In today’s world, most women feel like they are surrounded on all sides by the obligation to be beautiful, 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Strict societal rules and high expectations for women, unfortunately, have become the norm, and even young girls are feeling the impact. Of course, I think most of us can agree that such human behavior is not always a choice. Human behavior is often automatic and unintentional and rooted in the belief that others expect us to behave in a certain way, particularly when upholding traditions and culture. Even in situations where gender does not appear to be an issue, it has the potential to be so and must be considered.
French artist and illustrator Cécile Dormeau is using her art to confront and hopefully make a change in stereotypes that are central to evolving how both women and men should be able to perceive one another without judgment.
Bored Panda reached out to Cécile with some questions! First, we asked the artist if she had any major influences in her life that might've helped her to develop and refine her style.
"About my style influences, I've always been influenced by comics, it went to Claire Brétécher to Riad Sattouf, Marjane Satrapi, but also illustrators like Tomi Ungerer, Sempé... I've always been inspired by artists who were able to catch the little details of everyday life with humor. Claire Brétécher in particular always had a way to represent women as they are and I've been very influenced by her comic Agrippine. I also always loved how Nikki de Saint Phalle celebrated femininity in such a joyful and colorful way."
Art, in any kind of form, takes a lot of time not only to practice but also to produce, therefore we asked Dormeau how long it takes her to fully finish her illustrations.
"It takes me a few hours, sometimes less, but much more for my gifs as I'm not a professional animator! The process of finding the right idea takes me a bit more time, I'm writing everything I have on my mind when an idea comes, and sometimes I have to sort them to see which ones seem more interesting."
Being an artist is not easy, one can easily encounter a lack of inspiration, burnout, etc, so we wanted to ask Cécile about her ideas for the illustrations.
"My ideas come mostly from my everyday life. It can be about my feelings, something I read or heard in the street, something stupid my sister said. Most of the time, I like to talk about hidden details, or things that are not often so shared, like b**b wrinkles or having massive anxiety. As people tend to show a perfect version of their life on Instagram, I like to show that it's completely normal to not feel great all the time, or to have body 'imperfections' (imperfection with quote marks of course). We all face problems, and sometimes our lives don't fit what society expects from us. There is not only one way to be or live your life. I like to celebrate imperfection and try to be as authentic as I can."
As we mentioned before, sometimes creative work can cause quite a burnout, therefore we asked the artist how she dealt with that as well.
"Actually, yes! I did a video that will go out in September to speak about creative block. After accumulating professional creative projects that weren't so stimulating, Instagram pressure (to post all the time and have likes all the time), I actually lost inspiration last year. You add it to the pandemic climate, and I was just unable to create anymore, I felt empty. But I realize now that this is how life works: in cycles. There will be a period of time where you will be super creative, and after a while not being able to create anything. You just have to embrace it, rest, take care of yourself and it will come back!"
We also asked Cécile about how people reacted to her work.
"I'm lucky because most of the time, people are lovely and laugh at my work, saying that they really feel identified and that it cheers them up to see that 'they're not alone.' I sometimes had people in the past saying that my women are disgusting and that I promote unhealthy standards, but it's really rare as people following me know that I just want to show body diversity and show women as they are. I will sometimes have negative comments, people criticizing my illustrations saying it's offensive, and I still have issues sometimes not letting it affect me, I recognize sometimes that maybe I've been clumsy! But I know that it seems normal at the end to receive more critics when you're making a drawing about street harassment than drawing flowers, for example."
The creative process is not easy, but there are many enjoyable parts to it.
"I guess it's all about finding the right idea! When I see that I've found an idea that I find funny (I'm laughing at my own jokes, don't judge me), and that I've found the easiest way to represent it: it has to be striking at a glance, this is the most satisfying part for me."
We also asked about the inspiration behind the artist's Instagram account.
"I was unemployed and struggling to find a job, so I started to do illustrations and shared it on Tumblr, then on an Instagram account. The Instagram account was a way for me to keep me productive. At the beginning, I was posting a drawing per day, no matter what and that really helped me to develop my style and ideas, and to keep it as a daily practice."
Digital art and art, in general, is not easy and requires a lot of patience, time, resources, and in most cases even money, therefore we wanted to know how the talented illustrator started her own career in digital art.
"I was working in an advertising agency before, and my illustrations were more of a vector style, and I hated my job so I came back to a drawing with black outlines and less static. I guess as an artist you always explore different kind of forms in your art to keep yourself inspired and not go crazy from doing the same thing over and over. I sometimes give up my iPad to come back to painting or felt pens, or experiment with clay and writing."
Artists tend to get motivated by a lot of things such as curiosity, the search for beauty, or even meaning. Therefore, we asked Dormeau about that too.
"I guess I try to focus more on the meaning. I like my illustrations to be like a virtual hug, to say 'it's ok.' As I said before, I really value this idea of 'you're not alone,' and to me, if people can recognize themselves and laugh about it, I'm happy!"