I have always wanted to create my own mix of pornography and action movies – probably because I have been terribly affected by the likes of Tarantino as well as Sade. I have an undying love for narrative, sequential art and proper graphic design, too. So when it comes down to defining my mission and vision, I guess I could say that I intend to create narratives that allow people, especially women, to explore their kinks, sexualities and fantasies; whether those are sexual or not. I want to create a window into a universe free of judgement and very lacking in normal tropes; I want a recreation of the bizarre magazines mixed in with the pulp ones and sprinkled with some riot grrrl zines on top. I also want all of this to be beautiful, awfully attractive and absolutely irresistible. I want my work to draw in the gaze of the public and to retain it there. I want my pieces to be readable yet full of layers and symbology, inviting that gaze to stay and wander inside of them.
It is obviously very important to me that all my work has a very sound theoretical base rooted in intersectional feminism and post-colonial narratives and theories. I want my work to help in the destigmatization process of topics such as BDSM, sex-work, sexual orientation and gender fluidity and transitions, as well as body-positivity. This is the only way in which I will be able to sleep at night whilst producing graphic images: they are wonderful and very powerful, and that’s precisely why I need to take responsibility and continue to educate myself in these topics and listen to the voices that I intend to portray.
I have never wanted to create art that was easy: easy to digest, easy to sit with, easy to forget. I have always strived to weave a certain degree of complexity in my work, one that would reward my public – obviously driving other possible publics away. Although this seems still to this day a scary choice, I stand by it: I want to create for a niche that will grow with me, that will evolve and discover their own inner world while I unravel mine for their viewing (dis)pleasure. I want my art to be raw, to be uncomfortable; I want it to exist in that tiny space between repulsion, perversion and ultimate pleasure in which our worst nightmares turn out to be terrifying sexual fantasies, probably born out of the need to process some untold trauma. I need my illustrations to crawl underneath the skin of their viewers and sit in their uncomfortably tight stomach, I want them to feel the arousal of danger and to smell the aphrodisiac undertones of blood. I want them dazed, confused and falling under a spell they can’t quite comprehend but won’t stop trying to understand. I guess that, when all is said and done, it all boils down to convey that uneasy feeling when one is about to enter the witch’s hut, the oracle’s lair or the diviner’s tent.
I have always had an interest in painting and drawing. My father liked to paint, and so did my uncle. My aunt was big on embroidery and my mother liked DIY projects that she would seldom finish. I have been around oil paints, watercolours and crayons all my life, and my environment has always encouraged such artistic endeavours. I took my first painting classes when I was around 14 years old, and I despised them – too much tracing, too little academic rigour, in my humble opinion. Even then I was extremely interested in doing and learning things “the proper way”. I didn’t last long under this teacher and was soon left to my own devices. I wish I could say I picked up anatomy books, but I didn’t. Instead, I ended up running into a group of friends who were very interested in Dungeons, Dragons and other roleplaying games – they loved drawing their characters, and they introduced me into the fascinating world of collecting and modifying dolls. I learnt to paint, cut, carve and varnish; to photograph and to sew in order to dress and share my creations and stories with my community.
The next time I entered a classroom to learn how to draw, I was 19 years old and I thought I knew pretty much everything – at least compared to what my classmates knew. In the Academy where I studied Illustration for the first time, I finally picked up those anatomy books and started sketching rigorously every day, studying the masters and doing colour-wheels.
It was also there that I found out I had a passion for Art History after we were sent to the library of the Beaux-Arts museum to pick one book to read. I ended up with a book on the history of the Bauhaus where I read Gropius’ Manifesto, the first Manifesto that I had stumbled upon. The way he talked about the cathedral of art, a building full of light where different artistic expressions would come together to create a paradise, almost made me cry. So I resolved to enrol in a University course on the matter and satiate my curiosity. While my History of Illustration Teacher taught us about Hans Holbein the Old and the Young from a feminist perspective, I was unveiling all sorts of magnificent visuals from the palaeolithic and beyond. She inspired me endlessly and she was the main reason why I started picking interest in feminism and gender studies.
A year after I was done with my Illustration degree, I started investigating women artists. It was my goal to find out the difference between the male genius and the female hysteria, to understand why Michelangelo’s wrath was a matter of character yet Gentileschi's rage at her rapist should have been concealed during his trial. I found out much more than I had set out to; mainly, that there were very few females in History that have made it as artists, and most of them were either lesbian or single – every time a woman had married, had an affair or a husband, her career had found its end, her works been attributed to the husband or lover and she had lost the will (or the time) to create.
I started studying Multimedia not long after that. Already having a passion for graphic design, obviously derived from my love of everything that had to do with the Bauhaus and the Avant-garde movements throughout Europe, I found new ways of developing it within the degree. It was here I first found out about infographics and where my love for Lev Manevich continued to develop. Here I learned mostly about narratives and how to present information in a way that’s not only useful but engaging with an end-user – whoever that might be and depending on who they are. I also learnt how to code and how to write a script, tools that I believe should be embraced by most artists if they wish to survive in the current environment.
As a final project for my degree, tired after three years of not being able to draw much and being made to write scripts for Processing, which is not very useful, I set out to create liquidStrip, my most ambitious project to date. LiquidStrip is a framework, both theoretical and practical, to create comics that can be read across multiple devices. Adapting my knowledge of responsive design as well as comic narrative – which I had acquired with my parallel studies on feminist literature and comics in Skolastika – I managed to create a project that at least I could use to my purposes, and which I intend to apply at some point during this course. I designed and adapted a few comics with this framework and I’m extremely proud to have been able to create responsive comics, finally.
Comics and narrative have always been a deep interest for me, not only as part of an audience or as a creator, but from the theoretical point of view as well. It’s always hard to make the jump from the theory to the practice and vice versa, but there’s nothing quite as fulfilling as being able to analyze and properly critique one’s own work. There’s also this belief that revolves around being as prepared as humanly possible for what it’s known to be a very harsh environment for women – which applies to both the art world in general and the comic-book world in particular.
It’s always been a priority and a goal for me to have a background as diverse as possible, with abilities that would help me organize, prioritize and create art that was progressively better and better. My only regret so far is that I have perhaps dedicated less time than I should have to actually produce art and get better at it, which is exactly why I have chosen to undertake this course, expecting it to make me produce art beyond my comfort zone and in hopes that it will help me develop myself into the artist (and academic) I wish to become.
The nature of this work requires a theoretical context, too. I read Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto right as I was finishing my Illustration degree and it still stays with me to this day. I was big on queer theory and particularly on Butler’s take on the matter – for all my fighting over Derrida, I have always found her work very compelling. It was her work as well as Judy Chicago’s and Roberta Gregory’s that first got me excited about being a woman artist and about the particular perspective that comes with it. Although it would be later with Carol Avedon and other pro-sex and anti carceral feminists that I would finally find a body of theoretical work that made me feel at home, it was a decent start.
Unfortunately, they clashed with my love for all things pulp, violent and Richard Corben inspired. Balancing such love for violence, obscenity and pornography with feminist and queer theory proved to be a challenge that is still part of my struggles nowadays. On the other hand, is precisely this unbalance what guarantees that my works continue to be compelling and interesting, serving as the base layer on top of which to develop imagery that can convey such a complex dichotomy.
I guess the fight between carceral/white and intersectional/postcolonial feminism lays at the core of my theoretical foundation. As years have passed I have found out a lot of my favourite authors were trans/sex-work exclusionary feminists. How could I continue to fully support and believe Germaine Greer’s Obstacle Race when I knew that she doesn’t believe in the autonomy of sex workers? Has she shunned sex worker artists from her research to make it fit within her particular view? What else could I be missing out? Reading bell hooks and Angela Davis is always a welcome antidote and usually gives me some room to breathe, but when even Adichie is a somewhat carceral feminist one finds herself quite surrounded by these philosophies and with little space in which to construct her own practice.
There is a prime example of this clashing breeding ground in Lara Croft, the video game character. Both Anita Sarkeesian and my favourite feminist teachers have told me once and again how she was made to be a male fantasy, a sex object. In fact, the size of her ample bosom (the size of ample bosoms, in general) has always been quoted as definitive proof of the sexist values the character supposedly represents. Being a person with an ample bosom as well, I refuse the notion that the size of anyone’s body parts can be used as definitive proof of sexism – or of anything else. For me, growing up and as a teenager, Lara Croft represented a woman that was beautiful, fit, independent and so much more intelligent than any other character in her video game series. She was an inspiration, and while I would love to see fatter (and fitter) characters performing athletic feats, I would have never been the woman that I am today if it had not been for Lara Croft, her videogames and her terrible comic books. She might have been the ultimate male sex fantasy, but she was also a very accurate representation of the woman that I fantasized I could one day become.
That sums up my approach to feminism philosophy quite accurately, I believe. In the words of the immortal Emma Goldman, “If I can’t dance, it’s not my revolution”. What is the point in fighting for women’s rights if I am not fighting for every woman's right to be and do whatever they please? How can I call myself a feminist if I don’t support every person’s choice to survive however they see fit under a system as cannibalistic as the one we have to live under? I can not fight for the liberation of the white, middle-class, cis-gendered woman and claim I fight for all of us. And if my artistic practice does not represent this, then I am not doing my job right. If I don’t create art that reflects sex workers, trans people, people of colour, then I am perpetuating what the academia has chosen to bring under the light until now, and I can hardly stand to reproduce the art of white cis men anymore.
This, of course, poses a very interesting challenge when choosing to use feminism as an analytical category – meaning, when one chooses to use feminism as a tool rather than being used as a tool by it. I will admit that Mulvey’s theories pose an even bigger challenge in my approach to art, especially in this day and age. When everything is a fetish, how can one escape the male gaze? Should we even try to escape scopophilia? Are fetishes solely configured and designed by the male gaze? If we accept that there is no such thing as biological determinism when it comes to the configuration of desire, how come we accept that male gaze is more violent and that female gaze is more prone to romantic, caressing scenes? Does this mean that women who enjoy bizarre pornography, BDSM scenes or violent acts are performing their desire as if it were male? Where does all of this leave trans and non-binary people? To partially answer these questions, it’s necessary that we analyze the psychological, sociological, and biological roots of desire.
I obviously don’t believe that there are certain desires or sexual fantasies or scenarios that are wrong/right, and after reading enough Nancy Friday I realize that collectives that have been oppressed will often try to rework their trauma into sexual fantasies (for example, Jewish women held in concentration camps who would often fantasize with being raped by nazi officers) in order to either overcome or make sense of it. There is no point in trying to make sexual fantasies (and, thus, sexual art, pornography or erotica) fit into moral boundaries of any kind. They are fantasies, and they are meant to arouse adults and help them enjoy and explore their sexualities and sexual desires.
However, one must face the unavoidable debate that surrounds the over-representation of violent acts performed against women, as well as the hyper-sexualization/romanticization/objectification of female characters across all media, and the relationship this seems to have with actual female assault and murder numbers. There seems to be a black and white approach to this matter: either sexual freedom is given to create all kinds of fantasies, and women will die, or sexual fantasies are censored to fit particular criteria of acceptable ones, and then women will live. Not only do I not agree with this approach to human sexuality, but I propose that limiting the sexual fantasies that we represent, censoring them and creating a list of acceptable vs. unacceptable ones will find us back in the victorian era, with an impossible double standard in regards of women (home angel vs. fallen woman) and even more violence being committed against us.
We need to explore human sexuality in art. We need to create narratives that surround consent, fantasies that explore living and enacting sexual tropes without being punished for it. In my humble opinion, sluts getting killed first in every horror movie and “Pretty Woman”-like narratives have done way more harm than any hardcore pornography scene could have ever inflicted. We need tales about sluts reclaiming their power, people choosing not to sacrifice their own selves for love, women loving other women, and women choosing to enact their sexualities in any way they please.
There is nothing quite as hard as looking into one’s own practice with a critical yet kind eye. It is too easy to spot the mistakes and become fixated on them, starting a never-ending cycle of self-battering. One thing I’ve at least managed to realize is that my constant changes of style are very related to the crippling self-doubt and lack of satisfaction I feel around my illustrations. Even though I sometimes may be happy about a few elements, I always feel that I should be doing better, more like Sienkewicz or Staples or McKean, more realistic, less realistic, or just plain different. The truth is that if I intend to find my own style, I must accept that I might never be fully satisfied with the work I create and just let go of the need to create perfect pieces.
It has become especially patent with the process for Untitled that I really need to learn how to organize myself even better: I don’t procrastinate that much, but I embark myself in ginormous projects that leave little time for experimentation - they require fast execution in order to be completed before the deadline, and all the preparation work I do is usually theoretical or symbolical, but very rarely practical. It’s very hard for me to produce sketches that will not be used in the final piece. In fact, I have almost only done it once in this trimester, for the Misty Landscape piece. I was very happy about the learning process of that piece and in fact, I discovered a new style or toolkit that I was not aware I possessed. But for Untitled I’ve gone back to my old ways - they are, after all, the most comfortable ones - and created very cerebral pieces. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the need to explore more in the preparation phase must also become a priority in my practice.
My Untitled is a franken-project, made out of long stripes of drawings and an embroidered and painted garment. It has allowed me to explore both the digital, more editorial if we may, medium as well as the more artistic analogic means. The long stripes, paired with the parts of the poem they intend to represent, were thought of as rolls of illustrations that would be read slowly, like a digital tapestry. The corset is meant to be looked like a whole piece, stopping in the details, especially when these are magnified by the lenses of the camera in the digitization process. This piece will be experienced both in person, by me, and digitally by everyone else. The duality of the corset is not only intended but also welcome; during this whole module, I have been trying to push the boundaries of the digital realm, creating material that could be printed and reproduced beyond my own screen. Although the corset has zero reproducibility as it is one of a kind, it explores the analogical world in a much more ductile way than any of my previous projects. It’s meant to be a Manifesto in itself, one that I can wear and will not only shape me but also offer me support to create within its constraints.
When I started thinking about this project I was as worried about creating my own mythos around Enheduanna’s poem as about my Untitled fulfilling lots of different sites of audiencing and circulation. I’ve long been obsessed with multimedia/multidisciplinary works of art that can be experienced in different formats by different audiences, that will travel differently depending on who has experienced them. I believe that sharing the project in a website that offers two experiences (the mobile and the desktop versions) as well as letting the audience decide how they wish to explore my manifesto, being lead to different sections of this document depending on where on the poem and illustrations they click. Even though there’s a set number of combinations in which someone might experiment the whole work, I would like to think that the work itself is changed every time someone chooses a different path around it; a bit like their own Mystic Writing Pad, if I may draw that comparison.
If we take a step closer to the illustrations themselves, I think there’s a certain quality of self-awareness in them. These were images created by a woman of another woman, a Dominant Goddess in all her glory. Not only do these show my aesthetic concerns and preferences, but I would like to think that I’ve taken Berger’s theory about pornographic paintings one step further: not only does this woman confront the viewer, she is the one that is being pleased by the image. When I, as an author, choose to create this small universe with a Goddess dominating and presiding over everything, using her sexuality both to subdue, create and destroy, I am working mostly to please myself and to align this with my view of the world. Since I can not run from the scopophilia I am bending it - this is no longer a woman being looked, or a woman looking to be looked, she is a woman that looks. She holds a position of power over all compositions, and it’s only her that exerts pleasure from everything else. She is the object turned subject and subjugating the universe around her. She is consciously projecting an image that first and foremost pleases herself.
The creative process for these roll-illustrations has been pretty straightforward, but I am particularly pleased about the fact that I have introduced the new palette technique I developed with Carlos on week 8. The first and last illustrations share a palette with Rosetti’s Venus Verticordia and the second and fourth with Falero’s Sabbath. I have made myself work with these and only these colours. I could’ve (perhaps should’ve) followed Aristide’s lesson on palette creation and experimented with the mixing of the colours to create a less limited palette, but on the other hand, I wanted to test myself and see where such limited palettes (each has only 5 colours) would lead me.
I have taken one page from Staple’s book as well and created very rough thumbnails that I’ve later filled with references in Photoshop. In fact, I’ve painted over several images given the short amount of time I could dedicate to each illustration and the amount of detail needed - so much that I now feel I should do some life-painting in order to redeem myself. But such are the constraints of this industry. I have also tried to mix in some photographs and painted over them in an attempt to integrate them - I must say that I have realized that my collage skills are very subpar and I need to work on this further in future occasions.
After creating the images it was time to put the manifesto and them together in website form. I did this while simultaneously working on the corset, so that I could have the site ready to put the photographs of the final piece as soon as possible. I worked with a template made by antxoa.com, the web layout expert that I usually work with. Besides tweaking some minor details in the template itself, I had to cut the images so they would be shown in full size in equal parts. For this, I used the Slice Tool in Photoshop. I also created typographical images for the poem and divided them in a similar fashion. This was all a very technical part of the project, but I enjoyed thoroughly working with code again.
Another very technical part was creating the embroidery for the corset. After creating the vector files one must make them into workable files that can be read and used by the actual machine, which is not an easy task. Besides that, things like the tension of the fabric and other manual factors can really accept the outcome of the embroidery. I chose to keep all the embroidery failures as part of the corset, in a way, like the markings that had helped it evolve up to this point. I also hand embroidered some elements on top of the machine embroidered ones, to add to the randomness and pulp feeling of the whole piece. Additionally, I used oil paints and watercolour to add some more texture and details to the panels before sewing them all together.
I feel that while the digital art pieces relate more to the first Illuminated I the corset relates much more to the process and experimentation that happened both with Misty Landscapes as well as with the second variation of the first set. The process with the corset has been much more open to experimentation, probably because I was using mediums, such as embroidery, to which I am not very used.
I also think that the relationships between this manifesto and the illustrated piece that accompanies it deserve to be written about. I have established a connection between the different parts of the poem and the different sections of the manifesto, based on what I perceived to be the underlying meaning or causes of these elements. And so, the first part of the poem which is a praise to the Goddess becomes the context, the part about the mes becomes the outcomes, etc. establishing a relationship between contents that doesn’t necessarily extend to the forms. This relationship is reflected by the choice of colours - the text always reflects the base colour of the image it’s referring to, and this is true for this manifesto as well. I believe this helps establish a narrative flow between both texts and images, creating a current which starts in Enheduanna’s text from thousands of years ago and which drifts and drips into this manifesto, written in 2019.
The idea behind the corset was to reclaim a garment that has often thought and written of as simply created for the male gaze to rejoice in the female figure (and one often used in BDSM contexts as well), but that was also necessary to support bodies that were very often having babies inside of them very often. It has been proven that women needed that support after pregnancies to aid in the recovery. It is with this in mind that I chose to create a boneless corset, one that would aid and protect me, and that would help me shape my career. I also chose to use embroidery, a traditionally female craft (and infamously, what was thought of as the only proper way for a woman to express her creativity for a few centuries) to embed both the Manifesto, the poem, and my interpretation of both in the corset. A womanly craft in a womanly shape seemed like the right thing to do.
The way this user flow was designed was so that the reader would start in the main manifesto page, scroll down as they wished by the images and text, click on any of them, be taken to the manifesto section, read it and then click on the “Continue Worshipping” button so that they could go back to exploring the poem and images. It is a completely different experience from a phone, as the order of the images/text and they relation change (one column is shown after the other, thus altering the order and the fundamental relationship between concepts). Honestly, I feel that there will be many ways to experiment and explore this interactive manifesto.
My first instinct and interest when it comes to professional artistic outcomes have always been comics (graphic novels, graphic narratives, zines). I briefly entertained the idea of developing the artistic part of video games but I was enraptured by comics not soon after, and they have stayed in my professional radar ever since. The idea of creating a whole universe, from the smallest atom to the biggest planet, and making every movement come alive in static images for the viewing pleasure of my audience has always been alluring to me. For a while, I thought the best way to do this would be to work for the American industry - being a fast draftswoman, trustworthy when it comes to deadlines and turnaround times and able to handle pressure exceptionally well are characteristics that they require and I possess. I also consider myself to draw at least half-decently, which should make me a prime candidate for the American market. Unfortunately, due to some personal circumstances, I abandoned this course. And since I did that, I have also developed a different understanding of life and economic priorities, which maybe means that I am not longer a prime candidate for this market. Still, I would like to give a try sometime, which means putting together a comic portfolio and either staying on top of openings myself or reaching out to an agent if I can find one who is interested in me.
I would not mind working for the European comic market, but that would require that I have a half-finished project (at least a french volume in length) to show to a few different publishing houses and be ready for their rejections. This would also mean that I would have to either collaborate with or hire someone to write the script or do it myself, and I am a very poor writer. Doing it myself would ensure that I would be telling exactly the stories I would like to tell on the other hand, so it is a difficult choice to make. I would also have to keep in mind that this project would take a significant amount of time without any certainty on the payout possibilities - which means that I’m extremely unlikely to be undertaking it in the near future. Another possibility is to find a writer who either is already published or has come to an understanding with a publisher and who is looking for an artist, in which case I could introduce myself to the European market with a less risky investment of my time and resources. And I am always wary of investing time and resources in endeavours that might or might not produce a reliable income.
I have learnt that it is always important to keep one (or several) revenues that steadily bring a passive income. Not only does it allow you to have a more or less regular influx of money and usually has a great ROI, but it also gives you the freedom and tranquillity to turn down the jobs and commissions that might not be a good match to develop one's career. There are a few ways to generate passive income via illustration, most of them being related to printed goods. Although I always keep in mind doing “just prints”, I would also like to establish a shop with a couple of print-on-demand distributors that would allow me to print stationery and other goods (such as mugs and perhaps some clothes). Additionally, I would also like to sell e-files for paper dolls and other papercraft designs that each hobbyist could print on their own. For this, I have considered Redbubble, although probably due to their margins I would prefer setting up my shop on Etsy for starters and then moving it away to a platform which I can fully control. My calculations are that I would need at least around 2k followers on Twitter and Instagram to be able to successfully operate a shop outside of the Etsy/Redbubble boundaries, as well as a mildly aggressive marketing campaign – perhaps with appearances on a few online magazines that appeal to my target audience, for example.
Another way to create a passive income, although this one I consider way less passive, would be to create a Patreon (either on that platform or on a similar one) in which to share my sketches, processes, and perhaps weekly vlogs about what I have been up to. Of course, this wouldn’t be profitable until I could turn in at least 300-400$ of monthly profit, given the amount of time needed to create the exclusive material to put on this social media.
On the other hand, I would also like to explore more artistic ventures. I have always enjoyed watercolour and oil painting, and in this past year, I have been working in a couple of projects with a strong feminist background that I believe could do well in a gallery setting. Unfortunately for me, this is a world that I am not very well acquainted with. The main obstacle is that the series would have to be finished, of course, but I would also need to know the gallery circles better, at least to know which ones would be interested in what kind of works and series. I think having a solo show would be quite amazing for marketing purposes, be that to grow my passive income revenues or to get me in touch with better and more varied clients, but additionally I am really interested in selling my finished works to collectors and curating, so to speak, a customer base that appreciates my endeavours and is willing to purchase original works in order to support my career.
Of course, the end goal of these circuits would be to be able to be part of an exhibit in a museum (or in several, if we’re daydreaming). I am aware that installations and other bigger works are harder to sell to private collectors, but I am very interested in creating those, nonetheless. I believe the easier way to achieve this goal would be to get a grant or a residency within an institution that would first and foremost exhibit the fruits of that working period, and then perhaps purchase those end results. I would love to make interactive installations that merge my knowledge in Multimedia with more mundane and “craftsy” applications, but without a working space, a space in which to store them once finished and enough money to cover at least the materials and some of the working hours, I can not possibly approach such projects.
Obviously, I wouldn’t want to leave my academic goals aside. One of the main reasons why I have embarked myself in the journey of this course is because I would like to pursue a PhD afterwards, either in Art or in Multimedia, and if I am lucky enough, it will be in both those fields. I am passionate about investigation and elaborating theoretical analysis and hypothesis, and I have even considered teaching at some point – but only if that doesn’t interfere with my other artistic goals and aspirations. I would like to pursue a PhD because it means doing loads of research and if I manage to get a grant, getting paid for said research. Multimedia is a young field still, and that means that there are loads of topics waiting to be explored and, hopefully, understood and explained. I would like to investigate the obsession with hyper-realism in the videogame industry and perhaps develop a method to use other visual codes to communicate at different levels with the audience/players.
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