UK-based illustrator and painter Camilla Perkins has a body of work that runs the gamut of subject matter. From portraits of anthropomorphic animals to sketches of picnic blankets covered in individually drawn foods, her attention to detail and exotic colour schemes are remarkable. But it is her vivid depiction of African life and its subcultures that really draw the eye.
From the dapperly dressed men of the Congo to the vibrant streets of Johannesburg’s Soweto township, Perkins uses bright colours and heavy patterns to bring these people and places to life. “I’ve always been attracted to the bright colours and organic shapes of African prints,” she explained to The Guardian. “They have the amazing ability to tell a story and to both look modern and ancient at the same time.”
The image that she says kicked off her transcontinental exploration was from a self-initiated series called Sapeurs, which depicts the eccentric sartorial choices of the members of the Congo’s Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes, or the Society of Tastemakers and Elegant People. Inspired by these sharp dressers from the Bakongo district of Brazzaville in Congo, who are addicted to all things sartorial, she built images that utilise a fashion editorial style to show off their garments.
Driven by what she sees as an underrepresentation of diverse ethnicities in illustration, Perkins’ illustrations have also sought to capture the vibrancy of African city life. In her ‘African Style’ series, created for London graphic arts festival Pick Me Up, her busy and bright drawings capture the attitude, street style and dynamism that can be found in African townships like Soweto, as well as other towns and cities across the continent.
Through bold colour and print combinations, Perkins’ renderings burst with life and energy. Featuring plenty of overlay and a distinct, handmade quality, her illustrations are an articulate translation of fascination with and passion for the world around her.