Collages by Portis Wasp
Portis Wasp didn’t want to be like everyone else on Instagram. Upon exploring the app, he consistently saw the same kind of people posting the same kinds of photos and wanted no part of it. Instead, the Scottish mixed-media artist wanted to break from the monotony and spice things up a little. He started making collages and posting them to his page, leading to early creations including an image of a nude man practicing yoga next to a bunny, which caught the attention of his friend. Now, that's a picture you don't see every day.
From there, Wasp had the idea to start incorporating iconic Disney imagery into photos of some of the most beautiful and well-known people in the world, and it wouldn’t be long before people started taking notice. How can you scroll past a photo of Pietro Boselli on a beach wearing nothing but a seashell, especially one that includes Jane from Tarzan? You can't. It's just not possible.
It's only been a few years since he created his first collage, but, in that time, Wasp has collaged everyone, and I mean everyone: Pietro, Gigi, Kendall, Cindy, Naomi, Nicki, Nyle, Marc, Paris, the Fab Five. No one with any sort of fame can escape becoming part of a Portis Wasp collage.
While the Disney collages are what first garnered him attention, Wasp has started to expand beyond cartoon favorites and is now going just as viral for his more abstract collages. On his website, you can see more examples of his newer work. He created a punny series called “Fucking with Nature,” in which he collaged photos of men having sex with photos of Iceland's natural beauty. He’s also created mock advertisements for different brands like Speedo, "Adidass" (see below), Burberry, Top Man, and Patagonia. You might recognize some of the models for these mock ads from Sean Cody (please don’t Google that, Mom) and similar sites.
Recently, the artist has also focused on creating more video content, like the “mood boards” he posts to his Instagram stories. The videos are usually smash-cut reels featuring everything from close-up shots of rippling pecs to clips of Sailor Moon. These videos are absolutely dripping with eroticism, but they stop just shy of crossing the line that might get his content reported. Wasp walks you right up to that line, though, to the place where your blood really starts to pump, your jaw starts to clench, and your mind starts to spiral into its deepest and darkest crevices. His work itself isn’t NSFW per se, but some creations will send your mind to places that most certainly are.
In recent years, Wasp has leveraged what started as fun on Instagram into a full-fledged business. He’s collaborated with well-known magazines on original collages or remixes of past shoots and has partnered with major fashion brands like Moschino, H&M, Sophie Webster, Diesel, and Bench, to name a few. It seems pretty apparent that people (and brand collaborators) find the artist intriguing because of his unique and unapologetic dedication to his work (though all the skin his subjects show probably doesn't hurt either). It also seems safe to assume that we’re just beginning to see what this Scotsman has to offer the world of art and fashion. Honestly, we're on the edge of our seats waiting to see what tricks he has up his sleeve next.
Below, Wasp opens up to L'Officiel USA about the origin of his collages, his creative process, and how he sees his oh-so-mesmerizing art evolving in the future.
Ryan Killian Krause: Give us the origin story. How’d you end up with one of the most creative and steamy pages on Instagram?
Portis Wasp: That’s very kind of you! A few years ago, I decided I didn’t want to share the kind of content on social media that a lot of people on my feed were sharing at the time, so I began making collages and posting them on my Instagram. It provided me with a platform to be creative, and I just focused on making fun images.
RKK: Why did you decide to incorporate Disney images into the collages?
PW: I like the mixture of naughty and nice, but also love the illustrations from earlier Disney films that are bursting with color and imaginative details.
RKK: When did your Instagram really start taking off? Was the attention immediate?
PW: I think after a few months of posting collages, more people began engaging with my work and I was aware of certain people in the fashion industry starting to follow me.
RKK: How do you normally select the images that you’ll use?
PW: I know when I see an image if I like it enough to want to play with it. The same goes for men, I guess…
RKK: A discerning eye! When choosing these images, how much is your own personal draw to the model vs. who is hot in the industry right now?
PW: I think I have quite commercial tastes and tend to gravitate towards a model who can book commercial and high fashion jobs, but I pay little attention to who is hot in the industry right now. The models I collage are unlikely to ever go out of fashion.
RKK: How long does a collage usually take to make?
PW: It’s hard to say, but the ones I make for Instagram take no time at all. It’s usually when I’m working with a client that there’s dialogue and fine-tuning, which makes it take a little longer.
RKK: Where do you pull your inspiration for the collages?
PW: When I’m working on a project, I rarely do research before or spend a lot of time thinking about the story I want to tell. I’m more instinctual in that I see the image I’m going to work with and know soon after what I want to do with it. Then it’s just about executing my vision as quickly as possible so I don’t lose interest. When working with clients I’m rarely given guidelines; perhaps sometimes I’m simply given a theme. I’m usually free to take the image in the direction I’d like.
RKK: Do you have a favorite collage you’ve ever done?
PW: I think I’ve made some good Disney-style ones and would still very much like to do an official collaboration with Disney one day as it's a style that's very commercial in its appeal. But I think one of my more abstract collages if I had to choose. Perhaps the one of Cindy Crawford or an Adidass (sic) one…
RKK: So, you're shifting from the Disney collages to the more abstract ones? What are you focused on now?
PW: I’m focusing on having fun and taking more risks. There is little reward in playing safe, and it has been good to remind myself that there are no rules in what I create and doing one thing well doesn’t mean I can’t try new things.
RKK: Do you ever hear from the people in your collages? What’s their response? Is it ever surprising?
PW: I do! Thankfully, the feedback has always been good. So far, everyone involved with the images I use has been good about me reinterpreting their work. It was cool to see RuPaul following me on Instagram and to then collage Ru for DragCon this past May was amazing, as I love watching Drag Race. But honestly, I’m surprised a lot of the time as to who is following me and reaching out to compliment my work. It's very flattering and somewhat surreal!
RKK: Do you have a favorite collaboration that you’ve done?
PW: Steven Klein is one of my all-time favorites, so getting to work with him and Nicola Formichetti was great! I also worked with Jeremy Scott and Sandberg & Timonen on the Moschino x H&M campaign, which was another fantastic experience.
At the moment, I’m working with a brand on a campaign, lookbook, and campaign film, which are coming out soon. To have the opportunity to rework a brand’s identity for a season and showcase my work in different mediums within the same campaign really appeals to me.
RKK: Based on other interviews you've done, it sounds like you're a self-taught artist, correct? What has that learning process been like for you?
PW: That’s right! The process of creating things has always been fun. There is obviously a lot more to learn when you begin to work in the industry, but again, I have been fortunate to have only had great work experiences.
RKK: What have been the hardest parts of teaching yourself? The hurdles you’ve had to overcome?
PW: Learning to say no was probably the hardest at first. I’m naturally a people pleaser, but it’s empowering now to identify something that is not right for me and not give it any of my energy.
RKK: So much of your art is so raw and sensual, especially the non-Disney work. What role does your sexuality and sensuality play in the content that you create?
PW: A lot of my personality and my mood at the specific time that I’m working on something comes through in my work, but ultimately it appeals to me so much more when people push their work in bold directions. I could certainly do with taking more risks myself.
RKK: We love the idea of a riskier Portis Wasp! Speaking of riskiness (or risqué-ness), do you ever feel like you need to censor yourself?
PW: I think Instagram censors me the right amount. There’s a fine line between titillation and obscenity. There’s definitely an art to showing just enough so that the viewer has to fill in the blanks themselves, which I think elevates what you’ve created in their mind.
RKK: So, does that mean that there aren't NC-17 versions of your collages out there somewhere?
PW: There aren’t. I think I’d only do that if I was collaborating with a really great photographer on a special project that catered to a more mature audience.
RKK: What are the next creative endeavors waiting to burst out of you? What do you want to tackle next?
PW: I never thought I’d end up working on editorials and campaigns when I started making collages, so I’m curious and excited to see where my mood boards will take me now that I’m starting to work on video projects with clients.
RKK: Then you're focusing more on video these days?
PW: I love movies and TV so much, how could I not? There’s something really appealing about creating a piece of content that tells a story over a series of striking scenes, but even more so for me when it is short and sharp but still manages to leave you feeling full after watching it.
RKK: Speaking of video, let’s talk about your mood boards (a personal favorite of mine, by the way). How do you find all your content for your mood board videos? They're so in-depth and creative.
PW: Everywhere, really. Tumblr, YouTube, or my followers occasionally submit clips or Boomerangs for me to use. I love pop culture so there’s a lot of content out there for me to discover. The mood boards are a collection of all the things that excite me across different creative mediums mashed together.
I find it therapeutic to spend time online searching for content, so I usually spend a few hours doing that every time I make a mood board, unless I’m reusing content I already have.
RKK: How do you see your art evolving as you continue to grow as an artist?
PW: I definitely see myself having more control over the images I create by working on more projects where I complete every aspect of the image myself. I love collaborating with photographers and I’m in a unique position to be able to work with so many talented image-makers, but collaborating involves compromise and I am curious to see what kind of artist I could become when I’m not thinking about anyone’s vision but my own. I think it's time.
RKK: Last question (and a total cop-out): I read in an interview that you used to be a journalist. Any questions I should be asking you that I’m not?
PW: “What’s your schedule like should we want to work with you on an L’Officiel cover story?”