I would definitely say my own experiences and fantasies inspire my work
Lara McKenzie is an Australian artist creating erotic watercolour illustrations from a female point of view under the moniker of Wet Strokes Art. Penthouse spoke to the Brisbane artist about how the COVID-19 pandemic kickstarted Wet Strokes Art, where her inspirations come from, and how she is using her artworks to empower other women to harness their sexuality.
How did you come to create Wet Strokes Art?
I’ve always done something to do with art. I’d say it was innate, it’s always been part of my being. Throughout school I studied fine art and textiles, and after high school I was trying to decide between the two, and I ended up doing a Diploma of Arts in Fashion Design at the National Art School in Sydney. I ran my own fashion label for a while, but I’ve always had my heart in painting, so it didn’t last. Basically, I went back to painting and spent quite a period of time playing with a lot of different styles from hyper realistic oil painting to acrylic abstractions. I was introduced to watercolour about five years ago and it was a real ‘ah ha!’ moment for me.
Through oil painting, acrylic and watercolour, I was always painting suggestive flowers, and I was kind of on the periphery of erotic art. I never honed in on erotic art until I created Wet Strokes Art. Now I do that full time. Wet Strokes Art was actually my COVID baby! I was painting but moving between styles and genres. I delved into erotic art around February 2020, and Wet Strokes Art was born.
What is it about watercolour that lends itself to erotic art do you think?
As far as watercolour goes, I find it quite expressive and free. I quite like the analogy that I’m playing the alchemist with watercolour because you’re mixing water and pigment together and creating different mediums and textures and you never quite know what the outcome is going to be. There’s a bit of the unknown, while at the same time there’s an element of surrender and control with watercolour, which I thought was a really good analogy for intimate moments.
What draws you to creating art?
I find erotic art really exciting. There is so much potential for inspiration. I like creating art that celebrates sensuality, sexuality and passion. Not everyone is comfortable talking about sex and I like that art can be a way of opening that dialogue.
Also, I’m quite a private, introverted person, so art is how I best express myself. I also find painting to be quite therapeutic. I’ve had periods of depression and anxiety in the past, and painting has been my therapist to get me through difficult periods. I feel like when I paint, nothing else matters and everything else shuts off. It’s like my meditation and it brings me a lot of personal fulfilment.
Your art is very sensual and often puts the focus on female pleasure. Is this part of your intention with Wet Strokes Art?
Absolutely. I think it feels natural for me to portray pleasure from a female point of view being a woman myself. I wanted to bring intimacy, connection and emotion into my artwork as well. Instead of a disconnected porn stereotype, I try to portray sensitivity through my erotic paintings. I hope my work empowers women and inspires them to go and explore. I think it’s important to remember that women are sexual creatures too. I think a lot of the time women forget that, shelve it, or prioritise other areas in their lives. I want to empower other women through my art.
What inspires you?
As far as artists, my all-time favourite artist is Georgia O’Keefe. I’ve loved her work forever. I think she was so ahead of the time. Her paintings were so feminine and suggestive. She was quite revolutionary as an artist, and as a female artist. As a result of her influence on me, that’s how I first got into starting to paint suggestive flowers, and I was teetering around the edges of erotic art.
Is your work ever inspired by your own experiences or fantasies?
I would definitely say my own experiences and fantasies inspire my work. For me, for a painting to be ‘successful’ and to feel like the painting has worked, I have to have a sense of connection to it. I need to feel immersed in what I’m creating. The research side of things can be fun too…
What’s been the most memorable moment of your career so far?
Besides hearing from Penthouse, the most surreal moment has been when a representative contacted me on behalf of a Middle Eastern Sheikh who was interested in my art. They set up a meeting with me and him online and I was expecting to be commissioned for an artwork, but what he actually wanted was to fly me over and become his in-house artist for him at his house. Although I was flattered, I politely declined!
See more of Lara's work on her website and on Instagram.