The most engaging and enticing art happens when ideas collide; the chaotic intermingling of genres, mediums, cultures and expectations. The world of erotic art often finds itself expressed at such intersections; crossroads of creative output. One of Australia's shining lights in the world of erotic art is Leah of LHD art, who's titilating talents will be on display at Fierce, a part of Melbourne's 2022 KinkFest. We had a chat with Leah to discover more about both herself, and her art.
(RHP) So Leah, your artwork occupies a very unique space – how do you describe it, what’s the elevator pitch?
(Leah) My art is simply life drawing. I draw people using their bodies in authentic ways. I’m a qualified scientist and a published artist and I love drawing the human form. But, what makes my work unique?
My works are not only life drawing but are often captured in real time while people are performing the activity they are engaged in. This can be quite challenging both artistically, emotionally and most of all challenging my ideas of what and why people do what they do. This is what is unique about what I draw. People aren’t posing for me; they are doing and being their best self, intoxicated in the moment that they are in and I am immersed in this environment.
For example; when my muses are from a swingers’ club or a BDSM party, this often means that I’m drawing in the dark light of a dungeon or the strobing lights of a club. It means I’m crawling around on the floor trying to find an angle I can see to draw without interrupting the people I’m drawing, occasionally ducking the back swing of a whip or a paddle and ensuring I am respecting the scene space and those in the play scene. All this whilst they are “playing” and being free to be themselves. Rarely is anyone posing for me and all drawings are completed during the time of the play scene. So if they only last 30 seconds… I only get 30 seconds to draw… in the dark… with people I may have never seen before.
I only embark on projects that align with my core values - such as consent, body positivity, sexual health and positivity, accessibility and authenticity to name a few. My work aims to normalize marginalized groups and highlight the importance of proper representation of all people, to show the beauty of being their authentic self. By befriending the communities and individuals I work with, and focusing on authenticity and body positivity, I aim to avoid objectifying them and can capture in my works a rare emotional intensity. My work has a particular focus on describing the strength and beauty that is in everything living. I hope that my work reflects my passion for people being brave enough to be their authentic selves.
How did the book’s conception come about? What caused that initial spark?
I’m a life drawing artist and some of my work is BDSM clubs, swingers’ clubs as well as other sexy events, and I’ve been inspired by the passion, connection and intimate moments people share when being their authentic selves. Much of the images in these colouring books are inspired by my work as an artist for events and businesses like Domina Parties Australia, Miss Burlesque Australia, Our Secret Spot and the Darlinghurst Theatre Company.
During the long, long lockdowns it seemed that people everywhere were yearning for creative outlets that matched their desire and passion for some cheeky naughty sexy fun. What people needed was a source of escapism that didn’t include Netflix and bedsores. Something therapeutic, but not too serious. But there was something else that people were yearning for above all else . . .
SEX! Steamy, saucy - and sometimes a little sordid - sex!
Of course, real sex is not always as accessible for everyone due to things such as lockdowns, isolation, illness or disability or sometimes we just don’t want to get out of our pyjamas. However, even in times when sex just isn’t as accessible, we as human beings still need to maintain healthy sexual lives.
Many of us engage with our sexuality as an experience of healing both mentally and physically, experimentation and creativity, and for some of us it is an important part of our identity. It has the ability to shape the brain and invigorate the soul. Creativity and sexuality have been proven to correlate with stress reduction and innovative performance in many other areas of one’s life. Experts have long known the therapeutic properties of colouring for adults, we can achieve mindfulness and meditative states by playful colouring BUTT... (hehe) does it have to be another boring mandala!? Who doesn't want to colour in tits and ass?
Have you always worked in this medium or do you have a wider artistic background?
I have worked with acrylic and oil paints on canvas as well as charcoal, pastels and pencil. However, I have been forced to rethink and adapt my medium choices for ease of seeing my marks and lines… when I’m drawing in the dark it’s very hard to see pencil. When a sexy intimate moment lasts mere minutes, the mediums of oil or acrylic paint are just too slow and charcoal / pastels are super messy. So I’ve chosen inks to work with. They are bold and unforgiving. They allow me to see a little of what I’m creating in the moment of a darkly lit room but there is no room for mistakes.
My styles have now adapted around using this medium of free-flowing loose ink and ink felt tip pens and brush pens. Paper is also much more compact and easier to manoeuvre in these environments then large canvases. I spent many hours each week for a few years training my hands to draw parallel lines of differing thicknesses, controlling the ink in the right ways and learning how to draw anatomy in obscure poses that happen during sex. My entire artistic journey has been shaped by working with these alternative lifestyle/sexuality communities. I’ve been challenged, emotionally, physically and mentally drawing these intimate moments… and I love it!
What has the reaction been like? And how do you go finding the right audience for this work?
The reactions to XXXABCs brand and concepts have been really positive. People have loved the inclusivity of the works, the cheeky nature of the illustrations, definitions and the words chosen for each letter of the alphabet.
Its also interesting to hear what people see in the images. I’ve deliberately tried to keep some of the identities ambiguous and androgenous whilst still being sexy. I find people see what they want to see whether they see a queer interaction or a heterosexual interaction is often up to the person colouring in the work.
The right audience for this work is anyone who is interested in sexy, naughty, cheeky fun. Women or men, gay queer or straight, no matter your sexual identity, sexual preference or your sexual ability you will find this book fun to either colour in or simply as a beautiful cheeky book to play with or enjoy the images.
The support I have received from colleagues that I have worked with drawing them has ben humbling. I’m so honoured that the amazing humans that identify as sex workers, sex educators and alternative lifestyle facilitators have given the book their support and are proud of me for my efforts as an ally.
Will this be an on-going series? Any new titles in mind?
Most definitely! There is absolutely no way possible to be 100% inclusive for all identities, genders, preferences, and abilities in just 26 illustrations. I cannot expand on topics of sexual health or pleasure in just one book. There is simply too many amazing subjects, stories, education topics for me to stop at just one book. Also I’m a bit of a nerd and I draw A Lot!
I’ve recently released a new book titled ‘Dominatrix’ which is a series of illustrations inspired by the real life female Dominas (Dominatrixes) of Domina Parties Australia. These powerful, dynamic, sexy, femme Dommes needed their own book. I’m sure that submissives everywhere will be taken into a fantasy of desire whilst interacting with these illustrations. Other dominants may be inspired too? And for my vanilla friends, we may just learn something and be encouraged to discuss these taboo topics with others.
If you want to check out the subjects in their natural habitats, give www.DominaParties.com.au a visit!
I aim to create a number of books to help enable discussions and education around the taboo topics of sexuality.
As a scientist I am deeply disappointed in the state of our sexual education. Most sex ed focusses on how to not get pregnant in a heterosexual encounter. The education around our anatomy and sexual health is poor. I have a skill set as a scientist and an artist that can help in this space and I have met some great adult sex educators and I aim to work with them closely on some topics. As a human I am also disappointed in the state of our sexual education. I believe our sex education should be more inclusive. For all gender identities, all sexual identities and all sexual preferences and abilities. We also need a stronger focus on pleasure. Pleasure for all genders.
I currently have 3 more books in the creative stage and hope to release at least one more before Christmas this year. But you will have to join my free colouring page newsletter to find out more.
You’re going to be the special guest at Fierce in Melbourne during Oz Kink Fest, what will you be doing there?
Miss Penelope Dreadful has invited me along to be the special guest at the very first Fierce party, it’s exciting and a little bit terrifying! Although I love talking with and meeting new people, I get terrible stage fright so I prefer to let my work speak for itself. This will be pushing me a bit out of my comfort zone as I believe that she is planning a microphone and a spotlight while interviewing me
– she’s definitely a sadist!
Miss Penelope Dreadful knows my passion for our diverse global community and that my inspirations come from helping/inspiring others to feel safe to be their most authentic self. But many are curious how can a heterosexual, vanilla, monogamous, white, cis woman can help our global community engage creatively in practices where the inspiration is varied depending on who they identify as and their lived experiences and their personal preferences? How can I accommodate all genders, sexual identities, sexual preferences and personalities without dehumanising individuals? How can we tap into that creative fun and cheeky side of ourselves and help take away the stigma around sex?
Simple… well not so simple. I became a life drawing artist. I worked with communities and individuals to understand their needs and desires without bias, to truly try to represent those that have honoured me with their acceptance as an ally for nearly a decade. It has been almost 10 years! I try not to make assumptions; I try to learn and hold space for others to learn and most of all I take on all the constructive feedback I am offered. I do all this to ensure I am doing my best to create inclusive, diverse, beautiful, inspiring and stimulating images for everyone to share.
…and now Miss Penelope Dreadful wants us to talk about all the many awkward, beautiful, confronting and confusing experiences we’ve had together along the way. I’ve been working as the resident artist at Domina Parties Australia events since 2015 and in my position as an artist and an observer I have been privileged to be able to capture moments of tenderness, connection, and vulnerability as well as intimacy, playfulness, and the occasional interlude of utter depravity.
We both believe these learning experiences will help others bridge the gap between the vanilla community and the alternative lifestyles communities. Because there is so much learning and skills and understanding that has been developed in these communities and sharing will help us all.
How can people follow you?
My life drawing business is called LHDart www.LHDart.com
twitter @LHDart @LHD-art
My erotic book series is under the name XXXABCs www.XXXABCs.com
WIN - Thanks to Leah and RedHotPie, you can win one of 3 limited edition, signed prints from Leah - and runner-ups will win one of five copies of her book , XXXABCs. To go into the draw - click here.
See Leah at the Fierce event in Melbourne on October 19th. Check the RHP events section for more details.