Polly Nor has the uncanny ability to tap into people’s deepest, darkest thoughts. Featuring her trademark ‘devil in human skin’ characters, her illustrations capture the feelings we often find impossible to put into words – from an abusive relationship that takes the form of a toxic sea serpent at the bottom of the ocean, to our demonic inner-critic that stares back at us from our bedroom mirror. Interweaving themes of identity, sexuality and emotional turmoil, her work is a tell-all of what it’s like to be a woman in the internet age.
Since graduating in 2011, Nor’s intriguing illustrations have earned her an army of fans on Instagram, where she has over one million followers. She has put on three solo exhibitions in her hometown of London – Sorry Grandma (2016), It’s Called Art Mum, Look It Up (2017), and Airing My Dirty Laundry in Public (2018) – and has been commissioned by an array of cultural institutions and brands including Gucci, Dazed and Dr Martens.
While her ascendance may seem set in stone from the outside, Nor’s journey up to this point wasn’t always so straightforward. Growing up in north London in the 90s, she was surrounded by creativity from a young age. “Both of my parents were creative; I think they met each other busking and did their own thing. My mum used to make mirrors and my dad made masks. I’ve been drawing ever since I can remember, and I wasn’t very good at anything else, so it felt like that’s always what I wanted to do but I didn’t always necessarily think it was going to be possible to make any money out of doing it,” she tells CR.