In this week’s interview, we’re speaking with abstracts and body positivity artist, Kaitlyn Hughes, about the objectives of her work, the ways her art is helping to normalise all body types, the reasons she doesn't feel the pressure to find her own style right away, and more!
Britain Uncovered: Hi Kaitlyn! We first discovered your range of body positivity art back in February during lockdown, and you’ve credited Sophie Tea as being one of the main inspirations for your nude artwork. What did you originally find so appealing about Sophie’s work, and at what stage did you decide to give it a go yourself?
Kaitlyn: Hii! I think what drew me to her work originally was the use of such bold colours and defined brushstrokes and how fun each piece looked. The subject of the pieces definitely appealed to me as well, as they had an impact on the body positive community. I had been contemplating giving painting a go but after Sophie did an Instagram live teaching people how to do it, I knew I had to try.
Britain Uncovered: You mentioned in a caption below one of your early commissions that a particular painting you worked on had made you feel strong and confident in your own body. Do you find that this is a recurring theme whenever you’re creating these types of nude pieces, and does your own self-confidence and body acceptance improve with each piece you create?
Kaitlyn: I definitely find that as I paint more and more that my nude pieces help to improve the views I have about myself. My paintings serve as a constant reminder that I should be kind to myself and to promote these feelings on my page. The confidence that the women that have commissioned pieces from me have is inspiring and keeps me motivated to keep producing my art. This was something that I had considered when I decided to start the painting, and it was almost like a form of self-care.
Britain Uncovered: What would you consider to be some of the primary objectives of your work, and do your paintings serve as a reminder to people to be kind to their bodies? Does your art also help encourage viewers to feel confident and comfortable in their own skin?
Kaitlyn: Spreading positivity is for sure what I would classify as my main objective. This stretches beyond the nude paintings, as I would like to think that the abstract pieces I create also help to evoke positive feelings and emotions from those that see them. Improving the confidence of others and helping people to feel comfortable in their own skin is for me, the driving force behind my art and Instagram page as a whole.
Britain Uncovered: Would you say that you’ve always had a strong sense of body positivity and self-confidence over the years, or is this something that you have had to work on over time? In addition to your art, how else do you go about feeling body confident and comfortable in your own skin?
Kaitlyn: In all honesty, body confidence is something I have lacked, and this is not helped by growing up with social media. It has therefore been something I've had to work hard on and this is probably the reason I was drawn to this kind of art in the first place. It helps to display a wide variety of body types, not just those that mainstream media promote as the 'standard of beauty', and I think this helped me feel less alone.
Besides my art, the biggest ways I try to keep up my body confidence is through making sure I follow accounts that 'normalise' normal body types, by trying to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle, and then also buying clothes that actually fit me (and not just to try and fit into the size on the label).
Britain Uncovered: Have you made a conscious effort of painting all different body types to help signify that ‘all bodies are beautiful’, and how important is it for people to see all shapes and sizes of bodies – not just in art, but in society in general? Do you think more needs to be done to promote and normalise all body types?
Kaitlyn: I believe it's extremely important to showcase all different body types, not just in art, but in society in general – which is why I make a conscious effort to paint different bodies and from a variety of angles.
More definitely needs to be done to normalise all body types. Social media is starting to shift towards promoting the right kinds of accounts and there is now a greater diversity in the models being used within the fashion industry. However, there still is more to be done, especially by big companies who are often behind campaigns and ads that can be considered as damaging to the body image of many young people.
Britain Uncovered: Would you say that your style has changed at all since you first started painting, and if so, in what ways do you think it has evolved?
Kaitlyn: In terms of the style of my painting, I would argue it is constantly evolving. Like many artists at the beginning of their career, I have found it difficult sometimes to discover my 'own' style, but recently I have realised that there should be no pressure to do so. Your art is your own, and it is impossible to paint devoid of influence, so I feel like people should just enjoy what they create and not worry too much about the labels of having one style or another.
Britain Uncovered: In addition to the amazing nudes, you’ve also come up with a variety of other interesting concepts – such as heart-shaped abstracts, paintings focusing on individual body parts, and even some painted vinyls and LP covers! Does trying out new ideas like this help keep you inspired and motivated?
Kaitlyn: I paint for fun, and when you do something for enjoyment you find yourself wanting to experiment and experience creating new things. I am often inspired by the work of those I come across on social media and this can often lead to me trying something new, even things I previously did not understand (such as abstract art).
Britain Uncovered: With a lot of your work being commission-based, are you able to talk us through your typical process once you make a start on one of these new creations?
Kaitlyn: A new customer will come to me with an idea – this could be based on something they have already seen me create, or something entirely new. Once this has been discussed and details such as reference photos, colour palettes, size of piece, etc. have been finalised, then I start off with a rough sketch. From then, I work on the piece and I send the customer updates (usually after each layer) until they are happy with it. Once this is done, then the order simply needs packaging up and sending to its new home.
Britain Uncovered: What do you most enjoy about these types of individual pieces, compared to your other work?
Kaitlyn: One of the best things about commissions is that I can feel confident that my work is going to a place where it can help achieve the goals I set out for my art. I also find that sometimes being given a brief helps to direct my painting, as when I paint for myself I find that it can be easy to get stuck and to be left unsure of in what direction to take a painting.
Britain Uncovered: It’s great to see that one of your commissions back in April featured your first male body – is it important to you to be able to represent all genders in your work, and is this something you would like to do more of in the future?
Kaitlyn: My piece containing the first male body I have painted was a commission, and so it wasn't something I had originally planned on doing. I find it easier to paint female bodies as that is something I can immediately relate to; however, after that piece it has definitely shown to me the importance of having all people represented in a body positive manner, as any of us can suffer with our self-image, regardless of gender. Therefore, this is definitely something that I would consider doing more of in the future.
Britain Uncovered: Our website often examines the link between social nudity and body confidence, and events such as Sophie Tea’s nude catwalks are really helping people to accept their bodies and feel more optimistic about themselves. Do you think social nudity experiences such as these can be valuable, and is it something you would ever like to try for yourself?
Kaitlyn: I would 100% take part in a social nudity experience as I feel that they are vital in getting a positive message out there. It helps bring art that might normally be seen by a small audience into more mainstream media, which helps it to be seen by the general public.
Britain Uncovered: Lastly, out of all your fabulous art, which pieces are you most proud of, and are you able to share with us some of your plans for the future?
Kaitlyn: My top favourite pieces would have to be the two nude bodies I painted for my University Art Exhibition (Blooming and Flourishing), my first framed piece (Cartref, which is an abstract) and a nude commission which I have just completed (a gift which I cannot share yet). My plans for the future are to put my art up in more exhibitions (online and in person), develop my style further and to release more collections instead of random pieces.
- To see more of Kaitlyn’s original acrylic paintings and body positivity artwork, follow her over on Instagram at @katie.hughes.art. Although commissions are currently closed, do keep an eye out on her account, as this will no doubt change in the near future!