body image / interviews / May 2015: Women's Bodies / sisterhood

What Body Positive Looks Like: An Interview with ZaftigPaint

Here at Zusterschap we are all about body positivity, which is why when we stumbled across Molly’s amazing work via Instagram, we jumped at the opportunity to explore Zaftig and talk body image.


If you could start off by introducing yourself for our readers…

HI! I’m Molly, creator of ZaftigPaint. I am currently based in Chicago Illinois.

How did you get into drawing/painting?

I have been drawing for a long time. When I was little I thought I was going to be a professional artist. I actually went to school for theatre. My true ambitions lie in that. So I am a different kind of artist in that sense. But drawing and painting now is something I do totally for myself. And when I got to a certain place in this artistic journey I was able to share my work. For the longest time I was just sketching, never finishing anything. Nothing ever felt right or done. But then I realized that I loved drawing little chubby women. Then I thought watercolor – bright bright watercolor would be perfect. And then came the Cupcake Lady and then the rest was history. I started producing these girls so fast. I was so inspired.

Where did the name Zaftig come from?

Zaftig is a German Yiddish word that refers to a succulent or curvaceous woman. It is so strong and zesty! It brings confidence to the body, I think. I was looking for a name for my works – something to categorize them. My mother was actually the one who brought the idea to me. She was talking about Zaftig Zoes or something and pointed out Hilda – the chubby, zaftig, vivacious pinup – if you haven’t seen her you have to now! They are so much more than pinup images – she is on an adventure, walking around with world with complete abandon, having fun. And that inspires me even now. She is living and an artist brought us in on that story.

Red Dress

What inspires you? Do you have any favourite artists?

Women inspire me. Love and beauty and defiance inspires me. My own insecurities and the insecurities of others inspire me. A big part of my journey was actually witnessing all of these pop artists on Instagram. I started to follow all of these BBW women and women who were fighting the standard of beauty and body acceptance like FullerFigureFullerBust, LollylikesFatshion and TessHolliday and ChubbyCartwheels – honestly the list is endless. I pull inspiration from these people. And then, in this same vein, I started to find artists on Instagram like Edull Santos (Edull_Ardo); his work is done with love and fun. He paints the cutest little women and he actually responded when I reached out and encouraged me. Slowly but surely my work became more confident. I’m still refining my voice, but for the first time, as a visual artist, I feel like I have a voice.

Part of what attracted us to you work is how body acceptance plays a big role, has this anyways been a big theme for you? Have you always been comfortable with your own body?

I do not like to be told what to do or how to be, so yes, this has always been a theme for me. I have always been a bigger girl, always bigger than my friends growing up. My friends always accepted me just the way I am, and loved me for it, not in spite of it. But that wasn’t always the case from others. I knew I was bigger and my mother, who was a dancer and had a lot of issues with her weight and eating disorders, didn’t know how to handle a child with weight. I think she thought I was going to be unhappy and start to go down the same path she did. So she was worried and always trying to help, but because she didn’t handle it in a healthy way when she was a kid she didn’t know how to help me. So I accepted myself because others wouldn’t. I could not abide by being told who and what to be. Now, I help my mother accept herself more and more every day. That is a very hard thing to do, especially for women (of all sizes) in a world that doesn’t know it has a problem. So many women don’t even know they are unnecessarily hard on themselves. I want them to see my girls and realize that they love them, not that they are beautiful or sexy or cute, but that they love these girls at first sight – why can’t they love themselves as easily?

What other themes run through your work?

Love is huge. When I finish a piece I will just spend time with her because her lines and her shape and her energy is so pleasant and loving. Also, I think Fun is a huge part of them as well. Each piece is its own thing but Fun is for sure a huge through line. They are happy, they are tickled and they want to share that with you.

Pink MermaidWM

Why do you think body acceptance is important?

I think it is the most important thing we can work on. We have a lot of social issues going on, but body acceptance is the beginning of self acceptance and that is the beginning of your mental health journey. If everyone in the world was actively working on their mental health we would be in a very different world. Self acceptance, and better than that, Self LOVE is hard for people to do – I struggle with it all the time. It is hard to look at yourself and say “I love you”. In fact, it might be one of the hardest things to do. It means that I love you despite everything, because I know everything. It means you are of worth because I give you worth. Body acceptance stops one line of self hate. Self hate just leads to more hate and allows others to give hate to you. I love myself and accept myself and that is a line of defense against any bullshit that can be thrown my way.

What’s your favourite part of your body?

To draw – I love to draw the shoulders and arms. I love to draw the boobs and belly – and the Legs! AHH they are awesome too.

This is a hard question. I kind of love them all! I love my boobs and I love my butt and I love my belly… lots of B’s. As an artist I am always looking at the line of the body. That is partially what draws me to big ladies; they have such wonderful lines.

My partner, Owen, loves all my body parts too. He has been a huge part of this process as well. He gives me confidence and love. When I start to feel down about my body he lifts me back up. Its so important for a partner to be supportive this way and he has been with me on this journey from the beginning.

What is your view on current beauty standards?

I think that they are skewed, period. Not just the size thing – all of it. The makeup, the hair, the clothes. I think it is time to acknowledge where these standards came from. Go read the Feminine Mystique. We are at a time now where we need to know that we are not required to wear these things, that they are not inherently feminine. They are foreign objects that we are shoving onto, up in and all over our natural bodies. Beauty standards have changed throughout the ages because it is a made up thing. We are at a point when we should be able to recognize that these things – make up, hair styles, clothes, tattoos – are now nothing but tools for self expression. This means that anyone can or cannot wear make up. I love male MUA who wear makeup – I think it shows their identity in the most honest way they can. In this way, women can be freer than men. We have these tools to express our individuality where men are still greatly stunted in this kind of outward, daily expression. I want THIS conversation to start.

Little WitchWM

What attracted you to Zusterschap?

I love the goal and the mission: a lifestyle blog for women where we knock down the walls of the cage. Let’s talk about what is holding us back in our daily lives. It’s important because so many women don’t know the problem. There is a problem hidden in the products that we use, in the language we use and in popular thought that we partake in. Lets talk about it. Also, I love how the style of the blog isn’t stereotypically “feminine”. ITS ORANGE and strong and awesome. Feminine should no longer mean soft, pink and pretty. Redefine it!

What does your art mean to you?

My art is my peace. When I get to paint I am focused. My girls are my friends. Each is their own personality, they emerge all on their own. They are my own acceptance and they are my love.

What’s your favourite piece you’ve created and why?

I do not have a favourite, I love them all for different reasons. I love Pictish Woman for her history and her lines and her colour, she is wonderful. I love Little Witch for her smile and her pleasantly plump tummy. I love Red Dress for her sex appeal and the Mermaids for their wistfulness.

Pict WomanWM



To contact Molly and see more of her fantastic art please visit ZaftigPaint on Facebook.


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