“Artist, penis enthusiast, female who wants equality, manic depressive and potentially a man in a previous life.”
We sat down with feminist illustrator Venus Libido to talk about her work and the woman behind it.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and the person behind the illustrations.
I’m a female illustrator based in the South East of England. I graduated in 2014 from Winchester school of arts with a degree in Sculpture. After I graduated I moved to London with my partner to try and pursue a career in the arts, I went from working as a furniture maker to a career in decorative arts. I painted the homes of filthy rich men- who’s choices of wall coverings were more than lavish to say the least. After a year of climbing up and down ladders, being underpaid and occasionally sexual harassed by builders and verbally assaulted by my male colleagues I decided to put my middle finger up to all that shit and say goodbye to London. I developed anxiety, depression and alcoholism. So, I moved back in with my parents, sadly not something I had in mind for my future but it brings me to where I am now, working quietly in my studio, in their attic.
How did you get started as an illustrator?
After two months of living with my parents (and many sessions with a councillor) later I picked up a pencil and began drawing all the chaos in my head. To start with it was all about my mental state and the things that would flow through my mind as I lay in bed contemplating life. But then it just developed into anything I found slightly amusing, no matter how bizarre or neurotic the thought may be. I kept going with it after I received massive amounts of positivity from my partner and friends. When I first put my work onto Instagram my parents sat me down and asked ‘if I was ok?’ because of what I was drawing, my mother found it very distressing and urged me to stop. At that moment I thought yes, yes I bloody am ok. When I draw the real shit that I’m actually thinking and not just sugar coating it, I feel fucking great. Knowing from comments, that others feel the same way, is so empowering for me to continue drawing the subject matters that I do.
How do you come up with new ideas, do you have a process?
I’m normally inspired by real life circumstances. The image of me up a ladder with a guy commenting on how flexible I am actually happened. One day I was on site decorating and I was the only female in the room when this Polish man; who had been following me round all week said ‘do you work out love? cause you look well flexible up that ladder.’ What made it worse was that my superior and male colleagues, who I thought were my friends, just sat there and laughed along with it. I felt so uncomfortable and scared to respond to the guy in a room full of largely built men. But looking back now I just think how sad their lives must be and that hopefully one day they will see my pictures and see how much of an asshole they were being.
How did you find your style? Has it changed much from when you first started out?
I just wanted the aesthetic to reflect the irritation and bitterness in my head. So my style just developed from that alongside just drawing every day and practising what worked. I like the vibrancy of the colours contrasting with the bitterness of the narrative, I think it creates a subtle passive aggressiveness.
Could you briefly tell us about your creative process, what mediums do you use etc?
I usually draw on paper first with pencil and do a rough sketch then draw over with black pen, scan and then digitally colour and redraw extra bits.
Have you got any upcoming projects that we should be looking out for?
I have recently been asked to participate in a show in America called ‘I didn’t ask for this: a lifetime of dick pics’ which is created by Kid Bell. The show inititally took place last year and was so popular they are doing it again. The show features 200+ unsolicited dick pics in a gallery space set up to look like the inside of a woman’s home, to show how invasive virtual sexual harassment can be. Also its being promoted by Playboy which is pretty sick.