by Emily McIntyre
Exploring her emotions and experiences in the best way she knows how to, 21-year-old artist from Wakefield known as Paper Brains (Liv McPhie) makes art that brings people together through what makes us our most vulnerable. With a huge focus on mental health, sex-positivity, sexual health and feminism, her art breaks stigmas and opens up conversations.
What she says all started as a way to communicate her feelings with the world at a time she felt most isolated, turned into an unapologetically authentic art account that now connects people and reassures them they’re never alone in how they’re feeling.
What inspired Paper Brains? Where does the name and the style of art come from?
“I started digitally drawing when I was at uni in 2019 and started following lots of digital creators at the time. I guess a lot of my inspiration comes from the artists I love, and my style has definitely changed since I first started doing it.”
“The name is a bit of an odd one. I was drafting up names that would suit for a while and used username generators ect to see if they were unavailable, and came up with a few. Paper Brains eventually stuck and I think I grew into the name over time as my concepts and ideas changed. It’s a bit boring as there's no initial deeper meaning behind it, but I definitely think I’ve grown into the name and I couldn’t imagine being called anything else now. A few of the initial names were so embarrassing”
How would you describe the art you make?
“I guess my art mainly focuses around subjects such as mental health, sex-positivity, femininity and cynicism. I find myself having to try not to over complicate the actual art itself, as my style is quite simple and linear, and I’m not massively experienced in this field at all; it all started because I wanted to share my feelings without actually having to explain them, as I’ve never been the best with words.
What inspires your artwork - who and what are your biggest influences when it comes to creating?
“I started this whole thing at a weird time in my life, one where I felt incredibly isolated from everyone I loved and I found it hard to talk to people about what was going on in my life. I found it hard to articulate them and recognise them myself, really. So when I started sharing these issues that I wanted to talk about, and then moving on to issues that I felt passionate about - such as sex positivity, it felt euphoric.”
“Getting that recognition and being told that people relate to the things I address and feel/experience myself was incredibly freeing. I followed Instagram accounts such as @exotic.cancer and @safe.slut that focus on sex positivity and education, and this inspired me to be more open about my feelings around these subjects and to contribute to de-stigmatising taboos around sex and sexual health.
I think your art normalises a lot of ‘taboo’ subjects in a really fun and creative way, do you think that sharing your work and bringing to light mental health, sex-positivity etc, brings people together and normalises concepts they may stray away from?
“Absolutely! The reasons why I’ve become so empowered and am going down this journey of self-acceptance when it comes to my own sexual health is because of these incredible women who continue to post about these subjects, to this day.”
“I feel so incredibly passionate about people accepting themselves and being able to speak freely about their struggles with mental illness, sexual wellness or their own feelings in general, and I’ve had so many people reach out to me about these subjects and that they feel the same way I do.”
With your art being very personal, what inspires you to share that? Does it ever make you feel vulnerable?
“I struggle quite a bit with communicating my feelings, especially when I’m struggling. I’m sure a lot of people can relate, especially during this lockdown, that it’s hard to not feel like a bit of a burden when talking to someone, as everyone's in this similar boat of feeling a bit shit.”
“I feel as though this is my way of getting out my feelings without having to articulate them so specifically, and I hope that when people share my work that they also feel as though they’re communicating what they’re feeling without having to specify. I feel incredibly vulnerable and, when I post a piece that is specific to a current situation, I’m terrified. I just think back to what I’d want to see when I’ve been dealing with difficult times of my life, and I hope that my art helps people who are also coming to terms with their struggles ect.”