a simple, short email from his manager at the time. I saw the email after waking up. Until I got to confirm the authenticity of the request, I didn’t really believe it. Then, it’s hard to describe. Probably akin to what one would feel if one was suddenly able to float in the air. I was also a bit annoyed: the painting he wanted to buy was a gift I created for my husband. I now had to take it back from him.”
It was 2014 when Clementine was first contacted by Prince about her art. He purchased a second piece a bit later but held off on using either of the pieces right away. Clementine had no idea if, when, or for what purpose her designs would be used until about a year later when her husband sent her a link to one of Prince’s tweets cryptically announcing the concept for his new single, “Free Urself.” A few months later, her two designs were used at a concert in Toronto, one as the backdrop and the other printed on his own attire.
Prince also requested Clementine’s services on a few more specific projects and gave her just as much artistic freedom as if she was painting for pleasure instead of commission (at least at first). One such project was to create complementary designs for Ida, Donna, and Hannah that paired with her original painting of Prince. Then came the feedback, and with feedback came the dilemma of figuring out how to disagree with Prince. In recent stories that Steve Parke has shared, we have learned that Prince always envisioned a final product without really understanding how the image should look during each step in the process. Parke spoke about giving in and doing it Prince’s way, and by doing so he gave Prince space to learn (and admit) that he was wrong; then Parke would have to come to terms with the fact that he would have to take several extra steps (and several extra hours) to get to the result he knew would look best all along. Clementine found this same strategy for handling Prince’s feedback worked well for her also. You see, Prince liked her overall designs, but he really wanted to add details to the faces. So, she did…only to prove the elegant simplicity of her original designs.
Another huge project Clementine was given was one that our previously featured artists, Taylor Coleman and Martin Homent, were also tasked with, along with Clementine’s friend Lydia. That project was the humongous task of using the blank wall space in Studio C to capture Purple Rain, every aspect of Purple Rain; its story, the movie, the premiere at the Mann’s theater, the First Avenue shows. For such an elaborate project, the amount of direction given to Clementine was quite miniscule; all she received were a couple of blurry photos of the space and the room dimensions scribbled onto a piece of paper. A friend helped produce a 3D rendering of the room to give Clementine a better feel for the space and the proportions. From there, she presented the whole room in sketches, fully prepared for a few rounds of feedback. At the time, Prince was starting his Piano & a Microphone tour, and Clementine was busy with another large project for a different customer. The conversation got stalled, and a second round of sketches was never completed.
After Prince’s passing, Clementine felt these sketches needed to be shared with the public to uncover one of the many projects Prince kept secret while helping fans feel a connection to the man they were grieving over. “If thanks to that, I cheered a few people up, even for a minute, I’m happy. This was also true for me in a more personal way. It connected me with people and seeing their excitement got my mind off of grieving.”
In the past year and a half, Clementine has continued creating Prince-inspired art. One project she worked on was a direct collaboration with Paisley Park for the one year anniversary of the museum opening. She was pleased to find that she was working with much of the same team that worked with her when Prince was in charge. The project was handled with immense professionalism and had a much tighter feedback loop than when she was waiting for feedback from Prince, who seemed to have his hands in every aspect of every project. In the future, Clementine hopes to see Paisley Park create a collection of high quality, official prints of the art Prince purchased from various artists. And she wishes for this project to include worldwide shipping, as she has heard from fans anxious to purchase these products featuring her designs.
In her largest project to date, Clementine has been working to pay homage to Prince in a new book called, “On the One.” This book features never-before-seen paintings of Prince as seen through Clementine’s mind. In fact, the final list of paintings for the book isn’t even set yet, since there are still new paintings being created constantly. This monstrosity of a tribute will also include a foreword written by New Power Generation and 3rdEyeGirl band member, Ida Nielsen.
“It was, by far, the hardest project I have ever done. Managing the energy over such a long period was a challenge. The idea of facing people’s expectations when you try to do some art is a terrible thing too. He left such an imagery, touched so many people with deep emotions. The art will not be judged by itself. This is terrifying and blocked me quite a few times.”
Even though it has been a tough process, Clementine has now made it to the selling phase of the book. Her Kickstarter campaign runs through November 2nd, and there are no plans to make another edition of the book available after this campaign ends. More than that, this will most likely be Clementine’s last Prince-related project, her way of saying goodbye. Click the following picture to explore purchase options for Clementine's book.
“I need to thank and give a huge shout out to the Prince community. You people are nothing short of amazing. The positivity you channel, the way you all got together stronger than ever, the way you fight for his legacy. The unconditional respect, the way you support all the related artists, including me, that’s nothing short of amazing. His legacy, even more than his music, is this community.”