The Vagina Series


(18 x 24 Colored Pencil and Sharpie)

Last year I was commissioned to create a piece for the Vagina Monologues (as a donation).

I immediately felt the challenge of this. How and what was I going to draw…a vagina? (Insert giggles and shielding of eyes here.)

I was told that it didn’t necessarily have to be a real vagina. I could draw a metaphorical one- think fruit, or flowers, Georgia O’Keefe style.

I actually struggled with this for a while. I’m not sure if I am adequately able to express my feelings on this subject, but I’m going to try. In our society, the human body is not really something to be proud of. Seriously, if you look at advertisements, the body is either portrayed as something to want (something you need to look like, something you want to have, a sex symbol-which isn’t particularly a good thing in most cases), or the body is seen as something shameful, that you need to change (i.e. you are too fat, you need to do this and this to fix it, etc.)

Especially the female body, although we’ve heard this time and time again. I won’t go into huge detail on how females are portrayed in the media.

Even saying the word vagina or typing it, or any version of the word, makes a girl feel almost shameful. It’s just an anatomical term for a specific body part, but as women it’s something we are taught to be ashamed of (whether we are aware of it or not.)

Seriously. Try using the word vagina sometime without feeling some sense of guilt or embarrassment (or maybe I’m just weird because of being raised Catholic. Whatever. Everyone’s got issues.)

That’s why, when I thought about drawing the Vagina Monologues piece, I felt like drawing fruit or flowers would be a cop out. A vagina isn’t a flower and it’s not a fruit. It’s a body part.

There’s a particular story from Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues about a woman going to a “vagina workshop” (strange as that sounds), where everyone was asked to draw a picture of a vagina, or their vagina. I used this as the basis for my own piece and two others.

(18 x 24 Colored Pencil and Sharpie)

(“African Klimt” 18 x 24 Colored Pencil and Sharpie)

I call these my Vagina series, because a. they were inspired by the vagina monologues and b. their purpose is to express the female form in a strong, yet sensual way. These are four nude women, crouching against abstract backgrounds, either presenting themselves or masturbating (yes, yes, that is totally what they are doing, get the giggles out now.)

(18 x 24) Colored Pencil and Sharpie

(“Red Headed Klimt” 18 x 24 Colored Pencil and Sharpie)

I suppose this is a rebellion against the idea that a female expressing any kind of sexuality is to be considered a slut. At least, I hope that is what is perceived in my artwork. The pieces to me express liberation, in that these women are the masters of their own sexual desire, and have the power to please themselves, where and when they choose by themselves, without someone else being necessary to bring about their pleasure (although that’s totally fine and awesome).

(18 x 24 Colored Pencil and Sharpie!

(“Poppies”18 x 24 Colored Pencil and Sharpie!

I say liberation also in the sense that, these women express freedom from societal constraint, from being tied to someone else to receive, and the freedom of intoxication with oneself (although that can be a dangerous thing. See “Poppies” above).

I realize that these pieces of artwork could be considered quite offensive to a lot of people.

I actually began a new piece, another commission and another donation, for an event called Shimmy for the Cure (a belly dance event to raise money for breast cancer prevention and awareness). My own grandmother battled (and won) against breast cancer, so in a small way, I feel like I can help with my artwork.

("The Maiko" Unfinished. 11x14 Sharpie and Colored Pencil. The word Maiko literally translates to "dancing child" (mai = dance, ko = child), but is also referred to as "dancing girl". A Maiko is an apprentice Geisha who must must undergo a period of training that generally takes 5 years, where she learns the various "gei" (arts) such as dancing, singing, music etc before she becomes a Geisha.)

(“The Maiko” Unfinished. 11×14 Sharpie and Colored Pencil. The word Maiko literally translates to “dancing child” (mai = dance, ko = child), but is also referred to as “dancing girl”. A Maiko is an apprentice Geisha who must must undergo a period of training that generally takes 5 years, where she learns the various “gei” (arts) such as dancing, singing, music etc before she becomes a Geisha.)

I’m taking liberties here as far as cultural appropriation goes (I don’t mean to be offensive to Japanese culture at all.) I feel like this piece also gets to be included as part of my vagina series.

The Maiko is about expressing joy and shedding whatever it is that binds you. Her breasts are bare because she doesn’t care about her nudity. She is proud of her body and has no reason to hide it. It is not meant to be sexual (although an artist really doesn’t have control over how their artwork is perceived once they release it to the public).

There are certainly more moving pieces of artwork that have been inspired by those who have battled against breast cancer (and I suggest you check them out. There are even brilliant tattoos on women who have lost their breasts to cancer that are absolutely glorious.), but this is my contribution.

So, if you are offended, I can’t really apologize, as I’ve learned through this project that the naked woman’s body really isn’t something I should be ashamed of.

For more info on the Vagina Monologues, check out Eve Ensler’s book:

For more info on Shimmy for the Cure, check out Irie Tribal’s website:

The Story behind the piece

(Perseus returns the Eye 18 x 24 Pencil)

(Perseus returns the Eye 18 x 24 Pencil)

One of the most interesting things about my creative process lately is that I generally have no idea what is going to happen on the page. I start off with a basic idea (usually a piece of work by another artist that inspires me or, in this instance, a story as well) and begin sketching in a random place on the paper.

I never had any formal art training (apart from art classes in high school?), so I’m learning about design as I go.

This particular piece was inspired by a couple works from Gustav Klimt (the subject material and the general shapes that Klimt uses in his artwork). Most of my recent work has been somewhat inspired by Klimt, or Alphonse Mucha.

(Klimt's interpretation of the Gorgons, from Greek Mythology)

(Klimt’s interpretation of the Gorgons, from Greek Mythology)

(Klimt always has such interesting composition to his pieces)

(Klimt always has such interesting composition to his pieces)

I wanted to do my own interpretation of a Greek tale as well.

(Perseus returns the Eye (Unfinished) 18 x 24 Pencil)

(Perseus returns the Eye (Unfinished) 18 x 24 Pencil)

Perseus was the son of Zeus and DanaĆ«. He was sent on a quest by Polydectes, the king of the island of Seriphos, to bring him the head of Medusa (why? Apparently Perseus didn’t have a good enough gift to bring to some banquet the king was holding. Silly Perseus.)

Perseus was told by Athena that he must find the Hesperides, who held all the weapons needed to find and kill Medusa. But in order to find where the Hesperides were, Perseus would need to consult the Graeae sisters (three sisters, related to Medusa, who shared one eye and one tooth between them. Commonly confused with the three fates, or sometimes their stories are combined).

Perseus stole their eye, and well. You can guess the rest.

(Up close of Medusa's Head-chopped off by Perseus)

(Up close of Medusa’s Head-chopped off by Perseus)

The Graeae sisters are most commonly depicted as old and decrepit women, their father and mother, Phorcydes and Ceto, as sea monsters/creatures, and the Gorgons (Medusa and her two sisters) as hideous snake haired demons.

However, because I wanted to draw this picture from the perspective of Medusa’s family, they have been drawn as they would see each other (beautiful, regardless of outer appearance).

As I began, the composition slowly started to evolve. I started with the Graeae sisters, then one of their Gorgon sisters, then their father…and it just kept going from there.

On the left hand side Phorcydes clutches one of his daughters, who has fainted. He points at his daughter’s murderer. His wife leans against him, shielding her face from the horror.

The Graeae sisters huddle in the center of the family cluster, two of them clutching one another with their heads lowered in sadness, the other blindly reaching for the eye Perseus stole from them.

The other Gorgon completes the left side, wrapping around the Graeae sisters, also hiding her face.

On the right hand side stands Perseus. His face is cast in darkness as he is, from the family’s perspective, the evildoer. He clutches Medusa’s head in one hand and the Graeae sister’s eye in the other. At his feet are Chrysaor and Pegasus, the brothers who sprang from Medusa’s head once it had been cut off (or something. Greek Mythology can be very strange.)

This piece is taking quite a while because of the detail work.

(Up close of Phorcydes' Robe)

(Up close of Phorcydes’ Robe)

Phorcydes’ Robe is made out of squares within squares, and tons of rectangles (I didn’t attempt to count how many).

(Up close of Phorcydes' crown)

(Up close of Phorcydes’ crown)

His crown was also a lot of detail work, as is the jewelry for the women in the picture.

(Up close of Perseus' armor)

(Up close of Perseus’ armor)

Perseus is wearing armor made of dark fish scales, which also takes quite a while to finish.

I’m not quite set on Chrysaor and Pegasus. This is all an experiment with detail and composition, so I need to sketch a few more things before I start filling in with a darker pencil.