Meet the powerful Female artists inspiring us this year

November 2020 _ Powerful Female artists who are inspiring

Powerful females are confidently paving their way in this modern world, demanding respect, equality and using their voice, or in these women’s cases - their art, to make a difference.

Over the last few months we’ve been exploring just how powerful art can really be. It’s innate ability to shape and impact societies, to facilitate monumental change and to inspire people the world over to be better, kinder and more fulfilled. We’ve also seen how we can individually unleash our own creativity, taking back control of the inner artist inside each and everyone of us.

With the recent developments around the world, particularly the news of the first women of colour to ever be elected and sworn in to the government of the United States, we thought it a perfect moment to shine a light on and celebrate the rise of GIRL POWER.

These impressive female artists that have conquered their self-limiting beliefs to become wildly successful, inspire thousands of people (including us at SAYE) by sharing their ART and talent with the world every. damn. day.

We were fortunate to sit down with each of them and learn a little more about who they are, what is currently inspiring them to jump out of bed in the morning and the life-changing advice they wished they could have heard when starting their career.

Let us introduce you to these four feminine powerhouses - Katie, Claudia, Erika and Isabelle - and prepare yourself to be inspired to be more bad-ass, get comfortable at being imperfect and how you too can follow your dreams.

The Writer

Katie McKnoulty

Katie is an Australian photographer, writer and brand strategist, based between her adopted homes of Marche, Italy, Paris, France and the world. Travel is the lens through which she learns about the world and finds the light, beauty, joy, hope and connection in it.

She seeks to understand what it is to be truly of a place, what we can learn from spending extended time in foreign places, immersing ourselves in cultures and perspectives different from our own.

Did you always dream of being an artist?

Certainly not, I wanted to be a flight attendant, then a travel agent, then an 'international business woman' when I was little! Then I think I did start to dream of becoming a journalist or a writer but I didn't really see that back then as a viable career for me.

But I must say I always admired artists very much. I have a marketing background and the graphic designers, copywriters, filmmakers, photographers that I used to work with in my various marketing jobs always inspired me a lot. But I never thought I could do any of those things, I never saw myself as a creator to begin with.

Back in 2013, I started travelling pretty much full-time whilst working online, taking photos and writing for my own site, The Travelling Light, and I guess through the process of creating my corner of the internet I learned to express myself and make my own kind of art through photography and writing which has led me to some amazing opportunities and places.

Who and what is inspiring you right now?

I'm a person who actually finds it quite hard to express herself and my sister, Louv, who is an artist and musician is inspiring me so much lately! I think with everything going on in the world, it feels like we don't have time to dim our lights or water down our messages to pacify others. From my sister, I'm seeing someone expressing themselves with such force and raw energy, even if it makes people uncomfortable in its strength and 'shockingness'.

Taylor Swift releasing this completed pared-back album with very little fanfare a month or so ago also sort of reflected to me a new mood to aim for in 2020, the most confusing year many of us have lived through... My takeaway was to just cut through all the fluff and get right down to what's important, to raw emotions and feeling, and people will get it!

I've also just finished reading "It's What I Do", a memoir by war photojournalist Lynsey Addario recommended by a photographer I love and am also inspired by, Annapurna Mellor. Being a big traveller for my work, it's obviously quite a change to not be able to travel for the foreseeable future. Reading about Lynsey's life photographing and telling stories from the frontlines of wars across the Middle East and Africa is like learning about a whole new world. What she was willing to risk in the pursuit of truth and a higher purpose, as well as learning about the struggles and fights of these people in these war zones really puts things into perspective.

How do you express yourself artistically?

(Besides your chosen profession)
I play music! I've played instruments since I was a little kid and always found it to be almost like a meditation. I don't really play in front of other people because it never felt like the point of it for me. At the moment I'm singing and playing my guitar and it just makes me feel good, it's something that's just for me. Which is such a nice break because being someone who creates stories and photos for internet consumption I can't help but consider how I think people will react and what they want to see in the creation process, in the things I choose to write about or photograph. It can really mess with your head! So to have an art form that's just for my enjoyment and the sake of creating is so special to me.

I've also picked up film photography in the last few years and I've weirdly found that to have a similar effect on me. I never saw my film photos as something that I would then be able to publish or sell so the process of creating photos with a film camera took me back to making something beautiful just to make something beautiful. And I think the results then reflect that, the photos just seem purer and more powerful, to me anyway!

What advice would you offer to your younger self before starting your career?

I never planned to lead the life I'm now living in Europe as a photographer and writer, I just kept following what made me happy. So I would tell myself that it didn't really matter what career path I chose as long as I was enjoying where I was at and taking action to pursue the things that made me happy, little by little.

I think I was always going to end up where I am now anyway, so whatever route I was going to take to get there didn't matter, it didn't matter how long it took or how many diversions I made along the way! I would tell myself to chill and enjoy life doing things I loved.

THE PAINTER

Claudia Sahuquillo

Claudia is a bad-ass, femenist full-time artist and business woman. She’s based in Barcelona, originally hails from Valencia and is passionate, powerful and definitely not one bit sorry for being incredibly successful.

Claudia's art is more than just a pretty picture. It powerfully evokes a sense of strength, femininity, flow and colour. We’ve been inspired by Claudia and seen her rapidly grow into the Queen she is today and it’s been all sorts of satisfying. Check out her art and buy something special for yourself!

Did you always dream of being an artist?

I have been drawing since I can remember. I always wanted to be an artist but never thought it was actually a viable possibility. So my dream was to do any type of job, like being a waitress or working in a shop, something that paid me enough, so that I would be able to rent a studio and be an artist in my free time. I needed art in my life, always.

And if I wasn’t a full time artist I would be working in art anyway, most probably coaching people to unleash their creativity and fuel their inner artist. Which is actually something I’m already offering as part of my current program, where I mentor people to become full-time artists.

Who and what is inspiring you right now?

People inspire me. Mainly entrepreneurs and those who strive to break society’s standards and rules. People that don’t give a f*ck what others think about them are my heroes. Live by your own rules guys, it’s sexy.

What advice would you offer to your younger self before starting your career?

Well, there are two things that have changed my life. I stopped caring about what other people think. I honestly can not recommend it highly enough to any artist (or person for that matter). Stop caring, do you and do not be sorry for it.

The second one is to learn to free yourself by saying these powerful words ‘this isn’t working for me anymore’. When we say NO to opportunities or situations that aren’t exactly aligned with what we want, it means that there’s space for the things you actually do want to say YES to, to happen.

Also - I say these 4 things to my mentor students.
Dream big. massive imperfect action. focus. and move your ass. 

THE FILM-MAKER

Erika Lust

Erika Lust is an acclaimed indie adult filmmaker who creates sex-positive adult cinema portraying relatable characters and realistic hot sex, and offering an alternative to the mass produced mainstream pornography.

Did you always dream of being an artist?

I had always been interested in cinema but when I was studying Political Science and Gender at university I began to develop a strong interest in pornographic discourse. I was a young woman feeling curious about sex and one day a boyfriend showed me a porn video. Watching that, I felt like something wasn’t right. The woman's role was too much about pleasing the man- it was hardly about her own sexual experience and pleasure. I knew that female sexuality was way more than that! I realized that mainstream porn was mainly shot from the male perspective and wasn’t representing any truth about real sex. I was also bored by the lack of imagination and sexiness in porn’s dialogues and storylines. Porn is clearly made with the purpose to arouse, but this doesn't mean that we can't seek the same visual pleasure we seek in other movies! Why can't we make porn with beautiful images and a captivating plot?

With all of this in mind, at some point I realised I wanted to try making my own explicit film according to my vision and taste, so back in 2004 I made ‘The Good Girl’ - a humorous take on the classic pizza delivery boy porn trope - and I posted online for free. I wasn’t really expecting anything, but it was downloaded so many times that I realised I wasn’t the only one craving an alternative to mainstream adult films. I was receiving emails from people all over the world telling me that they loved the film and asking when the next one would be out. That’s how Erika Lust was born! 

Who and what is inspiring you right now?

I often tell people about the book that influenced me which was Linda Williams 'Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the "Frenzy of the Visible"'. It gave me my lightbulb moment and I realised that pornography was part of a discourse on sexuality that expresses specific ideologies and values on sex and gender. Williams explains that porn wants to be about sex but on closer inspection, it's always about gender.

John Cameron Mitchell was also a big inspiration as he’s one of the few who dared to portray real sex with real actors in a film for commercial theatres like “Shortbus”. Finally, Jill Soloway is a huge inspiration for me, as they strive to push the boundaries of gender and to represent diverse sexualities in their works, such as I Love Dick and Transparent. Their production process is incredibly inspiring to me and something that I’ve implemented in my own work.

Today, I look with so much admiration at Michaela Coel’s series ‘I May Destroy You’ - I think it’s such a brilliant and powerful reflection on the rape culture that’s still dramatically rooted in our society and the spinous yet crucial topic of consent. Consent is still a misunderstood concept, yet it is key for having respectful sexual relationships, and I’m glad Coel offered such a lucid and realistic depiction of it within mainstream TV.  

What advice would you offer to your younger self before starting your career?

We already live in a sex-negative culture where we are taught to keep eroticism private and hidden, to not enjoy sex too much, and to not show affection too much. If you want to make a change, then be brave, believe in your vision and perspective, and don’t be afraid of superficial judgments you may receive from people! Sexuality is such an important part of human identity, and artists need to claim their right to infuse it into their work with no fear. And now… just pick up your camera and start shooting! And if you’re not satisfied with the result, try again without overthinking! You don’t need to make it perfect, you just need to do it!

THE ILLUSTRATOR

Isabelle Feliu

Isabelle is an illustrator and painter from Québec city, currently based in Oslo. She originally began a career in fashion design and merchandising, however had the opportunity to begin illustrating full time when she first moved to Norway, five years ago.

She works with traditional mediums and is deeply inspired by the world of design, fashion, nature and travel, and also her personal moods, emotions and thoughts. 

Did you always dream of being an artist?

Not really! I actually never really thought of it as a potential career option until I was 25. I moved to Norway and began illustrating and the rest they say is history.

Who and what is inspiring you right now?

Many different things, right now my own moods and feelings are an important source of inspiration. I am also inspired by many artists like Hilma af Klint, Pierre Boncompain, Roger Mühl and many others. Usually my travels inspire me a lot, but right now it rather is my craving for travels and adventures.

What advice would you offer to your younger self before starting your career?

Follow your heart and your brain already. Please. :)

We feel so fortunate to have been able to dig a little deeper with these beauties and learn more about their process and what makes them tick. Thank you to Katie, Erika, Claudia and Isabelle for taking the time to share with us! We encourage everyone to head to each of their websites or instagrams, show some support and say a big HELLO!

We are always on the lookout for fresh new talent, so please share with us by commenting below any and all artists you think we need to be supporting and who are inspiring you this year!

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