German-based illustrator, Severus Heyn (Prostitute of Art), creates provocative, thought-provoking (and even political) artwork that captures the sense of fun and creative freedom that comes with being an artist. We caught up with him to find out more…
Your art is awesome. Have you always been into drawing, and do you remember if there was anything specific that inspired you to begin? Thank you very much. It always baffles me when others appreciate my work. Since I can remember, I’ve had a pen in my hand. I think my parents really appreciated it in my childhood because drawing was a good way to keep me quiet and focused for hours. But I think they also understood from early on how much I liked it. They’ve been supportive ever since and I’m insanely grateful to them. Might sound cheesy, but I wouldn’t have made it without them! One of my first memories in regard to that is me sitting in a restaurant surrounded by adults, copying page after page of an old Asterix comic that my grandpa had bought for me. I was obsessed with the old Belgian and French comics, reading Spirou & Fantasio, Lucky Luke and Gaston.
At what point did you realise you had a talent? I despise the term ‘talent’. It always makes it seem that artists or anybody who puts something out there for that matter, are solely blessed with a gift, that it just flew into our laps. But the opposite is true – it is hours and hours of practice, drawing days and days just for the paper bin. I think I’d rather like to call it passion – that, I discovered really early. I can totally zone out when I draw. Since my early years. Besides that, I don’t really see myself talented. There are so many mind-blowing artists out there, that I often feel like the biggest fraud. I’m not putting enough new boundary pushing work out there. But I guess that every artist can relate to this from time to time. Main thing is to get back to this inner pool of inspiration.
Your work has a unique, distinctive appeal to it – especially your current pieces. What sort of reactions do you get with it? That is a good question. The reactions are very diverse, to say the least. A lot of people like my kinky illustrations. Others see other layers – social and political comments, discussion about gender roles and diversity. Overall, I’m stunned by the positivity, especially on Instagram. It is a very loving atmosphere, where artists can exchange ideas, help each other, etc. Of course, there are also sometimes when people aren’t having it. There were a couple of occasions where guys ‘slut-shamed’ me for the work I’m doing – if that even makes sense. But that just means I’m rattling all the right cages to shake some people up.
So I’m guessing you enjoy working with that sexy kind of theme? Yes, I do. I think this just comes from my music socialisation. I grew up with glam rock like Slade, but also icons like Madonna, Freddy Mercury, Elton John, etc. They always appeared to me as those super sexy, positive, provocative creatures. Sex is a good vehicle to capture the viewers’ attention and feed them your ideas about society, etc., hidden in plain view. Besides, who doesn’t like to look at that?! Unless you’re a prude, I guess.
You do a lot of commission-based work, but have you, or do you want to, get pieces published? It’s true, I do a lot of commissions for private people. I love the idea of sharing an intimate moment with others, who have my art in their home. But published pieces are a whole other level of rush. My first real work in this industry was with a small German magazine called Vintage Flaneur. They had their office right around the corner of the bar I was always going to when I was 19 or 20. We became friends, and they offered me to do their illustrations, help with photo shoots, and so on. It was a lot of fun. And obviously, I wanted more! It is an exciting feeling, when you open a magazine at the airport or wherever, and find your work. Currently I’m planning 2018 with a few publishers, but I’m also super happy if print and online media reach out to me! And if people want more, there is my brand new online shop.
Can you tell us about the usual process you take to create a finished piece of artwork? That really depends. Sometimes I find a couple of reference pictures on Tumblr or Instagram and get an idea for a piece. Other times I listen to music. Songs usually spark something in me, like an inner music video. But the best ideas, no matter where they initially got sparked from, come to me in the shower. From the idea to the finished piece it can take 15 minutes or 3 hours. It really depends. I’ve only got one rule in this: It needs to be doable in one session. Otherwise, I get impatient and drop the whole thing. If it means that I have to sit the whole day on the desk, so be it.
Is this something you do full-time, or perhaps you’d like to? No, I’m not doing this full-time. That has been a conscious choice from the beginning. I even thought about studying illustration, but ended up doing something completely different, without having any formal education in this field. I always want to keep it nonchalant between me and the art. If my illustrations would suddenly have to get me money all by themselves, I think that I’d mistreat them. Then they wouldn’t be an escape or a fun activity, but would just become the mean to survive. Way too stressful.
What particular things inspire your overall work? Well, besides the music part, I get really inspired by other human beings. I mean, it is no accident that you won’t find landscapes in my work. While overall we might think that the world is a bitter place nowadays, there are so many astonishing human beings out there. People who make a difference, maybe by just being kind to each other. Take Viktor Belmont for example (IG: @viktorbelmont): He is a transmale model, a human ray of sunshine, and supportive in the work and exposure he is doing for the community. Or the dragqueen Margaret Y Ya (IG: @margaretyya), who is pushing the norms of beauty with her performance art. I like telling the stories of those people through my pieces, and giving the platform for more diverse representation.
Other than art, what else do you get up to? There is actually not much time next to art. Everything runs through this filter. I think every artist has this, where you just live it, scan for the next source of inspiration, the next problem that needs to be solved. I’m glad that I have very supportive friends, who like to think outside the box with me together. We go hiking, to concerts and exhibitions, travel, or just have a glass of red wine watching the city thinking about next opportunities.