Inspired by the feminine figure and the sometimes complicated relationship with her body, French artist Raphaële Anfré paints femininity and nudity in a simplified and minimalist way, studying women’s lines, curves and hollows, and translating them onto paper in her very own delicate and colourful way.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure to speak to Raphaële about her excessive love for painting and drawing, the beauty of a nude hidden behind flowers and the help that art can be when it comes to dealing with life’s loss and difficulties.
by Nina Seidel
Hi Raphaele, thanks for taking your time to speak to me today. To start with, please tell me a bit about yourself and how you got into art?
My name is Raphaele Anfré, I’m 32 years old and I started painting and drawing when I was a kid. I was my parents’ only child, so I had a lot of time by myself. I spending it painting all the time, and when I say all the time, I really mean it. I don’t know how many sheets of paper I would use per week but it was insane. (laughs)
When I grew up and became a teenager I stopped painting for a while, partly because I realized that I wasn’t a good portraitist. I didn’t know how to paint faces and so I thought okay, you’re never going to be a great artist so stop wasting your time painting. Instead of painting, I began to play the piano and to write and after graduating, I started to study law at the university in Paris for two years. I wasn’t good at it and I didn’t like it, and one day my father told me that I should not continue with it and instead find something arts related since that is where I am good at. I was very grateful to him for saying that- he’s not an artist at all and we don’t have any artists in the family, so I didn’t take it for granted.
I then decided to study fashion, partly because I wanted to learn how to do something from A to Z -draw a piece of clothing, sew it and finish it- and afterwards, I worked in the fashion industry for a while. But I quit that, too, and it was a complicated time because I was very unhappy and disappointed, thinking that I was a failure. I left not because I wasn’t good at it, though, but because I just couldn’t see myself continue working in that field. So, I felt a bit lost.
At that time I had to create a book to apply for a new job but I noticed that had gotten a bit rusty at drawing. I hadn’t drawn much at that time because in fashion you don’t really draw- you do power points, you do excels, you do emails, and even though you create a collection, you don’t draw that much- and so, to overcome that rustiness, I decided to draw a minimum of 5 drawings per day, everyday, without erasers, without pencils, only on the postcards. If I didn’t like it, it was okay, and if I liked it, that was okay, too. The point was just to be more at ease with the creative process of drawing.
After a few weeks of drawing 5 to 10 drawings per day, I just loved it. It made me feel so good that I just kept on doing it and I haven’t been able to stop ever since.
Did you still have a day job back then or how did the transition to being a professional artist happen?
I started drawing again immediately after I had left my job in the fashion industry and I was actually looking for a new job at that time. But I took it slow, because in France we are quite lucky to be paid part of our previous salary when we get unemployed, so thanks to that, I could take my time. In addition to that, I was also really tired. If I had had a new job, I wouldn’t have been great at it because I really needed a break. This process of drawing the 5 drawings per day took me only 2 months but when you draw and paint a minimum of 5 drawings per day and sometimes you do even 10 or 15, you end up with a lot of drawings. I then got a bit tired of my postcards and so I bought some acrylics and a bigger drawing book and I started painting.
The other important thing to mention is that when I was student, social media wasn’t really a thing, plus I wasn’t very interested in it. When I was working, I had a lot of things to do so social media wasn’t really on my mind either. However, when I left my job, I realized that it was something important if you worked in the artistic universe. So, I started my Instagram page and posted my paintings. And then -I don’t know how and why, but it must have been with the help of my lucky star- I got an opportunity to cooperate with an art supplies brand that would provide me with artistic materials.
They would supply me with every kind of material except for paper and I just had to tell them what I liked and didn’t like. I didn’t even have to post about it, maybe one or two posts and that was it. So, I ended up really liking this collaboration and we worked together well. I was invited every six to eight weeks to go to the South of France where the head office and factories were and I would have the opportunity to work with the team on new products – paints, colours- which was amazingly interesting to me.
That sounds like a dream come true to every artist, to be provided free art supplies and having a say in the creation of new ones.
Especially when you start, yes. Because art supplies are so expensive and you don’t know where you want to go, you’re so new to this world. So, having the opportunity to try out everything- acrylics, gouache, tempera, inks, etc.- was just amazing.
You have a quite distinctive style, I find. Did that happen over time or was it something that you aimed for more consciously?
I think that it came with my drawings because when I started to do them on a daily basis, I quickly realized that the drawing was helping me a lot mentally, too. I always had a complicated relationship with my body- when I was a kid I would get sick very often and I didn’t understand why – so I was always a bit at war with my body but my body was always the one winning (laughs). Eventually, I realized that maybe we needed to be friends but I didn’t really know how to start to do that.
As I really enjoyed the painting process and the feeling about it, I had the idea to start to paint my body. To show gratitude and appreciation to it and to maybe start to build a relationship with it.
Then again, painting my body implies to look at it and to touch it, so if I am to paint my shoulder, for example, I touch it to feel the curve and its form. Painting the whole body would have been overwhelming, though, and so I began doing it piece by piece. That’s actually how I started to do these very simple, one or two line pieces of the feminine body and I made them very colourful because I wanted to bring happiness to something a bit dark for me. I also wanted people to see these pieces but I didn’t want them to know exactly what I was expressing and so that’s how the feminine aspect of my work started. If you look at some of my paintings now, you can still see the first shoulder that I created 5 years ago- the line is a bit different now, but it’s still there.
I love the colours in your work and saw that you use certain colours more often than others. Do you consciously choose your colours or do you rather go with what you feel like?
I choose whatever I feel like. It really depends on my mood and on the weather. Now, for example, the weather is very grey and so I put yellow everywhere because I need some sunshine. I don’t really sketch out my colours before, I rather just choose them while painting. There are indeed colours that I use very often, but it’s not intended, it just happens.