Kelly Bastow creates visuals that reflect a beautiful cartoon reality filled with lush landscapes, positive messages of empowerment, and realistic bodies worthy of being seen. She paints people of all shapes, sizes, colors, and identities, providing artistic representation in an incredibly stunning and gratifying way. I came across her work on Tumblr a year or so ago, and her playful style mixed with the artistic manifestation of realistic human beings filled me with joy. It’s unfortunately something we as a culture don’t see often, and I was inspired by the simple, yet powerful messages she was sending with her art. I recently had the pleasure of being able to ask her about her artwork, her dreams, and what drives her to implement such positive messages in her pieces, and I sincerely wish her all the luck in the world with her career! There’s nothing more important than making it okay for people to love themselves, and I thank her for making it a little easier to do just that.
I: When and how did you begin drawing?
K: Like most artists I started drawing as a kid. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing, it was an escape, and at times very relaxing. It’s also something I received positive feedback for from an early age, which made me want to continue. All through elementary school and high school I was doodling on my notebooks.
I: Your artwork does an amazing job of representing many different kinds of people with various body types. Did something specific inspire you to provide more artistic body visibility?
K: It’s a lot more fun to draw different types of people. I also received some very kind messages of appreciation from people after I started posting my naked ladies patterns. As I’m gradually learning just how important representation is in media, my drawings will hopefully get more and more diverse.
I: You must get many appreciative, heartfelt messages about the kind of work you put out there. What’s one of the most memorable messages or stories that you can remember?
K: I get very humbling and sweet messages, I save them for when I’m feeling down. A recent message that really lifted my spirits was, “Your art has cheered me up and made me cry (tears of joy) so many times, thank you so much for existing.” There was also a young lady who messaged me saying she hadn’t drawn in years, but after seeing my art she picked up a pencil again. That warmed my heart a lot.
I: You put a lot of positive messages into your pieces that almost appear as if you’re saying them to yourself most of all. Are these words of comfort meant more towards the audience, or is to to both you and the viewer?
K: Both. Most of my pieces featuring motivational messages are aimed towards myself, because I’m a major procrastinator, or venting about my feelings of awkwardness and inadequacy. It helps to put these problems on paper. It feels like a ‘release’ when I post comics like that. But they sometimes have the happy side effect of helping others who are also dealing with these same issues. Nowadays I like to think my comics are for the viewers as well as myself, if someone can feel less alone, or validated because of one of my comics, that’s very special to me. I also got a few messages from people suffering from depression or anxiety, so we should all try to help each other out.
I: You display male bodies in an equally representative, empowering way as female bodies. Why do you think it is also important for men to embrace their own kind of beauty?
K: Although men aren’t judged for their looks as much as women, they have just as many insecurities. Their bodies deserve love, attention and support as well. The body positive community should be for everyone.
I: What’s a dream of yours that you want to accomplish in the future?
My goal is to make full-length graphic novels, illustrate children’s books, and generally try to make people feel more okay with themselves.
I: How did you decide on ‘Moose Kleenex’ as the name for your Tumblr? It’s incredibly creative and adorable.
K: Thanks! A friend and I came up with it when registering for DeviantArt back in 2003. It doesn’t mean anything, but it’s how people know me. I like using it.
I: Does your artwork also help you accept yourself as you are? Because we could all use more body confidence and self love.
K: Agreed. It’s still a struggle for me to accept my flaws, physically and otherwise, but I’m always trying to improve. Drawing itself is a massive part of who I am, if I don’t draw for a few days I feel a bit lost. My art is one of the few aspects of myself I take pride in. When I finish a piece I’m truly proud of, I feel very happy with myself, and if I receive praise for an image it makes me proud as well. Other than that I’m still trying to accept myself as I am, and trying to build up my self-esteem. I try to exaggerate my flaws when I draw myself so that I’ll gradually become more comfortable with them, or maybe not see them as flaws anymore. I’m glad my body positive patterns are helping a few ladies and guys be a bit more confident about themselves, because everyone is beautiful in their own way. However, it’s easy to just say ‘love yourself’ or ‘love your body,’ but we all know it takes more than that. It takes time and hard work, to change your negative thought processes. It’s a work in progress, I guess.
Here’s Kelly Bastow’s social media!
Interview conducted by: Veronica Brevik
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @VeronicaBrevik (x)