Exploring Frida Kahlo's strength, resilience, and lasting legacy

São Paulo illustrator Fernanda Peralta on the inspiring work of iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo


By Ally Faughnan


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Fernanda Peralta is a São Paulo-based illustrator, following her passion for drawing, illustration, and graphic design. Her background in architecture and urbanism seeps through her beautifully created compositions, brought to life with soft colours and textures.


Here, Fernanda talks about her illustration of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Kahlo has not only become an iconic artist, but an icon for women balancing pain and passion. Read about how Kahlo’s intimate portrayals of herself have inspired Fernanda and her work.


Courtesy of Fernanda Peralta

Please can you tell us a bit about your illustration of Frida Kahlo?


For my illustration of Frida Kahlo, my main inspiration was the artist herself, of course. When Laura (from Made By Women Zines) contacted me, she also sent me a picture of Frida, that I could use as a starting point, and from it, I took the main inspiration for her pose, her clothes, and the colours I would use in the piece.


Also, to compose the scene, I did a little research on Casa Azul, the Blue House, or the Frida Kahlo Museum. My process, after this research phase, consisted of composing rough sketches of my intentions. I presented them to Laura and after we agreed everything was fine, I finished them. In this case, I did the whole process digitally. I particularly love the way the textures worked in the final piece; allied to the earthly tones, the beautiful clothes Frida was wearing, and her stoic pose. I like to think the final result translates her strength and resilience as a woman and as an artist.


"I think Frida can be an inspiration to every one of us, because she truly sought to represent herself and the way she saw herself in her paintings." – Fernanda Peralta

How does Frida inspire you in your work and life?


Frida Kahlo had a very tragic life: a devastating accident led to her lifelong physical problems and constant pain; her relationship to her husband, Diego Rivera, was problematic and their marriage was tumultuous; she died very young after a series of health problems. We should never lose sight of that when thinking of her as an artist, especially when you analyse her self portraits.


I think Frida can be an inspiration to every one of us, because she truly sought to represent herself and the way she saw herself in her paintings. Her work is colourful, surreal, honest, gruesome, and almost grotesque at times, and it gives us such a rich portrait of her and questions such as femininity, sexuality, pain and feminine beauty standards. She was a powerful woman and an amazing artist, and that goes way beyond the pop celebrity figure she has become in the last decade.


Courtesy of Made By Women

Do you have a favourite work by Kahlo?


She has so many great pieces it is hard to choose: of course The Two Fridas, one of her most known works, is one that comes to mind, because of its powerful representations of the artist and themes such as pain, self discovery, and loneliness. But I love the use of animals in her portraits (such as in Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird) and one of my favourites is La Venadita (Little Deer), a 1946 painting that depicts the artist as a wounded deer in a forest. I find it fascinating, the composition of the scene, the colours, her facial expression, and the theme, they all speak to me very deeply.


"I understand that painting reality, for as harsh as it might seem, is important for self discovery and self representation." – Fernanda Peralta

Frida Kahlo once said: “I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.” Do you relate to this when creating your own work?


I understand that painting reality, for as harsh as it might seem, is important for self discovery and self representation. However, when it comes to my work, I often speak from a place of magical and dreamy-like things. I like blurring the lines between what's real and what's not, and what's possible and what's impossible. One of my favourite literary movements is Magic Realism and in my art I always try to convey that weird feeling of 'almost reality' and the elements in my mind as I try to depict them are somewhat fantastic, improbable, or inexplicable. Which is something that I also see in Frida's work, but her tragic path and her complicated reality might speak to us about the way she saw herself and the world around her.


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