Artist Jean Jullien Harnesses His Instinctive Human Reaction to Create Viral #PeaceforParis Drawing

It's an image for everyone.

Jean Jullien Peace for Paris (2015) Photo: Jean Jullien (@jean_jullien) via Instagram.

With the world still reeling following the tragic events in Paris on Friday, one image has become a symbol of peace in the wake of coordinated acts of terror that left 129 people dead and 352 injured. Within mere hours of the attacks, an Eiffel Tower peace symbol designed by London-based French graphic designer Jean Jullien had gone viral, accompanied by the hashtag #PeaceforParis.

“It was the most spontaneous thing. I heard the news on the radio, and I had this heartfelt reaction,” Jullien explained to CNN of the image, created in a sketchbook using brush and ink. “I wanted to draw something that could symbolize peace and solidarity, and I wanted something with the context of Paris.”

The Eiffel Tower was a logical choice, and Jullien’s mind quickly jumped to the peace sign, combining the two. “You know, there wasn’t much work process behind that,” he told Wired. “It was more an instinctive, human reaction than an illustrator’s reaction.”

Jean Jullien. Photo: Jean Jullien, via Facebook.

Jean Jullien.
Photo: Jean Jullien, via Facebook.

Jullien’s original post on Instagram garnered 160,000 likes, and the image has been widely shared not only online, but in person, through signs and t-shirts seen at vigils. Many other artists have also been moved to create artwork in response to the tragedy, but Jullien’s simple drawing of the Eiffel Tower as a peace sign has quickly become an icon.

“We need symbols to express what [we] cannot say,” author and popular culture expert Steven Heller told Co.Design. “Images define and describe tragedies and other monumental happenings. It is as common as graffiti for an image to emerge in response to tragedy.”

“The response has been overwhelming—especially since I didn’t have any control over it. But I can’t feel pride or happiness because it is such a dark time. It’s undesired exposure. A horrible moment,” Jullien admitted to CNN. “But, I’m just somehow glad people made use of it.”

Jean Jullien, Je Suis Charlie. Photo: Jean Jullien, via Twitter.

Jean Jullien, Je Suis Charlie.
Photo: Jean Jullien, via Twitter.

The popularity of #PeaceforParis is similar to the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag shared on social media sites in January in response to January’s Charlie Hebdo shooting, also in Paris, in which Islamic radicals killed 12 in retaliation for the satirical magazine’s controversial depictions of the prophet Muhammad. Like many artists, Jullien also created an illustration to commemorate the Charlie Hebdo victims, showing a pencil blocking the barrel of a gun.

“Words can sometimes be difficult to translate. I think the simpler, the better, the more universally understood it can be,” said Jullien of the power of illustration. “People think it’s just an everyday tool to sell things like cars or advertise products, but graphic arts is a means of expression beyond words.”

Despite some rumors that Banksy was the creator, Jullien has actually been properly credited for the image a great deal of the time, including by Instagram, which shared his post with its 113 million followers. For Jullien, however, that doesn’t matter. “It’s an image for everyone. I don’t really care about ownership of the image,” he told Co.Design. “This is a moment of unity.”

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