Defining and amplifying the female gaze has become a focus in photography and other mediums, in the hopes of empowering the female body as more than a subject without agency. Illustration is also a significant way to change the relationships between viewers and the female form.
Regina Rivas captures everyday moments, like snapshots of women cuddling cats, as well as deeply intimate ones. Scenes of sex fill her Instagram feed, all rendered in a highly saturated color palette, focusing on the complexity of independent women. "I draw a lot of women, in all facets, when they are strong, vulnerable, tired, sad, happy—I surround myself with these women," Rivas tells Creators. "It's all of us."
While her figures look fantastical, with bright pink skin and sharp knees, Rivas keeps beauty ideals in mind when creating her characters—mostly to break them down.
"I draw thick girls, comfortable with their bodies, in very erotic situations," says Rivas. "In those drawings, there are messages for me and for anyone who grasps them. We have a great need to express ourselves and to feel more free in such a small, conservative, and macho society."
This feels especially urgent to Rivas, born and currently living in Asunción, Paraguay, which she describes as, "a small country, conservative and with the majority very religious." Each illustration is a response to the need for more images depicting sexuality and the female body in a frank way.
"We are changing, no doubt, but they are slow changes, and without thinking I noticed that every drawing is like a position that one should feel," the artist says.
Rivas is currently working on a book of illustrations based on her Mamacitas Club series—erotic illustrations she often shares on Instagram. The most significant part of that project is the idea of seeing it "on the bookshelves of a bookstore in Paraguay." That act—creating a book that is rarely seen in the shops near Rivas—is a highly personal and political one.
But don't let that overshadow the fact that Rivas also possesses a sharp sense of humor. Many of her illustrations include speech bubbles, featuring text in both Spanish and English (and sometimes Spanglish). One piece shows a figure in a black bra and panties lazily draped over a couch, the window wide open, revealing a dark sky sprinkled with stars. "Dejando todo para mañana since 1982," reads a speech bubble floating near the figure's small head, which translates to, "Putting off everything until tomorrow since 1982."
"Those little stories inspire the humorous part of my drawings. They make me laugh a lot. And someone might've said this to you at one point—that laughing at yourself is a good quality. With time, I adopted that. I learned it and I added that viewpoint to my drawings, at the beginning with a bit of apprehension but that ended up causing me even more amusement. There's a lot to tell and live, while I keep being over here collecting stories."
Click here to see Regina Rivas's work on Instagram.
Parts of this interview were translated from Spanish.