Michelle Lefade’s curvaceous caricatures are a lot of things, but they are definitely not shy. Much like their creator, they have many expressions – sultry, coy, bored, ecstatic, aroused, flexing, flirty, bemused – but are always perfectly poised. Part artist, part cartoonist and all fly girl, Michelle aka Mitch is gaining some serious momentum with this cast of eccentric beauties. We visited her at her Parkdale apartment, where she hooked us up with some dope custom kicks and told us a bit more of her story.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m a cartoonist living in Toronto with a background in graphic design. I’ve been drawing and creating since I was a kid and I’ve always been a pervert. After school I started to focus on comics, zines, and book making. It was sort of a natural progression for me to experiment with the possibilities of turning my short 4-panel narratives into larger, single compositions. I started to explore my drawing style about a year and a half ago and shortly after I had my first coffee shop exhibition. Through showing my work I’ve been able to create and collaborate with other artists in the community.

We’ve been seeing a lot of hype about Margin of Eras, the group show you were in recently. What have you been learning about yourself and your work through exhibiting more lately?

I think the most interesting thing I’ve learned from exhibiting (especially in the Margin of Eras show) is that women see themselves in the figures I draw. The pieces in that show were very close to me and I felt really exposed putting them up on the wall, but it was such a revealing experience for me. I think that when women see themselves in the paintings they feel that their body is being idealized and they feel more confident. Women at the show would approach me and tell me that they felt like they were looking at a portrait of themselves. The work became part of the intimate conversations that happens between women about their personal journeys towards feeling comfortable with their bodies.

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You seem limitless in terms of the surfaces you can make art happen on. What’s your favourite recent piece and why?

I really enjoy drawing on a large scale. Slowly my women have grown larger and larger and it feels natural to allow them as much space as possible. I recently painted a mural in the alleyway behind The Beaver Café and it is one of my favourite pieces. Public art is very important because it adds context to a space and exposes whole communities to the message, inviting anyone to participate in the conversation. There were a group of boys who came and sat on the fence behind me while I painted at one point. Earlier in the day I had heard some “bootylicious!” cries from the parking lot and so I was expecting more of the same feedback but they were respectful. They asked how long it would take me to finish and they told me what they liked about the piece. I think that seeing a female paint the piece added to the message for those boys. Most of the time I am working in my studio with my girls around, so it was interesting to be out there hearing what people had to say.

You’re really into voluptuous women and really exploring that shape. What do those women mean to you?

My dad was a political cartoonist when I was growing up but sometimes he would take small jobs doing caricatures for a birthday or something and that’s when I’d get to see him draw more women. His style influenced mine a lot and I’ve sort of combined it with the way I feel about my own body. I started to really enjoy the size and shape of my body through my sexual experiences. I began to actually value my largeness rather than feel self-conscious because I loved the way the weight felt. My figures represent where I feel my body is strongest: in my legs, my arms, my core, and my butt. I minimize the ankles, wrists and neck because these are the places I feel are most fragile and delicate. There is so much swelling and dilating that happens when you get caught up and it plays tricks on the eye. I find it easier to remember body parts the way they feel.

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What would you say are some of the biggest inspirations in your creation process right now?

I also feel very inspired by film and music videos, There’s a huge teen girl inside of me who dedicates a large amount of memory space to Ciara, Missy, Janet, Beyonce, Rihanna, Nicki etc. and I don’t fight it.

Who are your greatest artistic influences of all time?

I love Tamara de Lempicka for the way she would capture all the lumps and folds of a woman’s body and the strong arms she would give her figures. I love Namio Harukawa’s work for the endless representation of female dominance and male humiliation. I’m a huge fan of Piet Parra because his work has so much movement, his colour palette is beautiful and those thick birds crack me up.

What will your focus be on in the future? Any shows, products or collabs coming up?

At the moment my focus is on exploring different ways to create works on a large scale. I’m experimenting with installation and how I can use 3D space to create a fuller experience with my women. I’m going to be participating in a group show on November 27th called “This is not for you” at Edward Day Gallery. I’m also part of group show “Forever and a Day” on December 13th at OCAD

Twitter: @lilmitch

Instagram: @mainmitch

Tumblr: http://michellelefade.tumblr.com/