DoubleTap is an interview series highlighting artists whose work explores sex, body, and identity.
From plucking one’s nipple hairs to having anxiety about pooping while on vacation, Ariella Elovic’s illustrations look like they were ripped from the pages of a teenage diary; it’s no surprise her candid scribbles for her project, Cheeky, are quickly becoming an Instagram favorite.
Elovic draws inspiration from some of her most personal anecdotes, combatting societal shame with clever humor that’s laugh out loud funny. In this way, her illustrations serve as palatable commentary on body insecurities and the ways in which stigma can hold us back from living our collective truth.
In this interview, we speak with the artist about her work and what she hopes viewers will take away from seeing this project.
What inspired you to launch this project?
AE: My work on Cheeky is inspired by the women in my life and the conversations we have about our bodies. Through connecting on shared and personal experiences, I began to feel a lot more at home in my skin—upper lip hair, jiggly thighs, period globs and all. I hope my illustrations spark similar conversations and help alleviate some of the shame and isolation so many of us feel in relation to our bodies.
How long have you been developing this body of work? How do you hope to grow this series in the future?
I launched Cheeky about five months ago, but I’ve been ruminating on these ideas for a while. Initially, I was working on a series of illustrations about my personal journey with IBS, and found that I kept wanting to go off on tangents. Poop became period poops and period poops became period leaks, long pubes, and nipple hair etc. I’d love to turn this series into a book, that’ll be my next big project. Some cute Cheeky pins would be fun, too.
What is your process for creating these illustrations?
Most of the work I make for Cheeky draws from my personal life, thoughts or insecurities I have—typically if it’s something I’m embarrassed to tell other people, it’s something I push myself to share. I was pretty embarrassed about my nipple hairs a year ago and now it feels (almost) as normal as having eyebrows.
Do you draw from real life? Do you make these digitally or by hand?
I paint everything by hand using gouache, and then scan and touch up a bit in Photoshop. All notes are handwritten in pencil. Painting myself also makes it pretty easy in terms of needing reference imagery. I’ve got a pretty incriminating series of selfies/mirror pics.
What has surprised you most about doing illustrations around body image and identity?
I’m surprised by how much I’m sharing in public—granted, it’s illustrations and not photos of my bare body—but a lot of what I paint has been on topics I would have never dared share in the past. This work has really helped me process and embrace my own insecurities.
How do you use your artwork to champion inclusion, diversity, body and sex positivity?
Sharing personal stories highlights how unique we all are, but also all that we share. We all have self-doubt, we all have felt rejection, we all have felt judged (either by ourselves or by others). When I use Cheeky to communicate a vulnerability, I hope it encourages folks to be kinder to both themselves and those around them. Empathy can be hard to practice, but it’s so incredibly important. Especially now.
What do you hope viewers will take away from seeing your illustrations?
I hope viewers relate to the work in some way, laugh, and feel less alone because of our shared experience. Ultimately, I want Cheeky to instill this sense of connecting to your body, yourself, and really owning it. Speaking to my personal experience as a teenage/college-age girl, I spent a lot of time making myself look the way I thought I should look (read: contorting my body to bleach all my dark arm hair and wearing spanx under jeans, both incredibly uncomfortable). Letting go of that pressure and stress is hard—and a process—but I’m getting there and Cheeky is helping.