For our latest interview, Britain Uncovered had the pleasure of meeting up with sensual artist, Giverny Annalisa, for an in-depth discussion about her beginnings as an artist, the reasons she decided to create sensual art, the ways her work is giving women the freedom to do what they want with their bodies, her experiences as a model, and so much more!
Britain Uncovered: Hi Giverny! In the past few years, we’ve had the pleasure of speaking to many artists who are creating nude art as a way of celebrating the human body and empowering the viewer – but this is the first time we’ve spoken with a sensual artist, so we’re looking forward to hearing your views on a variety of topics!
The first painting of yours that made it clear which direction you wanted to go in with your art was a piece called Blinded. What prompted its creation, and what is it about sensual art that particularly appeals to you?
Giverny: It’s really funny – Blinded was the one painting where I questioned whether or not I was going to upload it. It was the piece that set it all off, and where I proved to myself that I can upload something and that the right people will like it. It blew up, and it was the first thing that had ever blown up for me like that.
When I realised what sort of art I wanted to make, I uploaded a story where I asked my followers to send over explicit images. One person sent me some images, and that just set it all off. And the guy who had sent me the photo really liked it! I never intended to post it, as it was just for me, but he then suggested that I upload it. But I’ve got my family following me on Instagram, and he was like, “Just do it”! And I thought “Okay”, and then I did it. It made me realise that actually, I can do this.
BU: What gave you the incentive to want to do that? Is sensual art something you had always wanted to dabble with, or the ultimate goal right from the beginning perhaps?
Giverny: It all came about as the result of my break-up. In 2020, just before Covid hit, my ex left me. It had already been a long-distance relationship and, due to Covid, I was confronted with my feelings. As a woman, you’re on cold turkey when from one day to another you’re not in a relationship anymore. I just wanted to express that I was missing that touch and that intimacy, and that’s what set it off.
BU: Going all the way back to the start of your artistic journey, what type of art were you creating prior to your decision to move into sensual artwork?
Giverny: I’ve always liked painting or sketching people. I loved sketching faces, and as a teenager, I really liked anime and manga. I’ve always had this thing where when I feel an emotion, I put it on paper. I experimented with acrylic mostly, and watercolour and fineliners. So you can see that a little bit in my art today – the fineliners are still there and the sketchiness is still there, but the controlled colours is something new. It’s always been similar to that, but it’s never been as expressive.
BU: A lot of the artists we’ve spoken with in past interviews have told us that they are seeking to desexualise the female form through their work, but your sensual art is of course markedly different in that respect. Is desexualising the body ever a goal of yours and something you support, or do you feel as though your work is entirely separate to that movement and that kind of art?
Giverny: That’s an interesting question! With me, it’s less about desexualising the female form, and more about giving us women the freedom to do what we want with our bodies without having to feel dirty. When you think about it, on a Saturday night as a woman, you think about what you wear. And I hate that. My art is about the freedom that I can walk around naked or paint naked bodies without there being any consequences (or even having to worry about consequences) as a woman.
It’s really about the freedom of expression, still having that respect, and not having to devalue ourselves because we are expressing ourselves. So it’s not about desexualising the body, it’s more about normalising it; so that as a woman we can have that freedom, just like men do.
BU: That makes total sense, and that in itself can feel empowering too, because those viewing your art will realise that they don't have to feel shame about their bodies, that it's a natural part of life, and that your art celebrates that. That’s a nice way of looking at it.
BU: Was there anything you had learned from your prior work that helped prepare you for the type of sensual art that you’re creating today, or did it all come naturally? And what are some of the most important considerations when you start work on your paintings?
Giverny: I’ve never been a fan of theory, so I’ve never really liked learning about art – I’ve always seen it as a waste of time! But when I see a photo, I’ll think, “Okay, I want to make it in my style, but make it look exactly like the photo”, so that’s my main motivation. I use grids now and I scale my work (and the photos to my art) to make the likenesses more accurate. But otherwise, I just do it as I go along. I learn things as I go along, and when things don’t work out, I learn from that too.
BU: Are there any artists within your space who create similar types of art that you’re inspired by or who you look up to? Is there anyone you would say is particularly influential on your work?
Giverny: I’d say that there’s a package of artists who make me ‘me’. The first is an artist named @eroticwatercolor, who has over half a million followers on Instagram. l love her use of colour and her spontaneous way of painting, because that’s what I do. And then there’s an artist called @kaaatikoart who does oil paints, and I love the colours she creates too.
I also like Sophie Tea because I like the business side of what she does, and that’s my goal – to live for my art and to just travel. Another thing I admire about her, which I need to work on, is consistency. I’m an emotional person, so when I don’t feel like it, I don’t always create – but as the business owner, you realise you’ve got to do it. Sometimes Sophie will send stories at 10pm, and she’ll still be painting, and I just admire that. I think that’s the thing that’s making her successful – just sticking at it no matter what. She’s definitely an idol business-wise; but art-wise, not really. I like her art and all the detail, but I prefer portraits and figures.
And obviously I’m inspired by Izzy Canning and all these other lovely artists on social media, and we’re always giving each other tips – but those three are the main ones.
BU: Earlier this year, you modelled in your very first photoshoot (with a photographer named Tilo). How did you feel in the run-up to that – were you apprehensive at all, or ready to go from the off? How did it all go on the day, and what did you take away from it?
Giverny: I was nervous, because I’ve been raised quite conservatively – which is really funny, because I’m now the total opposite! But I’ve always been taught to watch out as a woman, and to be wary, and my parents urged me to be cautious with this man who wanted to take photos of me. I knew Tilo and was fine with him, but there was an element of fighting myself and fighting my own patterns of thinking.
At first I was a little wary, but the main reason I went there was not to take photos of myself, but to just present my art with me, and to have a face to my art that I could present on my website and social media. But Tilo was so good, and towards the end I thought about taking that photo [shown above] – and it was just a thought – but then he asked, and I just thought, “It’s now or never”!
I posed for that particular photo and I thought, “You know what? I don’t actually need permission, or my parents’ approval.” That’s a new thing for me, and I sat there with my art and Tilo taking photos of me, and it was such an empowering moment. It was amazing. I still can’t get over it, and it’s opened so many new doors. It’s like going out of your comfort zone and learning you can do things. So it was more than just a photoshoot; it was proving to myself that I could do something like this.
BU: Do you think the experience has given you a greater sense of body confidence, or even stronger confidence in general, perhaps?
Giverny: Confidence in general!
BU: That’s what we hear a lot from people we speak to! Since the photoshoot, you’ve been busy working on a number of other projects, and you also got to enjoy your first ever life drawing experience thanks to a local model named Katja who generously posed for you. How did you find the experience, compared to working from a reference photo? Is there more pressure, or did you end up enjoying it more?
Giverny: It was amazing! Katja and I clicked straight away. Most of the people I work with are in the USA or the UK, so I don’t normally meet a lot of people in Germany, but it was so cool because Katja is basically the other side of my art. She’s the model and the person I’m painting, and it was amazing. I had no pressure, and it was just about practicing drawing from life, and she offered to take part and pose for me, so it was really good and it was fun.
BU: And the two of you have also come together to collaborate on a new video channel you’ve launched called @givernyannalisafilm – what can you tell us about this project?
Giverny: We didn’t plan it at all. I just thought, “Why don’t we film”, because I needed some marketing material for my art, and videos on Instagram generally do better than images. It’s just a fun thing, and I like that because there’s no pressure whatsoever. With commissions, you’ve got to do a job because you’re getting paid for it, but with the video channel, it’s just pure fun. So that’s a really nice balance between the two. But when I’m drawing from a reference image it’s more exact, whereas drawing from life is less so.
BU: I guess in some ways, when it’s in-person it’s as much about the experience as it is the final product, whereas when it’s a commission the client might want specific results. What’s your process typically like with commissions, and are there any pieces you’re especially proud of?
Giverny: I try to keep the commissions really personal, and I like finding out about the person – it’s not just about doing the job. I love connecting on a personal level, and most of the time I end up making friends with my clients afterwards too, and I think that’s what it’s all about.
My favourite commission is the most recent one I worked on – Dominance Intertwined – and it’s one I couldn’t upload completely to Instagram, because it was explicit. The colours worked and it was exactly how I wanted it to look, which doesn’t happen often. I loved drawing a bigger painting, and I’m going to go more into bigger paintings because it just gives me more movement and freedom.
At the end of my process, I ask my clients to name the pieces, because I now send certificates of authenticity with them so I need to have them named – and I want the client to name it, as I think this is a nice experience for them as well.
BU: You mentioned to us a while ago that you often receive inappropriate comments and DMs from people – often men – who are reacting to your work. How problematic is this, and does it deter you from creating this type of art? Does it indicate that we’re still a long way away from more mature and healthy attitudes towards all types of nude art?
Giverny: That’s the thing that annoys me, it’s like with cat-calling. What I don’t like, and what annoys me, is that the majority of my followers are men, and I want women to be able to express themselves as well, but I’m immune to it now. I don’t even pay attention to it anymore.
I actually think models on Instagram have a worse time, because they just see the model and their body – and because they're not really there, it’s just the art and they don’t really see the woman behind it. But I don’t have that much of an issue, and I just block them.
BU: Due to the sensual nature of your art, you often find yourself painting males – typically as part of couples paintings – which is interesting because a lot of female artists we speak to are quite adamant about not painting males, because they want it to be purely a celebration of the female form. Do you ever paint solo male figures, or does that not appeal to you so much?
Giverny: I’m wanting to, but I just don’t have a lot of references. I love painting couples, because that resonates with me and my break-up, and that was the whole reason I started this. So it’s just about intimacy and love with each other, so males I paint less… but why not? Men have their own issues about shame as well.
BU: What are some of your views towards body positivity/confidence, and have you generally felt confident in this regard over the years? How do you interpret what the movement is attempting to succeed at, and what role has your art played in this? We can imagine that being behind the canvas and interpreting people’s bodies has given you a different perspective.
Giverny: My main thing is “No shame.” The line I always say is, “Unmask your sensuality”, which means it’s not just a body, it’s about everything – the way you feel about yourself and self-love, and no shame. I have huge respect and am in awe of the trust that my clients and my friends have when they send me reference photos of themselves. I don’t think I would do that! But it’s definitely helped me learn from them, and that they haven’t got that shame. None of their bodies are the same, and I just love it. Painting my clients has definitely helped me.
My clients have also inspired me to look at myself more. I always have my view on the outside as an artist, and what’s around me, but I just find myself looking at myself more and taking more time for myself. On my Patreon I offer a separate tier where I upload my paintings of myself. I’m the ambassador of my art, so I should do that as well!
BU: How does it feel to draw yourself after becoming so accustomed do drawing others?
Giverny: Amazing! I also recently got a commission done by body empowerment artist, Anna Sophie (@healriseshine), who is one of my closest companions on this art journey, and she painted me. I was sort of changing roles and I’d just never really thought about my body or myself. I take more time now to look at myself and admire myself.
Like I said, my parents were quite conservative, and I developed my understanding of my body quite early, and there was a lot of shame involved. And due to my job where I’m working with children, I’ve learned about kids and how their relationships start with their bodies, and it was actually normal – and that was when I started realising that, actually, you should not be ashamed. You should be totally fine with looking at yourself and admiring yourself. And I just feel like it’s all coming together, and I’m just sort of re-wiring everything I’ve learned!
BU: It takes time I guess! But I think the act of seeing yourself in an artistic light can help shift that perception, and I’m sure that a lot of people who commission work from you aren’t necessarily used to seeing those sides of themselves, and I think seeing themselves through somebody else’s eyes can be really powerful as it relates to boosting their self-image and body confidence. And I’m sure that’s one of the most rewarding parts of your job too.
Giverny: No pressure for me though!
BU: None at all! But is there potential for this to potentially be a negative experience for an individual too, if – for instance – they find the depiction of themselves a little too confronting, or maybe don’t warm to it straight away? Can that happen in the art world, that perhaps the painting is a little overwhelming, or people simply don’t like the way they look maybe?
Giverny: Yes. I’m all about authenticity, so I try to share everything, even when things go wrong. I’ve always had happy clients, but when I send them step-by-step photos, obviously there are times when they might say, “Oh, can you just do that”, or, “Could you make that bigger.” Which is fine, but it’s also hard, because as the artist you’re working on it, but the client is also paying you to do it, so you’ve got to work together.
There was one time when I did a portrait of a woman, and the man (who was the client) wanted me to paint the hair blonde. And because I normally only have three colours – black, white and flesh – I always do the hair light (so it’s grey) or black, just so the colours work. But the client really wanted the hair to be blonde, so I did it, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. But he was happy with it.
BU: Do you find that frustrating sometimes, that you don’t have full control and that you do have to make concessions that don’t come naturally, or that don’t always make for the best art?
Giverny: Yes. It’s hard, but you just have to remind yourself it’s a paid job.
BU: So what does the future hold? Is it your goal to have your own shop or gallery some day, and if so, is that something you’re actively working towards?
Giverny: The ultimate goal is not to be bound to my day job and not to have a contract with anyone, because I want to be jumping between Germany and England all the time. I don’t want to be bound to my holidays that I get once a year. But I’ve got so many ideas: more with oils, more with structured pastes art that you can touch, a shop (with a jazz lounge with dancers downstairs maybe), and my art lit up... I’ve got loads of ideas.
I just want to paint more and be more disciplined. I only work at my day job 30 hours a week, which isn’t even full-time, but I just need to get better at time management, getting organised and hopefully getting more commissions sorted for Christmas this year too.
BU: Are there other art styles you might be interested in exploring one day? Or are you fully invested in sensual art for the time-being?
Giverny: Mainly, yes. I want to be known as an artist who paints intimate moments and sensual art. That’s always going to be my thing, but as a business owner you have to have multiple streams of income, so I’ve thought about branching out and having other Instagram accounts for just general portraits (including animal portraits), because the audience is bigger. l love painting anything, but at the end of the day, I’d love to be known for my sensual art.
Our conversation with Giverny took place in Chelmsford, Essex on October 12, 2022, during the artist’s most recent visit to the UK. To see more of Giverny’s beautiful sensual art, you can find her on Instagram at @givernyannalisa, and you can also purchase original artwork from her dedicated Etsy store.