We meet Alice Skinner, illustrator, art activist and Instagram sensation
Alice Skinner, illustrator and art activist, talks the power of Instagram, bringing about change through art and the most exciting project of her career so far
Culture Whisper: Can you tell us how your journey into art activism began?
Alice Skinner: Of course. I started by creating work that I was really passionate about. After a bit, I started to realise that I was building a platform that I could use for good. I started talking about things that don't necessarily directly affect my life but affect women around me. I tried to be really inter-sectional with the things that I was covering.
I was looking at the abuse women were getting online, especially on Twitter, women like Mary Beard for example, and suddenly something clicked and I made the connection between things that were really bothering me and my art.
A couple of years ago, if something was upsetting me, I would get really angry about it, as the only thing I could do was talk to my friends about it. Now, I can start making work about it; I am giving life to something and am making people aware of it.
Is there a particular subject matter with which your audience love to engage?
I do a lot of really serious stuff, but I try and to do it in a really fun way to stop it being really heavy. I look at the abuse women get, for example, or Period Poverty [Alice co-founded activist group The Pink Protest (home of the #freeperiods movement) together with Scarlett Curtis and Grace Cambell].
But I've recently done a lot of stuff about sexism in music especially within lyrics. I have found that this really resonates with people. And not only women, but men, too. I have so many men messaging me saying, 'I love this artist or genre of music but I feel so guilty listening to it in my headphones and hearing women being called **** over and over again'. I think a lot of people really struggle with this, so it's been a nice project to always go back to.
Alice Skinner: Instagram
Your pastel aesthetic strikes a strong contrast with your serious subject matter – is this a conscious juxtaposition to engage people and spark debate?
Yes, it's very deliberate. It's my way of tricking people to make them listen to what I am saying. I started off by creating work that I liked to look at, but then I realised that I could start delivering really horrible messages in a sickly sweet pastel package. I think the juxtaposition of it works really well as you can lure people in it. If something looks like it is going to be really serious, lots of people, especially young people, may turn away and not want to get involved.
Who or what really inspires you?
I'm really inspired by a lot of the female artists and creators that I follow on Instagram. When I see these women thriving and making all this incredible work around me, it really kick starts within me a need to be doing that, too.
Whenever I feel really uninspired, I just have to open a newspaper, read something, get thoroughly depressed by it and then make a piece of art around it. The world is not short of inspiraiton.
Just how important is Instagram to you as an artist?
I don't have an agency or any representation. Instagram is where I get 99% of my business. I get that there is a massive backlash towards social media and how damaging it can be, but for me it is such a blessing. I am so lucky that I live in this time and that I have this online exhibition or showcase that I am in complete control of. All of my work really has come through it. Benefit found me on Instagram.
Can you tell us more about your collaboration with Benefit?
To celebrate the launch of their new Brow Contour Pro, I'm creating a 25ft mural [in Chance Street in Shoreditch], which is so intimidating as I normally work in A3. It's also my first piece of public art. It's like an exhibition in the street. I really wanted it to look like just another piece of mine. It could be on my Instagram and you wouldn't necessarily know it's for Benefit. It's true to my style and to what I do.
I wanted to represent a whole array of women in the mural. Women that I know. Women that you see in London. I wanted it to represent a variety of bodies, ethnicities. I wanted girls walking down the street to see themselves in it, to feel represented. That was really important to me. I wanted to celebrate normal women doing extraordinary things; there's a woman from science in there, protestor women, a writer, creatives. These are normal women not celebrities. These are women leaning on each other, supporting each other. There's an important element of togetherness and fun.
When can we see the mural?
We will be painting from Tuesday (28 August 2018) and it will be live on Wednesday 29 August for two weeks. I can't wait. I am so scared but so excited. Honestly, I think it may have been one of my favourite things that I have ever worked on. For me, Benefit is one of my number one brands that I could ever dream of working with. I think we have quite a similar aesthetic: pink, bubblegum colours, polka dots, and showing women who are looking like they are having fun. I think it's a really great fit. I work alone a lot of the time, so this has been a really new experience for me, and one I have really enjoyed. It's been a dream come true.
So what's next. Anything in the pipeline?
I have probably had the busiest year of my entire life. Over the next few months, I'm looking forward to focusing on a lot of my own work. I've been working a lot with The Pink Protest with my friends Scarlett Curtis and Grace Campbell, so we've got a lot of activist, female empowerment stuff coming up. There's also lots of things that I'm not allowed to talk about very annoyingly. Mainly it's just getting back to creating a lot of the work on my platform, creating some more passion projects.
Brow Contour Pro is available in Benefit stores and online now