Join us for a chat with Leeds-based illustrator Louisa Foley about her project “Are We Nearly Bare Yet” which turns submitted nude selfies into colorful works of art.
After graduating in Pattern Textiles and Surface Pattern Design from Leeds College of Art, Louisa has decided to embark on a journey of becoming a freelance illustrator. Last autumn, she started a series with a witty name “Are We Nearly Bare Yet,” for which she takes in nude photo submissions and recreates them as illustrations.
Scroll down to read Louisa’s tongue-in-cheek answers and opinions on topics as the art of taking nudes, (fe)male gaze, cyberbullying, and men feeling hurt for not being included in her project.
For “Are We Nearly Bare Yet,” you transform selfies submitted to you by completely random people to illustrations. How did you come up with the idea?
So the idea developed initially from me redrawing my own nudes mainly to change our perceptions of ‘the selfie,’ after getting a bit sick of myself I decided to put a call out on Instagram and Facebook. I thought I’d get a couple of responses from friends and family but I was quite surprised by the sheer amount of interest I got from the very beginning. My first nude was from my friend and once I posted this initial drawing of her, more people wanted to get involved… even her mum! So although it kinda stemmed from me just needing more imagery to draw, it has actually developed into a much more deep and meaningful project encouraging women to liberate themselves through their own photography and my drawing.
How long have you been working on the project and—approximately—how many nude illustrations have you made already?
So according to Instagram I drew my first nude at the end of October so, like 4 months! It feels a lot longer actually as it’s become such a big part of my practice. So far I have drawn 38 nudes… I have a lot of submissions waiting to be drawn as well.
Do you actually remember the first nude you’ve ever taken yourself?
I do actually! I remember being about 14/15 and taking photos of myself naked in my bedroom mirror. It was not for anyone else but myself, It was a way of exploring my body and sexuality at quite a young age. Maybe this curiosity about the naked body and early interest in taking nudes has led me here. I think the process of taking a nude is a really interesting way of learning about our bodies, and also understanding who we are and how we wish to see ourselves.
The project is trying to make a shift from the notoriously known male gaze to female gaze, and emphasizes celebration and appreciation of the female body by women themselves. Why do you think it is important to focus on topics as objectification, fetishization and so on in art?
Because if we don’t challenge these things within art then we will constantly be bombarded with the ‘objectification’ and ‘fetishization’ within the press, social media, film etc etc etc….
Art provides a space to show a counter argument for the frustrating need to sexualise women within the public eye. The female form comes in many more shapes and sizes than the media presents, which I strive in include in this project. As an artist I feel a responsibility to show people that a female body is not just a sexual thing… IT CAN DO LOADS OF OTHER COOL THINGS YOU KNOW?!
Taking nude selfies can, without a doubt, be a very powerful tool of self-love and empowerment, however, there is a whole big issue with leaking nudes and cyber violence. What do you think we can do to prevent that?
Wow! I mean, where to start…There’s no one quick fix to things like cyber violence and leaking nudes. I think education is a good place to start, we need to start teaching young people not only of the repercussions of sharing their own nude, but also why sharing another person’s image against their will is immoral and can have serious consequences. (But hey PSHE in Britain is totally fucked so that ain’t gonna happen anytime soon) I think it’s sad it should be thought of like this but in the world we currently live in, sharing a nude with one person you have to bare in mind that it could be seen by more. That is your responsibility when sharing that image.
Another interesting idea I think my project touches on is ownership, by sharing your own nude, you take ownership before someone else can. Baring all is a clever way to screw over the ‘screwer over’ because YOU are in control of the content.
Have you ever come across with a negative reaction to the project?
HA, only from men (surprise, surprise) complaining that I’m only focusing on women. I mean…it must be hard for them not being the centre of attention for once, but come on…this isn’t about you guys.
You use a lot of vibrant colours in your work. Is there any meaning behind the choice of them for each specific illustration?
I never set out to colour any individual a certain way right up until the last minute and there’s never a reason why one’s blue and the other orange…it’s totally random but weirdly more often than not people get back to me telling me I’ve used their favourite colours! I don’t think I’ve got any kind of colour sixth sense though…it’s just a coincidence.
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