woman crush wednesday with @filthyratbag

Meet the 16-year-old artist illustrating your quarter-life crisis.

by Kasumi Borczyk
06 July 2016, 4:45am

via @filthyratbag

If you follow Melbourne artist Celeste Mountjoy's popular Instagram feed, you may think you have some idea about the woman behind it. Surely these darkly twisted drawings of women drinking, partying and self-destructing are the products of a mind that has seen it all. That may be true, but what you probably wouldn't expect is that Celeste is 16-years-old.

Under the name @filthyratbag she has amassed a huge following for her ability to poke fun at societal expectations, conventions and her own personal insecurities. Her simple line drawings are reflections of a troubled but undeniably funny world, and safe to say, they're a whole lot more insightful than anything we were doodling in high school.

When and how did you start drawing?
I think I was about four years old. The first sketchbook I have filled out was from about 2005 and it was pretty much drawings. My mum would sit down with me and write down the stories to go with the drawings because I couldn't write yet. She would pretty much write down whatever I told her, so it was pictures with words, which feeds into what I still do today.

It's crazy you were four in 2005. What kind of stuff were you drawing?
I liked writing stories about really fucked up romances, like beautiful princesses being forced into marriage with really ugly guys. Funnily enough, I was really into drawing "beautiful" girls — which has changed a lot now.

Other than the beautiful girls, it seems you hit on your major themes pretty early. Are you influenced more by others or by your own life?
I've always been inspired by Michael Leunig and David Bowie, but I definitely draw inspiration from the people around me and my life. I've always struggled with anxious feelings and sad, depressing feels so it's pretty easy for me to draw on that.

Tell me about how you mix comedy and tragedy, because a lot of your drawings are very funny looks at pretty devastating moments.
Getting too serious terrifies people. I think it's easier to take things on when it's done with humour. People might say it's making fun of mental illness but I feel putting a light-hearted note on serious issues makes people more comfortable when bringing them up with their friends.

The serious stuff isn't all personal, you also get pretty political.
When I first started drawing things to do with political issues I wasn't really conscious of it. It was more that these things were important to me, so they are integrated into my art. I try not to put all of my opinions out there. I leave things out that I don't know much about because I don't feel comfortable talking about something that I haven't personally experienced.

That's something you have to be so careful of when putting your work and opinions on social media; backlash can be brutal.
Yeah I definitely realised that when I started to get a major following. The opinions of all of these different people coming together on my posts can get a little scary. It's interesting, I never really thought of my work as controversial or political until I put it out into the public for people to engage with.

Tell me about the response in general.
When I first started putting my work out there I was only about thirteen or fourteen and I had a small following. I actually feel like the feedback I got back then was harsher because I was so young and the people around me were kind of freaked out that I was drawing women with hairy armpits or drinking a lot. But now it has reached a wider audience I have been getting more people hitting me up and telling me they can relate to it and they love my stuff. Of course there's also the creepy side to social media, like old men asking for photos of my feet and that kind of thing, so it's bittersweet.

Tell me about the decision to be so open about your own experiences with mental health?
Mental illness and feeling certain things about people or where you are in life is something you are taught to keep to yourself because it's embarrassing or freaky. But putting it out there on a plate says this is something we are probably all experiencing and you're not alone in it. It's a positive thing for me to be able to share human experiences like these rather than bottling them up.

Really personal work like this is on the rise, what do you think that says about our generation?
I think a lot of shit gets put onto our generation for being really touchy and emotional and over expressive. But social media has just given us a platform to share how we feel, which previous generations didn't have even though they were probably going through exactly the same thing.

Totally, we're not crazy we're just visible. How do you have all this figured out at 16?
A lot of it is definitely my mum and other older woman I was surrounded with growing up. Mum has always done her own thing and never relies on anyone else to do it for her. I was also taught that as a young female I can be my own role model, which makes it much easier to feel empowered.

That's a cool idea, being your own role model.
As I mentioned before, I used to enjoy drawing pretty girls with huge tits and tiny waists and was into this whole beauty ideal of the perfect, hot girl. But when I started going through puberty I realised I wasn't looking like any of the girls I was drawing. So I made a decision to make them different and draw saggy boobs and hairy armpits and tummy fat and all the things that made me feel more comfortable in my own skin.



Text Kasumi Borczyk
Images via @filthyratbag

mental health
Celeste Mountjoy
quarter-life crisis