Russian artist Soosh (currently living in Ukraine) has garnered serious praise in recent months after releasing a series of watercolor paintings detailing the importance of fatherhood for young women. Soosh, like so many others, grew up without her father, an unfortunate and sweeping trend here in the United States as well. The absence and longing for a patriarchal figure in her life lead to the creation of this series as a way to help herself and others who may have experienced the same thing.
The father character (who is massive, rotund, and unkempt) defies the traditional Western standard of beauty and is seen participating in a variety of activities with his precocious young daughter. Soosh has managed to seamlessly weave a powerful message into an easy to digest, kid friendly aesthetic that allows the series to resonate with a wide audience.
Prox: How did you decide which style you’d use going into this project? Did you purposely try to adapt a more kid friendly aesthetic or was that what felt natural?
Soosh: I have no such power to decide which project to do because images come to me on their own and I have not chosen a particular style. I was actually (and still am) quite surprised that people would refer to my illustrations as having a special style, as it came on it’s own. I drew it when I felt it and then played with watercolour. I had not planned to use any special style, so it was just intuition and partly trying an approach I felt comfortable with.
Prox: Did you have any negative emotions in the early stages of this series? What were some feelings you had in the beginning up until now about your own father and what this set meant to you? Has it helped you heal?
Soosh: The only negative emotion I had was sadness due to not having this special connection daughters have with their father and a kind of longing for this figure; Someone who would love and stand by me out of unconditional love... Even as an adult. With my own father, I don't believe this connection is possible. Before, it wasn't possible because of him not putting forth any effort and now it's because of me I think. You see, to show love you must be initially shown what love is, the devotion and bond.. In our relationship, my father has not put effort into showing love and now I cannot return what I don't have. Yes, this series proved to be an healing exercise for me because I have seen so many amazing men who show their love and care for their children and this brought peace and happiness to my soul.
Prox: One thing that stood out to me is how you chose to portray the parents as superheroes (in a sense), but they don’t have the physical stature we’ve typically associated with those possessing the “super” title. Was there a reason that you didn’t draw the parents as clean shaven, muscular, and thin?
Soosh: I was looking at the father through the child's eyes. I love how children can always see right into the core. For them, a parent doesn't have to be fit, strong, shaved or perfect - they ignore all those attributes which we agree to be "super" qualities. I don’t think kids pay attention to such trifles - they see the power of parents' love and love is always powerful and always "super".
Prox: What is it like to suddenly garner so much attention for your work? Is it ever overwhelming? What has changed the most for you since your series has gone viral?
Soosh: It was quite overwhelming and interesting to watch. I have never had such an experience and i'm still trying to find balance between what people think of my illustrations or my skills, what I think of them, and how it fits my whole picture of self-acceptance. It was amazing and super touching to read all the feedback and realize my art was able to move people and give them either tears or smiles. It made me feel much responsibility and also put many new questions on my plate to try and solve.
Nothing much has changed since the illustrations became popular, but new opportunities which have, and hopefully will open gave me hope for some changes in my life for which I hoped but had no power to do on my own.
Prox: Is there anything special that you’d like your son to take away from your work? If he was reading this, what would you say to him about the importance of parenthood?
Soosh: I would like my son to be able to express his emotions, and to learn that power is not when some guy on the screen waves around a machete or does 100 push ups, but that real strength always shows itself through tenderness and love, especially to those who are smaller or weaker than you. I don't want my son to fall into the wrong (in my opinion) vision of a what a "real man" is, but to follow the pattern of what a good man is before all.; And when he becomes a parent I would like to wish him to be able to give his children less money and more love, less gadgets and more of his time, less "not now, I am busy" and more "let's play!"
Prox: Who are some of your favorite contemporary artists?
Soosh: I have some artists I admire but I have a really bad memory when it comes to names and I don't want to use Google to search for their names. :)
Prox: Favorite Hobbies?
Soosh: Drawing, sketching is my biggest hobby of all, handmaking different stuff is another one and I also love playing ping-pong and learning new languages. Love archeology, documentary movies about ancient civilizations and eating tasty food.
Prox: Tips for aspiring artists?
Soosh: I really have no idea what to say.. I can try to say what I say to myself when I need a bit of inspiration - do what you love, enjoy the process and try not to wait for approval or be driven by expectations that everyone will like what you do - some will for sure, but before all look at what you do and ask "do I like it? do I enjoy making it?" if the answer is "yes!" then all is good, continue.
Prox: Information on upcoming releases and projects?
Soosh: I am the one who has made so many plans in the past which did not happen and so many projects which were never finished so it became a kind of ritual for me to speak only about plans and projects that have already happened. I plan to release a book and have other smaller and bigger plans, hopes and projects but will speak about them once done.
Prox: Final Thoughts?
Soosh: I have too many thoughts to choose among those for final ones :)
You can learn more about Soosh and follow her, here.
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