"International Women's Day"

by Mijke Coebergh

This illustration was made as a personal project for International Women’s Day 2020. In the weeks ahead of March 8 I already had in mind I wanted to make something to celebrate this day, being a woman myself.

My initial idea was to do a ‘draw this in your style’ of the famous J. Howard Miller poster from 1943, because it’s quite a powerful, iconic image everybody knows and I was curious if I’d be able to translate it to my own handwriting. Kind of as a practice also. I struggled quite a bit with the arm and hands since I kinda had her looking like the Hulk at first, not very feminine, but I like how it turned out after. However, when I finished it, I caught myself thinking: ‘this is not a very inclusive image representing all women’. Who’d recognise herself in this? In the core I think I want to make work that speaks to people, inspires them.

A few years ago I’ve made illustrations for a children’s book with a publisher whose mission is to make children’s books more inclusive for all skin colours and family compositions, I guess doing this really made me aware of my own bubble. I made a dark-skinned version of the illustration after this, but that still didn’t feel like it represented the majority of women. I realised that what inspired me about IWD, is that it celebrates womanhood, regardless of background or skin colour. The feeling of union. Precisely for that reason, I felt like making an image that represents the beauty in diversity.

Watching the trailer of ‘WOMAN’ that released March 8th inspired me, even more, to start drawing various types of women; different skin tones, hair types, religious head coverings, clothing. Adding the backgrounds I think accentuated the global feel of the image. I’ve always been very inspired by the way people look and dress, especially when I visit another country so I had much fun drawing all these different characters. It also felt like a more authentic inspiration than my initial J. Howard Miller remake. Sometimes you need to dig a little deeper beyond an initial idea to find your true source of inspiration.

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