Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Julien Lavigne and I met for coffee last week. I drank regular; he had decaf. It was a clear sunny day, and we sat on his back porch as he toured me through his sketchbook.

In many ways 9 year old Julien is like any other 4th grader. He plays soccer on Saturday mornings and kicks the ball around the house long after his mother requests that he stop. He's fascinated by lizards, frogs, and bugs, and hopes to be voted in as student council president so that he can pass a motion for in-classroom lunches on Fridays.

In many other ways, Julien is extraordinarily unique. He is fluent in French and English, keeps his room neater than mine, and aspires to be an architect. He tends an herb garden and has created a website that reflects his passion for the environment. He can also spend hours on end drawing…and doing it well.

Julien's mom started saving her son’s artwork when he was three. They were living in Paris back then, visiting all the museums, and freely absorbing the artfulness of the city. She showed me a scan of Julien’s “Giraffe.” I couldn’t really see the spotted animal per se, but I did notice a thoughtful sense of artistic control and color that some people don’t ever attain.

These days, Julien totes around a not-so-little black book, and he’s been filling it up with sketches he’s done since August.

Julien draws from his imagination and also from pictures.

He has a knack for portraiture and also for cartoons. He tells me that it takes about 30 minutes or so to draw a face, like Young Abe Lincoln’s. About Albert Einstein, Julien says, “The hair was the most fun part and that went pretty quickly.”

I am not the only adult, besides mom, to recognize his ability. He was awarded a scholarship to art camp at Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale’s Creative Summer Art Academy. Initially, after completing a four hour challenge, he earned a two week scholarship. Then it was extended, and then extended some more. Julien spent the entire summer there on a full scholarship, and exhibited more work, than any other camper, in the final show.

I planned on staying just an hour, but I stayed for two. Beyond the art, Julien revealed his plan for a car that can recycle gasoline, and demonstrated a pulley system he had rigged in the garage enabling him to open the door from many feet away. He pulled out a piece “300 year old petrified wood that I found at the root level of his garden,” and he granted me access to detailed spying maps he uses to startle his mother. And then after all that, he beat me in Foosball.

I am already looking forward to my next visit.