Friday, November 13, 2015

Follow Friday - Illustrated Women in History

You know that feeling when you meet someone (either in person or online) who shares your same passion? The excitement learning you're not the only one who loves that thing? And then you learn how they turn their love of it into something unique to them, bringing a whole new awareness of the thing you already love?

That's how I felt when I first encountered Illustrated Women in History. I don't think it's any great secret that I have a life-long fascination with learning more about women's lives throughout history, and a passion for sharing their stories with others. Julie Gough does as well, only in addition to blogging about them, she's also drawing them. And quite well, I might add!

Naturally, I immediately contacted her to totally geek out about her drawings and our shared obsession with women in history. Fortunately she was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, which I am happy to share with you in my effort to encourage you to also go follow her social media for your regular dose of amazing women!

SRPS: First of all, can you tell me a little about yourself -- your background, your goals, what inspires you?

JG: I have a degree in Graphic Design and I'm a self-taught Illustrator. I usually create bold, often typographic designs which are mostly inspired by feminism, riot grrrl and tattoo-style artwork. My goal is to be able to support myself through my creative work and to be able to make a difference while I'm doing that - hence the educational aspect of my blog.

SRPS: What inspired you to create your Illustrated Women in History blog?

JG: I started the blog after reading about a museum in the East End of London that had been granted permission on the basis that it was to be celebrating the accomplishments of women. Days before it was planned to open it was revealed to be a museum about Jack the Ripper - famous for brutally murdering women. [CN: It really did. You can read about that debacle here.] It made me think about how much we actually need museums and other ways for people to learn about the influential women that have shaped our history, and how little I actually know about those women.

SRPS: How do you select who to draw? What is your process?

JG: I started with Emmeline Pankhurst as she was one of the first women who came to mind when I started thinking about who I’d like to know more about and from her, I found out about other suffragettes and suffragists - something I had no idea was different before I started this project! I looked up ‘famous women in history’ and compiled a list based on that and worked through it. If, in my research about a woman they’ve been inspired by anyone else then they’ll go on the list too! I also try to draw women as they are featured in the news and I’ve had a few submissions with suggestions.

SRPS: Why is it so important to you to share the stories of these women with your readers?

JG: One of the most important things is linked to a question I was asked when I started the project. People would ask "have you run out of women to draw yet?" And, at times I honestly thought that would be an issue because I had such a small amount of prior knowledge about the women who've shaped our history. In sharing the stories of these women, I hope that people can see that there is far more to history than is being learnt in school or written in textbooks and that it is possible as a woman to succeed in male dominated areas like science and technology.

SRPS: Do you feel as though you learn more about these women by drawing them?

JG: There are so many women who I've drawn that I knew nothing about apart from their names, and far more that I'd never even heard of. I think that in drawing them, it's a far more personal way to celebrate their achievements than to just use a found photograph because I have to engage with them that little bit more. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they present themselves and I try really hard to make sure that I capture a real sense of that in my illustrations.

SRPS: What do you hope your readers will take away from each post?

JG: I hope they'll see how capable women are and how influential they have been, and currently are, in shaping the world. I try to make sure that I feature a range of women because representation is so important. It's amazing how many fields women have succeeded in despite adversity, whether that's because of their background or because of their gender. So many of these women were denied opportunities - like being refused the opportunity for education, or being allowed to study at a university but not allowed to achieve a degree. I hope it'll give those reading it a sense of hope that they can accomplish whatever they set their minds to!

SRPS: Do you have any favorite illustrations? Have any of the women especially inspired you?

JG: I think my favourites so far are Kathleen Hanna, because it's the first illustration I felt completely happy with, Poly Styrene because you can really get a sense of the person she is just through her pose and her clothing and Iris Apfel because it had so much detail and I drew it while watching Iris, the documentary about her life. I think every single one of these women have inspired me, just because of the determination they've all shown in achieving in whatever it is they've chosen as a career.

SRPS: What reaction you have you received from your followers about this project?

JG: Through the project I've found out about so many other blogs and websites - including yours! - which are also celebrating women. I've also found out about feminist groups and events that are local to me. I've had a great reaction from my followers in both suggesting women to me and in messages of support for what I'm doing and I'm constantly amazed that I have as many followers as I do!

SRPS: Have you learned anything about yourself working on these illustrations, as an artist or as a woman?

JG: I've definitely learnt more about illustrating portraits during this. I wasn't that confident in drawing them before I started this project but I can definitely see so much progress from the beginning. I've drawn over 100 now! Last month I was asked to speak on a local radio station about the project and to draw one of my illustrations so that they could create a time lapse video of the process and my finished piece was so much better than when I'd drawn it originally! In learning about these women, I'm inspired daily to continue to carry on with this project as even though it's such a small thing it's still important to celebrate them. Even if drawing an illustration a day is quite a daunting task it's definitely worth it!

SRPS: Where else can people find you and your work online?

JG: My work can be found on Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. You can buy prints, mugs and other items with her illustraions on them at Society6. And you can support her work through her Patreon.

And if you like the work I do here at Self-Rescuing Princess Society,
please check out my Patreon.

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