April 9, 2021

An obnoxious driver steals your parking lot, your tyrannical boss makes you work overtime yet again and you have exhausted your supply of pinot noir. If you are having a hell of a day, you can always count on Camilla Engström to lift your spirits. The self-taught Swedish-born artist is best known for her playful yet witty paintings, which feature the female form in all its naked glory. Another recurring motif in Engström’s work is nature, as she believes that learning how to appreciate it is the first step to saving the world. Lush meadows, undulating rivers and rolling hills are all deftly manipulated through hypnotic shapes and lines. 

Drawing on her intuition and feelings, Engström’s art exists in its own whimsical world; an authentic expression of personal style governed by happiness, wonderment, and intimate moments with her audience. “I want to destroy the myth that good art has to only come from emotionally tortured humans. It just feels so done and dated,” she says. Perhaps that’s what makes her so compelling—her synthesis of personal style and unapologetic expressionism is a breath of fresh air in a post-pandemic world.

High Net Worth: Who do you make art for?

Camilla Engström: I make art for myself and for the people who enjoy it! I don’t try to think about it too much as it can be a little overwhelming. 

How has the past year affected your artistic approach? Has hunkering down made working as an artist harder or easier?

The past year has changed me a lot. I’m more comfortable in myself than ever before. It’s been easier to work because of fewer distractions. The downside is that I can’t handle any added stress anymore because of the constant collective stress we all carry now.

When do your ideas come to you and what inspires you the most?

My ideas usually come when I’m well-rested and have had some time for myself. This usually happens in the morning. What inspires me the most is nature and the state it puts me in. 

Do you create art daily? I noticed you tried your hand at embroidery too. 

I do create almost daily unless I’m resting. I try to spice things up by embroidering or working with clay. I never feel like I’m patient enough with that medium though, so I always come back to painting. 

Do you have a particular work that resonates most with you?

I don’t really feel attached to any piece as I’m always changing and so does my work. Perhaps I (usually) resonate the most with the latest painting I’ve made. 

They say art is an expression of emotion; yours comes from a place of happiness. At the other end of the spectrum, we have tortured artists like Frida Kahlo, who often painted about her experience of chronic pain. Let’s say you were in a different state of mind, what kind of work would you create?

I’m definitely not always happy, but I try to feel at peace and accept every moment. Earlier in my life, I used painting as a way to vent my frustrations and that meant that a lot of my work looked rather chaotic. I don’t paint like that anymore because it’s not how I feel, and it’s not how I want the viewers to feel. 

As a self-taught artist, do you think it’s necessary for one to go through formal training in order to succeed or produce “good art”?

It’s definitely not necessary but it helps. Just like you can learn an instrument yourself,  it’s always easier to have a teacher to teach you the foundations. After that, only passion will move you forward as you try to improve a little almost every day.

On that note, what would you consider as “good art”?

That is so personal. For me, I always want to look at the intention behind the art and see how I feel about it. I want the work to make me feel happy, inspired, or excited. I feel the same way about music and movies. I love personal stories and the more I know about the artist behind them, the more excited I get. Heck, actually now, if a painting can make me feel all these ways without me even knowing anything about the artist, then I think they’ve succeeded in making “good art.” 

Do you think that you are now being seen and heard in the way you wanted to be?

People get such an edited version of me online and I think that’s important to remember. I spread joy because that’s what I want to give of myself. However, I am keen to share the more quirky aspects of myself, though I am not sure if I’m ready for that yet. 

When putting up an exhibition, what is your process of putting together a body of work like?

I try not to think of the exhibition itself which is probably dumb. I find it so overwhelming! The only way I can deal with it is by making one painting at a time and hoping for the best. 

Is the pink cartoon-like figure, Husa, your alter ego? You even have a Spotify playlist called “Dance with Husa”.

I created her a long time ago. I feel less connected to her now because I think she helped me express myself at a time when I didn’t know how to. Now I just love that she exists and I try to incorporate her into my work whenever it makes sense. 

Do your spontaneous dance routines on Instagram complement your artwork in any way? 

I’m a big introvert and casual human interactions exhaust me but I do have a very playful side. I think a lot of artists do. I’m so grateful to be able to create and live off my work every day so I try to reflect that in how I present myself.

How do you think social media is changing our experience with art?

I think it’s easier to discover new artists as well as buy art from emerging artists. I don’t have a degree, so I’m not sure how I would have been discovered if not for social media.

Image Credits: Over The Influence/Aaron Farley & Raymond Molinar