By Elizabeth Sturgeon
Photos by Mary Fehr
Each of Camilla Moss’s illustrations comes to life like a charming corner of a storybook. Her botanicals fall carefully like patterned Chinoiserie wallpaper, and her landscapes settle a quiet moment on the marshy water. The homes she paints live and breathe in bright color with families gathered inside.
Just a few years ago, these illustrated moments were far from Camilla’s day-to-day normal though. She found herself knee-deep in spreadsheets as a full-time CPA until she swapped the computer for her watercolor set and dedicated time to a newfound passion for painting many different subjects—crosses and angels, botanical patterns, landscapes, architecture, crests and more.
This January, as her youngest son, David, celebrates his third birthday, Camilla is celebrating three years as an artist, and that’s no coincidence. Her last day as an accountant and first few days into painting all follow the timeline of when David was born. “Our lives changed in an instant,” she says.
During an ultrasound in late 2017, Camilla and her husband, Walker, found out that David had some genetic issues, which they would later find out to be Down syndrome. He was born the next year with complications, requiring extended hospital time, and he ended up having heart surgery months later.
When Camilla first got back home to Brookwood Forest from the hospital, her mother encouraged her to paint a few monograms for her friends, and this project sparked a new interest. “All the things that we were going through were really hard,” Camilla says. “Painting gave me joy, and I was able to escape into something so colorful and beautiful. The Lord carried us through this time and provided me with this gift.”
As she stayed home with David as he grew and overcame different health complications, Camilla slowly built up her skills as she painted. Eventually, she was painting every day and finding the subjects and techniques that she enjoyed incorporating into her work.
Her monograms and stationery naturally moved into still life pieces and crosses and angels that reflect her faith. “I’m drawn to illustrations and their whimsical nature,” Camilla says. She captures everyday subjects and florals with vivid colors and an impressionistic touch—a captivating style for hazy watercolors.
Camilla, continually building her skillset, paints what brings her joy—citrus and foxglove florals, coastal landscapes, playful and light abstracts, and still moments from inside a church sanctuary or over a watery cityscape. As 2021 begins, she hopes to create more repeating pattern designs and dreams to one day see her work on fabric or create a fabric line.
Two of her favorite pieces right now are a couple of her landscapes on the coast, reflective of the soft marshes and waves that Camilla knows well from her family’s house at the Gulf. “The coast was a big part of my life growing up. All of those good memories come flooding back when I paint them,” she says.
She lets the strokes and pigments take control on the paper and embraces the loose, flowing feel. In her architecture portraits, she doesn’t confine the homes to sharp lines and angles. She lets each house try on the welcoming colors and take the life of a French villa out of Ludwig Bemelmans’ “Madeline.”
All of these elements—her look, her methods, her vibrant color palette—are born from Camilla’s self-taught practice. “I paint every day, and that’s where my confidence comes from. I’ve been in love with the process from day one, and when I want something, I work really hard for it,” she says.
Once she began to establish her style, Camilla thought that sharing her work with others was the next step forward. She started posting her work on Instagram towards the end of 2018, and she moved from her Etsy account to her website in May 2020. This is when her background in accounting helped her launch the business smoothly through the process of photographing, marketing and shipping her own work.
While she still takes up accounting work here and there, painting allows her to push away structure and objectivity to instead let her creative mind take control in color.
And now, as year three begins for her time as an artist, she still feels that there’s so much more room for her work to grow and for her style to become even more defined and distinctly Camilla. “There’s so much left to learn, and I’m excited for where it’s headed,” she says. “It’s been a huge blessing to have an outlet where I can explore.”
Find Camilla’s art at camillamoss.com or @camillamossdesigns on Instagram and Facebook.
From time to time, Camilla supports causes and organizations near to her heart through her artwork. One organization she’s sold work for is The Bell Center for Early Intervention Programs, where David receives therapy. “It has been a blessing, and the center has been such a big part of our life.”