Lucile Ourvouai sparks conversation around sexuality and desire through her vivid illustrations

Conceived through playful palettes and a signature red outline, the French artist discusses prevalent issues surrounding politics, gender and feminism.

18 January 2022


“Basically, I studied for ten years,” says Lucile Ourvouai, “but I don’t regret it.” Born in Paris and having grown up in Marseille, Lucile was a studious child and the eldest of six. During school, she never thought of becoming an artist, despite the fact that she adored to draw. Deciding to embark on an academic route involving Latin and Greek instead, Lucile graduated and continued to study politics after moving back to to Paris. This was followed by a year in Japan, in which she discovered the work of avant-garde Japanese artists from the 1960s and 70s, like Tanadori Yokoo, Keiichi Tanaami or Aquirax. “I then joined a masters programme in communication and marketing, as I had another misconception that it would involve some creativity,” continues Lucile. “Unfortunately, it bored me to death, and I was quite shocked by the cynicism of some of our teachers. The few internships I did confirmed that I was not made for working in a company, and I realised when I was working with artists that I wanted to be on the other side.”

Achieving just that, Lucile was accepted at Haute École des Arts du Rhin (HEAR) in Strasbourg and, after graduating in 2018, finally found her feet. But that’s not to say the past ten years was a waste of time either, for her illustration style – as joyful and colourful as it is – touches on many prevalent themes in the world of politics, gender and feminism. “It’s great that feminism is getting more mainstream since #metoo. I guess it’s easy to see in my drawings that I am still very angry about how heteronormative societies work as belief system that is highly unfair, judgemental and harming.” Resultantly, Lucile’s illustrations are practiced as a form of catharsis. From powerful women to those that are more “scary”, the work is voyeuristic but equally analytical. “In my images, women have sexual energy and are not passive.”


Lucile Ourvouai: Cochon Double (Copyright © Lucile Ourvouai, 2021)

There are of course myriad methods artists can use to address important issues like gender and feminism. A lighter and vibrant colour palette is one of them, employed to soften the harsher tones and subject matter and therefore making it easier to digest for the audience. In Lucile’s portfolio, she’s developed a signature aesthetic that combines primary hues with an almost luminous, blood red outline marking key points in her narrative. All of which starts with a predetermined idea, usually formed with “wishful thinking” or an image she’s seen. She explains: “If it makes me smile, I try to put the idea down on paper. Whatever brings joy, right?” But at the same time, these joyful pieces aren’t the type of artworks you’d see hanging on a dentist waiting room she jests, as underneath the “cute but plain content on Instagram”, Lucile strives to tackle relevant issues of today.

You can certainly pick up on a retro-modern fusion throughout Lucile’s illustrative work. For one, she’s greatly influenced by female cartoon artists from the 70s, like Aline Kominsky or Melinda Gebbie who launched Wimmen's Comix, an all-female underground comics anthology. “Raw and crude”, their work inspired Lucile to speak her mind and truth, touching on points such as female sexuality and eroticism in a bold, dark and funny way. Besides citing a handful of other artists, horror movies and her experience working with silkscreen, Lucile’s personal bluntness – “I am a straight to the point kind of person” – really gives her work an edge. Complex ideas are stripped down bare, revealing a somewhat honest and powerful message of femininity underneath. “Whenever I put in too much detail, I end up being tense and the energy and message gets lost in unnecessary information,” she notes.

In a nutshell, Lucile and her punchy illustrations have the unavoidable power of sparking conversation about sexuality and desire, all the while poking out a few laughs here and there. We’re excited to see where she takes her practice next, so for now, here’s a sneaky preview: Over the coming months, Lucile will be involved in a residency at Haute Savoie where she’ll get the chance to work on a children’s book project, “if you can believe that!” Quite the turn from her previously adult-ish illustrations, this project will see the illustrator work more in gouache and watercolour. Additionally, she plans to take on more commissions, dabble again in silkscreen printing – “I do miss it” – and print her drawings in Riso. “And if all of the above was not enough, I’d like to go back to drawing comics again, just for myself, without putting on too much pressure.”


Lucile Ourvouai: La Cuisse (Copyright © Lucile Ourvouai, 2021)


Lucile Ourvouai: Bye 2020 (Copyright © Lucile Ourvouai, 2021)


Lucile Ourvouai: The Restaurant (Copyright © Lucile Ourvouai, 2021)


Lucile Ourvouai: Sculptor (Copyright © Lucile Ourvouai, 2021)


Lucile Ourvouai: Pregnant (Copyright © Lucile Ourvouai, 2021)


Lucile Ourvouai: The Cook (Copyright © Lucile Ourvouai, 2021)


Lucile Ourvouai: Resurgences (Copyright © Lucile Ourvouai, 2021)

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Lucile Ourvouai: The Supermarket (Copyright © Lucile Ourvouai, 2021)

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

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. 

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