Joyful Folkloric Paintings from a Former Fashion Model

Camilla Engstrom left the fashion world to find her artistic voice and reclaim the female form.
May 13, 2017, 11:50am
All photos courtesy the artist and Deli Gallery, NYC

Years in the fashion world can alter one's perception of the female body, which is exactly what happened for Camilla Engstrom. After spending time as a model for J. Crew, Calvin Klein, and others, Engstrom grew tired of the way the industry catered to one type of female body, designing clothes and hiring women all based on only one trend in shape and weight. So Engstrom saved up enough money to quit modeling and left the fashion industry altogether for a life as an artist. Now she works full-time on textiles, illustrations, and paintings with recurring themes of nature, featuring a rotund female figure she calls Husa. Though she grew disenchanted with fashion and modeling, that experience still informs her work. "I think fashion is about reinventing and renewing yourself," she tells Creators, "and I feel that way about painting, too."

Engstrom's paintings are filled with bucolic narratives, often placing Husa in the foreground or scaled to the landscape. Patterns are a central feature to her work, filling otherwise solid blocks of color or backgrounds with rambunctious energy. Yayoi Kusama was an inspiration for these elements, but the creation of patterns is also a part of her creative process. "I enjoy the process of making work that relies on patterns," Engstrom explains. "The process is meditative, and I can empty my thoughts."

However, living and working in New York proves difficult, at times. "I live in Brooklyn, and I'm having a really hard time finding New York beautiful at the moment," she says. Her paintings are an escape. Their playful patterns and scenes allow her to lose herself in their creation. "My paintings help me travel to magical places without having to actually leave," she elaborates, attributing her folkloric style to a significant influence by Tove Jansson who created the famed Moomin children's books. Though she works in several mediums, she prefers painting above all and has garnered a successful career in just two short years as a full-time artist.

Find out more about Camilla Engstrom on her website.


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