I was prowling around Instagram one cloudy, procrastination-filled winter day when I saw a pastel-coloured Karl Marx on my phone screen. My intrigue drew a little investigation, and I found myself on the profile of Amy_Illustrator (aka Amy Hall). My Funraising senses are always on high alert (lame, I know) and so I instantly spotted the Mind logo in one of her posts, which I have included further down.
Having recently hosted ArtBox in aid of the Manchester Mind branch of the London-based charity Mind, Funraising is encouraging of the relationship between the arts and mental health – from my past investigation and interviews, I’ve come to realise that creative activity can provide a voice, a focus and an emotional outlet for anyone and everyone. As a result, when I saw that Amy was selling ‘Everything will come up Milhouse’ t-shirts in aid of Mind, I knew that she was the kind of person that we wanted to speak to – so we did!
Amy’s striking designs include a pink Larry David of Curb Your Enthusiasm fame, and a green and yellow Louis Theroux. The artist has Mexican blood in her family, so she found her initial inspiration and signature use of bright colours in the palettes of Mexico. ‘I fell in love with the vibrancy and thought “that is what my work was really lacking”. I also looked at 80s film and music posters for colour inspo, because they have the most amazing popping colours’.
This is perhaps why she uses ‘gouache’ paint, which doesn’t allow for any transparency on the page. A self-proclaimed ‘gouache enthusiast’, Amy told me why this was the case. ‘I absolutely love everything about it (sorry this is going to sound tragic) but for me is by far the best paint. It dries really quickly so I can work in a small scale without smudging my work, it dries as a block-colour which is perfect for my style and the colours that you get with it are just unreal! They’re always so vibrant and for me, that helps grab attention for my work.’
Attention is important in artwork – particularly that of a political nature. With Corbyn, Trump, Theresa May and Boris Johnson all featuring on her Instagram page, and even in the style of font that she uses in her text, Amy can be recognised as somewhat of a political cartoonist. However, though her imagery is typically satirical, it is atypical of the category in its block colour style and palette. ‘I wanted to be a political cartoonist because I couldn’t find any other work that looked similar to mine, they’re usually very sketchy)’. Certainly refreshing in this sense, Amy’s entry into the world of political cartoon is also refreshing in another: ‘the field is dominated by men and I wanted to do one for the women’. Her subconscious feminism was clear in her support for another female political cartoonist: ‘I’m going to give a shout out to Emily Flanagan who was on my Illustration course at uni. She creates amazing political work’.
Amy told me that she started creating political art with the intention of involving her peers to get more involved in current affairs: ‘I wanted my art to make it easier for people to understand what was going on in the world. Also, the politicians make it so easy for us artists when they have faces that are so fun to make into caricatures’.
Amy has also created designs incorporating Moby, Jeremy Corbyn, and Mary Berry. She started selling t-shirts work due to the high demand that was shown in messages on Instagram. ‘The first t-shirt I made to sell was my Corbyn design during the general election, which got a nice response. When I did my Louis painting I got more messages, and here we are! So my Instagram followers started it’. The illustrator aims to lift the emotions of others in her work, ‘I just love people’s responses to my artwork, it is my biggest drive to make people smile or laugh at what I create’. And yet, she is in full control of what she produces, which she made clear. ‘I feel like my work is so self-indulgent with who I want to paint and how I paint… I only ever choose people that I like watching and who I also think other people might enjoy too’.
So, both in its grounding on social media, and in the popularity of its content, Amy’s art holds a high element of relevance to branches of our current social climate.
It was made clear that Amy’s illustrations act as a healthy personal outlet. ‘Any painting I have done has been born from an issue in my mind – especially my earlier political stuff’. She outlined how expressing her thoughts in gouache was beneficial to herself and others: ‘Initially it’s so I can cope with it and then I post it on social media so I can spread awareness, so for me, this is like a win-win’.
One thing that the artist has recently endeavoured to raise awareness about, is the issue of mental health. She created a Milhouse design, which she now sells on t-shirts with 10% of the profits going to the mental health charity Mind. Whilst this is an inspired idea, it came from personal roots. ‘I suffer from anxiety disorder and so I wanted to have something on my desk that I could look at and reassure me that everything’s going to be okay. I then wanted to post it on my Instagram to talk about anxiety, because I think it’s beyond important to talk about mental health – I feel like anxiety is still quite unknown and even disregarded in some instances. I got a great response from the image, and it was my boyfriend that said it would look great on a t-shirt so that was that!’
On the topic of mental health, Amy had far more to say. She expressed the significance of this with power: ‘I could write the biggest paragraph about it because the system we have here in the UK is horrific and Theresa May needs to get her long spindly fingers out of her arsehole and sort it out. But I digress… in short I think it’s incredibly important to talk about and spread awareness of mental health because so many people are suffering in silence and need help. Luckily it has started to be spoken about more, and you see more celebrities coming out with their personal struggles, so I really really hope that now people are understanding it more’.
Finally, when asked if she thought that everything would come up Milhouse, she plaintively responded, ‘I bloody well hope so!’
I feel like every Simpsons fan is bound to appreciate the opportunity to re-watch the referenced Milhouse scene – I have, about eight times. All I can say is that ‘it’s funny on so many levels’.
Milhouse’s shining positivity should be a glistening example for us all. Buy a motivational Milhouse t-shirt on Amy’s online shop here, or if you need to save up some cash first, check out Amy’s work at @Amy_Illustrator on Instagram. For more information on mental health, take a look at the Mind website.
Back again with the playlist feature, Funraising brings you Amy’s Spotify playlist ‘Coming Up Milhouse’, which is full of tunes that bring joy and happiness. Go put these records on, and they’ll get you in a sweet disposition:
*Please note that opinions reflected in Funraising articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Funraising.