Rosie Johnson Illustrates
Freelance illustrator

Notes from the studio (it’s a shed)

Saying Yes to Stuff


I've just got home from an exhibition opening. It has a piece by me in it. This time two years ago, I was making resources for my Reception class. How did this happen?!? I'm basically tring to be the female version of Jim Carey in Yes Man. I AM YES WOMAN.

Since starting the business about 18 months ago I have said yes, yes please and Hells yes to: commissions, markets, book illustration, murals, being interviewed, writing a panto- you name it: I've wholeheartedly agreed to it (within a creative sphere you understand...) I might not always hit the mark, but at least I'll have had the target practise.

In September 2017, a local artist and community lynchpin, Anna Fitzgerald, asked me if I'd like to take part in an exhibition in March 2018. "March 2018? That sounds like lightyears away- I'd love to" I retorted, not a second thought to the feelings of future me. Fast forward to the post Christmas state- bleary-eyed in hangover-esque shock and worry. Putting all thoughts of Imposter Syndrome to one side, I began to consider the brief: Humour in Art. As you may know, if you've seen my stuff, particularly on Instagram, I'm one of those humourless Feminists. 

If only there was something funny about women. Women can't be funny though. They're too busy being sexy or domestic. They can be shameful or angelic; humour plays no part. But hang on... 

After musing for some time, an idea formed. I wanted to create a peep show- with the outside tantalising and promising the naughtiest, most outrageous women around... and the inside revealing some badass feminist icons- all accused of being outrageous for striving for equality. The idea grew, changed, was frustrated by my lack of ability and finally morphed into this...

Feminist Peep Show

I'm creating a QR code to link to this blog from the piece itself in case people want to find out more about the women and work I've featured- because I'm high-tech like that.

anti suffrage poster

Left to right: Far left at the front is a genuine anti-suffragette poster from 1914. A woman with her mouth clamped shut. These posters usually characterised the women as plain or ugly and this was the cause for them wanting equality, because no man would want to look after them. Yup. 

The Sun/ The Scum front cover. I have slightly paraphrased the headline, for comic effect, but all the other content of that cover is from the original 2015 paper. TWO THOUSAND AND FIFTEEN. You can't see it in this pic. Sorry!

The Daily Mail headline screams about man hating feminazis who are disgusted at men who just want to compliment their looks. I didn't do anything to that, I just rolled it up and popped it in. It speaks for itself. 

Malala Yousafzai has been a vocal activist in the movement for girls' education, particularly in her native Pakistan. In 2012 she was shot by the Taliban in an assassination attempt in retaliation for her activism. In 2014, she was announced as the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize along with Kailash Satyarthi, for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education. 

Behind her, Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the British Suffragette movement. The ballot box is for her too, because, were she alive today I think that despite the advances that have been made towards equality, she might still be wondering why we're protesting this shit. She was an advocate of the Deeds not Words approach to change, in contrast to the suffragists who had been trying to achieve the same ends through petitioning parliament. Last month marked the centenary of SOME women and poor men getting the vote and we have Emmeline, among many others, to thank for that.

Sketches for the cheesed off Emmeline next to the none-too-impressed me.

Sketches for the cheesed off Emmeline next to the none-too-impressed me.

Behind Mrs Pankhurst is a copy of a Picasso painting, taking the piss out the great artist as he famously remarked, "For me there are only two kinds of women, goddesses and doormats". Bleugh.

To the right at the back, a nod to Vermeer's classic. The girl with pearl earring wants you to start listening, not looking. 

In the very front, holding the placard, is Gloria Steinem, spokeswoman of the American Feminist movement in the 60s and 70s. An absolute icon of that time, she also brought to the western world's attention the plight of women and young girls suffering FGM. 

To her right, sitting down, is Maya Angelou, acclaimed American poet, storyteller, activist, and autobiographer. After suffering horrific abuse, followed by mutism as a child, she went on to be one of the most influential, groundbreaking poets as well as Hollywood's first black female director. She was heavily involved in the civil rights movement and remained politically active way into later life. If you'd like to get a sense of her and her work, I heartily recommend listening to her Desert Island Discs from 1988. Her voice was amazing.

Behind Maya, is Frida Kahlo, the Mexican artist hailed by feminists everywhere for showing a true and raw depiction of the female form- hairy eyebrows weren't ALWAYS in, people. She had a life-changing accident, leaving her bed-ridden so she taught herself to paint lying down. More motivational than a meme generator, wouldn't you say? 

So there we are... 

If you're reading this before the 11th of March 2018 and you're within woohooing distance of Exmouth, East Devon, come and see some amazing work.



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