Smile, you're on canvas: French artist brings cheery vision to Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 May, 2015, 12:18pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 May, 2015, 1:37pm

Sophie Raynaud is a bubbly French artist, keen to make everyone she meets smile. That’s because in the past four years the 33-year-old has created art pieces using the shape of a smile – a crescent moon – as a motif in her work.

“I started creating smiles four years ago when I noticed Parisians were rude and complaining a lot,” she recalls. “I thought it would be good to send a smile and e-mailed it to my friends, and I have continued drawing them practically every day since then.”

She is in Hong Kong as part of Smile Asia Week at the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong in West Kowloon, where she is exhibiting her work to raise funds for The Smile Mission, which provides free surgery and treatment to children with facial deformities.

Looking at Raynaud’s work, one can’t help but smile as she plays with the crescent theme, from creating petals of a flower, to the scales of a Japanese carp, a lollipop, or Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night - replacing the glowing stars with crescents.

“You can find smiles everywhere,” Raynaud says.

Once she had amassed a number of smile works, she exhibited them in a small gallery n Paris in 2011, where they were well received, and has since shown them twice more in France.

The following year she was invited to participate in Le French May in Hong Kong, an annual celebration of French culture, and showed more than 100 paintings at the Pacific Place mall in Admiralty. She will be stage another Le French May exhibition next year. 

The freelance graphic designer works with hospitals, painting smiles on walls to cheer up patients, particularly children.

“I get a lot of pleasure from doing this. When you look at the news we have - crises, war, global warming, tsunamis, everything terrible in the world. But with the smiles, I can get positive reactions from people and for me it becomes a game to see how creative I can be,” Raynaud says.

While she continues to draw smiles every weekday and when she’s not on holiday, Raynaud has developed a phone app called La Fabrique du Sourire on iTunes where users can not only check out the “smile of the day”, but also create their own smiles by taking a selfie and adding a graphic smile - choosing the colour and the shape - that can then be posted online.

Raynaud never imagined her smile artwork would not only lead to her being invited halfway around the world to present and sell her whimsical pieces, but also be able to meet so many people and help others by bringing some simple joy to their lives.

“Everything’s been a bonus,” she says. “I’m just following the flow.”

Raynaud’s work is being shown at Level 8, The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, until May 10. Prices range from HK$17 for a postcard to HK$22,500 for an original painting. The hotel is also selling Valrhona chocolate and banana cakes (pictured) for HK$358 in aid of Smile Asia Week. To order one, go to www.smileasiaweek.org or call 2263 2270.