Our Visual Art Editor Mollye Miller Shehadeh sat down with Eleanor Claire, the artist behind the cover of our most recent issue, to talk with her about the inspiration behind the cover image, their origin as an illustrator, and the motivation behind the many body parts present in the piece. You can explore Eleanor's full series "Body Horror" in Vol 8: Embodiment, available now!
Fatal Flaw: What motivated you to create this particular drawing in your "Body Horror" series?
Eleanor Claire: This drawing was actually based on a drawing I did several years earlier. I got very into sketchbooks because they allowed me to easily work on art anywhere. I vividly remember making the original of this drawing for hours at work. Later, once I got more involved in this series and my illustration skills had improved, I wanted to retry it in the same style. I think the original drawing had the many arms holding inanimate objects (a clock, a bouquet of flowers on fire, a cane, etc.). As I started making more art that explored a lot of body-based weirdness, I wanted that reflected in the remake of this drawing as well.
FF: What mediums did you use to create the drawing?
EC: This is mostly watercolors (really, really low-quality watercolors). I also used ink to outline and add in the lines in the background.
FF: When did you start making art in this illustration style? And do you think you will continue?
EC: I started getting into illustration and sketchbooking in college. While in undergrad studying poetry, I was allowed to take an MFA Forms class with the illustrious Maureen Seaton. (Maureen is an absolute god, I highly recommend checking out her work). Being the absolute creative powerhouse that she is, we focused on how everything is poetry. The class was essentially utilizing sketchbooks as a wordless poetry. After being introduced to that concept, I really ran with it. It's been about a decade since then, and I don't really use a sketchbook anymore, but I use those same skills to continue creating poetry on paper. As I kept creating, my work became more and more body-based, and I'm sure it will continue.
FF: What was the idea behind and motivation for the inclusion of spines in this piece?
EC: I have a fascination with bones. I probably always have. I remember getting so excited finding clean bones of animals as a kid in the woods. I was that weird kid that would literally bring bones I found to school for my science teacher. Then, the week before I turned 21, I got hit by an SUV while riding my bike. I cracked my pelvis on their headlight, rolled over the top of the car, dented the side door in and in the process, my right clavicle broke in half. Part of it came out of my body, but then immediately went back inside, but in the wrong place. I had a pretty extensive surgery to put everything back in place, including putting a screw and pins in my clavicle to keep everything in place. Now I wear that screw as a necklace. Unsurprisingly, my love of bones only grew after that experience.
FF: Tell me about the heads. What do you want them to communicate?
EC: In a sense, they are the many masks you have to have, the many people you need to be, in order to navigate the world. I also draw all my heads without eyes or mouths. Most of my drawings in this series come from a preverbal feeling. Something I want to communicate that I cannot put into words, that cannot be seen or spoken, but that can only be expressed with some strange contortion of the body. As someone who puts words to everything, both as a writer, and as a therapist, this a is a bit of an uncomfortable place to sit. But I have found a comfort in it.
FF: Will you continue the "Body Horror" series do you think? Why or why not?
EC: Yes - I'm actually working on another piece now, albeit, slowly.
FF: A few of us wondered: is that Morse code in the background? It shows up in other drawings in your series. So curious!
EC: This is not intended to be Morse code, but I love that it makes you think of that! I think I started adding in the lines and dots because I realized that my backgrounds felt empty. It's really just a filler, but I like that it adds to the piece without being too busy or taking away from the foreground.
FF: I'm intrigued by the fire in the figure's belly. Did you always intend for fire or did you add it later in the life of the drawing?
EC: The fire was not intended. When adding shadow to the legs, I was not paying attention, and I made the tops of the thighs way too dark. I felt like the only way to make it seem logical (as logical as you can get in a painting like this anyway) was to add in a light source immediately above them. I must have already painted in the background, which is abnormal for me as I usually do that last, so I had to actually paint the fire on a separate piece of paper, cut it out, and glue it on the drawing. A happy accident!
FF: I love the rosy color you include around the joints and cheeks in the figure and heads. I think of it as love-letter to blood-flow. Tell me about this choice.
EC: Ooh, I love the language of that - a love-letter to blood-flow. It is. It's also a nod to disability. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, and there was a question for a while about if I had Lupus. With both of those, there can be reddening of the joints, and with Lupus specifically, there tends to be a butterfly-shaped rash on the cheeks. Beyond that, I just like the dimension it adds.
FF: Where would you like people to discover your art? Website, social media, a seller, galleries? How can we at Fatal Flaw help your artwork reach more audiences?
EC: I am very bad at marketing myself! I do have an art instagram (@eliot_ekphrastic) that I update approximately once a year. I also have a Threadless site. I plan to add more designs in the future, but right now a shirt with the design used as the cover here is available at eliotekphrastic.threadless.com.
FF: Is there anything you'd like us to know and share with others re: you, this piece, your series and artwork in general?
EC: I am a writer, first and foremost, and so getting recognition for visual art is very cool and I'm so grateful for your inclusion of me in this journal!
Eleanor Claire is a disabled, queer South Floridian who works as a therapist in Chicago. She studied poetry at the University of Miami under Maureen Seaton and John Murillo. They utilize visual art as another form of poetry to explore feelings of embodiment and disembodiment, belonging, and dissociation.
Mollye Miller Shehadeh is a documentary portrait and street photographer with an MFA in poetry (The New School, 2009). Joyful, sad, uplifting and everything between, Mollye’s approach to photography is like it is to poetry: she takes in emotions and turns them into images. Mollye has had photographs up at the Chesapeake Arts Center in Baltimore and at Photoville photography Festival in New York City. Her poems have appeared in Paperbag, Prerlude, and Stop Sharpening Your Knives (SSYK), a UK poetry anthology. See her photography at mollyemiller.com. She lives in Baltimore with her husband, stepkids, two cats, and her dog Zuri.
Learn more about fiction authors Christiane Williams-Vigil, Darryl Lauster, Lauren Kardos, Brett Salsbury, Max Asher Miller, and Joanna Clapps Herman, as well as visual artists Luciana Abait and Karen Fitzgerald. And make sure to check out their work in Vol 7: WILD!