Interview with artist and illustrator Bernadette Pascua

Interview with artist and illustrator Bernadette Pascua

By Alexandra Donaldson

New York-based artist Bernadette Pascua captures perfume’s glamour and je ne sais quoi in her dreamy illustrations

Bernadette Pascua has sketched for the likes of Harpers Bazaar, W Magazine, Flare and high-profile designer brands such as Dior and Guerlain. Her pieces are soft and dreamy, and capture the ethereal nature of perfume perfectly. We caught up with her recently to speak about what the fragrances that inspire her.

QUESTION: What is your favourite scent memory of childhood?
BERNADETTE PASCUA: Lily of the Valley. At my childhood home, a bunch of sprigs would always pop up in the backyard every spring. We would search for them with my mom—they were like little treasures that I would look forward to finding. I can still remember the scent vividly. Being young, I remember just being in awe that something so powerful could come from such a tiny flower. It is such a favourite memory of mine that for my wedding, I chose Lily of the Valley for my bouquet.

Q: What was the first fragrance you bought yourself ?
PASCUA: CK One—I was a ’90s teenager.

Q: What maternal figure influenced you the most in your attitude towards perfume?
PASCUA: Actually it is my father who influenced my attitude towards perfume. I grew up with three sisters and no brothers, so my dad had his very own bathroom. I remember going in there and being curious about the scent of masculine soaps. To me, they were mysterious and smelled fresher and brighter compared to our girl’s bathroom full of heavily floral and fruity-scented products. Now I find that I tend to go for scents that are bit more masculine or are considered unisex.

GYPSYWATER_BPASCUAQ: What does your favourite fragrance say about your personality?
PASCUA: I rotate my top three favourite fragrances—Byredo Gypsy Water, Serge Lutens Datura Noir and Serge Lutens La Vierge de Fer. All of them have an elegant sweetness to them, but with just a hint of a sparkly edge.

Q: What makes you notice a fragrance?
PASCUA: I tend to go for soft or white florals that have a slight deep kick to it, whether it is woodsy, earthy, musky, smoky, spicy or metallic.

Q: How many fragrances do you regularly wear? 
PASCUA: Byredo Gypsy Water, Byredo Accord Oud, Serge Lutens Datura Noir, Serge Lutens La Vierge de Fer, Serge Lutens L’eau, Hermes Jour d’Hermes Absolu, Chanel Sycomore, Christian Dior Vetiver, Coqui Coqui Rosas Frescas, Coqui Coqui Maderas—about ten.

Q: Who is the best smelling person you’ve ever met, and what did they smell like?
PASCUA: All the guys that I’ve ever dated. I love the scent of a T-shirt borrowed from a boy. It’s like this foreign mix of grass, sweat, fabric softener and the faintest traces of cologne.

Q: How do you scent your home? 
PASCUA: Candles (Diptyque Baies/Vetiver and Byredo Bibliotheque) or Astier de Villatte incense.

Q: Best smelling beauty products?
PASCUA: Chanel. Even the makeup you wouldn’t expect to have a scent, like blush, smells so good.

Q: If you could bottle the scent of a favourite place/city/memory/moment what would it be and please describe the smell.
PASCUA: My favourite moment, which is the fall season in my favourite place, my hometown New York. It is nostalgic, with the smell of earthy leaves, sweet hay and sharp cold air.

HERMES_BPASCUAQ: How important is fragrance to your life, to your sense of style?
PASCUA: It is very important—it becomes a favourite accessory, the punctuation to any outfit.

Q: How does illustration relate to fragrance?
PASCUA: I always compare illustration to constructing a poem and fragrance is just as, if not more, poetic. So they are the perfect match for each other.

Q: What are you hoping to capture when you illustrate perfume or beauty products?
PASCUA: Those tiny nuances in the bottle or liquid that make the product seem alive.

See more of Pascua’s work here.

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Alexandra Donaldson is the editorial assistant at The Whale & The Rose and a freelance writer and content creator. Although she recently took up yoga in an effort to be a healthy adult, she still binge-watches cartoons on a regular basis and dreams of running away to a cottage in the woods. She has yet to nail down her favourite perfume, but knows that it smells green, earthy and maybe a little bit spicy, but definitely not sweet.