Fierce, feminist icons - An interview with new artist Olivia Axson

Fierce, feminist icons - An interview with new artist Olivia Axson

27th Mar 2024

Coming to the end of Women's History Month, we've been reflecting on some of our favourite feminist icons. We had the pleasure of interviewing our fabulous new artist, Olivia Axson, whose work embodies all things female empowerment.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, who you are and your practice?

I’m Olivia and I’m a digital illustrator and creative. 

Originally from the outskirts of sunny Manchester now living in the colourful world of Camden Town. 

I simply draw to highlight women, empowerment and make it known that Girls Can Do Anything! All my work is digitally drawn, using a simple Ipad and drawing software. I love to use pencil and watercolour effects to create my portraits and textured lines to add movement and vibrancy.

How long have you been creating prints? How did you get started?

Cliche, but I have always drawn and sold my own artwork from a young age. I started sharing my work on Instagram back in 2020, drawing everyday until someone saw something. From this companies reached out and my creative community grew, that gave me the confidence to start working as a freelance digital artist, and still do today! Over the years I have shared hundreds of portraits far and wide and gained a spread of fabulous creative clients, the majority female owned businesses!

Your work revolves around female icons, how does being a woman and the obstacles that come with it affect your artwork?

Like many other women in the industry I myself have felt the pressure being a young female artist in a world still so male heavy. 

I feel looking too strong female icons past and present pushes me to keep going and make a footprint in the creative world. Believing in your talent and creations can be hard at times but having built a strong community of fabulous females and having their support pushes me everyday to create, share and grow. 

Highlighting and celebrating powerful women is important and I like to think my artwork inspires other females to take hold of the day and spread a little joy and glitter! The importance of women and our stamp on life is so prolific, women hold power, beauty, grace and warmth - this I know from the abundance of amazing women in my life. 

Without women what would the world be?

What inspires you and your creative process?

Music plays a huge part in what inspires me and my creative process. Disco, Motown, Cher, Madonna, Diana Ross, Stevie Nicks the list is endless. 

I’m constantly listening to music, as I work, paint, stroll around London or even whilst I’m applying my mascara. Certain lyrics from a song can trigger some sort of feeling inside of me and this can reflect in my work, whether thats a portrait - deciding the colours or era I choose to research or whether I decide to paint and glitter the lyrics to a huge canvas. 

Of course people also inspire me, and my day to day life, thinking freely and creating artwork that is true to me and my style is what I enjoy.

Have you got a favourite female icon?

I have too many to count! My female icons start close to home, I was raised in a female heavy family (my poor dad!) The eldest of 3 girls, my fabulous Mama - a creative herself with her own ambitions, Home of FEAST, the sweetest coffee and lunch spot back home in the North where I showcased my first gallery wall! Shout out to my Mama & Ali!

My iconic Nana Barbara, a true matriarch, powerful woman. My Auntie Valerie, another powerful character - true to herself and marvellous woman. Being surrounded by such strong women has built my confidence from a young age, a constant support system championing me with my work and directions in life. Priceless.

But as for those in the celeb spotlight I’d have to say it would be a toss up between Stevie Nicks and Cher. Stevie would have to be a woman I admire and is inspired - her music has been a running set list through my teenage years til now. I remember my Pops blasting Edge of Seventeen the week before my 17th Birthday and me feeling so empowered by her music and style. And of course Cher being an absolute powerhouse and someone I am drawn to illustrating. From her stylised photoshoots, glam makeup and let’s not forget her sequinned gowns!

What is your favourite piece you’ve made?

Possibly my first collection of Butterflies. I was working at the time and was dipping my toe into the digital drawing scene, they were my first complete collection and were sold to a Hotel in the Lakes. For me, starting out and finding my feet, that was a huge moment! 

I also love my Glitter pieces - I’m an absolute magpie for anything sparkly! The tedious work of glittering can also feel so therapeutic for me. A break away from a screen is also needed at times and having the care-free freedom to shake a little glitter has always brought my happiness.

Have you got any exciting upcoming projects?

I’m excited for the Month of March! The East End Prints - Artist Highlight of course! 

I am excited for my first event “Hells & Livy’s Meet Up” - A chance for creative women to get together in honour of IWD and paint their own ceramic masterpiece - 8th March, 7-9pm, at Social Pottery, Kentish Town. 

Over the next few months I plan on illustrating even more iconic women and as well as working on a new collection and colouring book, hopefully to be launching this Summer ‘24.

Will you be celebrating Women’s History Month? If so, how?

Hell yeah! Firstly with a large spicy margarita and with all my girlfriends! And a new collection of female inspirations, icons and queens.