And still I rise. Paintings of survival.

SHARING YOUR STORIES

I am Kat, and I am shyly stepping out of the shadows to call myself an artist, rather than just somebody who makes art!  I recently completed a series of 85 paintings of glorious women who have survived; who have used the broken pieces of their lives to build a bridge and walk with power.

I am mum to a gorgeous teenage daughter, an art teacher, bellydancer and an avid pioneer to improve the lives of rescue animals.  I love wonder woman, tattoos, glitter and the colour pink. I completed a fine art degree but trained to be a teacher, and then bringing up my daughter single-handedly meant that my love of painting had to go onto the back burner. In 2018, my daughter’s health implications meant that we were house bound for 6 months, and then again in 2019 for another 4 months.  So, the paint brushes came out and I started painting again! 

Being housebound, coupled with no exercise and eating everything I could get my hands on, meant I gained about 3 stone in a very short time. My body confidence fell into the gutter.  Self-love didn’t come onto my radar and I was slipping further and further into despair.  I was looking into the mirror and feeling such self-hatred, that I knew I couldn’t go on. 

To try and rebuild my self esteem and self belief, I started painting myself.  Not in a way that models look in the media, but the reality that was me.  The lumps and bumps.  The curves and rolls.  The sag and dimples.  I painted it all.  Then I added glitter.  And these paintings bridged the gap.  I wasn’t able to look in the mirror and love my body, but I was able to look at the paintings and think they were pretty lovely to look at.  And it turns out I am not the only woman who feels like this. I was telling a friend, she said she felt exactly the same and would I paint her.  Then her friend asked… and her friend! Fast forward and I have painted nearly 300 women!!! I couldn’t believe how many women were feeling the same way about their bodies as I was – women were crying out for themselves to be portrayed in art.

All of my artwork is a journey.  It’s a way to battle my demons and try to get my head straight.  I am constantly striving towards greater happiness and contentment, stripping back years of restrictions, negative thought patterns and other people’s beliefs. My work comes directly from my heart and soul.  I do not create my art from a position of being sorted… I create my artwork because every day I want to feel more compassion for my body. I am doing it for myself, as well as fiercely battling for other women to feel the same. Rather than seeing more airbrushed images of the female form that are so rife in today’s culture, I pride myself on breaking through the stereotypical views of beauty that have been cast upon us as women by the media. My mission is to empower as many women as possible to reach their fullest potential by embracing their bodies and loving themselves wholeheartedly.

After successfully launching a series of art and affirmation cards, I wanted to empower more women.  I began thinking about “perfection” and how our bodies are so precious to us as they carry us throughout our lives, yet we often only show them contempt – especially if they change appearance.  Instead of rejoicing them for their strength in survival, we condemn them as useless and not good enough. 

So, I started to look for women who had been through something.  Some kind of trauma, no matter how large or small.  I started looking for women with scars – visible and invisible – because we all carry them.  And I started to paint these gorgeous Goddess women.  These warriors.  Survivors.  Women were sending me their pictures and writing their stories down in order to release them and move on with their lives.  This was a hugely healing process for the women involved, as they really looked at themselves for the first time in the mirror.  They studied their naked bodies and took photos.  Then they wrote their stories.  Their past.  Their traumas.  Their secrets.  The things that get hidden inside.  I had stories from rape to miscarriage.  Incest to cancer.  Drug addiction to suicide attempts.  Postnatal depression; bereavement of a child and PTSD.  We were all carrying our past.  But our strength as women made us rise to fight another day. 

I named the project “And still I rise” after the Maya Angelou poem.

We will not let the past define our lives. 
We will show the world that surviving can be beautiful. 
We are here, living, despite it all.  We will always rise, and we will do so with strength and dignity. 
We bow down to the universe who is proud of what we are.   
We are the magical souls whose spirits cannot be broken and whose strength cannot be questioned.
We are the survivors.

I’ve had so much positive feedback from the women who took part in this project. Women telling me it has changed their life; that the process has helped them to heal and to love themselves more.

  • I was once a life model, so you’d imagine that getting naked for this project wouldn’t be hard and yet it took me to an edge I was unaware of in myself…it was a journey into trust, into letting go, into the deepest lagoon of my soul. Dipping my toe in and finding it warm and inviting, before slipping beneath the surface of transformation, being completely submerged and rising integrated and whole.”
  • The biggest part of this for me was the way you put my story on a clear sheet of film which could be peeled away. The awakening to the fact that even though I have suffered many traumas in my life they are not my end story. I’ve been knocked down hard, and still, I rise. Those words have allowed me to rethink how I view myself. I no longer have to carry around my traumas. I can peel them off and be my beautiful self. Thank you.”
  • The thought of being involved in this project was terrifying. After spending many years trying my best to avoid being vulnerable at all costs, putting my naked body out there for all to see was one of the scariest and most liberating things I’ve ever done. It’s helped me have a new appreciation for my body and what I have survived. I feel more connected and more powerful as a result. This entire process has built my confidence and helped me fall back in love with my body.”
  • Before this project, I told myself that cancer robbed me as a person. It robbed my ability to trust in my own body (that was trying to kill me). It robbed my peace. It scarred me. It stole my internal organs. Each reoccurance was soul breaking. This project gave me, me back. It is bigger than “f*ck cancer.” As I see my glorious painting, I do not see anything but stunning colour and power over my story. I am so honoured to be among Goddesses! And, still I rise.”

I started to share the paintings I had done and within 24 hours, the supporting video I made had received over 6000 views and I received over 500 messages just in one day.  I was reaching women from all over the world who were feeling empathy for the women who had bravely shared their stories. Women contacted me to say the same had happened to them and that through this project, they too were able to step into their power, share their story and move on as a warrior women.  Women were sharing their photos with the words AND STILL I RISE written on them or writing the words on their hands.  I couldn’t believe it! There is often so much ego battling between women; bitchiness and one-upmanship, but in this moment, women were supporting each other. Women were coming together in sisterhood and honouring each other for rising.  We all stood together and recognised each other.  The silent nod of “I see you”.  It was so amazing!

COVID-19 and lockdown has affected many of my plans. Among other things, I had exhibitions and a tour lined up. It felt like I was on the verge of something really special with the ‘And still I rise’ project but then the rug was whipped from under my feet, which was devastating. But in May I started the second wave of “Survivor” paintings – it’s set up a bit differently this time as an ongoing project, so I am always looking for women to paint!  I am hoping to have painted 365 women and then make it into an inspirational and empowering book – every day encouragement for a year!  A year of warrior women!

  • All the paintings and stories from the ‘And still I rise’ project can be found here on my website >
  • You can also keep up to date with all my other projects and my art on Facebook or Instagram.

If you’d like to know more about me and what I do, please email me > kathrynashaw@hotmail.com.  Some women contact me for commissions, some want to go through the healing process of being included in the survivor project, some want a positive affirmation painting, and others just want to chat! Any of these are welcome! 

**********************************************

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: