What got you into illustration? I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember and I always hoped it might be something I would be able to do forever. School was quite discouraging and studying subjects that would enable you to get a “proper job” were very much encouraged, so I never really saw making a living off my art to be a possibility until I went to college to study a foundation course in art and design. The tutors were practicing artists, and there I realized what being an artist/illustrator would be all about.
Who is your audience? I make work for girls, women, and anyone whose gender is ‘not male’, although quite a few men do seem do like my work. My audience is probably mostly girls aged 15-35 or so. I used to say 15-25 but now I’m nearly 30 and realising that you don’t suddenly grow up and become another person when you’re 30! I still have plenty of self doubt, angst and uncertainty at my age and it’s still what I like to make work about. I am fascinated by the teen experience. It’s such an uncertain time in everyone’s life where they are discovering themselves and the world, and finding their place in it. It’s so awkward and intense and it’s such a whirlwind of discovery and emotions. Teenagers are totally full of strength and vulnerability! What mediums do you use for your art? I mostly use pencils, pens and markers in my work and recently I’ve been experimenting with gouache paints. I’m really enjoying the freedom of expression that painting gives me; it’s very nice to go into a painting trance for hours, something you can’t do with markers as they are so quick! You feature a lot of cats within your work – why is this? What is it about cats which you find so special? I think I just identify really strongly with cats; they are cute but fierce, they are sweet and snuggly but they can also take care of themselves. I’m interested in the way vulnerability and fierceness interact with each other, and I think that’s something that you can clearly see in cats, which is mirrored in human behavior too. When I was younger I used to always dress as a cat – my mum made me some ears and a tail and I would just go about my day dressed in a black leotard and tights with this cat tail hanging off the back. I’ve always felt very connected to them. Would you consider yourself a crazy cat lady? I only have two cats (and one dog) so I think I could go a lot further with cat craziness – having three animals is quite enough for now, they can be a handful sometimes! I am totally crazy about my pets, so yes probably a little bit. How do you feel about that title? I think being crazy and passionate about something is always a great thing, and if someone chooses to be passionate about caring for and looking after cats, then that’s awesome. You seem to empower women and indeed women with cats. Tell us more about why you do this. I grew up with a lot of internalized misogyny inside me, I just wanted to hang out with the boys, and I used to look down on ‘other girls’ for being so ‘girly’. I carried a lot of misogynistic beliefs with me for a long time and it has taken a long time to unlearn them, and to really embrace what it means to be a woman. I think there has always been a fierce, proud and feminine side of me that I denied for a really long time, which started to manifest itself through the art I made without me really thinking about it. I’ve since learnt a lot more about feminism and I really try to make art that is inspiring and encouraging for other women. I just want to encourage girls to be proud of who they are, to think about themselves positively, to fight for what they believe in, and to believe in themselves. I think it’s really important for girls to be empowered, to feel strong, but also to be very in touch with their emotions. Basically everything I do is about vulnerability and strength in some way. I think it’s very important to have both. What is your work trying to say? I think it’s trying to say that you can be whoever you want to me, you can be powerful and strong, and you can be weak and show your emotions, and it’s all okay. You just do you. I want to help other women in their own self-discovery process. I want to inspire them to be who they truly want to be. I want to feel like I am making a difference, even if it is small. Where do you get your inspiration from for the characters you illustrate? I get a lot of inspiration from just processing my emotions and thoughts and trying to bring what is inside me onto the page. I also get inspiration from other women – girls on ‘Tumblr’ in their bedrooms, girls making art and creating, girls dressing up and presenting themselves exactly how they want to be, with no regards to how anyone else feels about it. Many of your characters are sexy, strong women. Are these based on anyone you know, or perhaps ideals that you have? Some of the girls I draw are loosely inspired by specific people, because I like how they present who they are to the world. But mostly it comes from somewhere inside me – a lot of my work is a self-portrait without me really realising that’s what I’m making. I don’t ever want someone to look at my work and just think ‘wow that chick is sexy!’ – it’s not about the male gaze, it’s about reclaiming women’s bodies for themselves and putting the power in the hands of girls. Finally, where do you hope to take your artwork? Will you continue to empower women and promote cats? I hope so! There are a lot of artists and comic makers that I admire whose work is very political, and that’s something I want to strive towards more in the future. I think it’s important to be trying to make a difference in a world that is very overwhelming. It’s very easy get depressed by all the terrible things going on, and to start believing that nothing you do matters in the grand scheme of things, and to get disheartened by that. But each of us is only one person, and even if we can only make a small change, small changes can add up to big changes. Someone might see my art as just being ‘cute’ and that’s fine, but as long as there are people out there who are really getting something out of my work, and it makes them feel something, or it makes a difference about how they feel about themselves, then I think I am succeeding.
Illustration by Gemma Flack www.gemmaflack.com
Words by Loo Loo Rose