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

The Lyon-based illustrator tells us about the extensive collection of plant drawings and flea market finds which inspire her work.

27 July 2022

Camille Gobourg is a whizz with a Promarker. The textural quality she achieves with her trusty collection, combined with her wonderful eye for colour, transforms ordinary observations of the natural world into magical, thought-provoking artworks. With an almost scientific curiosity in plant life, Camille can often be found in Ardèche, a foresty region in the southeast of France, where she happily spends the day drawing plant specimens. She takes these back to her home in Lyon where, she tells us, she’s slowly growing a “library” of plant references – “a sort of drawn herbarium”. But rather than merely reproducing what she sees, the magic happens when Camille lets her imagination run wild, augmenting reality by distorting the natural scale and colour of the plants and scenery. The result is something that might equally be compared to the intricate beauty of mediaeval 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 like an image that builds up as I go along. And when I have a gap in my imagination I take a nap and usually it appears at that moment.” The fact that Camille finds inspiration in her sleep is no surprise when you look closer at some of her dream-like compositions. Take Festival Champêtre as an example; a strange sunset hinterland where plants grow tall, and where bears stand on two feet and wear red wellies. “For this illustration,” says Camille, “I wanted to draw all kinds 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 red chicken, were inspired by a drawing Camille’s mother drew for her before she was born. She’s also influenced by the “zany characters” of the Claude Ponti books she read as a child and her collection of printed objects – an extensive archive including children’s books, comics, fanzines, card games, posters, records and ceramics. “I love to hunt for things at flea markets,” she says. “Each time it’s like finding a treasure, it’s always unexpected and satisfying.” Surrounding herself with these objects, Camille has woven a “creative cocoon” of references for herself, which she cherry-picks ideas from when beginning a new project.


Camille Gobourg: Festival Champêtre (Copyright © Camille Gobourg, 2022)

Out of this “creative cocoon” comes a wild and wonderful assortment of animal characters. Camille rarely depicts humans, but an exception to this rule is a poster she made for Khruangbin last year, which shows the musical trio appearing mysteriously from a tangle of plants and flowers. Khruangbin’s bassist Laura Lee gave Camille creative freedom with the brief: “the only constraints were to represent the band and the environment where they were playing”. Playing to her strengths, Camille began studying plant and animal life in California. Weaving inspiration from her extensive “drawn herbarium” of Ardèche plants, Camille added palm trees, cacti, Santa Barbara dolphins and Californian bears to the poster, summoning the essence of California’s diverse wildlife in a magical array of pinks, purples and greens.

While her work is otherworldly and transportive, the illustrator herself is very much grounded in the micro-publishing scene in France. Working both individually and with collectives, she can often be found at micro-publishing festivals, and this year she co-founded one herself called Bourrage Papier festival – “a spin off of Lyon Bd Festival which aims to highlight independent illustration”. Camille also lets on that she will be publishing a comic book with Panthéra editions in January 2024. In the meantime, we look forward to seeing what Camille and her Promarkers will turn their magical talents to next.


Camille Gobourg: Khruangbin (Copyright © Khruangbin, 2021)


Camille Gobourg: Mare aux papillons (Copyright © Camille Gobourg, 2022)


Camille Gobourg: Mini Lac (Copyright © Camille Gobourg, 2022)


Camille Gobourg: Research for a comic book project (Copyright © Camille Gobourg, 2021)


Camille Gobourg: Boutique (Copyright © Camille Gobourg, 2022)


Camille Gobourg: Mini Chien (Copyright © Camille Gobourg, 2022)


Camille Gobourg: Mini Oeil (Copyright © Camille Gobourg, 2022)

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Camille Gobourg: Paysage Bas (Copyright © Camille Gobourg, 2022)

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About the Author

Elfie Thomas

Elfie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in November 2021 after finishing an art history degree at Sussex University. She is particularly interested in creative projects which shed light on histories that have been traditionally overlooked or misrepresented.

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