The raw simplicity of erotica in art

Battling stigma and censorship to make a business flourish.

It’s just about everyone’s dream to turn what they love into a career, right? Well, it may not be easy but it’s definitely attainable given some hard work and determination. But these are just words, and it’s the actions that really put the process into motion; I spoke to Rosie Alexander of ‘Rosielah’ to see how she drew her love into a career.

Based in her London flat at the top of a tower, Rosie is a digital graphic artist with a passion for all things erotic. I met her on Valentine’s afternoon where, as cliche as this phrase has become, her vibes were immaculate; red satin dress with a matching lip, pink necktie and a glass of wine (red, naturally).

After a busy day of sales, having just finished packing up her stall in the University of Essex’ squares, Rosie was buzzing with endorphins and more than happy to “waffle about art”.

I had to ask, why erotic art? Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the natural body, and following this principle to its core, Rosie explained that this is the thing both herself and others respond to the most.

“Honestly, it just came so naturally!” she immediately exclaimed, before catching on to the unintentional euphemism and throwing her head back, chuckling. Fascinated by the raw simplicity of nudity, she uses both singular and intertwined figures to normalise self-love and intimacy through art form.

“It’s nice to educate the people around me in the way that I see [sexuality], which is that it isn’t bad. It’s beautiful! I’ve always been curious about looking behind the curtain at things. And the curiosity is more of a sapio thing than anything else. It’s not me addictively endorsing anything, it’s just about connecting with people’s own desires.”

Although realising that her work isn’t necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, something that Rosie understood was important in her early career was having that niche to focus on. Once settling on this, she explained how to turn a flurry of ideas into a coherent business plan: “You’ve got all these ideas and yes, explore them, but find the one thing that you really want to sell. Then, from that one thing, develop; don’t have loads at once.”

As with most artists, there are various inspirations and influences on the work that Rosie produces. To look at her pieces, it might be surprising to learn that she has a deep love coming from classical paintings, specifically referencing Caravaggio. A 16th century artist, he created highly dramatic scenes focusing on sensuality and power. Striving to embody this in her own work, Rosie expressed her love for ‘highbrow’ art.

“But not the pretentious shit- I like the real shit!” she laughed. “The stuff that isn’t just hyped up for being ‘oh it’s a bit existential’. I love figure drawing, I love bodies, people, seeing the humanism in pieces.”

The realness and passion of her work, however, comes largely from her references, usually based off black and white erotica photography or porn screenshots. Also producing commissioned pieces, people can send in their own photographs to be transformed, making love or performing any intimate act.

“It’s sacred really,” Rosie said. “I really love the fact that I’m trusted, allowed to go behind the curtain of intimacy that someone shares with me. It’s something that’s so personal between two people and I’m allowed to see it.”

And transform the photographs she does, in a kaleidoscope of pinks, oranges, purples, blues… Able to pick up and take her studio (consisting of an iPad) wherever she goes, transportation is not an issue. What does create some unforeseen problems, however, is advertising.

Due to the erotic nature of the artwork, social media guidelines mean that it’s difficult to for such artists to promote their products to the public. Frustrated, Rosie commented on how Instagram and Facebook, two huge platforms for small businesses, don’t like nudity. “You can have this on record- it doesn’t matter if it’s overly explicit or if it’s just suggested, they’re fucking wankers about it.”

Describing her work as “safely suggestible”, she doesn’t find the term ‘explicit’ fitting because, as rightly noted, “it’s flipping fucking natural!” But unfortunately, the restrictions remain a constant battle.

“Censorship is fucking huge and really damaging to a lot of artists. However, there are also so many positives. I feel so much love and my work is all about sharing that.”

Another unexpected difficulty, I uncovered, was setting prices: how do you know how much to charge per piece? How much are you worth per hour?

“It’s difficult, it’s really fucking difficult,” she said. “What’s hard is pricing when you’re a freelancer because you start to think ‘how much is my time worth?’ and ‘will people pay that?’ And then you get that imposter syndrome.”

She revealed that the main core to having confidence in her prices is by trying to make them accessible to all. While keen to support smaller artists, seeing “mediocre” prints “priced to the sky” just isn’t attainable for most people.

“I want mine to be affordable because I don’t want it to be highbrow,” she said. “I like highbrow artwork, but I want mine to be real and for people to feel that they can afford great art!”

Nothing worth doing in life is easy, and it’s the hard work and passion at the core of a business that is the undoubtable key to success. Wondering if there was any golden nugget of information that would help uncover this, what Rosie gave me instead was the simple truth.

“Do it. Everyone says to think about it…no. If you’ve got something that you are passionate about, that you believe in, do the research, find a way. Take that step of just going somewhere and selling it to someone because even if you make just one sale, someone will buy that because they’re believing in the work that you’re making.”

I could definitely end this article by coming up with a suitable finishing line but, as it happens, Rosie gave me the perfect outro so I think I’ll hand it over to her:

“Throughout this interview, I’ve expressed how I perceive my artwork. But the important thing, the byline, is that there’s nothing wrong with the artwork that I make. And it’s not about being a little bit scandalous, it’s purely about making beautiful things that allow others to express themselves through it.”

If you want to (and you definitely should) check out Rosie’s work, follow this link to her website, Rosielah.

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