A 2021 Retrospective: The Year in Art

anxiety is // bees buzzing in my chest, and // i'm afraid of bees. Image is a square black canvas featuring a messy watercolor illustration of a human rib cage in the center. The lungs within the rib cage are bees' nests, honeycomb seeping honey. Bees are crawling all over the sternum, some of the ribs, and the honeycomb, with some of them flying to and from the hive. The haiku is lettered beneath the rib cage in two different styles. "Anxiety" and "bees" from the first two lines of the haiku are written large in frantically scrawled all-caps, so that the initial message you see reads "anxiety bees." Most of the rest of the wording is in a very neatly written sans-serif, with the frantic lettering making a return for the final line of the poem.

Content note: mention of suicide, overdose

I started 2021 with two goals in mind: 1) exclusively focusing on growing my business and 2) creating more art. With the various physical and mental health struggles I’ve endured this year, including a hysterectomy and a failed suicide attempt, it’s been easy for me to feel like I’ve failed. But data doesn’t lie, and I’m so proud of myself for everything I accomplished this year. In this particularly 2021 retrospective, I want to take a look at all the art I’ve created throughout the past 12 months.

January: “It Is Okay to Be Fat”

A horizontal retro-styled design reads, "It is okay to be fat," with "Fat Girl Media" included very small as a citation. The phrase is set at a 20 degree angle, with the largest words being "okay" and "fat," with the former being a monoline cursive and the latter being a thick-and-thin Didone serif. The rest of the words are small. A sunburst of primary colors explodes behind the words, some of which break out from a dark gray frame around the piece.

Okay, so technically I drew this in 2020. But it was December 2020 and wasn’t published until January, so it counts for the purposes of this list. This mix of my own calligraphy and some customized typesetting has a distinct 1970’s vibe that I really love. Two versions of this are available as posters, fliers, stickers, and coloring pages. Shop the collection.

February: “And I Must Scream”

A harsh, inky painting of an incredibly gaunt person with long, tangled black hair that has streaks of shocking white around their crown. There is red, orange, and purple throughout their hair, as well, but it serves more as a stylistic choice than an indication of hair color. The subject is so thin and pale that it’s shocking to see them, even just from the neck up as they are painted. Their eyes are so wide that they are bulging out of their head, blood vessels vivid around the edges, with a couple drips of blood that aren’t immediately apparent because the expression takes center-stage. The pupils are tiny and full of abject horror. The eyes are clearly, starkly, miserably, frantically trying to grab the viewer’s attention, to tell them SOMEthing, to warn them about SOMEthing. While the eyeballs are bulging, they are also deep-set in sunken sockets. Their eyebrows are drawn together and up in the center in sheer panic, pushed to the brink so that their forehead skin has turned into stark folds to make room for the terror. Their jaw is stretched as wide as it possibly can be, and the lines from their nose down are very deep and stretched. But there is no mouth. There’s not even evidence that there once was a mouth — if it was removed, it was done so long ago that the scars are gone. It’s simply blank. Scratched into their forehead in harsh all-caps lines reads, “I have no mouth.” Then, where their mouth ought to be, is scratched in the same all-caps writing, “and I must scream.” The word “scream” is larger than the rest of the text, with the tail of the “s” and the finial stroke of the “m” forming a frowning frantic shape.

This began as a very personal piece that I had no intention of selling. The origin of the sentiment comes from author Harlan Ellison’s friend, William Rotsler, who had created an illustration of a rag doll with no mouth accompanied by this caption. Ellison popularized it in his Hugo-winning short story of the same name. Hilariously, though, I first came across it via a Hello Kitty cross-stitch I saw online. But it’s always resonated with me, as it describes perfectly my inability to fully express the horrors of the trauma I’ve been through. So one night, I decided to paint the feeling. The response was so overwhelmingly positive that I eventually added it to my roster of large prints for sale. Buy yours now!

March: “From the Ashes of Hyrule” Coloring Page

A coloring page of a line-art drawing of Link from The Legend of Zelda, kneeling in front of the ruins of Hyrule Castle, about to pull himself up using the hilt of The Master Sword. A silent princess flower grows between him and his sword. We see Link in profile, head bowed, body tense with the energy he’ll use to stand. He is somber but determined. Lettering to the right bottom corner reads, “From the ashes of Hyrule, a hero rises...”

The original art for this, of course, was completed back in 2018 for the poster of the same design. But even as I drew it back then, I thought it would make for an awesome coloring page. I ended up almost completely reworking the illustration for this coloring page, including adding the ominous billowing clouds in the sky around the ruins of Hyrule Castle. I’m really proud of this! And I’m even working on coloring my own. Download yours for yourself, or get a multi-use license if you wanna share with your geeky friends.

A pop-art illustration of a pale fat femme's nude bust. Their double chin and curly hair are visible as they look up and to the left of the frame. They're extremely pale, with skin tags on their neck, shoulders, and chest and heavy stretch marks on their large breasts. The illustration is highly stylized, using creamsicle orange for lighter shadows, fuchsia for midtone shadows, and deep purple for dark shadows. Written on the person's chest is "naked and unashamed," with "Fat Girl Media" written very small beneath the lettering. "Naked" is written in a bouncing cursive, while "unashamed" is in a thick condensed marker hand. "And" is written small between the two lines.

May: “Naked and Unashamed”

Whew, this one was nerve-wracking to work on, but I’m proud as hell of it. I’m a big believer that nudity isn’t inherently sexual, that there is no shame in being naked, and that the existence of nudes or lewds isn’t a reason for being disrespected or shunned. But it was still so hard to publish this! I’m so glad I did. It’s a step in a more explicit direction I’m taking in some of my art, and I’m excited for some of the upcoming pieces that will be in this vein. Shop the collection!

June: “Nothing About Us Without Us”

A lot of thought went into this completely hand-drawn design. Initially, I was going to approach it from a multiply-marginalized angle. The vehement push-back I received from a couple of fellow disabled friends made me stop, research, and reassess. One Twitter poll and many conversations later, I chose to honor the origins of the phrase as a rallying cry for disability justice. As Pride month was approaching, and I was longing to go to a Pride march but unable because of my physical disabilities, I created a Pride version that’s focused on accessibility, as well. This comes in 2 sizes, with the option for Braille finish. Shop the collection.

October: “Sheikah Symbol,” “By Appointment Only,” and “Pro-Choice”

October was a busy month! In many ways, not all of them great! But I’m focusing on my wins in this post, so here we go.

As I was continuing to heal from my hysterectomy in August, I decided to rework an old watercolor painting of mine using the excellent Everything Watercolor Procreate brushes from Abbie Uproot. I’m completely blown away by the quality of these brushed, and how easy they are to use! I’m so thrilled with the outcome, and I’m planning on doing a series using the symbols of each of the Hylian races. Until that series is well underway, this won’t be available for purchase in the shop.

“By Appointment Only” began way back in 2018 when I was working with the amazing Kieryn and Eve of Kitchen Table Cult Podcast to create reproductive rights designs. This design wasn’t chosen for that project, and they graciously gave their blessing for me to maintain rights to the concept. As Texas gave the overturning of Roe vs Wade a mighty push, I felt incredibly compelled to revisit and finish the design. One of my favorite things about it is the script used throughout — it’s pulled together from a typeface-in-progress I’ve been periodically developing based on my own brush script calligraphy. Grab an 11x14in print!

Lastly, this pro-choice design isn’t actually a new design. If you’ve been a fan of me from pre-Fat Girl Media days, you’ve undoubtedly seen it before. It’s seen a couple of revisions, but I’m thrilled to add it to the shop as bumper stickers and small prints. Shop everything pro-choice I have in my store.

November-December: #HaikusWithDani

I alluded to some Not Great Things that happened in October. Suffice it to say that I had a life-altering mental health crisis that I’ll be recovering from for the foreseeable future. In the wake of my return from a week-long hospital stay, I decided to start creating art that’s just for me. Art I would create whether I shared it or not. Art that includes the poetry I write as I process grief and focuses more on art than design. I’ve used the hashtag #HaikusWithDani since my 2016 separation from my ex-husband, and I decided to put it to official use with this new venture. Most of these pieces will never be for sale, unless I create a coffee table book compilation of them. But I hope they’re as therapeutic for y’all as they are for me. Follow along on Instagram.

What’s next?

I’ve got a lot of designs in the works for 2022, including a bunch more fan art, some gay stuff, some body stuff, and — as always — more political commentary. Wanna be a part of it? Sign up to my Patreon, where you can get goodies anywhere from contest access and Discord inclusion to exclusive merch mailed to your door every 3 months and a small commission.

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