A Little Gay Interview With Camille Lema


Camille Lema (They/Them)

Trading Portland for Austin, Camille Lema is a queer creator and muralist bringing indigenous art to life with watercolors and workshops. Their work blends the boundaries found in painting the feminine form with both a masculine and feminine lens.

Their work embraces its potential to trigger emotional responses, and Camille continues to see to bringing bolder colors to our community.

Join us as we interview Camille on how they found their way to being a creator, how their queerness influences their work, and their advice for future queer artists.

Q: How long have you been creating?
A: Since I was a child. Art has always been an interest of mine for as long as I can remember.
Q: What's your earliest memory of creating?
A: My mother was a tattoo artist working in her own studio when I was around 5 years old. As a single mother, she had to bring me with her most places, even work at times. The front room was her work space and the back room was my "play room". There wasn't much in there except some toys, a little plastic desk and a chair. This was the first time I really felt like I had my own creative studio to "work" in. I spent a lot of time drawing with crayons and markers here. It made me feel like a real artist.

Q: What's something people don't know about you?
A: I am a retired sex-worker.
Q: Who was your first queer crush?
A: I've had so many gay awakenings in my life! I did really love Shirley Manson from Garbage
Q: As you started to realize your queerness, how did the view you had for your future change?
A: Like many queer individuals, I was so afraid of coming out and never used the word "queer" in my vocabulary. It wasn't until I was 26 years old that I finally accepted that this is who I am and was able to bravely come out to my family and to myself. My loved ones gave me so much support and love which made this a lot easier. It wasn't their opinions that I was afraid of. It was this deep-rooted shame and guilt I carried that scared me most and prevented me from being my true self. It took a lot of therapy and healing from past trauma to get over this hill, but it was worth it. We are able to move more freely when we release the emotional weight that holds us down.
Q: How did coming out impact your creative process and output?
A: My horizons expanded and I could think more clearly on the type of work I wanted to create and the messages I wanted to spread. There was no shame in creating work that made people uncomfortable. Some of my pieces can be very confronting and may even trigger certain emotions in those who look at it. Overall, I am more at peace with myself and I believe my work holds that same peace.
Q: How does being queer inform your art? 
A: My queer identity tends to place itself in my work by revealing so many ways of living that we humans do. Of course, there are reflections of my own preferences when it comes to love, but I do incorporate other queer stories into my work as well. I do identify as being a woman, but I also identify as just being human without regards to gender. Being gender fluid my whole life had never been easy nor did I have the language or knowledge to understand this huge part of myself. So, when I paint female figures, I am sharing my feminine side as well as my masculine side. For me, there is a balance of both.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you've faced so far?
 A: Finding any sort of financial stability while making my art. It's taken years to find the balance needed to sustain income and not hate what I do for a living. When I finally made that leap into full time artist work and teaching, I quickly needed to adjust in order to pay my bills. You eventually find your rhythm as long as you are consistent with your work.
Q: How important is community in the art and creator profession?
A: You can only get so far on your own. Your community is where you find your support system. It's where you will keep a creative flow. Community teaches us to give back and keep each other strong. Without that, it is truly a lonely life.

Q: What inspires you?
A: People around the world inspire me. Different cultures and music too. I love observing what others are doing creatively. As an art teacher, I am always inspired by children's story books. The artwork in a book will capture my attention first before fully reading it. I'm a very visual person!
Q: How do you know your work is ready?
A: My work has a way of telling me when it is complete. It's a tug on my heart and the feeling of satisfaction when you have arrived at the end of your journey. Once I have written my signature onto a piece, I do not feel the need to continue working on it.
Q: How has being openly queer positively impacted your life? 
A: "The world of the heterosexual is a sick and boring life" -Edith Massey in "Female Trouble". I have an open mind and an open heart. My queerness has helped me see the world through a much colorful lens. It has gifted me with beautiful friends and lovers. I am so proud to be queer!
Q: What would you like the future of the queer art community to look like? Or to represent?
A: I would like to see more representation of different walks of life as well as more people of color. The queer art community needs to be as colorful as our flag.

Favorite color or pattern?
A: I do love warm tones. Botanical patterns are rad too.
Q: What advice do you have for young queer people starting to realize their creative potential? 
A: Find your community first. Go out and see what like-minded people are doing and connect with them. This will seriously spark inspiration and new ideas. You may also run into some great opportunities even if they are small. Create the work when it comes to mind. You may not like everything you make, but it's a good habit to get the practice in and shape your style.
Q: What advice do you have for someone who's starting their creative journey?
A: Learn from your failures. Try new things and find what works for you and what doesn't work. Ask questions and be curious. It's important to learn from those who have more experience than you. Don't let fear hold you back from progressing in your career. Sometimes, we have to take risks in order to level up.

  You can see more of Camille's work and support their artistry by visiting their site at: www.artbycslema.com