Wednesday Holmes on illustration and activism

As a non-binary queer artist, Wednesday Holmes’ work is tied to activism. Here, the illustrator talks about why sharing personal stories online and on social media can help people feel connected

“My grandmother always used to have this box in her house that was filled with colouring pencils, paints, collage, and interesting paper. It was in this box that I saw how fun ‘making’ could be,” says illustrator and designer Wednesday Holmes.

Holmes’ illustrations feel like a peek into this colourful box, for while the images are created digitally, they carry the same sense of joy and opportunity. Favouring bright colours, simple bubble text and smiling characters, the Bristolian illustrator’s work is positive and cheerful. But make no mistake, Holmes’ art isn’t just cute, it’s weighted with meaning and sets out to provide education, empathy and kindness. Tackling topics such as trans, gender nonconforming and intersex advocacy, the queer community, mental health, relationships and body image, Holmes often details personal experiences and stories to create a safe online space for everyone and anyone.

The creative’s practice is now rooted in empowering others and making a difference, but when Holmes initially came to illustration, it kickstarted a journey of self-discovery. “I started illustrating as a means of understanding myself and the world around me. I use art to both explain and survive,” they explain. “I had always struggled to put thoughts into words, and illustration made it feel so much easier to communicate my feelings.”

Top: Self-portrait (featuring photograph by Poppy Marriott), 2020; Above: Breaking News: Queer is Cute, 2018

Holmes initially focused on self-portraits as a means to process thoughts in a visual way. “I was using art to cope with mental illness. I would paint twisted, almost scary, portraits. That was how I felt at that time. It was scary. All of it was scary,” they explain. “Over the years, I started to get better, and I saw my art change. My motives were different, and I eventually felt like I had the courage to connect with others through my art practice. And I wanted to use it to help people.”