If you love feminism, unicorns, and sassy dialogue then Joanna Thangiah may just be your new favorite artist. Based out of Australia, this 27-year old illustrator has decided to use her quirky cartoons to make social commentary on issues like gender equality, body image, mental health, and womanhood. If you’re as itching as we were to take a peak inside the mind of this refreshing new artist check out the exclusive interview below!
N: What type of artist are you? How old are you? Where do you live?
JT: I’m not really sure what type of artist I am, I guess I’m an illustrator. I’m 27 and I live in Sydney, Australia.
N: What is your spirit animal?
JT: My spirit animal is a cross between a unicorn and a jigglypuff
N: You have a very unique and distinctive style of work, who/what were your influencers?
JT: Mark Ryden is probably my main influence; I’ve been obsessed with his art since I was 14. I draw inspiration from advertising from the 50’s and 60’s especially pin-ups, modern Japanese culture and current events. I also follow a bunch of amazing artists on Instagram that constantly inspire me and make me want to try new things.
N: Have you always been a feminist? What made you want to start applying feminism and body-positivity to your art?
JT: I went through phases as a teenager where I was quite the anti feminist, reveling in saying the most politically incorrect things just for shock value. It was more out of boredom and a weird way to solidify my place in the friendship groups that I had. Deep down I wanted to be Kathleen Hanna.
I started making feminist art because of therapy; I have been battling an eating disorder for ten years and coping poorly with a string of mental illnesses my whole life. I had been seeing a psychologist for a little over a year when I started drawing chubby characters and posting them on Instagram. I was also in a destructive and emotionally abusive relationship drawing was the only thing that gave me power at the time. Everything that I created at that time was a retort to all the negative things that he said to me.
N: Would you say that you are an intersectional artist/feminist?
JT: Of course! Feminism shouldn’t be a cis gendered women’s only club that focuses only on the issues of women. It should be about being a decent human being and caring about everyone. It’s also about understanding that focusing on one particular group does not mean you are disregarding another.
N: When did you first start making pieces? Has your art changed/evolved from when you originally started?
JT: I started posting my art regularly on Instagram around December 2014. My art style has evolved slightly I think, when I started I wasn’t that confident so I would spend hours fixing my work in photoshop, now I only spend maybe two minutes in photoshop.
N: On your Instagram you mention your inner monologue as an aspect of your work. Are some of your prints inspired my events you personally have experienced?
JT: A lot of my work is quite passive aggressive, my response to ridiculous things guys and family members have said to me.
N: Are their specific pop culture events or current events that have inspired specific pieces?
JT: Some of my work is inspired by current events, but I never specify and usually create it way after it happens. Creating something in the heat of the moment always turns out negatively for me.
N: What ideas or concepts do you hope people will take away when they look at your work?
JT: Ultimately I just want people to feel good about being themselves.
N: On your site it says you do commissions as well, have you done any galleries or shows?
JT: I’ve been lucky to have been asked to be featured in a few shows this year which I never really thought would ever happen. Unfortunately they were all in America so I couldn’t physically see my art on the walls of galleries.
N: You have over 45K followers on Instagram and you have transferred your art into a popular clothing line, what’s the next for you?
JT: I really want to grow what I have now into something bigger, at the moment I do everything myself from admin, packaging, finances and designing. I want to get to the point where I can solely focus on creating, I know it will be a long time before any of that happens unless someone wants to invest in me without trying to rip me off!
N: Does the style of your characters and your clothing line take after your own style?
JT: The clothing style of my characters and the clothes I sell is a combination of how I dressed as a teenager, how I dress now and how I would like to dress if I had more confidence, but I’m working on that!
N: Who are your feminist/artist idols?
JT: I idolized Courtney Love and Kathleen Hanna as a teenager, they have influenced me so much! I would probably barf all over them from excitement and nerves if I ever met them. Lets hope for their sake that never happens.
N: What advice do you have for young artists trying to make it?
JT: Just keep creating! Don’t be disheartened by the lack of attention that your art gets, the attention will come you just have to be patient, consistent, and truly believe in what you are creating. I dabbled in many different styles over the years and have been posting my art online since high school. It was all crap! Not everything you do is going to be amazing and that’s ok!
Also try not to allow the people in your life dishearten you or try and talk you out of being an artist. Success is relative! Obtaining a career in the arts is hard but it is not impossible. My family wasn’t supportive of me pursuing art as a career until I started posting articles that were written about me on Facebook. I still don’t think my Dad really knows what I do.