Raphaële Anfré on Illustrating Womanhood

Are your pieces a reflection of your own experiences?

My paintings are mostly a reflection of my own experiences. I started painting elements of the female body because I didn’t know how to express how I felt about my own body, with words. I considered for a long time that my body and I were separated. That both were not bound and hated each other. As a child, I used to get sick very often and I missed a lot of good times. I resented my body and I couldn’t understand why it was putting me through this. As I grew, our relationship didn’t improve.

I paint a lot of female bodies, often my own body, the way I see it and how I feel it. I simplify the image and add a lot of colours to make it more pleasing to my mind. The good news is since I started painting, my relationship with my body has improved a lot!

Raphaële Anfré painting in the studio

How do your illustrations start and what is your creative process?

When I started to paint what I paint today, the only thing that inspired me was colour. I used to paint directly onto my canvas without thinking too much about what I was doing. My goal was to create beautiful colour combinations and organic shapes. No sketches or models, only what my mind and hand wanted to create without thinking ‘is it going to be great?’ or ‘maybe I should have chosen another colour?’ The results were abstract paintings full of colours and shapes, and I took a malicious delight to give them erotic titles.

With time and practice, I started sketching my ideas. I work in series, so now I sketch what I’m planning to paint for each new series. I make sure it is coherent, and that all the important elements are present.


Are you currently working on a new series, if so what can we expect to see next? 

I’m currently working on a new series. More than a new series it’s also a new medium.

I’ve always been extremely attracted to watercolour, but I could never figure out how to use it in my artwork. Usually, I work with acrylic paint, ultra-pigmented, opaque, thick and neat. Watercolour is the complete opposite, it may be why I’m so seduced by it.

I want to go further in my quest of illustrating womanhood. Last year I started a series about fertility or should say ‘infertility’.

With my art, I paint elements that represent femininity. To be able to carry life is one of the major elements of womanhood in our societies, if not the main one. But when a woman cannot fulfil this ‘task’ and is not able to carry life on her own, she is not less of a woman. So what are the other elements that make her a woman, full of femininity, while being deprived of this main element? This is what I’ll attempt to illustrate in my next series.


Congratulations on launching your luxury knitwear brand Ë.L.E Paris, do you ever plan to combine art and fashion?

Thank you so much! It’s a real adventure! I created Ë.L.E Paris because I believe in a more sustainable, fair, and respectful fashion industry. And you said it! Ë.L.E Paris is the combination of my two passions; art and fashion. Each season will feature unique garments hand-painted by me. Art-to-Wear as I like to call it, sold as an art piece with a certificate of authenticity, that you can wear (and wash).



How important is it for you to create hand-made pieces, alongside digital illustrations?

Hand-made pieces are everything to me. I’ve always been a very practical person. 95% of my art is hand-made. I need to create textures, to smell the paint, to touch and to change the medium. I love to see the brush marks, the cracks and imperfections, the shades and variations. There is an emotion whilst painting. I use digital when I want to create different colour variants of the same drawing. But I have to admit, I got an iPad Pro a few months ago and I’m sure you’ll see more digital drawings on my page soon.


When you’re not painting, what would we find you doing?

The moments when I’m not painting are rare. My boyfriend is also a painter, so when I get home from the studio I often end up at his table, painting. Of course, I spend time working on Ë.L.E Paris, and despite the administrative and commercial aspects of running a company I also have to draw, sew, knit, and embroider for my brand. Only enjoyable things! I realise I’m a very lucky girl.



Interviewee: Raphaële Anfré

Interviewer: Swakara Atwell-Bennett

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