Meet Olivia M. Healy, a third year illustration student at Falmouth. The yellow, blue, pink and red characters who dominate her matriarchal world are all curves and bright colours. Like all women, they are multi-faceted, at once vulnerable and powerful, curled up in tight balls or rising high to face the world. “When I look at an illustration of a female figure, I immediately feel a sense of power and wisdom behind that figure,” Olivia tells It’s Nice That.
“Although they are easily identifiable as women, my figures aren’t necessarily any specific gender. I think of them as more of an aura of a person – with their bright colours and ambiguous shapes. I often try to blend masculine and feminine elements, making my female figures very physically built with broad shoulders and even penises. My ‘male’ figures are very different, they sort of seem more like children or boys, and are very playful with silly bowl-cuts. So I think when I want to represent a figure with a lot of history, inner wisdom, and connection to nature – I opt for a very powerful mother-like figure. Whereas when my figure is supposed to be more playful and maybe a bit blissfully unaware, I tend to draw a sort of silly boy.”
Nature is a constant presence in Olivia’s work, with Matisse-style cheese plant leaves and friendly snakes finding their way into most of her latest illustrations. Elsewhere, lungs are replaced with leaves – “nature inside of you”, hand-written text suggests. “My work is very figurative, inspired by the human form and our connection to nature and colours,” Olivia explains. “A lot of my visual inspiration comes from depictions of Buddha and Budai, ancient Egyptian figures, as well as the old Japanese woodcuts of geishas or kabuki characters. There’s a lot of modern influences as well, and I really enjoy keeping my work minimal with block colours and limited shading. Creating my illustrations is very meditative for me, which I think is why the faces usually have a very calm and relaxed quality to them.”
Although her work may be meditative, Oliva has managed to fill two 32-page books with her illustrations, based around her friends poetry. One is focused on whales and the other about the jungle, and she’s planning a third around Native Americans. “I’d ideally like to get some of these books published by the time I graduate,” Olivia says.