Meet the Maker: Illustrator Camille Shu

Meet the Maker: Illustrator Camille Shu

We teamed up with Portland-based artist Camille Shu to develop the Tulip print featured throughout key styles in our Spring ‘20 collection. If you’ve ever been to our flagship store in Portland, OR you might recognize Camille as the artist behind the Mt. Hood Mural that graces the space! Read more about Camille, her creative process and her inspiration for the Tulip print below. 


 Camille is wearing Sylvan Dots + the Gladstone in Ochre.

Tell us more about your path towards creativity. Were you always making as a child? Have you been an artist and maker by trade always or have you switched career paths?

I was ALWAYS making as a child, as a teen, and now as an adult. There was never a clear moment that started me on my path as an artist, it’s just been what I do since.. forever. When I applied to college, although I had always received tons of support from my teachers and community, the main narrative was still “what would you do with an art degree?” There seemed to be very little faith in art as a career, so I hesitantly went towards botany and  environmental studies when I started my undergrad degree. 

After one semester it felt wrong to ignore the thing that I was both passionate about and really skilled at, so I switched to an art degree after all. My entire life has been driven by the desire to do art, for fun but mainly as a career. After college, I spent six years working towards doing art and illustration full time and when I reached that goal something unexpected happened - I didn’t like it! Not to say I didn’t like art anymore, but I found that the realities of being a self employed artist are not what I want for myself as a job. The financial ups and downs, the loneliness of working by myself in a room all day, the constant self-promotion - it was too much! My happiness and mental health were suffering, so I decided to go back to school for landscape design, which I see as a perfect match of my artistic skills and my absolute obsession with plants (I’ve almost always maintained part-time jobs in the plant world, florist, farmer, etc.). I never thought I’d go back to school, but it’s been such a great shift for me. I still do art, just much more part time focusing on murals, a few commercial projects, and online print sales. I’m much happier now. 


You grew up in Seattle, but currently reside in Portland, OR. What do you love so much about the Pacific Northwest? What makes Portland home for you?

I love the green, the seasons, the gardens, the plants, the mountains, the water, the people. I love that my family is here. I definitely get a major case of the SAD’s in the winter, but one of my career goals is to be financially stable enough so that I can always go on at least one sunny trip every winter. Being able to do that makes it tolerable. 

You tend to use bold, vibrant colors in your paintings and murals and feature equally vibrant subjects such as flora, fruits, and mountain-scapes. Where do you draw your inspiration?

My inspiration comes from my surroundings and the seasons. I’ve always been obsessed with plants - my mom is an amazing gardener and shares that obsession, so I grew up in the garden with her exploring. The seasonal changes here provide constant muse-material and I always have my eye on what’s popping up around us - whether it’s in my garden, my neighbor’s garden, or the farmers market. Most of my fruit paintings happened because I was eating that specific fruit that’s in season and I just couldn’t contain my excitement about the colors and the pure magic that is THAT fruit. Same goes for flowers, I am truly amazed when I look at flowers like how does something that cool exist?? 


In addition to your bold, colorful pieces you also create with ink as your medium. What is your process like to determine what type of medium you want to use? Do you have a favorite? 

For my colorful paintings I actually strictly use gouache. Nothing else! It can act like acrylic and watercolor combined, and I really don’t want to use anything else– I love it. I do some work in black and white, which is when I use pen. I just like bouncing between the two styles, to keep things interesting. 

What type of experience do you hope viewers will have when they see one of your murals or illustrations?

I try to bring color into people's lives. Especially in the winters here, we need more color! So I hope to give people a burst of energy when they look at the colorful work that I have painted. 
Like being in Mexico with all the colorful painted houses, the happiness that that brings. I want to do that with my paintings. 


You’ve collaborated with Bridge & Burn in the past. We love your mural of Mt. Hood in our Flagship Portland store! What do you love most about collaborating with other Portland businesses and markers?

I love the sense of community that Portland businesses and makers can support. Like I said before, the loneliness aspect of being a self-employed artist is rough for me, so any time I get to work with other people I’m excited. And when we work together not just once, but multiple times, it makes me feel like I have a little Portland family that supports me. 


Tell us more about the inspiration behind the Tulip print you developed as part of our Spring ‘20 collection. 

Literally just inspired by spring tulips that were popping up at the time! We worked together to figure out the color palette, and then I just went for it. 

How did it feel seeing your illustration come to life as a garment for the first time? Is there a specific piece you are most excited about?

So fun!! I always have people saying they want to see my stuff on clothes so here we go. I want to do more!

What do you love most about your work?

That it’s a celebration of the beautiful things that are around us. It’s a simple cause, just bringing attention to our surroundings so that we can appreciate where we are and feel that much more content with our place in the world. 


Learn more about Camille on her website or follow her on Instagram.

Shop the Tulip print collection in the Dolores Tulip Print Dress, Greer Tulip Print Blouse or Harbor Short-Sleeve Button Up.