“I am trying to show what home looks like for me”: Illustrator Dom Campistron shines a light on queer stories from Basque culture
The illustrator tells us about the importance of consuming culture in her own language and introduces us to her new book Bekatorosak which interviews seven LGBTQIA+ people who grew up in the small villages of Northern Basque Country.
- Jyni Ong
- 8 September 2021
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
Dom Campistron always knew she wanted to be an author and illustrator, drawn to storytelling as a way to express a unique point of view. Born and raised in the picturesque hills of Basque Country, at the age of 16 she fell in love with a girl for the first time, a feeling that would feature prominently in her work for years to come. She had never heard the word lesbian before, but she thought life as a queer person might be easier in a big city and in turn, she moved to Paris to study embroidery. After a stint in the French capital, Dom ventured to Scotland to study illustration at The Glasgow School of Art which, she tells us, “was one of the best experiences of my life”. Then, coming full circle, she moved back to her small village in Basque Country after experiencing city life for herself, setting up a studio in the small village she was raised in.
Dom’s colourful illustration practice now centres on feminism, LGBTQIA+ identities and Basque culture. She creates striking compositions balanced between original character design, playful hand rendered typography and detailed storytelling; weaving together these elements in a joyful display of bold illustration. This authentic mode of expression is most recently seen in Dom’s first illustrated book Bekatorosak (which translates into The Sinners), the illustrator’s debut compendium published by Elkar earlier this year. Dom tells us about the impressive volume; a series of interviews with seven gay, lesbian and bisexual people who grew up in small villages of Northern Basque Country.
“As a queer person,” says Dom, “I think it is very important to consume books and movies that show queer characters or lifestyles in your own language, so you don’t think you need to be anything except who you are.” For Dom, this means shining a light on queer stories in Basque Country in particular, an autonomous region situated between northern Spain and southern France with a rich history, culture and language unique to the area. “I think we need to show diversity within our own culture so that people can see a future of acceptance wherever they grow up.”
For Dom, the creative process kicks off with a theme that she’s been thinking about for a very long time without having drawn or written about it. Instead, she imagines the illustrations in her head. When autumn turns to winter, this is usually when Dom draws the most, tucked away out of the cold, indulging in her colourful depictions with stylistically characteristic big hands, big feet and big bums! In turn, Dom’s illustrations evoke warm summery feelings no matter what the weather is like outside. The illustrator sees the purpose of her work as bringing humour as well as dashes of sublime rainbow tones to the viewer. But importantly, she creates these visual delights to support causes she cares dearly about: “Drawing can be a political act,” she says, and all Dom’s work is in aid of this.
“I usually have a subject I want to talk about, and the visuals come next,” Dom adds. She uses illustration as a tool to understand others and catch someone else’s eye who might not hold the same views as her. In this way, Dom understands her chosen medium as “a very powerful vehicle to convey ideas and fight for what matters to us.” As an example of this, when notes that when she opens a newspaper, she looks first to the image before reading the article in order to first get to grips with the content. And in a similar vein, Dom creates the same experience for her readers, painting a picture through the visuals as much as the text to build a three-dimensional story.
At present, Dom is working on a series of A3 Risograph prints which will soon be available to buy via her Instagram. These posters explore Basque culture’s representations, “away from traditional and folkloric depictions that are everywhere in my current environment”. She notes how Basque culture is often misunderstood “if not totally unknown because we are a minority and we have been oppressed for many years”. The illustrator goes on to say: “Our culture is not stuck to an era though we have to understand where we come from, I feel like we also have to show we have become. With this project, I am trying to show what home looks like for me.”
Living and working in the beautiful hills of Basque Country, Dom now feels lucky to live in such an inspiring place. It’s a sentiment she hopes to impart on the next generation of Basque creatives as she is delivering a series of workshops in a local secondary school exploring ideas of gender, sexuality and queer identity, amassing the works into a collection of altogether new illustrations. “This is very exciting for me,” she concludes, “because I feel like schools should educate people against all forms of intolerances from a very young age.”
GalleryCopyright © Dom Campistron, 2021
Copyright © Dom Campistron, 2021
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.