Exploring gender with award-winning illustrator Olivia Healy

"You should never let society's preconceived rules or notions dictate your personal identity and the way you exist in the world."

- Olivia Healy

Fluid flowing genderless figures oozing spiritual wisdom populate the work of Oliva M. Healy, a London-based illustrator recently graduated from Falmouth University. Inspired by Ancient Egyptian and Japanese imagery her work includes vivid explorations of sexuality, gender and mindfulness with an unwavering connection to nature. We asked her about her work...​

Ancient Egyptian art and old Japanese woodcuts are an inspiration in your work. Have they always been a central influence in your illustrations? And what do you find most beautiful about Egyptian and Japanese art?

I've definitely always been interested in their art but it took some time until I started incorporating the styles into my own work. I love the way Egyptian's portrayed the posture of the figure and I love the elegance of Japanese woodcut and the fluid forms.​​

It’s interesting that you mentioned in the past that the figures in your illustrations aren’t tied to any specific gender, thinking of them “as more an aura of a person.” Would you be able to tell us a bit more about this?

I think rather than specific genders, my illustrations are more of depictions of masculine and feminine energies. So their actual anatomy and form doesn't always signify who they could be. I think when I paint a figure I'd like anyone to be able to relate to that figure. Or, if it's a couple anyone could see it as representational of their own love regardless of the gender of the figures.

You've recently graduated from Falmouth University studying Illustration, how did your time at Art School influence your work? Art school influenced my work greatly. Because even though beforehand I was interested in a lot of similar things, and my work always revolved around the figure and female forms, I wasn't really sure of how to portray my ideas and I wasn't confident on the way I depicted things. I had a lighter hand and my artwork was less bold and colourful than it is now. I think through school I became confident in my ideas and how to demonstrate them in my work, which translates to a more bold and assertive style that suits me well.

Do you listen to music while you illustrate? I don't usually work with music on, it's either silent or I watch tv shows. But if I do have music on at the moment it would be Solange or Frank Ocean. What would be your manifesto for the twenty-first century? That there is great strength in femininity and that you should never let society's preconceived rules or notions dictate your personal identity and the way you exist in the world.

You can enjoy more of Olivia's work on her website: