In his new book, Dominic Myatt asks Vivienne Westwood, Andreas Kronthaler and 52 others to draw a dick pic
Titled Penile Papers, the publication features an array of contributions from Charles Jeffrey to Nick Knight, and even his friend’s grandma.
- Ayla Angelos
- 30 April 2021
What’s the weirdest thing you could ask Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler? Maybe it’s to draw you a penis? This is exactly what Dominic Myatt did before compiling the drawings into a book called Penile Papers. With a total of 54 contributors, Dominic gained a hefty number of phallic illustrations from the likes of Charles Jeffrey, Nick Knight, Thomas Bettridge, Alex Keyes, Andy Brown, Ashleigh Kane, Beth Ditto, Calum Knight, Cara Taylor, Holly Blakey and many, many others, turning his contributions into a study of art – or better yet, a study of the penis.
Dominic’s an artist himself. Originally from Leicestershire, he moved to London to pursue studies in fine art and history of art at Goldsmiths. Ever since graduating, he’s worked on a plethora of commissions for big names such as Channel 4, Vivienne Westwood, Art School, Showstudio and Selfridges.
He decided to take his education further and received a postgraduate scholarship from the Royal Drawing School, finishing up with a show at Christie’s and thus continuing to centre his practice on drawing, painting and printmaking. His previous works, too, have been equal sexual in their subject matter, with his previous publication (no kissing) examining the Craigslist “sexual classifieds” through the medium of illustration, which is currently held in the Tate collection along with other pieces in the Royal Collection and John J. Wilcox, Jr. Archives.
Besides the more traditional art endeavours, Dominic also works as a tattoo artist and views his work in this field as an extension of his printmaking, “which is itself an extension of my drawing practice,” he tells It’s Nice That. “There are a lot of parallels between printmaking and tattooing, such as the act of etching into the skin or a copper plate, but I think the main thing that sets it apart is the relative transience of the work on somebody’s skin. It’s permanent, yes, but only as long as the person is alive.”
So this begs the question as to what actually inspired Dominic to start looking at the artful and varying depiction of the penis. There are many ways of illustrating one – hairy ones, big or little ones, you name it, someone will have drawn it – and Dominic was intrigued by the universality of it. “I wanted to draw attention to the humble but ubiquitous phallic scribble that we’d all either done or seen scrawled in the back of books, on walls, doors, cubicles and elsewhere,” he adds. “I was mostly interested in recording how different people would respond to the request for a drawing, and what their drawing of a penis would look like.” And as you can see on the pages of Penile Papers, depictions of a pecker are vast and varying. “Some address the sexual nature of a penis through the drawing and others just abstract the shape, and are quite playful with it.”
Those involved include a mix of artists, designers, as well as people from outside of the creative industry – like his friend’s grandma, or customers from a sex club he used to work at, or even a call centre operator, a debt management consultant and pub landlady. Steering away from being fashion and art-centric, Dominic wanted the members of Penile Papers to represent a wider collective. The process involved reaching out with a simple request to draw a penis, stating how it can be “as lewd, crude or as detailed as they wished,” he says, leaving them to their wildest imagination. “I didn’t want to lead them too much, but I think I was successful in that there was a very varied response.” Matty Bovan, a British fashion designer, for example, crafted one from fabric, and another one – which didn’t make the final cut – was a photograph of two dough balls and an Italian sausage.
When Dominic approached Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler for their contribution, Viv responded with a delicate composition drawn onto a piece of pattern cutting paper. Meanwhile, Andreas crafted his from marker pens onto the back of a studio photocopy. “Along with them being such respected designers, it felt important to include these ones, because the material they were drawn on played into this idea of the penis drawing as an ephemeral piece of art,” says Dominic, “which I then took, printed and made permanent.”
Perhaps Penile Papers is going to make us all rethink the symbolism – as well as the artful and sometimes confrontational – nature of the penis. The drawing itself has so many wide-spanning connotations and interpretations, that each and every contribution to this book protrudes with new meaning. Dominic also worked with Chris Colville-Walker on the design in order to print the work in ratio to the average dimensions of a penis, “in so that when it is rolled up on your hand, you’d have this little temporary sculptural phallus that sort of ties everything together,” he notes. “Even unrolled, its weight and size feel similar to a smartphone or device – one of the main channels for many peoples’ sexuality, especially over the course of the pandemic.
“It’s a bit of a nod to the phenomenon of the unsolicited (or solicited) dick pic, but also makes a mockery of it at the same time. Aside from all that, there is the humorous element to the book which I hope can remedy, in some small way, the misery of the past year.”
Penile Papers is available here.
GalleryDominic Myatt: Penile Papers (Copyright © Dominic Myatt, 2021)
Dominic Myatt: Penile Papers (Copyright © Dominic Myatt, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she became online editor in 2022 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.