Interview of Libby Phillips by Freya Bennett
Hi Libby, how are you?
I’m tired but well, thank you. I’ve been revising for exams a lot recently which is quite exhausting but I think I have everything under control now!
Where do you call home?
The West Midlands in England, in a little town that nobody has ever heard of. It’s quite a beautiful area though, with a lot of history behind it. I’ve lived here all my life.
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I’m 16 years old, and I’m actually called Elizabeth – I much prefer my nickname, Libby, so that’s what everyone calls me. As well as drawing, I really enjoy writing and photography and when I grow up I want to be a geographical photojournalist and change the world a little bit. That’s the plan, anyway!
Tell us a little bit about Libby’s Happy Project!
Libby’s Happy Project started off as something entirely for myself. Seeing so many things detrimental to my self esteem on other accounts, I decided to make a little corner of the internet for me to visit whenever things got too much. That’s how Libby’s Happy Project started. I followed some amazing people, and soon took to posting drawings that were inspired by the positivity I saw. Before I knew it, I’d actually had a reaction – seeing that my space on Instagram was making other people happy as well as myself gave me the motivation to post more frequently. It’s given me a purpose. So it’s not really just Libby’s Happy Project any more; I’ve set my sights on making it a Happy Project that positively influences as many people as possible. I like to think I’ve made somebody feel better about themselves in some small way.
When did you get into illustration?
Though I’m usually good at articulating things, sometimes to explain a point properly I end up rambling on and on and on until I’m pretty much just talking to myself because I’ve talked the ears off of the people I’m with. A while ago, after failing to convey a point to somebody in words, I sketched a little drawing to demonstrate my point – almost immediately, I was understood. Illustrations are a more engaging way to express yourself, I suppose. It helps that I’ve always liked drawing.
What inspired you to create the body positive art that you do?
Seeing many body positive posts in which people took off their clothes and shared their body unashamedly really inspired me. Though I wouldn’t feel entirely comfortable doing the same, I wanted to try and show my support by drawing people with bodies like mine, being proud and unapologetic without their clothes on – like saying, “I don’t want to share pictures of my body online, but this is what my body looks like and I’m not going to hide it.” Then I started to include more diversity in my drawings so that as many people as possible feel as though they’re being represented in some way.
Do you have a favourite drawing so far?
Sometimes the simple ones are the best. I’ve attached some of my favourites, but the image of the black woman hugging her body with the caption ‘I will never apologise for loving myself.’ I don’t know why, but that one is poignant to me.
What are you goals in regards to art?
I’d like to continue drawing and sharing my art for as long as it makes people happy. If I can do that, I’ll have reached my full potential in terms of art, I think.
Who are your art heroines?
I’ve always loved cartoonists with really distinctive, original styles – for example, Norman Thelwell and Quentin Blake. Though I can’t hope for success like theirs, I hope that over time I develop a style that people recognise as mine. In terms of body positivity, I always smile when I see @the_illustrator_of_curves in my feed and I really respect @meandmyed.art for breaking the misinformed stigma that surrounds eating disorders in a very clever, artful way.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
The best advice I’ve ever been given was, ‘How can you expect people to love you, if you can’t find reasons to love you?’. It’s natural that we as humans crave validation from our peers but it’s sometimes easy to forget that our worth is not determined by what others think of us. Self love and acceptance starts with you – you don’t need somebody telling you they love you in order for you to believe you’re worthy of love. There’s such a stigma around being single. I’ve never had a boyfriend. That doesn’t mean I think there’s nothing loveable about me – I’m great. I don’t need a boy to make me believe that, the same way fitting into a pair of jeans doesn’t reassure me that I’m beautiful. I was beautiful before I put those skinny jeans on.
What advice do you have for girls wanting to get into art?
Learn the basics. Art at school feels really restrictive sometimes, but learning to conform to the simple stuff like anatomy gives you the skills to break away from that and develop whatever style you like. Anyone’s capable, I promise you that.