I recently had an Instagram cleanse. I unfollowed all the people who weren’t making me feel good about myself, Marie-Kondo style: no joy, no like. Gone were all the airbrushed, Facetuned influencers; instead, I curated my feed like a gallery, featuring the female artists who are confronting sex, bodies, politics, mental health, feminism, love, and everything that matters to me in their work. When I log in, it’s like a joyous explosion of empowering artwork. And I am totally in control of it. I’ve created my own community, and I love it.
Hazel is my fave taboo tackler. Think bright and colourful cartoon-like figures, but with a serious feminist edge. I adore her Things You Don’t see in Mainstream Porn, which features the real sex stuff. You know, the things that actually happen when you’re getting down and dirty – period sex, discussions of consent, pets watching, condom struggles, pubes, laughter, banging heads… Hazel’s work also encourages self-care and an appreciation of the simple pleasures in life, like clean sheets, the smell of old books and sharing a smile with a stranger. But beyond that, it also forces you to consider what is going on in the lives of others. Kindness and consideration are at the heart of her work, both for yourself and other people
Mental health, cannabis and self-care… Portland-based Dina is a huge advocate of looking after yourself and accepting who you are. She loves being naked and smoking a joint in the little haven that is her home. It’s like she crawled inside the deepest, darkest corners of my mind to create her artwork, confronting our fears and allowing us to feel at home in our bodies no matter what they look like, fat, thin, dark, light, soft, curvy. In Dina’s world, we all know we are beautiful and needn’t be afraid of taking up space.
Julie turns those oh-so-recognisable feelings and situations we’ve all been in into ever-so-relatable illustrations that really do make you feel like you’re not alone. In bed with an anxiety-inducing hangover? She’s got your back. Having a glass of wine with a friend telling her how amazing your life is right now? Yep, she knows what you’re really thinking. Got your hair cut into that longed-for bob only to regret in instantly? Yep. I am forever cutting my hair, then growing it out. When will I ever be content? At least Julie can make me LOL about it.
Caitlin’s illustrations may look fun but they pack a serious political punch – and she will never, ever, apologise for that. Because no woman should say sorry for her opinions or for shouting about fundamental human rights. Her work will inspire you to stand up for what you believe in and partake in your own form of activism, no matter how big or small, whether that’s calling out racism, fighting to change abortion rights or speaking out about your mental health.
Gemma is a fellow anxiety sufferer and overthinker. But she turns those thoughts and feelings that infiltrate our days into humour with her sketchy style. Watch in horror as your phone rings, thinking why can’t someone just text? A neighbour calls round to say hello? Oh my goodness, why didn’t they warn me? One scroll through her feed and I felt instantly bonded with her through our shared antisocial, introverted ways.
The trend for minimalism and clutter-free living makes me feel like my filled-with-stuff home is messy and not worthy of Instagram. Amanda’s drawings, though, are real. Oh so real. She depicts those moments when you’re snot-filled and full of cold, surrounded by tissues on the sofa watching Netflix. Or burning your dinner in a dirty kitchen and crying because it’s all got a bit much. Or watching your phone when you’re waiting for a reply to a text or a takeaway delivery…
I feel Alice and her woes, such as the struggle of being a feminist woman who loves listening to sexist, misogynistic hip-hop and R&B, with its “b*tch” and “h*e” lyrics. I love the women she creates, with wobbly, chafing thighs and tummy rolls. Her illustrations have a hint of art history too, some inspired by Picasso and one inspired by one of my favourite paintings: Tamara De Lempicka’s Les deux Amies. Except here the two women are hungover, comforting each other through alcohol-induced anxiety and surrounded by McDonald’s wrappers. I mean, we’ve all been there.