Whitehaven’s Queer Punk Artist

We catch up with Twiggy about art, spirituality & retractable claws!

If you thought punk was dead, think again. Over in Whitehaven Twiggy is busy in their studio creating queer art that uses sigils and scratchy paint work to celebrate punk spirit and counterculture. The work is so unruly it doesn’t even stay on the canvas…look out for it popping up on a wall near you.

We had a lovely video call with Twiggy and their black cat recently, we talked about stone circles and sobriety and started putting the wheels in motion to make Cumbria ‘queer as punk’.

Hiya Twiggy! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you identify please? 

I’m an introverted Libra with an extraverted Leo rising. I’m originally from Milton Keynes but take pride in living in Whitehaven. 

You mentioned recently that you were/are part of a punk scene? 

Yes I love how DIY the punk scene is! It’s so creative and rebellious to society’s status quo! It also has fun music that gets me excited! 

Can you tell us a bit about that and what it means to be a queer punk and straight edge? 

It’s about intention for me. Being able to consciously engage in something be it a gig, activism event or even philosophical discussion. I’m not a perfect example of being straight edge, I am human. But I will go into a experience aware of my intentions prior, by asking myself “What do I want out of this? How do I want to experience this? Who am I being influenced by?” The punk scene has stereotypes of people getting wasted and being aggressive at gigs, I see that and appreciate that’s a good time for some or a fun way to experience a gig but I feel uncomfortable when I’m intoxicated. I want to remember what I’ve been experiencing, I want to have fun and feel safe. Plus the money I save from getting mashed I can use to purchase art supplies! 

We had a great chat recently about stone circles and other spiritual stuff, is that something that’s significant in your life?

Spirituality is such a wide topic and it means so many different things to different people. It’s powerful and I respect it deeply. I never used to, I would joke about woo-woo stuff like energy, manifesting and moon phases. Nowadays it’s part of my daily routine where I use affirmations and mantras to help ground me, visualisations for manifesting opportunities, letting go to release stress and nature to connect with the elements. There was a few moments in my life that really made me think twice about spirituality, ultimately it’s about being open to the idea of it and feeling experiences that align with our beliefs/ethos. We all have different ways of accessing spirituality, the natural world has incredible energies and stone circles are usually tied with places that have power energy. In Cumbria we are blessed with abundance of nature and places for people to connect to the universe, be this up a mountain, in a lake, on the coast, deep in the woods or in a cave. 

Queer Cumbria talk to punk portrait artist Twiggy

How would you describe your art and its inspiration? 

my art is predominantly colourful portraits styled with scratchy line work and a collage of shapes. I get very inspired when speaking with people who are passionate about creating and have beautiful energy around artistic ideas. I see art as a very social activity in terms that connecting with others can can help form the foundations of an artwork or shape a creative project. In 2023 I feel very privileged to have been able to collaborate with many local artists including Beardy, Emily Ford, Ixorias, Blane Searby, Florence Thornton and many more! They have all given me so much inspiration and I am so grateful because they have helped guide my creative process. I am excited about future opportunities to collaborate with others and make more art.

How does your identity feed into your practice? 

I feel who I am can be a double edged sword with my creative practice. I can be a conduit of artistic ideas where I get weird with abstract ideas for portraits but I can also get overwhelmed with how many ideas there are. I always have multiple projects on the go at once which means I’ll never be bored but it’s hard to finish pieces when there’s always a shiny new project. The art reflects adaptability too, it’s always possible to change it. If we make a mistake it can be painted over or we can highlight the imperfection as the art itself. It’s fun too, I like to scribe messages and sigils within my artwork. 

How is it living in Whitehaven as a queer artist?

It’s great and not so good at different times. It can be challenging to connect with a community that lacks the opportunities that cities offer but it makes up for that with an abundance of natural beauty and inspiration. There’s so much potential here and I feel a home here, I love Whitehaven wholly.

You did a social sketch for a while which sounds amazing, can you tell us a bit about that?

Prior to the pandemic we would meet every Sunday morning at the Harbour Master coffee house and we could socially do art together while enjoying a brew with a view. We had all ages, backgrounds and abilities attend; people wanting a new hobby, students doing art homework, seasoned artists sharing experience and creativity curious patrons. Sometimes we would have themes but typically anything went and it was a opportunity to connect with other artists.

 Would you ever do it again?

I stopped facilitating these because the pandemic and since then changed job that limited my availability to do this. That said I would love to do something similar to this in the future.

What barriers do you think queer people face in Cumbria?

I feel visual representation is a big barrier, not having a community that helps us understand our identity is tough. This can also cause problems with accepting queer communities in Cumbria because there’s sometimes misconceptions about the queer community. 

And artists? 

For artists a big barrier is seeing value in the arts. There is a very heavy emphasis for STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) subjects being high value due to the reliance on nuclear industry and supply chain careers opportunities. Creative industries generate huge wealth outside Cumbria with fantastic careers/paid opportunities but it’s not been actualised here… yet.

How do you think QC could be most effective in improving things?

By facilitating physical safe spaces to both explore our identity and having a platform to open conversations with the wider Cumbrian community. So many people move away from Cumbria to seek that, they flock to cities and that’s great for them gaining an influx of new creative people but adds to the brain drain we suffer in Cumbria. 

If you were a cat for a day what would you do?

Cat tree climbing adventures! Imagine having retractable claws where you could scale trees with ease, that would be so fun!

Who would you most like to share a curly wurly with? 

My partner Dakota, but I can’t because they are a celiac and curly wurly may contain gluten. 

Can you share a mantra for all the queer kids out there?

“Finished not perfect” Let go of perfectionism, its only holding you back.

Interview by Stevie

Art by Twiggy – @portraitsbytwiggy