Gemini H's colour pencil illustrations express nostalgia via everyday moments
France-based illustrator Gemini H focuses on the little moments that crop up every day in order to echo the elegance of days gone by.
Ever felt like you were born in the wrong era? You're not alone. Gemini H also pines for the bygone aesthetic of the early twentieth century in her beautifully hazy colour pencil illustrations that have one foot firmly planted in the contemporary world.
Looking like they've been lifted from an early issue of Vogue magazine, Gemini H's catalogue-esque illustrations depict stylish women walking through botanical gardens, as well as forest pathways drenched in the golden glow of a wistful sun. However, it's the style more just as much as the subject matter which evokes the aching sentimentality which comes with feeling nostalgic.
Explaining why she sticks to using colour pencils in an increasingly digital landscape, Gemini H says: "Using colour pencils allows me to keep track of the original sketch while adding colours to it. This sketch is the first act of materialisation of an idea; it's when my vision becomes a reality. It's important for me to keep this memory in the final artwork."
By working in colour pencil, Gemini H has cultivated what she describes as a "nostalgic aesthetic". It's an approach which also allows her to incorporate her fondness for old movies, antique furniture, and illustration from between 1900 and 1960. "But it's very important to me to use my vision, taste and personality as a 21st-century woman," she hastens to add. "So I'm bringing the elegance, the fashion of past decades into today's landscapes."
This focus on today's landscape is informed, in part, by Gemini H's absolute favourite artist, the French photographer Robert Doisneau. A huge part of the French cultural aesthetic, Doisneau made his name by taking pictures of things and places "where there was nothing to be seen."
"I believe everyone, regardless of the generation, can see herself/himself in one of his images," explains Gemini H, who has carried over his influence by depicting rural walkways that the viewer can easily superimpose themselves into.
These little moments, which on the face of it might be an incidental detail, lend themselves so well to Gemini H's work because she describes herself as naturally the kind of artist that is easily distracted by their surroundings. "I can't help staring at a sun ray gently shining on a flower after a big, rainy storm," she admits.
"A flower trying to find its way in an urban landscape will capture my attention. I get lost in my thoughts by looking at the steam rising from my morning cup of coffee. These moments inspire me to create artworks that have a very calming and meditative effect," she adds.
As for what makes Gemini H feel nostalgic, though, she finds this more difficult to pin down. "In a way, my childhood makes me nostalgic," she muses. "It was a time before there was a computer in every room or a smartphone in everyone's hands."
This tech-free childhood cultivated a sense of curiosity, where Gemini H could enjoy just being in the present without wondering what the next day would bring. During this time, she would spend her time excitedly counting butterflies in the garden and collecting feathers – a habit she still keeps up to this day.
"My workplace is filled with old illustrated magazine covers from the nineteenth century and old colourised postcards," adds Gemini H, who appears to be somewhat living in a nostalgic world. "I also like to dress in clothes inspired by the 1940s and 1950s. It feels fair to add a bit of myself to my drawings, and it's these personal items which also give my work a nostalgic feeling.
"Showcasing the beauty in the ordinary is my way of injecting some nostalgia into a world that is always trying to go faster and grow bigger."