The secret of Camille Gobourg’s magical plant illustrations is her “creative cocoon” of references

Camille Gobourg is a pro with a Promarker. The textural quality she achieves with her trusty collection, combined with her wonderful eye for color, transforms ordinary observations of the natural world into magical, thought-provoking works of art. With an almost scientific curiosity for plants, Camille often finds herself in Ardèche, a forest region in the south-east of France, where she happily spends the day drawing plant specimens. She takes them back to her home in Lyon where, she tells us, she is gradually building up a “library” of plant references, “a sort of drawn herbarium”. But rather than simply replicating what she sees, the magic happens when Camille lets her imagination run wild, augmenting reality by distorting the natural scale and color of plants and landscapes. The result is something that could equally be compared to the intricate beauty of a medieval illuminated manuscript or the whimsical strangeness of a Miyazaki film, which are two of Camille’s major influences.

“Most of the time when I draw, I don’t have a reference in front of me,” she continues. “It’s more of an image that is built over time. And when I have a void in my imagination, I take a nap and usually it shows up at that time. The fact that Camille finds inspiration in her sleep comes as no surprise when you take a closer look at some of her dreamlike compositions. Take Country Festival for example; an eerie backcountry at sunset where plants grow tall and bears stand on two legs and wear red rubber boots. “For this illustration, explains Camille, I wanted to draw all sorts of busy characters as if each one came out of a different story and crossed paths in this setting.”

Some of the figures, like the blue baby and the red chicken, were inspired by a design that Camille’s mother drew for her before she was born. She is also influenced by the “wacky characters” in Claude Ponti’s books she read as a child and his collection of printed objects – a vast archive including children’s books, comics, fanzines, card games, posters, records and ceramics. “I love browsing at flea markets,” she says. “Every time is like finding a treasure, it’s always unexpected and satisfying.” By surrounding herself with these objects, Camille has woven a “creative cocoon” of references from which she draws ideas at the start of a new project.

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