Lou Foley | Illustrator | Leeds

Lou Foley started the Are We Nearly Bare Yet project in order to subvert the male gaze and reclaim ownership of ‘The Nude’ for self-defining women. Working to challenge typical judgements of the female form, in favour of liberating women, the project is pay-as-you-feel, accepting donations in return for one of her vivid, witty illustrations.

When you began the ongoing series, Are We Nearly Bare Yet, did you anticipate the response you would have? And what, if anything, has surprised you about the reaction?

Not at all, it kind of just began with me wanting some different imagery to draw from other than my own tits, and then became a bit of a snowball effect once I’d started drawing a couple of other people. I’ve mainly been surprised by how beneficial the process is to other women; I didn’t really gage the power of the project until I started hearing other women talk about how liberating it has been for them.


What inspires the bold, abstract (in terms of skin) use of colour in your work?

I suppose that’s just my style and always has been. Even before I started drawing the nudes, my work has always been heavily influenced by colour. I couldn’t really tell you what it’s inspired by, it just feels innate to me. When filling my prints with bold over saturated colour I feel like it emphases the power of what I’m drawing.


As a city, Leeds has a strong network of female creatives; how influential is this on your own practice as a freelancer?

I cannot stress how important it is having such a strong network of creative girls around me. Obviously freelance illustration can be quite a solitary job so, having other creatives nearby that I can talk to and share advice with is very beneficial to my practice. I treat them like my colleagues in some ways, we collaborate, we critique, we inspire and motivate one another - we even offer moral support to each other when were having a hard time… I genuinely believe I wouldn’t be where I am now and in this line of work if it wasn’t for these women.


You’re working with @potyertitsawayluv on a group nude for self identifying women; can you tell us about it?

Yes! I received my 50th nude submission and wanted to create an event to celebrate it.  Emma (@potyertitsawayluv) and I organised a group nude for self identifying women to come together, get naked, have their photos taken (by photographer @naomiswood), which we’re then intending to make work from. I will be drawing the women and Emma making pots. We didn’t quite anticipate the great reception we’d get from it, the day was a total hit and all the women involved were incredible people. I can’t recommend getting naked with a bunch of women you’ve never met before enough, it’s so liberating and fun!


How do you navigate social media, particularly Instagram, as a platform that supports your work, and messages you hope to share?

I update my Instagram daily with the nudes I’ve drawn whilst also using it share my own experiences day to day. I think this is important within my project as it builds a trust between me and the people I draw. They see me talking candidly about things and learn a little more about the person they’re sending very personal imagery to, rather than sending off their photos to a faceless illustrator.


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