Québec City-born, Oslo based illustrator Isabelle Feliu creates works that are as painterly as they are opulent, in a tropical colour palette that is influenced by her mother’s Honduran heritage and her love for Latin culture. There is an understated elegance and intrigue to the characters she depicts, stylish women who wear classic bathing suits and oversized jewellery amid palm trees. They exude a quiet confidence, existing in their own privately fashionable oasis. With some well-circulated works and impressive commissions up her sleeve, Isabelle’s vibrant aesthetic is in high-demand. We caught up with the illustrator to learn more about her life and art practice.
Can you share with us a bit about your journey to becoming a freelance illustrator?
I have always enjoyed drawing, but it never crossed my mind that I could become an illustrator until I moved to Norway a few years ago. Since I didn’t speak the language, it was pretty hard for me to find work and I had always wanted to do something of my own anyway. I had a lot of free time and so I just started to draw and paint a lot, posting my paintings on social media. It took some time but eventually, I started getting some clients.
What can you share with us about your upbringing? How do you think this informs your work?
Growing up in French Canada and having a Honduran mother, I was lucky enough to grow up in a very multicultural environment which is something I have always cherished. I think my parents really value experiences above material things and we took a lot of wonderful family trips around the world. Every summer was a new adventure. I think it has taught me to embrace change and not be too afraid of the unknown, which I think is important when you go freelance. I also think my travels are a big part of who I am and by extension an important theme in my work.
What are some of your favourite travel destinations?
It is really hard to say! There are so many places I haven’t visited yet and I try not to have favourites. I went to Marrakech last year and I found it to be a very special place. I was very inspired by the souks, riads and the Majorelle gardens. I am dreaming of going back there with more time to sketch.
Can you tell us about the strong Honduran influences on your work?
I am quite nostalgic about Honduras. I have never lived there long term, but all my memories of visiting it are beautiful ones. Not only because of my family there but also because of the feeling of adventure; the jungles, the Mayan ruins, the isolated islands, as well as the food and the warm culture. I find myself daydreaming about these thing a lot and so it is a well of inspiration for me.
What do you like about living in Oslo?
I like the Akerselva river and the proximity to the Oslo Fjord. There are so many beautiful spots to bathe in the summer and the long days during the summer are also magical.
Can you tell us about any of the projects you are working on at the moment?
I am currently working on a project for a Saint-Barthélemy Hotel called Manapany. The idea is to depict the everyday life at the hotel in a series of illustrations that are shared every month on social media until the hotels reopening in March. Aside from that, I am also working on other small projects, but I am mainly trying to concentrate on personal work.
How do you like to work?
I work alone and from home which can be sometimes quite lonely. I usually like to have a TV show, music or podcasts in the background when I paint. However, I recently started to challenge myself to work in silence. It was hard at the beginning because, as I said it can feel very lonely, but after a while, I have found that it helps me to be more focused and efficient. I have always been easily distracted and I feel like working in silence helps me go more deeply into my work. I think it also helps me to be less stressed in general.
What are some of the resources you currently look to for inspiration?
I use social media a lot. Especially Pinterest to catalogue all my inspiration pictures and I always go back to them before starting a new illustration. I also use the Vogue runway app, on which I religiously look at fashion shows, trying to find some looks I would like to illustrate in my personal work. In general, I also try to be attentive to what is around me and try to consider everything as a potential source of inspiration.
How would you describe your personal style?
I would say it is simple, feminine and playful
In a few words, what are you currently…
Reading: The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain de Botton
Listening to: Natalia Lafourcade, Musas
Watching: Stranger Things
Planning: My next trip to Canada in December
Considering: A trip somewhere warm in February
Learning about: Animation
Credits: Isabelle Feliu