Blurring The Lines Between Genders: Synaesthetics Illustration Interview (NSFW)
The power of a tiny change in how we represent men and women through art is fascinating. Something as simple as the placement of large hoop earrings on a masculine lumberjack can seem so out of place. Society places great importance on what is considered inherently male or female; however, life is not so black and white.
Blurring the lines between genders in my artwork allows me to explore and challenge these steadfast notions of male and female. The female figure saturates art and is often used and abused in many art forms. I choose to draw predominately male or androgynous figures, placing them in clothing and situations that society has deemed to be feminine. The female figure seems to be fair game when it comes to art – place a male in the same position and you will get a completely different reaction. I am compelled to draw beautiful images that contrast our ideas of what male/masculinity is with how women are portrayed within art and society as a whole.
Using pencils and musical inspiration, I create concepts that not only encourage people to question their gender beliefs, but entertain them. Erotic and playful, each piece is inspired by the colours and feelings that music can create in us. Certain tones will trigger distinct colours and the general drone of a song will have a weight to it that will either be atmospheric or item/texture specific - high pitched electronic sounds are shiny and sparkly, whereas thumping bass is rubbery and liquid like.
My work is an examination of us as humans, as participants, voyeurs, followers and change-makers.
When did you develop an interest in art? Tell us about your creative journey.
Early – Colouring in books pushed me over the edge. My anal retentive need to colour within the lines coupled with the frustration that the lines never went where I thought they should be or cut through images in sloppy black mess forced my hand (figuratively and literally) to create what I wanted to see and colour on a page.
Drawing people or humanesque figures was always a favourite thing – I enjoyed the amount of detail and movement I could put in these pictures. They could be anything, relatable and realistic, doing human things or they could be turned into fantastical creatures all butterfly of wing and sea creature of tail.
At about the age of 8 or 9, I distinctly remember my dad taking me to the National Gallery of Victoria and suddenly being struck by the…permission to not have to draw clothing on these humans anymore. I had always considered the idea but somewhere along the line also decided that it would be rude of me, or that people would be embarrassed by me doing so. This now flew in direct contrast to what I was now seeing “real artists” do.
Flash forward to high school, the 14-15 year old me is continuing with this nude is good discovery. However, I can’t say this went down well in a high school setting. Turns out people, particularly teenagers are embarrassed by nudes, even when the possess the same body parts. The teachers weren’t much better – the words “pornographic and disgusting!” were screeched by my art teacher across the staffroom during a drop off of work for a local art competition (which, hilariously – I won). My inability to find the words to defend myself and my work, combined with a school fire that destroyed both my graphic design and art portfolios in my final year of study led me to give up on art.
A 120 Faber-Castell Polychomos pencils set would be my artistic denial undoing. I’d been gifted as a gift for completing high school studies, but I buried them within the depths of a cupboard, and there they lay for 10 years. I was terrified of them. They were a threat to my rationale for not drawing, and a totally unfamiliar medium. When I rediscovered them years later, I couldn’t bring myself to sell them and I couldn’t bring myself to draw so they sat, now within line of sight on a bookshelf for a further 2 years. Daring me to see how atrocious my skills would be after years of neglect. As you can guess, I caved.
In the Tl:dr version of events: I started using coloured pencils for the first time in 2014 and haven’t looked back.
Gender and sexuality is an important subject given today's political climate. What do you hope the viewer takes away from your work?
I would be lying if I said I start each piece with the intent of an emotional reaction of the viewer, however, that frequently happens and I enjoy it – good and (especially) bad. I’m not looking to make political statements, almost the opposite? In doing so, I inherently am making a statement and that statement to be frank, is that I don’t give a fuck. I don’t think a person’s sexuality or gender identity should be a political issue and there is something decidedly broken in society when it finds itself wielding that as threat or something to be feared.
I don’t care what humans choose to clothe themselves in. The fact that I could draw an image of what might be considered a hyper masculine scene, fit for the cover of an action movie, and add a set of giant hoop earrings or batwing eyeliner to the main character and suddenly people are questioning what’s going on just fascinates me. Why so much power in such a tiny object/look? How can something so arbitrary totally change the story of an image, and in the context of the world, the way we would perceive and interact with another human? From that, I suppose it’s about what I want to take away – I want to know why it’s alright to apply certain clothing or poses or settings to one gender but not another. In the case of my androgynous characters, why it’s important to the viewer to know what genitalia they might poses before they decided how they feel about the image. Which to me says more about the viewer that it does about my work.
Tell us about what inspires you. How do you come up with the images and decide what to draw?
The first instigator of imagery within my mind is always music. It gives me the weights, textures and often the colour scheme of the imagery. To that I add one or more of my characters and then play around with different music to alter the mood. I’ll often set myself a technical challenge within each piece to make it difficult, and to keep it interesting while I work on it.
For example, for my last piece, Do You Feel Loved, I picked up on select words of a song “…scent hanging in the air”, ”…nails under your hide”, “…teeth at your back”, “…tongue…”. These words and phrases all stood out to me as quite animalistic in tone, the droning bass of the song added a rubber/latex texture in my mind. To keep with the animal vibe and give myself a challenge I added in the leopard print. Which then lead my brain to images of house cats preening themselves on window ledges (my brain can be oddly specific sometimes).
Applying this flash of imagery to a character, it begins to become something solid that I can then manipulate and add to/remove from. In this case I chose a pose in which the character was preening themselves as a cat might. I also wanted to juxtapose the idea of predator against prey so I gave him antlers which would of course be something you would see on a male deer however. Despite his stereotypical masculine physique, the character would be viewed as having feminine attributes due to the pose and clothing they have been placed in alluding their sexuality when I’ve not actively said anything at all.
How do you feel your work has evolved over the past few years?
Quite a long way considering I’d never use coloured pencils before 2014, and prior to that, not drawn anything for at least 10 years. I still have a considerable way to go in terms of technique as I’d like to add much more visual depth and layer multiple images over each other, in a manner more akin to the way my mind sees images. But at this stage I feel I need a stronger understanding of what I can do with the medium before attempting these pieces. It has certainly been a short sharp ride thus far.
Share a piece of advice with our readers that helped you make bold decisions in your work.
I make a point of not self-censoring – I’m not sure if that can be considered bold? If your artistic thoughts consist of butterflies and bunny rabbits it’s probably not going to cause too much controversy. Ultimately it’s the viewer who decides how a work is received so if you consider bold to be something of controversy, know your audience and give them the opposite of what they expect or want – don’t expect to make friends in the process.
What other artists or creatives inspire you?
My two biggest influences at the moment are Goldfrapp and Nine Inch Nails. They overlap in their electronic elements but contrast each other greatly in tone. It’s fun to take an image in my head that was inspired by one artist and place it within the sounds of another to see what weird twists it puts on the colours or mood of a piece. I also greatly enjoy the works of Hajime Sorayama – it would be great to reach that height of hyper realism in pencil form.
What are you currently working on?
Currently working on a couple of pieces – one being the largest pencil drawing I’ve under taken so far. It has the added texture challenge of both Glomesh fabric and soap bubbles because apparently, I like to torture myself.
I’m also having some fun with glazed doughnuts in another piece, which may encourage a love of doughnuts or put the viewer off them for life depending on how much you like glaze and where...