LONDON — Thierry Despont spends his days designing interiors for museums and moguls (including Bill Gates, Millard Drexler and Calvin Klein), but when he wants a break, he grabs his waders — and paintbrushes — and heads to New Jersey to spend time with the fish.

“I taught myself fly fishing and I’m very bad at it,” explains the French-born, New York-based architect, interior designer and painter, just before the opening of his first London show at Marlborough Fine Art. “It’s about the joy of being in the middle of a river in the morning and casting a line under a canopy of trees.”

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Until June 19, the gallery will showcase what amounts to a diary of the mornings Despont spent fishing in the Raritan River near his cottage in Far Hills, N.J. The graceful watercolors are of sunfish, trout, eel and bass, which look as if they’re floating through the air.

Despont does a quick pencil sketch of every fish he pulls in before throwing it back in the river. Later, he paints watercolors of the best catches. “The fish I catch are miniscule,” he says with a giggle. “So what you see here is an example of artistic license.”

The watercolors, which sold out on the first day, complement Despont’s textured nebulae paintings of planets, which are also on display. They’re made from ink, acrylic paint, glue, asphalt and acid and covered with craters, gorges and lava. Of course, he takes artistic license with those, too.

“I realized that the pictures of the planets we see on TV are color composites done by artists. Mine are just as real as theirs,” he says.

Every Monday afternoon at his TriBeCa offices, Despont and his staff practice model drawing with a teacher. “For an architect, it’s like a gym and it’s very nice to have someone looking over your shoulder,” he says. His art and his architecture feed off one another. “If I get stuck on something in my architecture business, I go downstairs to the studio and start to paint, and vice-versa.

“As an architect, I need to be a control freak,” he adds. “When I’m painting I can be more physical and expressive. For me, it’s all part of the same thing. Just call me an ‘archartiste.’”

— Samantha Conti

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