Coffee With... Bordeaux-based Artist Nina Deswarte

The artworks of Bordeaux, France-based artist Nina Deswarte are exuberantly colorful and perspective-shattering. The artist, who connected with me via Instagram, uses her experience in interior design, architecture,  graphic design, and her vivid memories of landscapes half a world away to conjure her oil pastel drawings. The artworks are liberated - about as far away from the rigors of the perfect lines of architecture as you can get.

I sat down with a cup of Starbuck's Pike Place roast brewed here in my Highland Park kitchen to interview the artist. I asked her about her unique style, the role of color in art and life, and just how exactly social media has been a game-changer for her art.

 Artist Nina Deswarte

Artist Nina Deswarte

What is your favorite cafe in Bordeaux? What do you love about it?

“Kitchen Garden” is my favourite coffee shop in Bordeaux, I also love to eat there. The coffee is delicious, the waiters are always very nice and alive, and above all I love the interior design: brick walls painted in white with hundreds of frames illustrating plants, gardens, vegetables and birds. The architecture consists of those brick walls and large windows opposite them, the sun brings a great source of light and comfort. A charming warm feeling also comes from all the wooden tables. Talking about the design, I am particularly fond of all the very small vases with lovely dried and colorful flowers. They serve the coffee with a glass of water with two slices of cucumber in it, which give you a great kick with a fresh touch at the end!

 Kitchen Garden via  @pops_legras   

Kitchen Garden via @pops_legras

Do you have a favorite place in Bordeaux where you like to draw?

My favourite place to draw is my own kitchen. A lot of light comes from the left, in direction of our formica table where I usually produce my artworks. It is quite intimate and since a very young age I have always worked or painted in the kitchen, the heart of a house.

 Deswarte's oil pastels on display

Deswarte's oil pastels on display

What inspired you to become an artist?

When I was a child, I remember loving illustrating the poetry from my school notebook. Looking for a color or a shape to match an emotion or a word fascinated me.

I began art courses when I was five years old I think. I learned about colors with oil painting from the start. My teacher, Fabienne, made us paint mixing colors with complete liberty. We did not have to think about a subject to draw or the quality of a line - it was based on improvisation, like in a theater course. Parallel to that, my parents would take me and my two brothers to the Parisian galleries and museums, which were a source of inspiration.

When I was sixteen years old, I began an intense three year course in History of Art, which captivated me. I then integrated a five year Applied Art Course at “ENSAAMA Olivier de Serres” in Paris, where I studied interior design, graphic design, architecture and art. Art was always part of my life. My professor Fabienne is, I think, the one who opened all the doors when I was still a child. She set me free.

Artist Interviews STRUKTR studios
Nina Deswarte French Artist Interview

How would you describe your style?

I would say Expressionism. My inspiration comes from the beginning of the 20th century: Impressionism, Brutalism, Naive Art, German Expressionism and Fauvism.

I am strongly influenced by Paul Klee, Henri Matisse, Paul Gauguin, Raoul Duffy, Amadeo Modigliani, André Derain, Chaïm Soutine, Emil Nodle, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Edgar Degas and Marc Chagall. All very impactful and powerful artists.

I also draw inspiration from Zimbabwe's figurative stone sculptures, the incredible forms of Cape Town landscapes in South Africa, the banks of the Zambezi River, and its wildlife. In my opinion, traveling is the key to keeping a fresh eye on the world and bringing new things to one's own creation through the discovery of unknown cultures, different forms of art and communities. The vibrant colors of Lisbon will remain in my soul as much as the Victoria Falls sunsets.

What role does color play in your work? In your life?

Color plays the main role in my production. The lines or the subjects are secondary.

When I am in front a white page, I start taking the first color, scratch the paper, then grab a second color, then a third until the shape of a subject appears. 

In my life, color also plays a major role. Most things that I have is in relation to its color and the harmony it can bring into my house, on a shelf, on a wall, on the floor, anywhere. Colors also guided all my architectural projects during my studies and while I was an interior designer. I consider Pierre Bonnefille as my mentor, I had the chance to work in his studio in Paris where he showed me how to process colors, how to see colors, and how to integrate colors in a piece of architecture.

Color is everywhere, it is the most universal poetry.

Nina Deswarte Artist

Much of your work focuses on scenes of home life and also the human body. What makes you passionate about those subjects?

I am passionate about architecture and design and I worked in the industry for years, which strongly influences my art. I often idealize homes and take pleasure in breaking rules of perspective. Houses are the perfect items to do so. I like the fact that the power of colors can win against the laws of construction.

Houses are created by the people and for the people. Design is conceived to fit them, their body, their habits. We dialogue with nature and with these objects. I often invite women and men in my sketchbooks. My characters expose emotions; they smile, they sing happily, they love, they wonder. The lack of plans or details in my drawings leaves room for our imagination.

In what ways has social media helped you share you art with the world?

Social media boosted my motivation and my creativity. Since July 2017, I have done more than 250 drawings - the most prolific period of my life so far. Getting feedback from people from all over the world is magical and I feel lucky to be able to share my art. I am starting 2018 with the same enthusiasm!


// All images courtesy of Nina Deswarte unless otherwise noted