French Guiana is a secretive and rugged place, as well as being home to the land of some arresting personalities. One such person is SUSKY, pilot, artist, adventure, and freethinker. Mention his name and a welter of colourful images spring to mind, though it is hard to pin down this larger-than-life individual.


Some lovers of the skies refer straightaway to his sheer audacity as a pilot, which meant that it was he who carried out the riskiest missions above the Guianese Forest for nearly 50 years. His passengers remember him as a something of a harum-scarum who took them to the remotest places in the territory whatever the weather, often on board a little single-engine aircraft.  Over the course of the decades this “great little man” has left a lasting impression all over French Guiana, wherever his job (in the veterinary service or as works manager) took him to live – in Sinnamary, Mana, St Laurent-du-Maroni, Camopi on the River Oyapock, and Ouanary.

Nowadays he is to be found most often sitting in the shade of the Terminalia Catappa on a square by the ocean in Cayenne. He will break off his pensive strolling and come and sit down next to you on a bench. So pin back your ears and enjoy the recital of an eventful life leading out onto endless discussions, and always with the same clear-sighted vision of the territory and its people, of what the future holds for them, and comments that at times border on the revolutionary!

One of Mr. SUSKY’s talents is the third art. It is here that he is able to give fullest expression to the penetrating gaze he turns on the world. His painting, though not yet very well known, abounds in colourful accents – more even than his language. But the story of his painting goes back a long way!

Promising beginnings?

The scene takes place less than a century ago in the classroom of a little village in a European country which has since disappeared from the geopolitical map. That day the drawing that the school inspector showed as an example was by the young nine-year-old SUSKY. His work was judged to be “original”, an appreciation that the child took as recognition of his idiosyncratic genius. From then on he no longer called on his classmates to make his “works” in exchange for a few marbles. He also turned his back on the boot polish and walls of the school toilets, where he had first tried out his forms of free expression.

On the backburner

At the age of 15 he left the family farm where, since learning to walk, he had spent all his time when not in school. He set off to study agriculture in Vienna (Austria). But this was the late 1930s and fate decided otherwise for him. After the Second World War he found himself in France where he first worked in the Saône-et-Loire coal fields and then as a gardener in the department of the Nord. Whilst there he managed to obtain valid papers and learnt French – with the lists of verb conjugations stuck to the handle of his shovel. When on a day trip to Paris, he bought science books and stuck the pages to the bottom of his basket, so as to be able to study whilst picking fruit. “It was the best university anyone ever had”. Graduating second in his year from agricultural college he went on to become a second-ranking civil servant and was named dairy controller in the Jura.

Throughout this time painting had continued to be one of his centres of interest, and especially a way of “earning a bit of spending money”. But his art work, on the backburner as it were, was done using mainly just coloured pencil and Emery cloth. A bit later he headed off once again, this time visiting a friend’s son in Rio de Janeiro where he stayed for a year, planning to move on next to Canada. But on the way there to renew his resident’s permit he stopped off in French Guiana – and never left! He only visited Canada a lot later, in the company of his Guianese daughter.


So at about the age of twenty-five 25 SUSKY opted for French Guiana where his “life really started”. He started painting seriously. Initially on plywood with ordinary paint bought in shops, and then later he managed to buy better quality products. And little by little, concentrating on details, he improved his technique. His favourite subjects are the landscapes of French Guiana, and especially the Amazonian forest with its infinite views over the canopies as seen from the air.

Throughout his life, whenever he managed to scrape a bit of money together he “treated himself to a girl or a half hour’s flying – but most of the time it was the plane!” He was by now a leading pilot and always heading off for secluded sites nobody else was prepared to go to.

The present and the future

Nowadays François SUSKY has about thirty or so canvases “in progress” in his flat which doubles up as his workshop. They look finished but he is always touching them up, adding splashes of colour and reworking the entire picture with a knife or brush – or else directly with his fingers. Now he would like to sell more of them to finance his future projects, such as republishing his novel Après la Fin (a wonderful story of counter espionage published by Arts & Systèmes) or publishing his new one, a book about the revolution called Comment Ose-t-On Parler de Démocratie ?, a paean to participative democracy.

He says he has painted nearly 200 canvases which are now to be found scattered across the five continents of the world, but when asked SUSKY modestly describes himself as a “daredevil adventurer”.