How learning not to see shape and colour liberated Clara Debray's art

The work of French artist Clara Debray is instantly recognisable thanks to her masterful and surprising use of colour when creating stunning images of landscapes and people. And she's honed this approach by abandoning any prejudice toward what she is studying.

The world depicted in Clara Debray's art looks like it would be a nice one to visit. In her paintings and pastel drawings, the landscape appears to shimmer with a tranquil blend of delicate hues, and the people are depicted with such care and empathy that you're bound to feel welcome there. It's like mindfulness has been manifested onto the page.

"I've had the desire to create inside me all my life and to transform that urge into real work," says Clara, who grew up interested in several artistic activities, including circus skills, dancing, drawing, sewing and playing the violin.

"Therefore, I applied for an art foundation. I first completed a preparatory year. Then I studied a textile design BTS for two years," she tells Creative Boom. "It was after that period when I decided that drawing and painting would be my primary tools of expression. I entered the school of Les arts décoratifs de Paris and spent four years there learning to draw, paint, engrave and screen print. It was a great time to learn and grow!"

Inspired by painters across all eras, Clara is especially moved by unusual and bright colours, as is clearly evidenced in her work. "I fell in love with Impressionism and Fauvism," she reveals. "I'm also very interested in contemporary painters and illustrators like Marie Yae, Ines Longevial and Maria Medem, as well as my mother, who is a painter too!"

These influences have all blended in Clara's mind to hone her art style, which she describes as "pictorial". She says that she creates through colour but also loves to draw and capture emotions from the landscape around her and the people she has met. "I'm mainly driven by landscapes and bodies. Lately, drawing my own body has been a way to disconnect from my former judgements and see it as it really is."

While, of course, being sensitive to the impressions viewers can draw from her work, Clara ultimately aims to express emotions that have been awoken inside her via her art. She then tries to find a gentle way to communicate these feelings to others.

One of the biggest and most effective tools in her creative arsenal is her use of colour. Clara has always felt that colour is the most intuitive part of her work, even though it was her mother who taught her how to ultimately see colour to begin with.

"As a little girl, I learnt how to look at things without any prejudices about shapes and colours," says Clara. "Looking at snow without thinking it's white or at summer trees without thinking they're green, it liberates your vision and allows you to see things as they are and as they communicate with you. Then a tree can be purple, gold or deep indigo, and the snow can be light blue, lilac or even pink!"

As for what's on the horizon for Clara, she's currently living out a new adventure by joining her fiancé in Belle-île-en-Mer. "He's preparing and shooting his first independent feature film on the island, and I chose to follow him along. One of my next projects is creating and editing a book about this process.

"I'm glad to have this opportunity to live and work in new landscapes. I also need to paint more nature and bodies and work bigger!"


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