An Interview With Kimothy Joy

Image provided by Kimothy Joy

I stumbled upon Kimothy Joy’s artwork last month after seeing the awesome illustrations she provided The Huffington Post for their campaign #WeMakeHerstory, which inspired and intrigued me so I set out to find out more, and to of course follow her on Instagram! The collaboration was also partially what inspired some of my own blog posts and collaboration with Caroline from The Kawaii Kollective, who provides me with illustrations for my feminist reading journey (in each blog post I have credited Kimothy Joy for inspiring the artwork).

For those who aren’t familiar with Kimothy Joy she is a Denver-based illustrator who specialises in watercolours and ink drawings. Her work generally centres on female empowerment, usually through painting heroines from the past, and present (like in The Huffington Post series). Her art is art of resistance, as she believes art and creativity can be a powerful force for social change. Therefore, she often partners with companies that aim to make the world a better place for everyone.

It’s unsurprising that the popular items that she sells (for UK readers she sells internationally on Etsy) carry the slogans, ‘Make America Kind Again’, ‘The United States of Nasty Women’, ‘The Future is Female’ and ‘Rise Up’.

Image: @kimothyjoy/ Instagram 

I of course was interested to find out what her favourite quote to live by was as someone who illustrates so many inspiring quotes…
“Find joy in life. Share joy with others.” It’s so simple but very meaningful to me. My mother had it printed out and taped to our fridge during her last year fighting breast cancer. She maintained an overall resolute disposition – determined to find the beauty in her battle. That lesson will also stay with me. And the irony of Joy being my middle name. I think I’ve recently really brought that sentiment into fruition in my own life. I know she’s proud.

How do you find your inspiration?
I find my inspiration from other women who have found their own voice and found the courage to speak their own truth to the world. This comes from something as casual as coffee dates or via books, music, podcasts, poets, and documentaries. Books written by Maya Angelou, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, or modern day women such as Jessica Bennett’s Feminist Fight Club or We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Currently, I am so utterly moved by the music of Tank and the Bangas, a group from New Orleans. They’re on repeat.

What artists inspire you?
Lately, I’m really inspired by poetry. I don’t think I’m alone in this becoming something the general public is yearning for more and more in these very confusing, conflicting times. Nikita Gill’s work is stunning. So is the poetry of Cleo Wade, Nayyirah Waheed, Warsan Shire, and Rupi Kaur. Their words provide so much understanding, peace, and healing. They inspire a lot of my paintings.

Image: @kimothyjoy/ Instagram

Do you think art and creativity can drive positive social change?
Immensely! Art, music, dance, any creative expression – these are the languages used by us humans that are able to transcend barriers whether they be cultural, racial, gender, whatever. They harness so much power. In challenging times when we’re trying to work out how we feel or what is happening around the world – there is always art and creativity to help us feel heard, connected, understood. Art transcends words. It heals and unites. I have so much faith in its power and magic. It’s the language of our soul.

These words by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings are everything. Keep showing up. ❤️

A post shared by Kimothy Joy (@kimothyjoy) on

Image: @kimothyjoy/ Instagram 

What has been your favourite campaign you have worked on/ supported so far?
My favourite campaign has been the project in which I created art in celebration of Women’s History Month with The Huffington Post. The editors selected a great variety of women, some lesser known; these women peaked my interest and I was happy to get to know them better before painting them. I love that Huffpost used their platform to spread the words and stories of these women.

🔥Alicia Garza🔥 #WeMakeHerstory (🎨: @kimothyjoy) #WomensHistoryMonth

A post shared by HuffPost Women (@huffpostwomen) on

Image: @HuffPostWomen/ Instagram                                                                                                       

Have you always called yourself a feminist? Has your work always been centred around women’s rights?
I didn’t call myself a feminist in my youth and my work became rooted in feminism before I self-identified as one. Over the last few years as a creative consultant, I chose to partner with organisations that focused on women’s rights and empowerment. I was completely moved by what they were doing especially organisations like Smart Girl who work with middle school girls on building emotional intelligence, mental health awareness, confidence, anti-bullying, etc and Threads Worldwide who promote fair-trade goods and economic opportunity for women around the world. I think I was too busy trying to figure out how to advance the work they were doing that I didn’t stop and categorise myself. I didn’t think to state it publicly or draw a line in the sand. If feminism means believing in equal rights / human rights than it should be a given, right? – something that you don’t have to claim. However, I think it’s important to claim now more than ever because of the negative connotations still associated with it. We need to break down those misconceptions and make it commonplace for all humans to call themselves feminists. It’s a no brainer. It shouldn’t be taboo or divisive. We also need to collectively work to clarify its definition in being inclusive of people of color, the LGBTQI community, etc. and recognize the privilege and disadvantage that groups within the feminist movement are experiencing.

Image: @kimothyjoy/ Instagram

How did you choose the quotes for your series with Huffington Post Women for Women’s History Month?
The editors at The Huffington Post selected the women and quotes then I narrowed down a list that I wanted to paint. I liked the diverse, wide array of people they chose. Some were classic heroines of the past and others were modern day leaders of movements like Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, co-founders of Black Lives Matter and Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood and Illyse Hogue, president of NARAL. I also love that they chose provocative, challenging quotes. Their selections sparked a lot of conversation and engagement online especially regarding intersectional feminism and resistance.

Wise words from @ilyseh 🔥 (🎨: @kimothyjoy) #WeMakeHerstory #WomensHistoryMonth

A post shared by HuffPost Women (@huffpostwomen) on

Image: @HuffPostWomen/ Instagram                                                                                                          

✊🏽✊🏿✊🏾 @lsarsour #WeMakeHerstory (🎨: @kimothyjoy) #WomensHistoryMonth

A post shared by HuffPost Women (@huffpostwomen) on

Image: @HuffPostWomen/ Instagram      

Who is your favourite author or activist/ quote out of the women you drew?
That’s a hard one! So many gems in that mix. I think it’s a tie between the quote from Alicia Garza, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, and Cheryl Strayed who said, “The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of it.” I love that she’s telling us to get in the game, get dirty, show up, be brave, wrestle around with it. Do not shy away from finding your own truths, beliefs, opinions. Give it your all.

What charitable organisations do you support?
I support Southern Poverty Law Center, Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood, ACLU, Move On, and I think I’m missing a few more. I support these organizations by donating a portion of profits from my products to their mission.

Have you ever seen someone wear one of your designs?
I’ve seen many photos of people sporting my designs which is the best! I’ll run into people with my tote bags or wearing a t-shirt. It makes me so happy to know these messages resonate with others and they’re proud to share them with me. I’ve never felt so connected to so many (once) strangers before.

Image: @kimothyjoy/ Instagram

Your work is all about positivity, how do you stay positive in the period America is in at the moment? Have you ever received negativity about your work?
This is a real challenge for me, actually. I practice staying positive and actively seeking out things and people who inspire and uplift me. There are days when I feel so low about what’s happening. But then I have to try harder to find a poem that that brings me back to life, or a book, or a story, one act of bravery or love, then I sit down to paint. Then I share it online and find that it helps to heal others, as well. I’ve been being very diligent and intentional about it these last few months. It’s my sacred habit. I love that I can share it with other people who are craving it just as much as me. And yes, I have received some negative feedback about my work, which is expected when you share of yourself online, especially creative work, and your reach expands. The issues that I choose to paint about are usually divisive topics for our country so that invokes strong opinions one way or the other. Art itself is subjective and open to various interpretations. That’s what makes it powerful. Also, I’ve learned to listen to the criticism that starts off from an emotionally correct or respectful place.

Image: @kimothyjoy/ Instagram 

Do you think it is important that feminism remains inclusive of all women (i.e. inclusive of people who identify as non binary and trans women) as I’ve noticed those themes in your work?
Definitely. One of the mainstays of my work is to portray a diverse, all inclusive, array of people. I don’t necessarily include a lot of masculinity in my work, because it just doesn’t come natural to me, but I don’t want to exclude them from my messages, either. It is really important to me to include all ethnicities, sexualities, body types, varying body abilities, ages, trans, non-binary, queer, everyone. Feminism is about passing the mic to the most disenfranchised and marginalised. It’s about demanding human rights from the bottom up, by putting those that are the most threatened at the forefront.

Image: @kimothyjoy/ Instagram 

Image: @kimothyjoy/ Instagram 

What is next for you with your artwork? What are your plans for the future?  
I would love to publish a book of my illustrations. I’d like to partner up with organisations I support and different campaigns to promote positive social change. Whatever I can do to leverage the power of visuals to change minds, perspectives and unite and connect.

Image: @kimothyjoy/ Instagram