Your work blends the world of the visual and written in a blunt and chaotic way, there's something really beautiful about how each piece of yours appears like a diary, unfiltered and unedited. Which aspect of creating comes most naturally to you, in a visual or written form? How do you navigate between the two?
I try and visualise feelings as soon as they come to me really. I’m a very emotional person so a lot of my initial reaction will be in the work I’m doing. Either in writing down my feelings and scribbling them out or trying to visualise how I’m feeling, I find it’s a lot easier and quicker to write everything down. I’m not too bothered about typography or anything, I like my handwriting as it is and I think handwriting says a lot about somebody. If I’m feeling really shit I’ll write really quickly. I always think of it like when you’re in school and you start writing in really neat handwriting and towards the end it just gets very scribbled and chaotic and full of spelling mistakes and crossing out. I love that about people’s handwriting and I think it says a lot about someone, so I just keep it as it is and that’s the way I want to be seen because it’s more honest.
I like drawing lots of people and I like drawing not necessarily pretty things. So, I’ll exaggerate their eyelashes but I will scribble them and draw them very quickly. I draw quite quickly anyway, I think it just flows better for me and I don’t want to spend too much time on lines or anything. I feel like if I’m spending too much time drawing or if I’m being too careful about something it feels too forced, so I need to be quick about it but be confident about it as well.
I like the way you describe my work as blunt and chaotic because I am a very blunt and chaotic person. It sounds pretentious coming out of my mouth right now but I do feel that people should say more of how they feel and be completely honest. That’s always what I’ve wanted to be and I’m glad that comes across.
What is the process in creating your work? It appears so bold and natural and like it was produced in an urgency. Do you work like the way it presents itself or do you go at it with a sense of idea and concept beforehand, is there much trial and error?
Ideas can come out of nowhere.
I’d been having a bit of creative block for a little bit and it was really aggravating.
And then I just found this picture on Instagram and it just pissed me off, and it literally just sparked something in me to write down my feelings, so I could have my initial reaction to what I had just seen. So basically, I had this crush on this guy and he had just posted this picture of him kissing this girl being like ‘Happy Birthday! I love you!’, with the black heart emoji (which is like my favourite emoji) and I’m like ‘fuck off! That’s my emoji, you arsehole!’ So I instantly just had all these feelings of like ‘…ah FUCK this, FUCK you, FUCK everything.’ So, I’ve just written on a diary page, stabbed through it and taped it back together and then in the bottom, I’ve just written ‘Ok I’m calm now. It’s fine. I’ll just have a shower and wash my hair and then I’ll be ok.’
I like to work on that initial reaction.
I’m in counselling at the moment and I was talking to my counselor saying about how sometimes I don’t know how to say how I feel so I just visually vomit it out onto the page and that helps me understand how I’m feeling. It helps me turn things into artwork rather than just sitting and moping. I feel like art is my therapy and I actually don’t know what I’d do without it. That’s how so many people deal with things, through artwork and I find that it’s a great way of expressing yourself.
Sometimes I’ll do some trial and error things. I’ve recently just got an iPad pro with procreate and I’ve been trying to experiment on that. I think the trouble with digital is that you can press the undo button so much. You can delete the mistakes and I like the mistakes. I’m still trying to get used to it but I do love the programme and I’m getting really into it. At the same time though, I love drawing with ink, I love all the little mistakes.
One of your most recent projects catalogued on Instagram, was the rolling papers and packages printed with dedications to someone, can you elaborate more on this piece and the combination of the intimacy and physicality of this work?
It’s about this boy called Ben. He gave me his number. I was working in the shop. He saw me, tapped me on my shoulder, made me this little handwritten note on a ripped-up bit of paper saying that he was going back to Ireland and that if I wanted to meet up with him for a drink, to call him. I called him after work and we met up and we walked around until 2 o’clock in the morning around Cambridge and it was like something out of Lady and the Tramp.
This was about two years ago. We went to this really cute chip shop, that was our chip shop. Every time I walk past it or smell it, I think that is mine and Ben’s place. This year he met up with me and I slept with him. There were some complications with the condom…we had to go to Boots and get the morning after pill, which is hilarious. Well, I can laugh about it now but at the time it wasn’t like that at all.
They were saying you have to eat, otherwise you’ll throw up the pill as it might give you nausea. So, we decided to go to the chip shop, which was our chip shop. He bought me some chips and we sat upstairs and we were kind of laughing about it because it was Valentine’s weekend. There were loads of flowers all over the table and special reservations and we were looking at the table where we were at first, which was by this little window, talking about how we had eaten chips there beforehand.
So I got the packet of the morning after pill and said that I would open it up and write a note on it and that would be his Valentine's card. I have it on my wall. That was our little Valentine's note, it’s really cute. It was a really nice weekend, he will always be a part of me. Definitely.
I’m such a little romantic at heart. He lives in Manchester and I do wonder what he’s doing. We both knew it couldn’t really go anywhere but I’ll still always have feelings. So when he went back to Manchester, he left his rolling papers in my room. On Valentine’s Day, he sent me a message telling me Happy Valentines Day. We were kind of talking and then he said he couldn’t do this and it really broke my heart. I think all these feeling came rushing out because I’d slept with him and had such a crush on him and I just cried. It was a really emotional time for me.
So I started writing these little feelings on these rolling papers. In a way, they’re a bit like post-its. I was just writing about him. Well, most of them are about him, some are a bit more ambiguous but they all related to him in some way or other. I started to kind of pump them out and I wasn’t thinking too carefully about them, I was just writing down honestly about how I felt. That was the Rolling Paper Valentine’s. I love that title. I think it’s my favourite thing about it.
Another exciting aspect of your work is the influences that you reference in your work. The political and unapologetic themes act as an ode to the artists you've quoted in the past such as Rage Against the Machine, Bob Dylan, Riot Grrl and others yet they're explored in your own unique and contemporary terms. Can you talk about what your influences are and how you extend these themes in your work?
So a lot of the stuff I did in January, was to do with this this diary I had that I was trying to write some thoughts in and I was being a bit ‘edgy’, quoting these song lyrics because I love Rage Against the Machine and Bob Dylan. Masters of War is my favourite Bob Dylan song. It’s so powerful. I love musicians and artists that are political and it’s not about ‘I kissed a girl, etc.’ It’s not singing about relationships. The Clash kind of described it as a ‘news giving group’. It was the news outlet for the young people of the day rather than the BBC.
Some things you hear just blow your mind and you’ll just have to write it all down. I did this recently with a Rage Against The Machine song. I just tried to emphasise the words as if they were my own in a way, scribbling things down and crossing them out. I filled up the whole page with the lyrics.
Everything's an experiment for me. I’ll treat Instagram as a diary, it doesn’t have to be perfect or finished. Sometimes you just need to get things out quickly and in the moment and I think that’s what I did with those.
In a recent production called 'The Encyclopydia of Lydia', your work was pulled together in three episodes, released by hitRECord, a collaborative production company founded by Joseph Gordon Levitt. Featuring work from a collection of artists, themes were explored in three visually and topically engaging videos that explored the often shamed and taboo. These three themes were 'Gender Roles', 'Your First Time' and 'Body Hair'. Can you tell us about the process of this?
Doing that show was such a learning curve. HitRECord teaches me a lot about being more professional than I should be. There was a lot of back and forth with Rebecca Rae Votta who also made the show. I think they wanted to work with me because I’m very blunt and I do act on a whim with things I feel passionate about. A lot of the work I uploaded on hitRECord was when I was angry or felt that some things needed to be talked about. I often would just rant into a camera and say how I feel. I used to edit these videos and what I said but then I couldn’t be bothered, so shoved it up on the site anyway. Because the whole point is that it’s meant to be REmixed, artists can take work and edit it themselves. I treat hitRECord like a diary as well and just write and draw my ideas down and feel these can always be improved in the future. I draw a lot of ugly shit. That’s my favourite thing. That’s how I describe my work.
I was really nervous at first to have a show that I was going to host. That actually freaked me out but I thought I should take the opportunity and do it. I was very self conscious watching it. I still am. But visually, I think it’s perfect. I’m very critical of myself, so I will watch it and just cringe the fuck out because I care about what I do, I care about what I say. And in a way, I care about how people see it, if it’s a finished piece, it’s got my name on it. Unless the piece is very personal or dedicated to someone, then I won’t really care what other people think. I think why I really cared about the Encyclopydia of Lydia and what people thought was because people comment on youtube. People are dicks on youtube. So I was a little bit scared.
It was Rebecca’s idea to do an episode on body hair at the start and I really wanted to talk about sex education as well because it’s really important and it’s funny and fun to talk about with other people. The ‘Your First Time’ episode was probably my favourite. I think ‘Gender Roles’ was a bit more serious but it’s very vague. I feel there’s so much more we can do about it. Sometimes I feel those topics to be way too big to deal within just five minutes.
What I loved abut the ‘Your First Time’ episode, was loads of people coming forth and being like ‘Oh I wasn’t taught this at all,’ or that they were really deprived of sex education. I got the idea for that because a friend of mine said that all sex education was for her was: ‘There are going to be some changes in your body, but we’re not going to talk about it because it’s inappropriate.’ That sparked something in me to be like, no, this isn’t right. I remember we got this really bullshit leaflet at school that said ‘101 things to do with your partner without having sex,’ and that was the sex education class.
I had a rough childhood growing up. Parents divorcing, all that stuff that I won’t go into but there was a lot of stuff in my teenage years that was very painful. There was a lot of abuse in school and girl hate, treating each other like shit, it was such a horrible part of my childhood that I don’t have the best school memories. That’s why I feel a lot of care for people who are younger than me, and inspired by me, if I can say that without sounding too dick-ish about it.
I always want to feel like I can help young people. I’m really passionate about sex education and I want to help people in any way I can. I don’t necessarily mean to guide them to how I see things, I just mean even if I can help in any way that would be great. Or if I can take the pressure out of sex a little bit because there is so much pressure and there are so many things that happen to teenagers that can be prevented and helped.
A few years ago, I went to New York when it was the 9/11 memorial and I saw this book. In this book, there were children’s drawings of the 9/11 day. It was just children’s drawings with crayons about exactly what happened and it really fascinated me because children are so honest and there’s no such thing as censorship with kids yet. We censor things all the time around kids and kids, they kind of keep it real, they keep it honest because they haven’t really been taught how to lie yet. There is no censorship with kids. And that’s why I appreciate art by kids so much. There’s no boundaries with them they keep it how it is and they don’t try and gloss it up for other people. Adults do that to other children, for example ‘Where do babies come from? They come from the stalk in the sky.’
So, I think that’s how humans are. I think children are very influential. Especially how they talk, how they visualise things, how they put things down on paper. There’s that whole thing about how when they grow older, they’re taught how to lie and they’ve been told they can’t say this, or that because it’ll upset people. So as long as you’re not offending people, that’s fine. But, if you want to keep it real. Keep it real. That’s all I have to say, really.