Raphaël Vavasseur’s unique cat paintings captured my attention on Facebook, and I wanted to learn more about this talented artist, and where his inspiration for these stunningly gorgeous paintings comes from. I’m delighted to introduce you to Raphaël and his art today. Raphaël Vavasseur spent the first 25 years of his life in Paris, France, where he also went to graphic design and art school. He eventually interrupted his studies and focused on creating and becoming self-taught in both computer graphics and painting. Feeling a need for nature and more space, he moved to the countryside of Normandy. The tranquility and fresh air of this bucolic region of France promote his creativity. “I use the internet to disseminate my work,” says Raphaël. “I try to create affordable original art. This is very important to me because I come from a poor family. I want my art to be available to everyone; it is not elitist.” Raphaël graciously took the time to answer some of my questions.
When did you first realize you were an artist?
I have always been drawing, but I think I discovered my talent when I was about seven years old. When I was about 13, I had a great teacher who helped me develop a vision of creation. Mademoiselle Herfray’s classes were always very interesting, and she taught me some artistic sensitivity. My themes began to appear in my art by the time I was 20. Cats have always been a passion for me, and they emerged as a central theme of my work.
Your style of painting is very unique. How did you develop this style?
Thank you very much! My style is strongly inspired by comics and illustrations. Moebius and Bilal, two incredibly talented French artists, influenced me a lot. They also frequently drew cats. Both have said that cats are a very inspiring subject for artists. I try to to create a contemporary style with emotional power. I want people who see my paintings have a strong emotional reaction. We are bombarded with so many images every day, so I have to make a difference. (Ingrid’s note: Of all of Rafaël’s paintings that I’ve seen, the one pictured below, titled “Cat City Lights,” had the strongest emotional impact on me.)
What inspired you to paint cats?
My first cat’s name was “Cookies” and he was my first model. He died very old, when he was about 20. Cookies was a marmalade cat. I also like black cats very much, it is a recurring character in my more mystic paintings. I use marmalade cat when I want to convey a softer emotion. I also explore the relationship between human and cat, their interaction and their complicity. This style is the most recent I created and it is very very well received by my fans. In the cat there are so many themes to use : their natural grace and their expressions are an unlimited source of inspiration. In my next paintings I am going to create a new cat attached to the universe of the sea coasts like we can find in Normandy and Brittany.
Do you have cats of your own? Please tell us a little about them.
I have three cats : Kitcha, a tortoiseshell 13-year-old mom cat who gave birth to her marmalade son Doudou, now 11, at my home. We found 7-year-old Cocotte in our garden. They are models for all of my cats paintings. Kitcha is the model for my black cats because she is quiet and reflective. She always seems to wait for something that we do not know, this is her secret. Doudou is an affectionate, very expressive cat. He is my model for paintings of more emotional cats. (Doudou trained himself to pee in the toilet – it is rather incredible!) Cocotte is all energy! She is still a bit wild. She runs, jumps, and is not afraid of nature. Rain or snow, she always goes outside. She doesn’t like strangers, she’s a bit of a fearful soft tiger.
You don’t just paint cats, you also paint other subjects. What is more challenging – capturing cats, or capturing other images?
At this time I paint more cats than others subjects, but frequently, the cats are in a context with other subjects. Painting cats is rather easy for me because I know them so well, but I want to open myself to some new themes and diversify my subjects. Creating a new subject is challenging, but at the same time, exploring new universes through painting is exciting.
What is your creative process like?
I paint with acrylic paints on stretched canvas on a wood frame. Often I find my ideas when I’m taking a shower, or waking up in the morning. I start by sketching my idea on the canvas with pencil before painting. I also have a process of creativity: I put some keywords in a corner of my spirit, and after several days an image appears. This kind of preparation is important: it prevents me from having to stand in front of a white canvas without any ideas. I always need an idea before beginning.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I am very involved in the creation of my paintings, thus I always think of my next painting. I work in front of the window with view of nature. Birds come to see me since I put birdseed out. Time doesn’t really exist during the creation of a painting; the process is very close to meditation.