Please, Send Nudes: Interview with Illustrator Pink Bits
Rolls, body hairs and stretch marks, all those body features that we hardly ever come across when scrolling through our Instagram feeds. Illustrator Pink Bits made them the pièce de résistance of her artistic output, and here’s to why we should all learn to celebrate them too.
Interview by Rhona Ezuma
The ideals that many of us have been taught when it comes to our bodies are problematic, narrow and sometimes very far from being idealistic ‘goals’ without succumbing to self-inflicted damage and harm. This is something Illustrator Pink Bits, aka Christine Yahya, wants us to know and unlearn. Describing herself as a ‘cancerian cliche’, this creative introvert has used her artistic talent to create pieces of work showcasing the nude which challenge social expectations about what a good body looks like and what we do to it to make it feel good.
The bodies in Pink Bits’ work are the type that dismantle society’s juxtapositional preferences for straight and skinny or curvy and shapely. In ways, she is more interested in the deviant kind of bodies, the ones we never see. They have a mix of slim hips, wide waist, tiny to the very biggest size of boobs; and they sprout hairs, leak blood and get their angles right when playing with a bunny dildo
Being an Armenian woman who was raised and lives in Sydney, Australia, she knows a fair bit about the need for body positive representation, and she has made her goal and focus to celebrate bodies with spots, lumps, rolls and on very bad period days – living blissfully within self-pleasure, owning their fat-power and embracing the messy sides of themselves which we are taught to hide and conceal.
Rhona: How did you get into illustrating nude figures?
Christine: The Pink Bits project actually started off as a self-project of mine drawing my own body. From a young age, I’d always been drawn to art that features the human body, so illustrating nude figures was a natural step for me.
R: The muses in your illustrations are usually women and non-binary people who are bigger in size, why?
C: Through my art I strive to provide representation for those who are underrepresented, or rarely celebrated in art or media. Thin bodies have long held this space and are often overrepresented. I do draw and share thin bodies here and there on my feed, but I do focus more on the experiences of those with fat or marginalised bodies as I’m very aware that in any given situation, if one has a fat body, the outcome or the treatment would be very different.
“Instagram is a highly frequented space, and depending on the communities you follow, it can be full of glossy images and a lack of nitty gritty details. I like the idea of interrupting these online spaces with reality”
R: How do you choose the people you draw in your illustrations and where do you find them?
C: The people I draw are inspired or drawn from a variety of places. At the start of each year, I’ll approach my community and ask who they’d like to see represented in art, who I haven’t represented yet, or what object or situation that they’d like to see represented. So I often consult with this powerful list to decide who I draw. Sometimes I’m inspired by my own experiences, feelings, or current news / social or political landscape and sometimes I’ll be scrolling through instagram, and come across an image and say ‘I MUST draw this person.’
R: In your illustrations you include things like sex toys, tampons and condoms as part of the makeup of the pieces. You make visible so many things we are taught to keep personal. What is it that you feel this visibility helps to do?
C: Ultimately, I think it helps provide representation to our collective realities and help tackle outdated taboos by casually bringing it out in the open. But more importantly, it helps normalise these parts of ourselves, and provides a space of open discussion. For me personally, one of the things I wanted to tackle was around body hair. When I was young, I had a hard time accepting my body hair, and that was because I was constantly being told that hairless bodies were what was seen and shown as the norm and desirable.
Instagram is a highly frequented space, and depending on the communities you follow, it can be full of glossy images and a lack of nitty gritty details. I like the idea of interrupting these online spaces with reality, reminding scrollers of beautiful realities and overtly / subconsciously normalising things in the process. By bringing attention to these personal parts of ourselves, it also helps people to feel less alone & more understood!
R: I get the feeling that knowledge sharing is super important to what you do, you talk about topics like endometriosis through your illustrations. Sharing awareness through art, what is the value of this?
C: Similar to the previous question, normalising and creating discussion of things, conditions and other people’s realities, outside of one’s own creates awareness and understanding, but more importantly it creates empathy. Of course you can never know what you don’t know, and it can be easy to see through the lens of your reality and maybe an additional few. A lot of the work I create has come from conversations I have had with people around me, about what they’re going through in their lives. Endometriosis for example, is something I came to learn more about & understand from listening to a friend’s experiences, so I was inspired to thoughtfully create awareness.
R: I think now in this moment of pandemic a lot of people will be going back to drawing. What do you get from drawing?
C: Drawing is such a powerful activity and can create such a feeling of freedom. It can be a distraction, a way to work through and express emotions, a way to experiment and let go, a way to visually journal, a way to explore imagination, a way to explore yourself and your reality. It’s a powerful tool to express yourself and get lost in the process.
R: Have you been able to make illustrations at this time?
C: Off and on! It’s such an intense and loud time – so sometimes it can be a challenge to shut that out and feel inspired. Sometimes my mental health is just not having a great time, so on those days I don’t create. But sometimes I feel joy and clarity and dive into illustrating. I’m mainly taking things day by day, and trying to show myself understanding as best I can by not forcing things.
I’m finding that I’m leaning into creativity as an escape and am doing non-illustration-based projects to challenge different parts of my creativity and shut out the noise. Things like collaging or painting – that’s been good.
R: You recently started the Unlearning Project, talk to us a bit about that?
C: I’m really excited about this project! My art so far has visually explored the shitty, hindering and biased lessons we’ve been taught whilst growing up. These lessons have affected so many of us in countless ways, and a lot of us are slowly unpacking or discovering just how much they’ve affected many facets of our lives. As someone who spent 10+ years of their life unlearning societal expectations, and battling ED’s [eating disorders], I truly believe unlearning is such a vital tool to our individual and collective redevelopment.
This project looks at the concept of unlearning as a radical action in today’s learning and knowledge-dense society. The project will become a collection of individual stories of unlearning and relearning, based on written submissions. I wanted to create something that represents our experiences, illustrates our journeys to unlearning and what we’ve learned in its place, as a crucial resource for our individual and collective re-development.
Through submitting your story, I’m hoping to create a resource we can all experience, feel inspired, challenged or understood by. I’m hopeful that this will become a published resource, which features written accounts and illustrations that speak to each unlearning. I believe it will be powerful for us.
R: What do people have to do to be a part?
- What is something you’ve had to unlearn?
- How did this misguided lesson affect you?
- What have you learned / taught yourself in its place?
You can enter as many times as you’d like, as many of us definitely have more than one thing to unlearn.
R: You’re based in Sydney is there anything about where you are from that comes into your drawings or that you try to challenge?
C: Australia is a deeply racist country, and highly disrespectful to our First Nations peoples. Through my art, I try to challenge this by creating greater representation and celebrating as many people as possible, but I also create to challenge and provide awareness through my art or stories.
In addition to this, because of our shocking stance on climate change, failure of listening to First Nations Peoples and the handling of the subsequent bush fires, climate change, environmentalism and its intersections have been inspiring parts of my work and features in my art.