DRINK ME UP
Lauren Drinkwater speaks managing mental health through creativity, self-acceptance and sisterhood / By Amie Tyrer
Lauren Drinkwater is a 26-year-old London-based artist who uses the medium of digital illustration to express her feelings towards mental health and body image. Lauren frequently looks inwards at her emotions surrounding her own mind and body but also outwardly expresses her frustration with the oppression that society places upon females and in particular the female form. Last week, we had the pleasure of chatting with the fabulous lady herself about her work.
Much of your artwork focuses on the relationship between mental health and the body – how do these two entities interlink for you?
Lauren - It’s no secret that the body & mind are connected, as we are constantly told that it’s the one answer in life that we must chase and then perfect until we find inner peace. Yet, we grow up surrounded by dialog that forces us to hate our bodies and hide our minds. For me, my work has always been a release for my mental illness which has naturally progressed into a focus onto body image through time - I believe this is due to growing into a woman and wanting to show others that we are allowed to be different and we have permission to love ourselves, body & mind equally.
You don’t shy away from speaking out about / illustrating images of typically ‘taboo’ topics, such as female masturbation & menstruation. Why is it important to you to challenge these taboos through your art?
Whenever I cross paths with anyone, I don’t think it takes a long time to realise that I’m a very open and honest person - this isn’t something I’ve been taught, it’s natural. Just, like masturbation, menstruation and being a woman! I’ve never been comfortable with giving nothing but real experiences to people, whether that's a conversation we have, through to the art I create. Unfortunately, women haven’t and still aren’t ‘allowed’ to say, act upon or stand for things that we have a right to. It shouldn't be a shock to see an illustration of a woman pleasuring herself, exploring herself and being a human - we have grown up listening to women be portrayed as sluts, whores, bitches who suck dick whilst grown men grope their dicks and talk about sex...yet this is no shock. Women masturbate, we have periods, we have natural desires, we also have bodies that function in a different way to men. If we don’t show who we are to the world then the portrayal of women will never change...even though it seems outrageous that we are STILL having to prove ourselves!
In our current online-centric society, we are constantly fed images of smooth, stick-thin, smiley women. Photoshop is commonly used for airbrushing and warping women’s natural bodies but you use Photoshop to depict women with lumps, bumps, stretch marks and tears. What do you think we, as individuals, can do to ensure the media stops portraying false images of women’s bodies and accept that in fact, none of us look like the magazines in real life?
This is such an interesting point and something I haven’t actually thought about before. I think it comes down to understanding throughout life we have tools; whether that be for art, mental tools for your mind or physical tools for around the house, work etc. and it’s ensuring you know right from wrong by using these tools in the right way. We have lived through many trends of what the female body ‘should’ look like, and unfortunately something went seriously wrong when it was decided that women will only be accepted if all of their ‘flaws’ were removed. I think we are lucky to be part of a generation who are fighting back and saying actually fuck you, this is who we are and our stretch marks, lumps and bumps are here to stay. This is such a huge education piece and we as women have a responsibility to continue showing support and love to our fellow sisters and always keep things real. The more truth we show the less they can take from us.
How do you think the media’s portrayal of the ‘perfect’ female body has warped societies expectations of women and impacted young women’s mental attitudes towards their bodies?
It’s a really scary thought that younger and younger females are being diagnosed with mental illnesses and eating disorders, which is a direct result from being fed bullshit through false images of the ‘perfect’ female body. The world is telling females from a young age that men only find a woman sexy if she has a big bum, big boobs, a tight torso, long hair and keeps her mouth shut. The truth is everybody is perfect! We need to stop telling women that they aren’t enough because of their skin colour, bum size, skin condition, physical ability, hair length, what they wear and who they are if we are going to get through this incredibly sad and damaging time for young women. We can’t proceed with young girls thinking their bodies are not worthy, it’s twisted and the complete opposite of the truth. I want to see real women on magazines, real women on billboards, real women on the catwalk, real woman sized mannequins in EVERYTHING not just once in a blue moon. If we work together we can protect these young women from growing up feeling insecure, ill and instead let them flourish and shine like they deserve to.
You speak bravely and openly about your own mental health struggles on your social media platforms. Do you feel as though having a creative outlet and a platform to express yourself on has helped you in any way to overcome, or at least accept your depression and anxiety?
Absolutely. I’ve mentioned a few times previously to my followers that art has saved my life. Literally stopped me from killing myself. I’ve got a really fucked up head with a lot of unresolved issues that I work on daily, but some days are much harder than others and to be honest I can’t always pick up my tools and draw which can be really frustrating. But, just like my art I also write, sing, dance and generally cover myself in creativity every single day. It’s my form of self-care and it's entwined into my soul that it doesn't matter what mental situation I’m in, I will express. I think in the last year I have accepted my depression & anxiety more and that definitely is from perfecting my craft and allowing myself to be free in my art. I’m never not going to be ill and that’s actually fine with me - my depression & anxiety is my unique characteristic that has moulded me into the woman I am proud to be. I never ever want women to feel that they can’t be proud of their mental illness - it’s special and its soulful and we don’t really have a choice so why not let it bloom with us as we grow through the rest of our womanhood.
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