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How to draw your own isolation nudes, according to IG artist @draws_nudes

@draws_nudes is the Instagram artist giving new life to naughty selfies for long-distance lovers, self-lovers, and Caroline Calloway

If there’s one thing that doesn’t dwindle in a worldwide pandemic, it’s our thirst for taking and receiving nude selfies. Maybe they’re saved deep in your iCloud, deleted, or perhaps found their way to a lover. But if you’ve been taking your isolation nudes to the next level, you've sent them to @draws_nudes. Started in 2017, @draws_nudes is an Instagram account run by London-based Katy Pryer which – you guessed it – draws nudes.

“I started out this project as a way to give old nudes a new lease of life, to reclaim them, and give them a new purpose,” she explains. “The idea being nudes for yourself rather than for someone else’s pleasure. But, she adds, there was an unexpected upside. “I also found that drawing myself is really therapeutic looking at my body really helped heal old body hang-ups and wounds, and see myself in a different light. I began drawing myself then I told friends about what I was doing and then it became strangers and it really just snowballed from there.”

Since quarantine kicked in March, @draws_nudes has been busier than ever before, drawing nudes for lovers forced to isolate away from each other and nudes for people who don’t share them anyone but themselves – she’s even drawn a nude for Caroline Calloway. Each drawing costs just £25 and 20 per cent of the profits are currently being donated to Women’s Aid.

In a moment in history where we are so much more aware of our bodies than ever before – what we can control about them and, in the case of COVID-19, what we can’t – @draws_nudes says: “I think this time in isolation is making people explore their relationships with their bodies.” However, she also thinks there could be much simpler, more carnal intentions behind our increased thirst for nudes right now too. “I think above all, people are just horny.”

We catch up with @draws_nudes and, below, share a short film with instructions from the artist herself on how to draw your own nudes.

Do you remember the first nude you drew for someone? Was it nerve-wracking capturing something so intimate and presenting it back to them?

@draws_nudes: It was actually for a close friend of mine. I’d seen her naked so many times it just felt like a natural progression of our friendship – I was worried I’d get the proportions off and give her a complex about a weird belly button. I didn’t – we still laugh about that now.

How many nudes do you receive on a weekly basis?

@draws_nudes: It’s definitely gone up during quarantine. Once I had more than 20 in six hours. That’s obviously not including the ones I’m receiving on a personal level. Which is, on average, about zero.

Have you ever had to turn any down?

@draws_nudes: A guy once asked me to draw his girlfriend but make her boobs bigger. He was so pushy and I found it gross, I blocked him. 

You drew Caroline Calloway and she shared it!

@draws_nudes: Caroline Calloway tweeting her nude was a total badass move. The pose actually reminded me of some of the drawings that I’d already made so I just had to draw it. She bought the piece off me and she was really vocal about it actually, so her support catapulted me into a lot of peoples’ feeds.

Do you know what other people are doing with these drawings? Are they framing them for their house, sending them to lovers, hiding them in drawers...

@draws_nudes: I’ve had loads of commissions for long-distance lovers, which I think is the most romantic thing ever. But also lots of people buying them for themselves, hanging them in pride of place – one woman commissioned two for her bathroom wall and I’m totally here for that sort of unashamed self-appreciation. I’d be sad to hear about them hidden away in drawers though…

Have you ever had people not pleased with what you’ve drawn?

@draws_nudes: Not yet! My GCSE Art teacher once told I was shit at taking constructive criticism so I hope not… I don’t think my ego could take it. 

I did have my account banned by Instagram last year though, I found out whilst on a date and was so livid I almost ran out of the restaurant. 

Have you noticed any trends from the submissions you’ve received?

@draws_nudes: I actually think there’s a collective consciousness for nude-taking that influences people – if that doesn’t sound too nuts. Sometimes the poses will be so similar I’ll have to hold them back and stagger them on my grid. I think some people get inspiration from previous drawings too which I suppose is very meta.

The images are pretty much anonymous… how do you balance giving the drawing a personality but also making sure the identity of the person is under wraps?

@draws_nudes: I check whether people want their tattoos, scars, and jewellery included to preserve their privacy but I always hope they say: ‘yes, keep them in.’ 

I get excited about when someone sends me a nude and there’s lots of bedroom clutter or mysterious items in the background, maybe I’m nosey but love having a glimpse into people’s lives – like piecing together a picture of who they are using clues. For me, this is as intimate as the naked bodies themselves, if not more.

What’s your least favourite part to draw? And what's your favourite part to draw?

@draws_nudes: I have a love/hate relationship with hands, I really struggle with them but strangely enough I love drawing feet. And nipples, belly buttons, and elbows, but I think that’s down to my love of really loose, linear circles. I can thank @alexandria_coe for that.

Is there a difference you’ve noticed in the nude selfies men take versus the ones that women take?

@draws_nudes: Women’s nudes are high art, they’re well thought out, usually well lit, and have probably been vetted by a circle of close friends. Men’s nudes feel more functional, there’s less variety. Forgive my sweeping generalisation but I think men have less experience being looked at with this hypersexualised lens, and it shows. Please don’t be discouraged, gentleman, I know you have it in you.

@draws_nudes was active before quarantine but how has it changed in quarantine?

@draws_nudes: In the past, people always assumed I was a man; my following was very male, I used to just draw women and despite me wanting it to be an empowering celebration of bodies, my DMs were invariably full of creeps. 

Now there’s been a definite shift. Quarantine has changed the way people think and view their bodies, I guess from spending so much time inside and alone. It feels like people are closer aligned with why I started this project. I’m thrilled. 

This popularity has enabled me donate profits to C-19 related causes which is the least I can do. Right now 20 per cent is going to Women’s Aid who do amazing work and I’m so happy I can help even in a small way.

Do you have a favourite drawing that you’ve done?

@draws_nudes: It sounds strange to say that you’ve bonded with naked strangers over the internet, but people are sharing such an intimate part of themselves with you, often along with a story about them and their bodies so it’s hardly surprising. This drawing was one of those cases, we discovered we had a fair bit in common, and having this exchange upfront meant I somehow poured more into the drawing. It’s a beautiful piece and the story behind it makes it all the more special.

I also love the early drawings of myself when this project was in its infancy. They felt like a personal secret and were really key to falling back in love with my body and seeing myself in a new light.

Are there any types of nudes you wish you received more of?

@draws_nudes: A woman once criticised me for being fatphobic. I was horrified that it looked that way when all I had set out to do was celebrate and empower people. I’ve since had more submissions from people with all different body types but it’s still not representative of everyone. I would to include disabled, trans, and non-binary bodies too. All bodies are beautiful and worthy of art.

What's the future look like for @draws_nudes?

@draws_nudes: I’d love to turn these into a book with stories behind each nude documenting a time in history when people couldn’t stand to keep their clothes on. 

I’ve also been promised an IRL drawing session when this is all over, if they’re still up for it…