ITAS Podcast Episode #2

In this episode, we are talking to Cody Esp, an amazing watercolor artist from Seatle, Washington. Among her other lines of work, Cody’s erotic art really stands out for its vulnerable depiction of very intimate moments. It turned out, not only this art helped her heal from some traumatic experiences but keeps helping other women in their own healing process.

Let’s see what Cody has to say about this and other aspects of her work and life as a full-time artist.

erotic art - cody esp

My name is Cody. I’m an artist. 

I do a lot of women empowerment art. I love to paint vaginas and naked women celebrating and dancing. I also do a bunch of more digestible portraiture. So it’s fun to go back and forth and serve the community that way.

I started painting when I was 20. But I didn’t start taking myself seriously until I was about 27.

For the first seven years, I painted maybe three paintings a year and only during extreme emotional times. I just had to let it out. And then I changed into a routine. 

Erotic art is about loving ourselves

My art is being called erotic art a lot. I feel like the word ‘erotic’ has a few different meanings. But I see it as very empowering energy. And something that isn’t harnessed by the public. Sometimes it can feel taboo to even use the word ‘erotic’ but to me, it’s just such a powerful force that can bring so much joy and creativity to the world. 

To me, it doesn’t feel sexual in the same way as to some people.

Instead, it feels freeing and like a celebration. The response I get from it is amazing. Women reaching out to me and telling me that they cried or that they are dealing with things that are shockingly difficult. Or that they don’t like their body even though I see how beautiful they are. It feels good to receive such vulnerable responses.

I had a lot of pain inside me. I had experienced some really hard things in high school and college. I started painting a lot of more erotic art after I had been drinking really heavily. I was really depressed. I went to a counselor who very quickly pointed out that I was in a situation of very abusive relationships without even realizing it. Neither, I think, did my partner realize that forcing the intimacy in that manner was a sexual assault. 

And I noticed I had started painting erotic art around that time as a coping mechanism because I found no understanding or empathy about my situation from my partner and group of friends at that time. It was an emotional situation I didn’t have words for, I didn’t have a story for, I didn’t have any framework for… I think the only way I was able to let it out was through painting. 

I’m so much happier now. I have amazing people in my life. And my work has really changed to a big celebration of women’s bodies. 

I feel like I opened a channel for people to be able to talk about how they’re feeling insecure about parts of their bodies. I don’t know why, but I think, since I’ve always felt pretty comfortable in my body people get that energy from me, and they’ll open up to me.

One of my jokes is that I feel like girls always love to get naked around me. Which is great, I love it, and it feels so pure and innocent.

I think I give them that sense of security and joy for something that used to be fearful. So now, that’s where my work comes from. 

Relationships, intimacy and vulnerability

I am married now and my husband is the best! When we first started dating, I thought he was transgender because there’s no way he can be this cool and sensitive. 

He’s my biggest fan. He supports me so fully. He keeps my art on his screensaver and uses it as a backdrop during his online poker nights. I have waves of times when I doubt myself as an artist. And he’s my biggest cheerleader during those moments. He’s always so encouraging. 

Cecily Brown is one of my favorite artists and she does really gestural erotic pieces. I remember when I first saw her stuff, I was blown away. I feel like sex is such a sacred place for people.

And it’s so interesting how people use sex as a form of power or coating for intimacy when they need a human touch or they want to feel close but don’t know how to be vulnerable. But for me, it’s a really spiritual aspect. This might sound weird, but I often think of goddesses and Gods during intimacy. And I imagine these like golden threads coming between our hearts, and this connection is like an energetic poll. I noticed how much more joyous we are afterward when this connection is present. And that’s how I would love intimacy to be always possible. For everyone. 

It’s about bringing some good to the world

I know how much better the world is when people feel good in themselves. I know it, you have to be brave and vulnerable to do that. But that’s what ultimately makes the world a better place. I love the “shine” theory, “if you shine I shine.” The more people shining out there, the better the world will be. So I hope that’s what my art does for people. 

We talked about many more things with Cody that day. We talked about different ways to reach out to people (through vlogs and podcasts) to be able to send a healing message of art and love. We talked about how important it is to love your inner child. We talked about balancing the creative and business parts of an art career and the idea of “batching” the work to stay productive. 

To catch up with our conversation, listen to Episode #2 on In The Art Scene Podcast. 

Where to find Cody online

Official website:

Instagram: @codychuff

Shop Cody’s work here

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