The south of France is well known for its stunning beauty, mountainous landscapes and calm allure. This perception is only heightened by illustrator Clara Debray’s evocative, sun-soaked drawings. Living next to Lake Annecy in the Haute-Savoie region, Clara tells It’s Nice That that she’s never short of creatively stimulating material. “It’s really inspiring, all year long,” she begins, “colours and lights change a lot through the year, and I try to transmit the emotions they make me feel.” The emotional element is clearly apparent in Clara’s small-scale works, with their expressive rock faces, sweeping hills and tranquil bodies of water evoking strong memories of the summer months with the touch of simple imagery.
Growing up in the Alps, Clara was always exposed to and heavily involved in the arts. From music and circus skills to dancing and drawing; these various activities have always formed a large part of her childhood. It was when Clara realised that she wanted to creative – turning to painting and drawing as her primarily “tools” in life – that she then decided to move to Paris for school and work. There, she spent seven years before moving back to the mountains.
While the natural environment has always been a source of inspiration for Clara, more recently she has found herself particularly drawn to “bodies and flesh”. This is natural, she continues, with the coming summer months and their natural association with a sense of freedom and nudity. Some of Clara’s most interesting works are her close-up studies – a bum from behind, the rolls of a stomach, a tan-lined bare breast, for instance. These works are recognisable and warm in their obvious adoration of the human form. “Working on close up shots of bodies is a way for me to rediscover their beauty,” the illustrator expands, “forgetting about the judging look I too often have with my own body.”
There is something so subtly unified about Clara’s work, which is likely rooted in her “intuitive” approach to colour. Filled with purples – from light lilac washes to deep purple hues – and bright to mossy greens, Clara's consistent palette adds a certain atmosphere and unique edge to her pieces. But this trademark pairing of colour hasn’t always been Clara’s go to, as she explains: “sometimes I will try a new pairing, and the colours give me magical vibrations, and I then dive into this new association.” This is the very means by which the illustrator's infatuation with purple and green arose. “Two years ago, It was really hard for me to use those colours, and now, I just love them.”
In the coming months, Clara will be leaving her hometown to join her fiancé who is preparing and shooting his first film in Brittany. Soon to be living, painting and drawing in an entirely new landscape on the island of Belle Île, Clara sees the period as a perfect time for new discoveries and explorations – an essential feature to prevent her getting “bored” of her work. But, more importantly, Clara also views the period as having the potential to be “a moment of renewal”. We’re intrigued to see what a fresh landscape will bring to Clara’s idyllic, environment-sensitive work.
Clara Debray: Plouf !, Juin 2022,(Copyright © Clara Debray, 2022)
About the Author
Olivia joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in illustration, photography, ceramic design and platforming creativity from the north of England.