Death of "The Chill Girl"

 On a practical note, you may have noticed that one of your French girls is slowly getting phased out as I lean into showing up as myself. My social medias have made the switch to katiebutler.art and my website is next up. If there are any prints currently available on my site from this body of work that you are interested in purchasing, now is the time. I don’t feel quite aligned in both skill/experience level and subject matter with a lot of those pieces anymore, so they won’t be available for purchase much longer.

I want to thank everyone who has been supporting my arts career from the beginning of my @oneofyourfrenchgirls_ account so much. All the people who have trusted me enough to commission my services, who have shared my work with their friends, sent me such positive messages, or seen my potential and given me the opportunity to be part of their cool events and projects over the last three years. You have played an important part in my life and development. My work will continue to be body positive and often figurative in nature, but it will be a little different, so there is no pressure to stay if it does not resonate.

But what now?

I am in the process of a personal and artistic rebrand where I try to admit that I do in fact have wants and needs beyond what I currently have. I am determined to responsibly and mindfully stop giving into fear so that I can make the kind of art I feel called to make and manifest opportunities that are more in alignment with my goals.

Like so many people out there, I have aspired consciously and unconsciously to be “the chill girl” for far too long and it has taken much too much from me. The chill girl doesn’t take herself too seriously, doesn’t take up too much space, doesn’t care enough about herself to be offended, but cares enough about everyone else to cater to their needs. The chill girl is not real, and yet she is sought after: by men, by society at large, and desperately by young women lacking in grounded confidence. The following excerpt from Gone Girl is one of my favourite explanations of this invasive archetype:

“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.”

I especially love that it comes from Gone Girl because the cool girl to psycho bitch pipeline is one of the most predictably undeniable and exciting growth phases to watch. Behind every “cool girl” is a whole host of unmet needs and wants taking their toll. It’s like those rubber popper things you would flip inside out and place on the table, where the whole fun of the game is to just wait and watch to see how long it will take to pop and how high.

The cool girl trope is so tired and toxic, especially in relationships, but it extends beyond that. It is a patterned behaviour of minimizing yourself to be more digestible and agreeable at the expense of your own identity and expression, and it is the way some people, notably, but not only women, live their whole lives, to varying degrees.

Being authentic involves asking for what you need, saying what you think, correcting others instead of allowing misrepresentations of yourself live on in their minds. And maybe you are pretty easy going, maybe you are generally chill, you can be that when that is who you are and when that is what the situation calls for, rather than reluctantly but swiftly squeezing yourself back into that box out of fear of extending beyond it.

Personally, I have been compartmentalized my “chill girl” behaviour and it shows up only in certain areas where I am lacking that grounded confidence, while I may be perceived as even argumentative or difficult in other settings where I feel more heard. For example, my family would describe me as stubborn, determined, my sister even added “slightly judgemental” to the list when I asked her to provide only 3 words to describe who I am. I always know it’s getting into dangerous waters/orange flag territory when romantic partners seem shocked by this assessment. I have to finally zoom out to see just how small I’ve made myself.

I recently been doing quite a lot of zooming out and it has been the catalyst for change in the direction I want to take my art.

When I first started oneofyourfrenchgirls, I didn’t really self-identify as an artist, I didn’t feel like my work was that important to share or really had something to say, and so I was very casual with it. I trivialized and depersonalized my work in so many ways to signify this stance.

  • I made my page titled something kind of cute and funny, rather than producing art under my name alone.
  • I made art “just for fun” reiterating (often!!) how pieces didn’t have a meaning (even when they did).
  • When I was able to capitalize on my art, I leaned into that, justifying my desire to make art as this commercial pursuit (even when I wasn’t making that much money and it was never about the money).
  • When I started to make art that did have more meaning, I would focus and share only the meaning it had for the subject of my commissions.
  • I would further emphasize how much the meaning of each piece was for the subject and not me as the artist by having them name the paintings. (Which was very sweet at times, but still a fear-based protective mechanism. Now one of my favourite parts of creating a whole piece is the careful selection of that title!! It’s literally a make-or-break, critical thing).
  • I would constantly decrease my pricing for people who knew me on any kind of personal level, as if I couldn’t expect them to see me as an artist while also knowing me as a person.

All of these behaviours and I’m sure more, were things I did to protect my ego and to maintain my chill girl status: to hide away the fact that could want something more.

It has been a blessing in my life to have my patience and tolerance take a hit. Can you even imagine the truly unsatisfying life I would live if I was that rubber popper that just didn’t every go off? If I just stayed flipped inside out on some table until the kids got tired of waiting, how seriously disappointing would that be?

The crux of it all is that without showing up and being vulnerable, without creating what feels like it was made for you to create and sharing what it means to you, your needs will not be met. You will not be understood. I have finally reached a point where it is scarier to risk not being understood for a lack of trying than it is to be perceived trying my best. I’m about to pop off, we’ll see how high, and then will do it all over again and again and again.

If you want to see what me making art that is vulnerable and true to myself looks like, check out my latest painting “I loved my rose-tinted glasses. Now, all I see is red.” It depicts a dreamlike scene of blissful denial, where a girl is surrounded by chaos, but it just looks “so pretty”. The piece contains elements of incongruence between hopeful past (loving my rose-tinted glasses) and cynical present (seeing red) perceptions that makes this moment captured feel unreal or distorted. It was inspired by the a reference photo taken from the shoot for Katrina Anastasia’s “It’s cool to care” EP which is out now, making it feel extra fitting! IT IS COOL TO CARE. Death of “the chill girl”!! Please.

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