Consider this article to be the pebbles rolling down a hill before a landslide– the tip-off to something that’s gonna be massive. We love finding and sharing artists that may have escaped your spidey-senses, so we’ll take this opportunity to wave our arms and point at SoftasVulvet: the coolest illustrator you’ve never heard of (yet).
While the SoftasVulvet Instagram hasn’t been up long, it’s already amassed just over 3000 followers, and Rheanna, the artist behind the account, ain’t no baby bat when it comes to illustration. “I came into my own illustrating in this style about 15 years ago, though I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. I went to post secondary at an art school for graphic design, so I had an introductory year of general fine arts, but outside of that and high school art classes, I’m self taught,” she told Dear Darkling. She originally worked in paint and ink, but eventually switched to digital work with a tablet after tendinitis made it difficult for her to work in traditional media. She’s developed her own digital methods, saying, “It’s incredibly flexible, so you can really develop your own techniques, which has been really satisfying. It also works perfectly with my borderline neurotic attention to small, pointless details that probably only I care about and notice.” Au contraire, darkling dear. Those details are glorious.
Looking through her IG collection, one starts wondering how long it’ll be before Rheanna’s 3k followers become 30k. Her style is deliciously sexy, dark, and surreal. Drawing inspiration from a multitude of sources, Rheanna’s latex-clad, harness-bra-wearing night goddesses are beautiful, multidimensional creatures, and we’re not sure whether we want to just look at them or be them.
Rheanna explained how she developed her vision: “When I first began drawing, I was basically just doodling pin ups, where the focus was on the subject, who I tried to make look very individualistic. I eventually felt dissatisfied though, because it was like I was producing remixes of the same tune rather than creating new compositions. Nowadays, I try to make my figures look less real- I think of them as extraterrestrial creatures made of marble- and use color, expression, and more off the cuff, ad hoc surreal elements to create something different. Realistically, I’m not sure if others see my art any differently than they would pin ups, but on a personal level, it’s more cathartic and satisfying to create.”
There are a few repeated themes in Rheanna’s work. One is that of outer space, which she manages to portray without getting all galaxy-print-leggings on us. Many of the women Rheanna draws literally have stars in their eyes. Inky night skies become flowing hair. Figures are set in the vastness of space, somehow rightfully larger than the planet they cradle between their thighs.
Another theme is that of severance and reconnection. Rheanna explores these ideas specifically in her “Disassembly” and “Reassembly” pieces, but the elements float through much of her work. Many figures’ limbs or heads have been cleaved through but remain spacially attached. Hair spreads out as though underwater, twining around disembodied hands as though sentient.
Rheanna also works in collaboration with other illustrators to create exquisite midnight mash-ups. “My favorite pieces are ones I’ve done in collaboration with other artists or for submissions to other art accounts and zines, entirely because of what they mean to me on a personal level. In particular, one is with Dvrkshines, who has a gorgeous style that is simple but still says so much, and another with CVSPE, who has this crazy cool technique that is half meticulous line work and half magic,” she said. “Connecting with all these insanely talented people from around the world has made me incredibly happy. I also just love that it makes art, which is normally something you do on your own, into an experience you get to share with someone.”
Soon, Rheanna will be able to share her art with her fans offline, too– by offering prints that we can clutch in our cold, trembling hands. She’s recently launched a Kickstarter to help raise the funds to get started. The rewards include an exclusive print that won’t be available once the fundraiser is through, so hop over and show her some love!
You can see more of Rheanna’s work on her Instagram.
All images courtesy of Softasvulvet and are not to be used without her permission.