“Eventually, I decided to post one of my paintings online, and the response was overwhelming. I suddenly realized I wasn’t alone, and that with my paintings I was contributing to an increasingly louder conversation about body image. I think that’s the thing with art…it has a way of connecting people.”

Name: Lizzie Carr
Art materials: Oil on canvas

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a painter originally from Essex, England, who now lives in Calgary, Canada.

Where does your inspiration come from?
This series of work was initially something I was creating privately as a way to deal with the body image issues that I was struggling with. My inspiration comes from my personal experience(s), sometimes past and sometimes present.

Just by scrolling through your Instagram and looking at the images you’ve posted, it’s very clear to see the emotion and struggles in each piece. What made you decide to turn this private topic into a public one? Was it scary to release your work into the public eye?
I posted an image on my personal account of one of the first paintings I did on the subject matter. After I saw the response I got, I decided to continue to make them public. Friends I had known for years sent me messages of their struggles with eating disorders. Acquaintances sent me messages of a similar sort. Suddenly I realized this wasn’t an issue that only I was involved in. SO many people struggle with negative body image and its effects, yet very few people feel comfortable to talk about it. By putting this one image online, I started a conversation. And through all the messages, people told me that my painting had made them feel like they weren’t alone in their fight. By putting my paintings out into the world, I’m joining a dialogue about healing and letting people know that they are NOT alone.

Yes, it was scary. It still is. In fact, as strange as it might sound, I’ve been getting more nervous with every painting I show. I think it’s very vulnerable to be an artist. And to make matters more difficult, I’m painting about my struggles. I try to push through my insecurities in hopes it will help others, but I’d be lying if I said there weren’t days I can’t even go into the studio because I just can’t look at images of myself

How would you describe how it feels to create your artwork?
There are days it feels really therapeutic but, I won’t lie, there are days where it’s hard. Those bad days are when I’m struggling with my image, and since the portraits are all based on photographs of myself, it’s difficult to look at myself. Those bad days are thankfully few and far between, but they still happen.

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Tell us about your creative process.
Firstly, I have to create the photographic references for each painting. This typically involves tying myself up with a measuring tape or drawing on my face and body. Since it’s sensitive, I usually have my camera on a timer, and that’s how I take the photographs. I’ll take between 20-50 in a session, and I’ll go through all of them editing and figuring out which ones will work best for the paintings. From that 20-50, it gets narrowed down to about 5. I cut and stretch my own canvases, and once they’re done I’ll pencil on the images as a guide for when I start painting. Some paintings can take a few days to be completed, while others take a few weeks. It depends on the detail, size and, unfortunately, my mental state in the studio. I publish photos of the progress on my Instagram and Facebook.

When you’re in the process of taking and then choosing the photos, is there any specific type of look you’re searching for or is it something that you just know when it’s the right photograph?
It’s just something I know. There’s either something about the pose or the amount of emotion coming through that will grab me. There have been a few times where I’ve used multiple photos to create one painting. For example, I liked the way the body was twisted in this one, but the angle of the face in this. The great thing about painting is that I don’t have to replicate the photo, and it can become its own image.

I noticed that each piece is done in monochromatic coloring, is there a story behind that choice?
With the pastel colors, I wanted the works to feel playful and reminiscent of youth and adolescent puberty. With such ideas in mind, these works were created while questioning the notion that insecurity is a phase that one developed while going through puberty. Conversations about body image issues seem like they’re only around for a few years, yet this is far from the truth. These insecurities are developing at younger ages, in part due to the mass amount of media we consume on a daily basis and the amount our children are exposed to.

What is the story behind your artwork, if any?
Negative body image is something I’ve seemingly always struggled with, as I can’t really remember a time that I liked the way I looked. A few years ago, it got to an extreme level. I didn’t want to go outside, and if I did, would only wear big chunky turtlenecks in the middle of summer. I despised the way I looked. I eventually realized that I couldn’t go on like this and that if I was so unhappy with my weight that only I could do something about it. So I did, and things were wonderful. I started eating healthier and working out, and the pounds started dropping off. However, I kept losing weight and became obsessed with it, constantly buying fitness magazines and wanting to look like the women in those. This made start analyzing why I felt like this. I had an unrealistic expectation of what I was supposed to look like. And I had never met a woman who was completely satisfied with the way she looked. This deeply saddened me, BUT, I got healthier (and still am–I work out, eat healthy, but still eat pizza and don’t feel bad about it!) and I started creating work as a way to express how I was feeling.
Do you have any advice for the people who are also struggling with their weight and body image?
First off, you’re not alone in feeling the way you do. In fact, so many more people than you’d think dislike the way they look. The sad truth is that this is almost a ‘normal’ experience for people, but the bright side of that is that it isn’t anything to do with you. You are made to feel bad about the way you look to buy products that will ‘enhance’ you, but even the models you see advertising these products to you don’t look like that. We are fed airbrushed, photoshopped, ridiculously manipulated campaigns, and photographs of people so much that our notion of what is ‘beautiful’ is skewed. But let me tell you something. You are beautiful. You are beautiful because there is only one you. You need to stop focusing on tiny ‘flaws’ and stop nitpicking your physical features. You are so much more than your body! You are great. You are beautiful. And you are not alone

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