Féminité Camouflée, 75 x 105 cm, 2022
ExtraFine Watercolor on 100% Cotton Arches Paper, 640g/m2
Féminité Camouflée, 36x51cm, 2022
ExtraFine Watercolor on 100% Cotton Arches Paper, 300g/m2

While I like all of your works, I’m especially drawn to the series “Feminité camouflée” Could you please talk a bit more about it?

“Feminité camouflée” is also one of my favourites. I haven’t always painted with watercolours, I only started when I was travelling for a long time and couldn’t bring my acrylics. At the same time, I wanted to paint flowers but not only flowers, I wanted to incorporate the body as well. So I started to think that it would be interesting to use the flowers to hide the body. In my paintings I show nudity, I express how femininity can be translated and painted in all its elements. Flowers are super feminine in a way, as well, so when it comes to that series, I would put all the clues about femininity in a painting but in a way that most of the time, people wouldn’t see that there is a feminine body behind it because the flowers take so much space. This series is very close to my heart because the first lines on the paper were always the lines of the body but the first thing you see when looking at the works are the flowers, even though they are the last element that I put on my painting. I enjoy very much playing with that, with the view and the different layers that one painting can have.

Quite often, nudity in paintings is used to attract attention and I do the opposite.

Féminité Camouflée, 36 x 51 cm, 2022
ExtraFine Watercolor on 100% Cotton Arches Paper, 300g/m2

Now, a more practical question, please share some of your creative process with me.

I draw a lot- I can have a few weeks where I mainly draw and then I have moments when I only paint and don’t do any sketches. My sketches are not very precise- people might not really understand them, but I do, which is the most important thing (laughs). Whenever I want to start a new painting, the first step is to select a drawing, a sketch, and once that’s done, I decide on the size of the future painting. After that, I transfer the sketch to transparent paper, trying to find the perfect combination and composition. When I have it, I create a clean sketch of that future painting. Lastly, I transfer that clean sketch to the paper that the painting will be on and I start the painting process.

I wanted to go back to the topic of style. As someone who has her very personal style, would you say it is an important thing to have or might it also come with complications, for example, feeling that you always have to stick to painting the same?

I think having a style is very important, really. It means that it really comes from you in a way. It’s a bit of a tricky subject, though. Trying things out is an important part of creation, but maybe not everybody has to see that, or you could present it in a special event if you’re a professional artist. But if you want to be a professional artist, I believe it’s important to have your own voice and your own way of showing what you want to show people. Without looking left or right, without looking at what does well on Instagram at the moment or what’s being successful at the best gallery in your city.  

You can also have a practice with different elements. I know artists who paint and sculpt and do photography and sometimes all of that fits completely well with each other. I think that it really has to do with practice and it’s comparable to playing an instrument, I find. If you play the piano and then you start playing the guitar and the violin, too, you’ll never be very good at any of them. Whereas if you stick to the piano and play the other instruments only sometimes, then you can be a really good piano player (laughs). With time, your style will evolve anyway, because you evolve as a person as well. The works you do today will not look the same as the works you’ll do 10 years later.

For me the point is to get better at what I’m doing and if you change your style all the time that can be very complicated. But if you keep your line, you’ll improve & find your own voice.

Féminité avec Vue sur le jardin de mon Enfance, 56 x 76 cm, 2022
ExtraFine Watercolor on 100% Cotton Arches Paper, 640g/m2

You already said before that painting makes you feel just good- anything you’d like to add to that?

Painting is a moment of meditation for me, really. It can seem a bit cheesy to say that but that’s really what it is. And that’s what I love about watercolours- they are so smooth and allow you to play with the water and the paper, which I truly love. But it depends on the technique for me. Even though I also like painting with oil paints, for instance, that process feels more like a combat to me, I don’t enjoy it that much as working with watercolours.

Would you like to share what you’re currently working on?

I started painting some landscapes and some interiors of my grandparents and my father’s house. The landscapes are inspired by Rwanda, the country where my mother is from, a beautiful country with a very complicated history. For the past two years my father, who is French, has lived and worked there and so I came in contact with it again. As I had previously done with my body, I started to paint it- when something is difficult for me, I have to paint it. At the same time, I lost my grandmother who was very, very important to me, and so I also began to paint her house, the things she loves and the things we did together. It’s my way of dealing with things that make me sad, to paint them. I opened myself to painting these things and to moving a bit away from the body, even though it was a bit scary because I didn’t know how it would be welcomed or judged. But thank God, I’ve been very lucky and it was welcomed really well.  

Painting is a moment of meditation for me and it’s also my way of dealing with things that make me sad.

Cultures Traversées, 56 x 76 cm, 2022
ExtraFine Watercolor on 100% Cotton Arches Paper, 640g/m2

Any advice that you’d like to share, especially with artists at the very beginning of their career?

First of all, you can do it. If painting and drawing or any other kind of art makes you feel good, please go ahead and do it and do it in an excessive way. Don’t care about doing too much of it- do that, do way too much of it. Continue to enjoy it and don’t look at what is trendy at the moment because it will not be a trendy one year later, so don’t waste your time copying something. Don’t be in a hurry because when things need to happen, they will, and when they start happening, they start happening very fast and all at once.

I remember that during 4 years nothing was really happening for me. I was represented by a gallery but it wasn’t a fruitful cooperation, I participated in a few exhibitions but didn’t sell anything at all, didn’t earn any money from my art at all during those years. And then one day, in a time span of only 6 months, everything changed. The press began to be interested, another gallery in France and abroad approached got interested, and people reached out to me to buy my paintings. Everything was happening so fast, so don’t worry, don’t be in a hurry.

Then again, be aware that if things start to happen and you don’t have the energy and the knowledge to be able to respond quite fast to the demand, you will lose everything again. Practice a lot, it’s like sport. The more you do it, the easier it gets, the better you get at it.  

If creating art makes you feel good, go ahead & do it and do it in an excessive way. Don’t worry about doing too much of it- do that, do way too much of it.

Terres Bordées du Lac, 75 x 105 cm, 2022
ExtraFine Watercolor on 100% Cotton Arches Paper, 640g/m2

Any artists that you’d like to recommend?

Yes, I would like to recommend French ceramist Alice Lothon, French painter Solène Kerlo, French sculptor Aude Barromé and German painter Raffael Bader.

And last question, what are your hopes for the future?

To continue painting. To improve myself. To be able to do better and to do more beautiful things. I also started ceramics some months ago and so I’m so deeply excited about it. For the moment, it’s an absolute mess but I’m sure it will help me in the future, even to improve my drawings and paintings and to really build my identity.

Get in touch
with Raphaële:

Instagram: raphaele_ele

All Photographs courtesy of Raphaële Anfré
Interviewed & written by Nina Seidel

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