Faces I Don't Know - Discovering the Female Nude

Updated: Oct 25, 2018

“If I could talk about sex and bodies all day, I would.” Meg Abbott is an artist who is changing the way we perceive sex and nudity. Her spontaneous line drawings (under the label 'Faces I Don't Know') are thoughtful, yet abstract enough to engage rather than to offend. We talked to Meg about the inspiration behind her delicate drawings and how she turned her hobby into a career.

Meg studied History of Art at Leeds University and always thought she’d go into gallery work or art journalism. After working at a contemporary art gallery in Amsterdam, she realised she wanted to do something a little more hands on. Her job as a travel writer took her away on and off for three years. When she returned to art, Meg found herself really drawn to the minimal style she does now and obsessed with the female nude.

How did Meg Abbott get started?

I loved being able to create a piece of work purely from a feeling, just following a line to create something that made no sense but somehow did. After some initial sales to friends and family, I decided to start selling properly. I still paint and explore other mediums outside of the ones I share, but line drawing is definitely the one I feel most attached to.

What is your main source of inspiration?

People! When you focus on the face or body, you’re never stuck for ideas. I find inspiration in strangers, friends and family, and also make sure I’m well-oiled with ideas from art books, magazines, statues, architecture and exhibitions. I see faces in everything – I think there’s actually a word for it which I can’t remember now! [With Google’s help - Pareidolia]

" Life should be about joy as much as possible, and the key to that is feeling comfortable in your own skin. "

We believe in artists who empower women through their work: sex is a taboo and a crucial part of the process of this empowerment. Your work, through its simplicity, seems to touch a sore subject with extreme delicacy. How would you describe the attitude of your work towards sex and body-positivity?

If I could talk about sex and bodies all day, I would! It’s a fascinating subject, and something we all have in common. I try to celebrate the diversity of the female form in my work and use those curves and bumps and rolls we have in all their glory. I feel like attitudes to the body are changing, albeit at a frustratingly slow rate. As well as sex, food is a source of pleasure, so carrying a bit of extra weight because you allow yourself to enjoy it is a wonderful thing. Life should be about joy as much as possible, and the key to that is feeling comfortable in your own skin. I hope my drawings encourage that in some small way.

How do you think the audience approaches your work in general? Did anyone ever give you a hard time because of the way you depict your subjects? [in other words, was anyone offended by the nudity]

So far, it’s all been really positive. In fact, my nudes sell better than my portraits. I think people love having a nude on their wall, and I think mine are ‘approachable’ as they’re quite abstract. I did a giant orgy scene for a restaurant in Melbourne, which was so great – I love the idea of people eating plates of pasta underneath a canvas of vaginas*. I think nudity and sexual openness is quite stylish now, which can only be a good thing!

*Tipico restaurant wall mural x space between creative agency, Melbourne (2500 x 1400mm)

Which obstacles did you find on your way to become the successful artist you are today? Was there a time you wanted to give up, and in that case how you found a way to continue with your work?

There are obstacles every day, with clients and projects and logistical stuff. Pricing myself has been difficult, as I have nothing to compare myself to, and I think women in particular struggle to value their work. I still keep my prices relatively low, as I want everyone to be able to have one, but I’m learning to have more confidence when it comes to more commercial projects, even if the conversation can be toe-curlingly awkward! There have been, and still are, days when I’m in the studio alone and I’m just not creating anything I like, and no emails are coming in, and I just think ‘Oh no, what am I doing…?’ But things always turn around, whether it’s one great piece that comes out of nowhere or an exciting sale. It’s like any other job really, there are great times and not-so-great times, but I am always thankful to be doing something creative and share my work with so many lovely people. The ‘what am I doing?’ moments are worth.

Faces I Don't Know honours women of all shapes, sizes and styles. Through spontaneous lines, the drawings give people the power and confidence to feel good in their own bodies. Meg's brush recreates the female shapes and celebrates what some might think of as imperfections. Thank you, Meg, for teaching men as well as women how to admire a woman's figure.