MILLIE MOONHOUSE | TORONTO, CANADA
read our interview with chelsea below
HOUSE OF THEODORA CHATS TO
chelsea shaw, ALSO KNOWN AS MILLIE MOONHOUSE, is a toronto artist. her ILLUSTRATIONS AND PAINTINGS PRESENT A POWERFUL COMMENTARY ON CONSENsual sex & CONFIDENCE. WE ASKED HER ABOUT HER ARTISTIC PROCESS & WHAT IT LIKES CREATING EROTIC WORKS IN THE DAYS OF SOCIAL MEDIA CENSORSHIP.
1. how did you get started with your illustrations?
I first started illustrating in the winter of 2016. I was at a low point in my life and I desperately sought anything that would relieve the negative space I was in. Through a sequence of related posts on Pinterest, I came across an explicit yet very empowering photo of an adult model. I stared for a while but not out of arousal, rather I noticed the emotions she was trying to portray in her general pose and the expression on her face. Those emotions were precisely what I was after and for the first time in years, I found clarity. I knew what I wanted, and what I wanted was to simply feel happy, empowered and liberated.
From that clarity, the idea to draw her just floated into my mind like a cloud in a blue sky - noticeable but quiet. And I followed that thought, and now I'm an illustrator.
2. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WORK?
I don't really think about my work in terms of appearance. I know I'm finished with a piece when it's served it's purpose for me. How would I describe it? I'm not too sure, but what I want people to know about my work is that when you look at my drawings or paintings, what you're seeing is either one of two things; feelings I have none of but would like, or feelings I have too much of and am seeking a way to offload some of. My work has only ever been about what you feel deep down inside when you look at it, it's not about what you see.
3. What’s your artistic process?
My artistic process begins once I have made myself a cup of tea or coffee depending on what I desire in the moment and I always have bottles of water nearby. Considering what I'm in the mood for, I'll either turn on one of my favourite cartoons (Family Guy, 6teen, etc) or I'll play a playlist on Spotify. Recently, I've been leaning towards the music. The musical taste can vary from Nirvana to Liszt, or from Kendrick Lamar and XXXtentacion to Neil Young and David Bowie. It's more about what I'm feeling. Then I'll look at my blank canvas and whichever medium I've previously decided on, and I'll ask myself; "What's happening?" And by this I'm asking myself, what's going on inside? Is there anything I want to say? Is there anything I want to feel? Whenever I ask myself for answers, I always have them. If nothing's happening, then nothing will happen I move on for the day or at least until I have something to say.
4. What’s it been like as a woman creating works around female sexuality?
As a woman creating works around female sexuality, I feel pride and responsibility to my gender. While the basis of my work is more about evoking and offloading emotions, I'm well aware of the impact it's had on the lives of women. I love reading emails from people, and I've heard so many warm things from others. I had no idea that my work made people feel as good as it makes me feel, and that's an incredible thing. Now that I've fallen into this position, I feel privileged to have the opportunity to advocate consent and confidence through my art.
5. Your art always captures women in positions of power. What does it mean to be sexually empowered and confident in your own body?
Thank you for thinking so highly of my work. :) Being empowered and confident in my own body allots me ultimate freedom. Freedom to express myself in the ways that I choose, in the ways that best benefit me. When you're not empowered, when you're not confident, you limit yourself. You'll worry about what others will think of you, and you won't do the things that make you happy because a few people can't accept it. But when you're sexually empowered and overall empowered, you can quite literally explore your own appetite with no restrictions or self-discrimination, regardless of how society may feel about your preferences at the time.
6. Social media accounts in the erotic space are constantly under threat. You’ve had both Facebook and Instagram accounts deleted. How do you deal with censorship?
This is a topic that I feel needs more discussion, then maybe we can get to the bottom of this. I can't understand why displays of consent within sex, or artworks illustrating the beauty of sex is banned. Who in the right mind would be offended by a woman being sexually empowered? Why is consensual sex such a taboo topic? If sex continues to be a provocative subject, then how are we supposed to educate the next generation about consent, empowerment and equality? In these times, there is no way to deal with censorship. The algorithms of most social media sites are so sensitive that they'll ban a post if they catch even the imprint of a woman's nipple. I think we're at the point where we can't compromise any further. I think the discussion should begin on why we're continuing to censor and attempt to digitally delete all traces of healthy human sexuality.
7. What’s been your most surprising discovery since drawing erotic and sensual art?
The most surprising discovery I've made so far are the thoughts of people. I had no idea so many men and women felt so negatively about beautiful displays of consensual sex. In contrast, I had no idea how positively men and women would feel about my artwork and it's content. I've been delightfully surprised by how many people actually get what I'm doing here. I didn't expect anything at first, but still the responses of people have managed to shock me.
8. Who are the women you paint?
To put it simply; the women I paint are variations of me.
9. If we were able to watch you while you’re in the flow, creating your work, what would we see and feel? Can you paint a scene for us?
That's a great question. :) You would see me, sometimes silent, and sometimes talking to myself. I verbally ask myself questions and verbally answer them. I do this often actually. It helps me clarify my thoughts. You would hear my favourite music in the background, or you would hear my favourite cartoon. I don't watch the cartoons while I'm painting but I like to listen to them. You'd smell sweet incense as I like to keep my space aromatic and I like the way the smoke billows. You'd see canvases lining my walls, and all my paints neatly organized on my desk. And actually I've begun a YouTube channel where I will document my entire process from start to finish. I've promised myself that I'll be honest in my videos.
10. Who are your favourite female artists, living or passed?
My favourite female artists are Monica Kim Garza and Amrita Sher-Gil. My favourite male artist is Milo Manara. I also have an appreciation for Caravaggio.
11. What are you currently working on?
Currently I'm in the process of hitting my 100 canvas painting goal. Of course each painting has got to be perfect by my standards and I can't rush creativity so I presume this goal will keep me busy for some time to come. My second task is to make sure I film and upload this entire process onto my YouTube channel, painting-by-painting. In sharing my process, this'll help inspire young artists to follow their bliss and to ignore the naysayers, and to focus on what they want, and to get it.
LOCATION: toronto, canada
TYPE OF ART: Illustration and painting
PRICE RANGE : C$75 - C$350
PREFERRED MEDIUMS: acrylic paint, oil paint, digital, charcoal/pastels
WAITING TIME FOR COMMISSIONS: no longer than one month