There’s something quite melancholic about the work of Camille Deschiens. Whether it’s a lone subject sitting, perhaps waiting, as they perch on the edge of their bed; or a figure peering out of the window; or a mother embracing her child with the soft and dusky evening light drawing in. Either way, the illustrator and artist knows how to stir up emotion with her sketchy and considered style, which revolves around the notion of connection. “My drawings get their origin from my daily life,” she tells It’s Nice That. “I love intimacy and I love stories.”
Camille comes from a family of artists – her father has a passion for cinema while her mother and grandmother love painting. So, naturally, she would spend a large portion of her childhood amongst the work of great artists in museums, which is ultimately where her fascination with pictures grew. After painting in her own time as nothing more than a hobby, Camille decided to attend public art school HEAT in Strasbourg, which is where she first discovered the power of illustration through the books of Franco-Belgian comics publishing house Fremok.
“Those books were the proof that illustration can be lively, powerful and as interesting and as strong as paintings,” she recalls. “This step was important for me because I realised that we could tell stories with drawings and without words.”
These influences are beautifully obvious in her detailed pictures, like the scene of Jean Seberg that depicts a couple cosied up on a sofa as they watch a film projected in front of them – a nod to her father’s passion for cinema. Other pieces present cadences from daily life, drawing from the more subtle moments and events that the might eye might miss.
“All of my reflections come from my vision of love,” she continues. “I would like to talk about the daily life of a double which is tinted by melancholia, introspection and loneliness. I could talk for hours about this subject, I am a little bit stuck on this, but I am not bored at all and my reflections grow with me.”
Applying each pencil stroke with care, each one of Camille’s whimsical works takes time to complete; she doesn’t rush the process. It allows her to explore the compositions and narrative fully before adding in the colour. The Reading, for instance, depicts a rouge-tinted room with a couple sitting together on a chair – one atop the other as they read a book, glass of wine on the side table. It’s a fine example of how Camille is pulled towards illustrating the theme of intimacy. “Outside the weather is hostile, it’s a quiet scene, it’s all about the situation of one reading for two and the postures of the bodies,” she says. “I made this drawing because at this moment in my life, I have just heard some homophobic stuff coming from my close circle, and I felt so much rage against that, I felt the need to give my answer to those shitty words.”
Life in panties is another recent piece that, in signature hand-drawn and hazy style, embodies the feelings of life during quarantine. Made during lockdown, the image reflects Camille’s state of mind during the time. “Spring was beginning and it was hard to stay stuck at home,” she says. “I love drawing windows, and I have always loved looking out of them. It’s like when you travel on a train, observing the landscape and what’s happening outside. It’s a great way to let our spirit travel.”
There is quite frankly no better word than “soft” when describing Camille’s illustrations. They’re delectable, a gorgeously humble treat for the eye as they evaluate the ways in which we all connect with one another. “I’m glad to give this sensation [of softness] through the love scenes I created and I think the colour pencil accentuates this,” she says. “I hope my drawings tell a different story of bodies together – their attitudes and intimacy. Telling love is not only showing people kissing each other, I prefer the gesture just next to that.”
Camille Deschiens: Marc's couch, colour pencils (Copyright © Camille Deschiens, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she was interim online editor in 2022/2023 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.