Interview with artist Camille Thomas

The first time I met Camille she was walking towards me with her bike up a Melbourne laneway on one of the first days of spring wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with "Matisse's Carrots Dancing Club" on the front. She was a warm person from the first hand shake and as we began walking towards 'Little Rogue Cafe' on Drewery Lane, it felt as if we had been friends for years. 

Camille Thomas is a first year art student at RMIT, her Instagram is a gallery of her work that includes scaled sketch drawings and selfies. With an Instagram icon of Lee Lee Chin surrounded by love hearts, it's obvious this girl has style and humour interwoven perfectly. I chatted to Camille over coffee about her art and what it means to be a woman in 2016. 

On your Instagram you have pictures of you pencil sketches, wall murals and crocheting. Do you have a favourite medium you like to create with? 

Yeah, I really love drawing. Drawing's my favourite thing to do, especially at the moment. I’ve gotten really into refining my work. It’s kind of a new style for me, I started doing work like this a year ago. Small scale drawing is something I’m so passionate about. I do a lot of other work, I do installation and sculpture work but I would definitely say I love drawing the most. 

Your art contains themes of sexuality and femininity. What inspired you to explore these themes?

I guess myself. I like Rookie, the way that makes you feel really powerful. I got into feminism in Year 9, I read a book that was really cool and they talked about Germaine Greer, that was a really good stepping stone and then tying it in again with how I’ve dealt with my feelings of love and body acceptance, especially with body acceptance, that’s a very new thing and it’s all just very important to me, all of that stuff. I’m an only child and I’m alone a lot of the time and have time to think about who I am. For me, it exists within being a woman and being female.

I do like to specify that what I explore in my work is my female experience it is not everyone's and I would hate for someone to think it was everyone’s and say “Oh well she’s not inclusive!” I’m just trying to talk about myself and sexuality and I think that's really important. I’ve always been pro sex and pro sex education and I guess it's just something I feel we’re not told. We're not told its okay to be a sexual being and to like sex or feel sexy for yourself. That kind of stuff is really important and feeling sexy doesn’t have to be a stock standard image of you in a red corset and garters. It can be whatever you feel, as long as you’re feeling yourself that’s all that matters.

Where do you gain inspiration from?

Myself… sometimes I think I’m the most selfish person ever! (Laughs) But so much of my work comes out of my experiences with being alone and not in a relationship. I’ve only been in one relationship ever and it wasn’t a very good one and I’ve liked a lot of people since then and it has seemed that none of them have wanted to be with me. So that’s something I’ve dealt with a lot in my work. Being alone and comfortable with that and what it feels like to feel all these things for someone and not necessarily have them feel it back…

I do a lot of writing that isn’t so much seen in my work because I feel like the way the writing would have to be presented would have to be in a show, which I’m not ready for yet. I do a lot of writing in terms of writing down my thoughts at the moment. I split up with this person that I was seeing and I do this thing where I write down post it notes of things I want to say to them. Little notes, poems, general thoughts, all these things that make it feel okay without going crazy because there is that whole stereotype of women that are obsessed with men and that are crazy and I'm saying we’re not! 

Working towards a place where I felt fine, getting to a place where I knew that this was a safe space to make my work in and not something I had to fear or feel bad about.

I'm inspired by my own experiences and other artists. Female artists as a whole I’m a big fan of. I don’t ignore male artists, I mean, they have their times but within my practice it’s interesting to look at female artists and how they’ve responded to themes, and how they’re similar to my own work.

I take inspiration from my friends, I take a lot of Melbourne artists like Frances Cannon, Pru Stent, Bethan Mooney and Isabella Connelley. I just want to be surrounded by nice lady artists! 

Have you faced any challenges in the art world so far?

When I do street art, people don’t think you know anything or know how to do anything because you’re a girl. Girls paint differently and are criticised for that and it makes me feel insecure to be in such a male dominated area because I always second guess myself when I’m painting. It’s a constant thing and yes I know there are people who are supportive and lovely but it's still something I feel inside and then in the art I focus more on,  I haven't had a lot of criticism thus far. Only because I only really speak to female teachers and there aren’t a lot of boys in my class and the ones who are think Im pretty cool. (Laughs)

I know another girl in my class, she paints her own nude selfies, she got called out in class but by other women. They were like “You're applying the male gaze!” And that was so rude, they were sexualising her body and they were third years! They didn’t need to pick on her.

In general, if you ever bring up the ‘female card’ with any male artists they’ll just be like, “Don’t bring this up!” And I’m like “Okay but it’s a thing!”

I try to surround myself with lots of positive people, I do have a fear at the moment that people are going to report my drawings. It’s all drawings of my body because I’m working on self acceptance stuff and I am worried that people will freak out because that's what happens but so far, everyone seems to be liking it at the moment and I try to stay away from people who I feel aren’t going to help me. 

How important do you think Instagram is to your art and the art world?

I’m so glad you asked this question! Instagram is the most important! It’s the best! It’s how you get your name out there, you wouldn’t have found me without it and it suggests you to people and the more likes you get, the more people will see you, it’s a lovely place to share things without feeling too self conscious. You can be whoever you want to be. It’s my brand and I’m creating a brand that has to match and when my page is curated people are like “Oooh she has her life together!” and I’m like, “I don’t have my life together! But at least I’m curated!” (Laughs) I don’t think it’s a vain thing or a fake thing to be, I mean, we’re living in the 21st Century. The Internet has been such an amazing place for so many young people. Rookie came out of it, Tumblr came out of it and now it’s Instagram and everyone's loving each other and DMing each other and that’s what matters! That’s how I find the female artists I like. If I find someone on the Internet I’ll follow them on Instagram so I can keep tabs. It’s a great community to find other women and collectives and all of that great stuff.

What’s your favourite thing about being a woman in 2016?

Getting to be myself, that’s a nice thing. Sometimes I don’t identify with all women as a whole, not that I don’t love all women as a whole. I like wearing pants and don’t wear make up often, I like that I'm able to be this very casual girl who rides my bike everywhere and is constantly sweaty and is always wearing T-shirts and that’s fine and I feel fine. Because for so long I had to be this other person that was not me, at all, so it’s so nice to be at a place now where people can be themselves and express who they are and express all that they are feeling. It’s also a really great time for people other such as transgender people… This is a better time, not the best, it will get better, but it is a great time to be able to say those things and it's a great thing for most women to accept transgender women into the community, we should be like “Come on, we’re all women, let’s get in here and have a hug and bathe in pink!” I’m outwardly very casual but on the inside I am pure baby pink. Just glitter and pink throughout my veins.

Another thing I love about being a woman in 2016 is women supporting other women. I aim to support all of my friends and all of their decisions, all of the time, whether they’re male or female, but specifically women, just supporting everyone and everyone’s like, “Yeah you do you!” and that’s just the best. I feel so supported and loved and it’s so nice. 

If you could brunch with any three people, who would they be?

Ah no! Such a hard question!! This is more of a trendy brunch

·      Rihanna

·      Tavi Gevinson (She’s so cool)

·      Amandla Stenberg

I think they’d be my three, a girls brunch, they’re all stylish women and I can be a stylish woman and we can all eat brunch and talk about the world. 

You can follow Camille and her bright future here.

Jasmine Wallis