In my first year of A-Levels, my school required us to take an extra-curricular class, and much to my dismay I ended up taking ‘General studies’, which was effectively a qualification in knowing the most random, unnecessary facts in the world. However, despite the general boredom those studies inspired in me, I remember there was one debate we had that I became heavily involved in. We were asked to consider whether or not The Art’s should continue to receive any government funding. A lot of people argued along the lines that art isn’t practical, it’s a drain on resources, the money could fund better causes etc. And while I could understand everybody’s arguments and points of view, I could never agree that art was nothing more than a ‘drain on resources’. Artists are inspired by life, and in turn, art inspires our own lives. Art, in all it’s forms, depicts love that warms us, happiness that lifts us, sadness that makes our hearts burst. For some, art is their only form of communication, the only way they can express their true selves.
For many, art is their salvation.
Personally, I am inspired by art that challenges stigma, and addresses problems that I can relate to in my own life. So, as someone who is still learning the art of being body positive, when I find art which challenges my bad perceptions of myself, it gives me the strength that I sometimes struggle to find on my own. Therefore, I’ve rounded up five of my favourite body positive artists, in the hopes their work might inspire you in your best moments, and be your salvation in your worst, just as they are for me.
Carol Rossetti is a 29-year-old designer and illustrator from brazil. I first came across her work on Instagram completely by accident, and what a happy accident it was! Carol mostly works in pencil and watercolour, and the depth of character she manages to portray in her portraits is so impressive, their expressions just draw you in! Her work is not only body positive, but life positive in general! I especially love her series of postcards, which empower people to embrace themselves and their individualities, whether that be the shape of their body or the cultural differences that make them so unique.
Carol has said she wishes she had started working on body positivity as a teen: “Body positivity is very important to me,” she told me. “It made a huge difference in my life and I hope I can inspire others to talk about that with their work as well.” I know that I personally have found her work very inspirational, and I’m certain others have too!
Christie Begnell is a 25-year-old artist, who works as an occupational therapist and is also studying postgraduate psychology, and she does all this while being on her eating disorder recovery journey! It’s one thing to be juggling all this, but Christie has also opened herself up to the world through her art, which is just amazing.
Christie initially began using her art to explain to people how hard it was living with, and recovering from, an eating disorder, and now her art work supports other people who have been in a similar situation. “I love using my skills to help others,” Christie wrote. “I love the voice it gives me”. When asked about what body positivity means to her, she explained that she loved how the Instagram community are using their voices to challenge beauty ideals and advocate acceptance. “Body positivity to me is the radical act of accepting your body regardless of its appearance. I love that this community has turned into a power force, and that’s something that is so important to me. I struggle a lot with loving my body, but accepting it and asking the world to accept it is really empowering for me.”
There is something really open, honest and pure about Christie’s designs, and she isn’t afraid to portray the hard facts of having an eating disorder. Her illustrations help to fight the stigma of mental health issues, and also embody the ideals of body positivity.
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I am Beto França is 36 years old, and has been doing illustration since he was 19. Drawing and painting is not only his hobby, but also his job as he does illustrations for books and teaches watercolour and drawing workshops. Beto has always been inspired by the style of women in the 50s and 60s, and when he began drawing images inspired by plus size women he became more acquainted with the body positive movement. Beto described plus size women, who inspire his artwork, as “beautiful, strong and happy”, and this view is definitely portrayed in his photos. Parts of a woman’s body we are taught to be ashamed of – our legs, bums, boobs and curves of our body – are all clearly defined and shown to their full beauty in is designs. My absolute favourite paintings from his collection on Instagram are of women taking part in a variation of sports, which were reminiscent of the #ThisGirlCan campaign; it’s so great to see art that challenges yet another negative perception of plus size women!
“It is important to be happy with your body,” Beto told me. “Many women see themselves in my drawings, and I am very happy about it.” And it’s not hard to see why! The women in his drawings are full of personality, are are shown to be confident and content to be themselves, just as we all aspire to be.
Kathryn Mallow is an artist and blogger, and is also a contributor right here at She Might Be! She often draws designs to go alongside the posts for her blogs, although she also posts the pictures themselves on her Instagram. Her artwork consists of fashion pieces, plus size positivity, and artwork which aims to inspire confidence and challenge outdated social norms… what more could you ever want?
Some of Kathryn’s art also depicts how to feels to have an invisible disability, and the results are exceptionally moving; Often it can be difficult to explain to people in words how it feels to deal with the difficult parts of our lives, and it’s through the work of people like Kathryn that we can gain a better understanding of what people are going through! So if you want empowering, feminist, body-positive images popping up on your feed from time to time, Kathryn’s Instagram is the place to go!
Sanne Thijs, also known as Full of Freckles, is a 30-year-old artist living in Belgium, and her illustrations are her career as well as her hobby! Full of Freckles was possibly the first truly body positive artist I came across on Instagram, and not a day goes by that I’m not grateful I stumbled across her! Her art fills me with pure and absolute joy; it’s as if there is so much happiness in her pictures that it overflows into the people who see them! ‘Happiness’ is one of the things that Sanne says inspires her art, along with colour and a fat-positive mind-set, “Because I think there aren’t enough illustrations around of cheerful, cute or happy fat people,” Sanne explained. “I want to change that, because seeing representation of yourself in the world around you is an important part of feeling accepted. And loving yourself.”
When I asked Sanne what body positivity means to her, she said “It means having the body that you have without the world around you being judgemental about it, or being strong to let those judgments go and be your own person. It means freedom.” I have never been able to look at one of Sanne’s drawings without smiling, but it was then that I worked out why. It is the freedom that each of her characters possesses. Each and every portrait shows them as free to be happy, free to wear what they want, and most importantly, free to be themselves. It’s an enviable trait, but something each of us is capable of giving ourselves. Sometimes it just takes people like Sanne, all of these artists, and others in the BoPo Community, to remind us of that.