Every Friday, BULLETT’s introducing our favorite Instagram profiles and getting to know the people behind the posts.
Performative sexuality and a sense of play come together in REEG’s illustrations of badass, unconventionally beautiful women. Using a color palette reminiscent of old Disney movies, REEG makes cartoon-style erotica that leaves you feeling nostalgic and slightly turned on. Through his lustful comics, REEG creates strong female characters that are always unattainable, but just inviting enough to make you think you have a chance.
Posed like pin-up models and gymnasts in 80’s athletic wear, the women in REEG’s illustrations share an effortless cool that immediately hooks you. Vulnerable, yet reserved, his vixens look hot from every angle. REEG used to draw his girls alone, but recently started featuring shapeshifting male subjects that fit seamlessly into the background. These new characters materialize as different household objects trying to blend in, but their animated eyes tell a different story. For the London-based artist, these additions serve to emphasize just how out of reach the women are.
At first glance, these characters come off as creepy voyeurs, objectifying REEG’s female subjects. But a study of their expressions shows a larger dialogue happening between them. In each illustration, the man adapts to become whatever he believes the woman wants. Whether he assumes the form of a handsy coat rack, a chair, or a mirror, every interaction they share paints an image of his desire to please her.
By exploring the subtext behind traditional gender roles, REEG’s work challenges our understanding of the male gaze. For the most part, we’re left to speculate how much the two characters know about each other: Is the woman completely oblivious to his presence, or simply uninterested in her male counterpart? Is he solely in awe of her body, or is he really trying to talk to her? The story lends power to either sex, depending on your interpretation. Even alone, REEG’s subjects question who has the power—the audience, or the artist? In his world, it’s the modern femme fatale who has control, and you’re just lucky to get near her.
Read our interview with the artist, below.
Why do you only draw cartoons?
The first images I was bombarded with as a kid, were Looney Tunes, Disney, and Red Hot Riding Hood. In animation, there are inherently a lot of accidents and mistakes, which renders the imagery abstract over time. So, I’ve tried to pinpoint certain abstractions from animations and illustrate them.
What is it about animation that attracted you?
I like that, after enough time, you start to believe the characters are real. It’s trippy, because there’s nothing realistic about Mickey Mouse as a drawing. But once you see him animated, it makes the story come alive—it ignites in your mind, and I’ve got a bunch of stories I want to tell.
How would you describe your work?
My work comes from a place of wonder. I make art to express my appreciation for the female form and everything that comes with it—though, I’ve yet to figure out what I love about it so much. When I see a female sitting a certain way, or the way she postures herself, or the way she walks—there’s something in it that really speaks to me. That’s what I try to capture.
What’s the thought process behind your color scheme? Do you stick to an abstract color palette to be inclusive?
I’m not trying to please any one person—I just want you to be able to see the figure in its most enticing way without getting too hung up on what color it is. The political side of art is a little bit un-fun for me. I want people to just forget their troubles, just for a split second, and maybe steer their thought processes in a different direction.
Why do you draw women that don’t adhere to the standards of conventional beauty?
When I started illustrating really shapely women, I thought I was the only person doing it. It seemed like in my little bubble of London, nobody was showing appreciation for curvier body shapes, and I couldn’t understand why. So, my first goal was to promote that kind of shape and woman. But eventually, I started thinking about what these characters might be like, what kind of pressures they might face, and that’s when I started adding the furniture.
How do the furniture characters relate to the female characters?
The furniture character is a male who’s trying to figure out ways to get close to the girl. And he’s trying to do it in a way that bypasses her walls. He wants the female character to sit on his lap, so he’ll transform into a chair, or if he wants to get close to her feet he might transform into a rug. It’s all about compromising who he is, and shifting his shape to get closer to her.
As you start incorporating the male character more, do you think the woman will become more interested?
Well, he kind of gets his way—she does utilize him. But I doubt she will ever enjoy his company as much as he enjoys hers. I think that’s what it’s like for me, anyway. It’s easier to appreciate women than it is to appreciate men. And if you’re going to get the attention or admiration of one of my girls, you have to have some kind of use.
It seems as though the women don’t even realize he’s there.
Right, I’d never want my male characters to be grabbing on the women or making themselves known in that way. I just want to imply that with enough courage, he might talk to her. He’s a wallflower type, which is a depiction of my own introversion. I don’t want my character to be too creepy, and I never want women to think I’m objectifying them—that’s not what I’m about. So to make that point clear, I’ve decided to literally objectify the male characters.
How do you think your audience perceives their interactions?
One of my biggest distractions is the fact that I can’t explain what I’m trying to do with every single drawing. I’m trying to leave it open for interpretation. I’m just putting it out there in a way that’s neutral, but engaging. When I draw my female character all alone, she takes on the purpose of admiration. But with the male character there’s more of a dialogue—it’s my take on what it’s like to relate to women.
How has Instagram affected the development of your characters?
Instagram guides me on how to give people more for viewing my artwork. If I post a drawing of one girl, I’ll have several girls comment, “This is me.” I realize people identify with what I’m putting out there, and that’s what I’m doing it for. So I’ve definitely tweaked things to make it easier for people to resonate with the characters. It’s a really powerful tool for inspiration alone—whether that’s me inspiring other people to see themselves in a different way, or if it’s direct requests that people want to see from me.
What do you hope people take away from your work?
If it doesn’t activate some kind of serotonin in people, then I hope they see something so annoying and so upsetting in my artwork that they’re inspired to create something more suitable to their vision. That’s how I got into art. I was seeing things I wanted to tweak a little bit, and started creating those things myself.
See REEG’s new collection in ‘The Amazing Amazon Mansion’ at Superchief Gallery from May 19 to June 2.