Embracing The Gaze: Josie Celebrates The Female Form

Josie Devine focuses her work on the female form, painting her signature sassy babes to help women feel a more positive connection to their bodies. Her work is bright, beautifully textured and uplifting, using vivid colours to bring confidence and depth of personality to her subjects. We love her interpretation of the female muse - as a confident woman who embraces the gaze, rather than shying away from it.

Tell us about when you started painting? I’ve been drawing and painting since I was very young. Art lessons at school were always the highlight of my week, and thanks to my parents I always had endless supplies of paints and materials at home when I was growing up. Formal art education is something I missed out on, as I decided to study English Literature at university, but in 2015 I started regularly attending drop-in life drawing sessions, as a way to hone my skills and meet other creatives. Despite having been told for years that I should sell my work, for some reason I never felt ‘good enough’, or ready to put myself out there. Then, I guess as a bit of a Coronavirus lockdown cliché, something just clicked, and I thought… wait, what is actually stopping me? I put up my first for sale post on Instagram at the end of May, and I’ve been absolutely amazed by the love and support I’ve received so far. 

How did you find your unique style? While I’ll always have a soft spot for drawing with charcoal to create depth and tone, in recent years I’ve fallen in love with a more minimal linear style. I love how a sparing use of line and negative space can create such a bold impression.

My signature cobalt blue is something that happened almost by accident. I was on a visit to my local art shop and I was just instantly drawn to it, so I grabbed it off the shelf without much thought. Now I know it can’t have been a coincidence. The blue, for me, is such an energetic colour. The way light is absorbed and reflected creates this stunning aura and gives a kind of magnetism. I think this perfectly reflects the vibrant strength and beauty I try to portray in my subjects. I love exploring the effect of other colours too, but I think I’ll always come back to this blue; it has a special place in my heart. 

Texture is something I also like to bring into my pieces, specifically using thick paint and visible brush strokes as a ‘backdrop’ for linear silhouettes. I adore the contrast this creates, and I love thinking of the physicality of my brush strokes as being a connecting force between myself and the viewer. My hands created this painting, and I want you to see it. 

Tell us why you fell for the female form as your muse and your 'sassy babes'? If there’s something we all know, it’s that the female form is nothing new in the world of art. But, for that reason it’s amazing to me how endless a subject matter it can be. When I started attending life drawing classes, and drawing bodies of all shapes, sizes and ages, it was a way for me to explore my relationship with my own body, which hasn’t always been, and still isn’t, smooth sailing. Now, my hope is that my pieces can do the same for other women, so that we all recognise we are literally all works of art, and that things we see as imperfections are actually the most beautiful parts. 

I decided to start giving my paintings (or ‘babes’) their own names and ‘sassy’ personas, I guess as a way for me to have fun, and also because I recognise that people want to engage with art in a way that is relatable to themselves. I like to think my captions put a smile on people’s faces, and even make them feel more sassy and empowered.

The world of art is tough, and people often say it requires a thick skin. Who has helped you feel more sassy and empowered? I’m super lucky to have some really close female friendships;  from school, university, and since moving to London. I constantly draw strength and inspiration from them, and they never fail to provide support and encouragement when I’m in need. I think, in a way, my sassy babes are an ode to these amazing women in my life.

Tell us the best advice you've received? The best advice I’ve received is probably the same as most women who struggle with self comparison. Comparing yourself to others will literally lead you nowhere, unless you’re able to do it productively. Someone told me, in a moment of insecurity when I was looking at other hugely successful artists, that they’re not necessarily ‘better’, they’ve just been doing it longer. Not to detract from their talent or skill, but this gave me hope that it’s really all to play for, and why not just put everything into something and see where it leads you.

Finally, the million dollar question - what’s next? My plan at the moment is… I have no plan. I think I’m just going to say yes to everything that comes my way, try to keep up the momentum I’ve created thus far, and hopefully get to a place where I can do my art on more of a full-time basis. I’m a big believer in manifesting, so I have a vision in my mind of what my first gallery opening will look like, and I like to focus on that when I have moments of doubt.

In future I would love to collaborate with other female-led brands or creatives, as I think women need to encourage each other’s ambitions, rather than feel threatened by, or competitive towards them. I would also love to branch out into mentoring some day, as I think so many young women lack confidence in their creativity… but I haven’t figured that part out yet.

By Josie Devine

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