Inspired by nature, we meet illustrator Camille Romano
Meet Camille Romano, a Finland based illustrator and visual designer, drawing inspiration from nature to create an abstract illustrative style that blends subtle textures and bold organic palettes.
I’m Camille Romano. I was born in France, growing up in the east part of the greater suburb of Paris. It was very much countryside: a village, vineyards, fields and forest, even though it was only an hour away from Paris. From a young age, art class was always my favourite. Perhaps because I didn’t have to express myself with words; there was no talking required. I guess I was a good student, but quite subdued by nature, often off in my own world; at least that’s what my teachers would say.
After high school, I went on to study graphic design in Paris for a short time. Though soon after I quit my studies and moved to Finland. That was about 9 years ago now. Right after graduating from my BA in graphic design, I got my first job in an agency as a graphic designer. I did that for a couple years before deciding to take the leap and go freelance during the winter of 2015.
I currently live in the wild (!) northern part of Helsinki, surrounded by forest, with a river nearby. I work from a shared studio space, alongside four other illustrator friends, in the colourful district of Vallila. We mostly work on our own projects but every year around November-December, we organise a Christmas boutique where we sell our prints, offer drinks, and meet new people.
I mostly use my bicycle to get to the studio (not too much in the winter though!). The trip from my house to my studio is a big part of my daily inspiration. It’s about 12 km one way through forest and open space, which have now become recurring elements in my illustrations. Nature is where I draw my inspiration, always.
I like to work quickly, and be spontaneous with the materials I use, composing quickly and intuitively. I like to be able to adjust and make corrections without too much trouble.
Over a year ago, I started working with paper, cutting shapes, more or less intuitively, and making compositions out of them. I liked the immediacy. I realised that I had a lot of leftover trimmings, but didn’t not want to just throw them away, so I started to use them as well. It was probably a kind of turning point for my visual style. The scraps pushed the conceptual and imaginative side of my work. They’re shapes that I could never come up with deliberately; I found myself with material, shapes, and colours to give meaning to. A few months ago, I also started including handmade textures in the paper cuts, because I wanted to add a certain depth and dynamism to these flat shapes.
My other passion, aside from illustration, is textiles. I guess the two are not that different- it’s still about colour, volumes, shapes, scale, techniques, combining to create a certain style. I knit a lot. Recently, a couple of months ago I started work as a sample knitter for a Berlin-based knitwear designer. I also crochet and just started to learn how to weave. I’m interested in dying techniques, embroidery, handmade garments and the whole “slow-fashion” movement. Handcrafting is a good way to balance the time spent in front of a computer screen.
I like to observe the seasons, colours, shapes and compositions. It’s all simple and complicated at the same time. It feels like the more I look, the more I see.
I enjoy the simple things, spending time alone and with my boyfriend, visiting exhibitions, and having coffee with friends. Otherwise, I spend a lot of time walking/biking and wandering around in the forest. Observing nature is a great source of joy for me, always inspiring me in my work.
If I had unlimited budget and time I’d like to make an ambitious, large scale work, a mural maybe, taking over a space, decorating it all by hand. I’ve always liked the idea and wanted to work on some window décor or an interior, space decor-related project. I’d also love to combine illustration and my passion for textiles, maybe create some kind of large scale weaving project. Oh… and why not a self-initiated magazine!
I tend to rely on paper, scissors, a couple blades, cutting mat, my hands, a scanner, drawing tablet, computer, paint, ink, oily pastels and crayons. A pretty straight-forward tool-kit! In our shared studio, I have two desk for myself. One for my computer, scanner, drawing tablet, empty coffee cups, and the other for my paper-cutting, which constantly looks like a paper cemetery… a pile of precious trimmings, shapes and half cut sheets of paper. I’ve an ever-growing collection of leaves and dried plant-parts too in a couple of notebooks. I look at them once in a while, when I’m in search of some inspiration, organic shapes, shades of green, brown, yellow, and red.
I mostly borrow books from public libraries, which is a very common thing to do here in Finland, compared to the “bookshelf culture” I grew up with in France. I do own a few books that I’d have a hard time giving away:
1. “I am That” by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
2. “Siddharta” by Hermann Hesse
3. “Kafka on the Shore” by Haruki Murakami
4. “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka
And if I could include a bonus fifth choice…“Hiroshige, One Hundred Famous Views of Edo”, a special edition by Taschen with traditional Japanese binding and page folding. It was a present to myself a few years ago, when I had a well paying, regular salary!
I’m currently working on an upcoming group exhibition in Helsinki that will open in December this year, on the theme of darkness. I’m also working on a secret book project and a few new prints and products that I plan to sell during our studio’s Christmas boutique in a couple of weeks.
Over the past couple of years, Helsinki and some other cities in Finland have been booming with murals and massive-scale illustrations on the side of apartment buildings and walls, etc. I love the one that Eero Lampinen, a great Finnish illustrator, made in the city of Oulu. I wish I could create a piece on such a huge scale, so it could become a part of people’s daily lives.