Interview with Virginie Cognet: on drawing, plants and inspiration.

May 25, 2020

Interview with Virginie Cognet: on drawing, plants and inspiration.

Virginie Cognet was born in Lyon and lives in the South-West of France.
She started her career as a fashion designer and she also worked as an art director before becoming a self-taught illustrator.
Virginie likes to express her feelings and her sensations throughout her illustrations. She strives to capture the feel of freedom when dancing, the sense of cooling off after walking in the woods, the excitement when finding a good book, or the delight of the first signs of spring appearing.
Her paintings, which are mostly done with gouache paint, are her remedy against melancholy.
She has worked in various fields, such as women’s magazines, children’s books, public relations, children’s fashion, stationery and the list goes on.


How was your childhood? Where did you grow up?

I grew up in the countryside, about 15 km. away from Lyon, France. I remember having spent a lot of time outdoors, in my garden or my neighbor's. Our house was in a subdivision and there were lots of children living close to one another. Thus, we spent a lot of time together, playing soccer, baseball, and doge ball in huge green spaces. The older children would sometimes read us a story. Then at the age of ten, I was seized by a passion for horseback riding and whenever I had time, I'd spend it on my new hobby.

virginie cognet toi art gallery prints


You started your career as a fashion designer, for how long did you work on that and how does fashion inspire your drawings?

First I worked as a fashion designer for five years, then I was a style coordinator for eight years and after that I worked two years as and innovation manager. 

I haven't kept much from these experiences, I feel as if I kind of left them behind. I don't feel inspired by the fashion field, on the contrary, I try to create something that is timeless, without following a specific trend. I ‘m still working to create it, that's what I'm tending towards in my work.

The feminine presence is a constant in your work, is there a particular reason for that?

Generally, I paint what is on my mind. It is quite unusual for me to do some research to find inspiration.

It is true that the feminine presence can often be found in my work; it is a subject that interests me a lot - the place of woman in society, their courage and their strength, their determination and also women's solidarity.

It's quite naturally that women are at the heart of my work, as a way to pay a tribute to women.

How do use colors?

This is a tricky question. If there is one thing that I am not fully proud of in my work, it is color. I dream of finding the right range of colors with I will feel comfortable in a long-term. What I can say is that I often start with a flat shade, and then I start playing with contrasts. I am actually very inspired by the colors of the 50's. I keep my fingers crossed and hope that it will continue to work with this color palette.

Do you have a particular style?

It is a difficult question.

I always try to remove the unnecessary things and keep focused on the principal element of my composition. I am also fond of patterns and of movements (of the body, plants and birds). One could say that my style is “clean” and very fond of plants. 

virginie cognet toi art gallery prints

How is your work routine?

In the morning, I normally start by looking at my emails and try to answer the most urgent requests, and as soon as I can, I start to paint. I nearly do not take any breaks during the day - only 15 minutes for lunch. And I can easily work during 10 hours. But on weekends I try to disconnect, except if I have an important assignment.


How’s your work place like?

My office is in my apartment, up in the attic. There is a long wooden board on which you'll find my computer, my scanner, my paint and my brushes. There is also a printer and huge shelves to store all my supplies, for I've set up a whole set of stationery. Finally, there is a sofa bed for friends and family. Fortunately the room is quite big.

virginie cognet toi art gallery

virginie cognet toi art gallery 

virginie cognet toi art gallery prints

What/who inspires your art?

My environment is my principal source of inspiration; 

I also am very interested in other artists' works, such as Matisse, Picasso, Frida Kahlo, David Hockney, Peter Doig. What I admire the most is their freedom of expression - that they dare to follow unknown paths.

Garden with Blue Terrace | David Hockney (David Hockney)


What are your reading?

I’m reading  "Coeur cousu" (The Threads of the Heart) by Caroline Martinez. It is a book that I appreciate for its poetry, its imagination and its magic. I am captivated and highly recommend it.

The Threads of the Heart

How does quarantine affects your work?

At the start of the lockdown, I felt totally depressed. Some of the projects I was supposed to work on were cancelled. Fortunately, the situation evolved rapidly. 

What really changed was not to work alone anymore. My sweetheart worked from home, which gave me the opportunity to take more breaks during the day.

virginie cognet toi art gallery

Where is home?

For the moment, I live in an apartment in Saintes, a small city in the South-West of France.

virginie cognet toi art gallery

What are your plans for the future?

We're actually looking for a house; I am really impatient about it. I would love to set up my studio with a huge glass wall overlooking at the garden. 


Virginie’s work is part of Toi’s Botanical and Wildlife collection, explore her gorgeous prints. Do you want to learn more about Toi's artists? click here for an interview with Michaël Cailloux.

Karina Miller

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