“I made my own world for people like me”: Wednesday Holmes on their work representing the LGBTQI+ community
The artist and activist uses illustration to deal with their own problems, as well as to empower others.
- Charlie Filmer-Court
- 20 February 2020
Art has long been considered a cathartic tool, as well as one that can help to facilitate change. For Bristolian illustrator Wednesday Holmes, their work serves both of these purposes, providing a positive, yet firm message in support of those struggling with gender identity issues.
“I first got into illustration four years ago. I used to use a biro pen to create intricate illustrations in order to process symptoms of my bipolar disorder,” they tell It’s Nice That “It is still instrumental to my self-care to this day. Going to art college gave me the space to explore aspects of my identity that I hadn’t previously explored through my art practice.”
Wednesday has seen first hand how important illustration can be in helping people through tough times, and it has been there for them in multiple instances throughout their life. “When I came out as Transgender I felt immensely alone. It was then that I realised I could possibly connect to other people like me through my art,” they say.
All of Wednesday’s recent work has been created digitally, and their reasons for working in this way provide an extremely compelling argument as to the benefits of it. “My dad gave me his old iPad, and I immediately became obsessed with painting on there, starting to make joyful illustrations to express myself. Digitally drawing became a huge part of my life – I could access media that I couldn’t afford to buy physically. I can paint in any colour possible too – there’s no limits to what I can make,” says the London-based illustrator.
Wednesday’s images hope to tackle negative stereotypes around mental health and gender, providing encouragement and strength to people who may be suffering. Their bright images are filled with detail and colour, and are accompanied by inspiring messages of support.
“My art ties in heavily with my activism. I want to use it to help facilitate queer liberation – my favourite projects are those which aim to uplift my community,” they say. “I also feel it’s really important for me to use my artistic skills to educate people. Art can be used as a means to communicate the urgency of empathy. Art reaches people in ways we can’t fathom. Art can be used to mobilise us. I’ve recently been helping to launch Voices 4 London (@voices4ldn) which is an LGBTQI+ activist group which has come together in response to the global violence happening to LGBTQI+ people.”
When we ask Wednesday about their favourite pieces of work, there is a commonality between all of their choices: impact. These favourites are often pieces of work with sentimental meaning to Wednesday, and are also ones that have had a significant impact – which for an artist and activist is extremely important. A particular highlight was the first time Wednesday spoke out against GRA reform in the US, which was subsequently picked up and shared by a number of their heroes: “It was at this point that I decided I must never stop speaking,” they say.
Much of Wednesday’s work is framed through their lens, helping to contextualise their past experience, and also other people as well. The way this is represented is through characters, using people (predominantly) to help tell the story. “Through my art, I immediately starting creating characters (initially they were me). By painting myself I started to explore my gender. I started to see that although my characters might look like a certain gender – there really are no ways to paint it,” they explain.
This was something that over time they challenged, and as they thought about it for longer, they discovered innovative new ways to illustrate this. “There are also infinite ways to paint gender, and through art, I started to reclaim gender for my own. I then realised that all of my characters would be Trans and gender non-conforming. I felt like I lived in a world of art where each subject was cisgender – so I made a new one,” they say. “I made my own world for people like me.”
About the Author
Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.