Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
I’m Peter, I’m a trans and queer artist and a little bit of a jack of all trades. At the moment, my art practice focuses mostly on digital illustration. I like drawing trans and queer people in love, having sex, and feeling carefree. I also tattoo and have just opened up my books again for the first time after the pandemic started. I knit and craft too, I just love making things!
How did you get started as an illustrator, tattoo artist, and creator?
I’ve been artsy for as long as I can remember – being someone who makes art doesn’t really feel like something I can help to be honest. I wasn’t encouraged to pursue it as a career too much, and it wasn’t until just before my final exams in university–when the idea of continuing my education and doing a Masters was getting me down–that I realised that maybe art as a career is something that I could pursue and potentially should pursue in order to be happy. Once I realised that, it was like the floodgates opened, and now creating feels like a bit of a compulsion to me. Once I allowed myself to believe that it was something I could do, I just never stopped. I realised that my Instagram feed was just all tattoo artist after tattoo artist, and this was a way to make art in a really collaborative and social way–so that became my focus. The pandemic forced me to sort of shift my focus to illustration and develop that a bit more, which has been really fulfilling. And as for everything else, I’m an extremely restless person and knitting or crafting is an amazing way to keep my hands busy.
What’s your workspace like?
I’m really lucky you’re asking this just after I’ve had the pleasure to move my workspace out of my mum’s house and into a studio. I’m a cross between a neat freak and a really messy person, so my workspace tends to be a bit of organised chaos. You’ve caught it on a good day though!
Can you talk about your work “Persevere”?
‘Persevere’ is probably my most personal illustration. I drew it on the eve of my first anniversary on Testosterone, and I guess it is sort of an expression of my frustration with where I’m at with my transition. I was feeling grateful for being a year on Testosterone, but so far away from where I want to be particularly in terms of my chest. I’m currently trying to access top surgery, and the hurdles that I have been having to jump through to access this, in many ways life saving surgery, are immense. I often talk about wishing I could just slice my breasts off with a big sword, that it could be as easy as that. So this was sort of a message to myself to keep going. My ability to persevere is extremely important to me, I’ve experienced a lot of trauma in my life that I don’t often talk about publicly, and I have persevered through it all so I know I can and will persevere through this too. I definitely feel that this illustration was a way of expressing and affirming that for myself.
How does working in Dublin impact your practice?
Well, it means I have to live at home! Dublin is in the middle of a horrific housing crisis, our government is completely in the pockets of the landlords (and many are landlords themselves) and rent is just outrageous. I had to move back to my mum’s house from abroad because of the pandemic, and unemployed and lonely, I really just poured myself into my art. I’m extremely, extremely privileged that I was even able to move back in with my mum, who is also a renter, and if it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t be where I am now in terms of my career. I’m relieved I can at least pay my share of the rent now! I think Dublin as a city can be very hostile for artists and creatives, but the actual people, particularly queer and trans people, are up for supporting each other and that’s really wonderful.
In addition to your illustration work, you compose images and portraits for the body. What about tattooing interests you in comparison to illustrations?
I absolutely love the social aspect of tattooing! I love that it is an inherently collaborative art form. It is so fulfilling to me to be able to meet different people, people who like my art enough to want it permanently on their body (which is just wild and amazing in itself!), have a lovely chat or just share the space quietly with them, and then send them on their way hopefully with a new reason to love their body even more. I think especially for queer and trans people, our bodies are legislated on and picked apart so much–there’s real power and freedom in making a choice to add art and decoration to our skin and I love being a part of that process.
So….a few of your works are influenced by steamy torch singer Orville Peck, can you talk about his influence?
I’m obsessed with romance and melodrama and I think Orville Peck’s work really speaks to that. He is such a romantic and mysterious character and his music is so emotional and powerful, it spontaneously inspires images in my mind that I just have to draw.
What else are you listening to?
Right now I’m really into Tyler the Creator! His last album, IGOR, has that same deep sense of romance and melodrama that I’m really inspired and intrigued by.
Your portraits vividly and joyously depict experiences of desire and trans lovers. Why is portraying this desire important to you?
Because it is a desire I feel so deeply! I love being trans, I love other trans people. I love our bodies and I want other trans people to feel that love too. I think there is something so special in the way that we as trans people desire and connect with each other’s bodies. Cis people love to frame our bodies and our experience in terms of how it affects them, they love to decide whether or not we ‘pass’ and whether they would sleep with us. I’m so sick of hearing about that! I love to imagine spaces and moments where trans people are connecting with each other completely apart from the cis gaze. I feel like we understand each other in ways that cisgender people never could, and the intimacy that that creates is really magical.
What do you do when you’re not drawing?
I knit! I’m making a multicolored cardigan right now and I’m so so excited with how it’s turning out.
Can you talk about the motifs of butterflies and dragonflies included in your pieces?
Butterflies are symbolic for myself and my experience as a trans person. I feel a real connection to them. It’s a bit cliche, but they literally start life looking one way, pupate, and then emerge as something more–you can’t get a more clear-cut metaphor for the trans experience than that. Dragonflies I just think are beautiful! In real life, I’m actually terrified of all insects.
What about nuns entices you as an artist?
Honestly, I think there’s this really juicy potential for corruption and deviance surrounding nuns that I find irresistible. It’s been a porn trope forever, and I love that so many people agree that the taboo surrounding nuns and sex is actually really sexy. Also, in Ireland nuns have been historically a symbol of power and fear, and there’s something very liberating about taking this oppressive symbol and using it to titillate and excite people. It’s kind of a ‘you have no power here’ moment.
Interview composed and edited by Joan Roach. Image descriptions by Peter McAteer.
Joan Roach is a non-binary, emerging arts writer and curator who focuses on sculptural and performance-based work that gives critical attention to our relationship with the material world. They are the publication editor and gallery coordinator for LVL3, a 2021 HATCH Curatorial resident at Chicago Artists Coalition, and contributing writer to New City Magazine and Sixty Inches From Center.