Today we’re joined by Laya MR, who has possibly the best Tauriel cosplay I’ve ever seen for her Google profile pic. Laya is a very talented illustrator who is currently studying fine arts/design at uni. She has an art blog is layaart.tumblr.com and is working on a series of asexual characters at discordanddarkness.tumblr.com/tagged/ace-characters. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I spend a lot of time reading books, and most of my art is illustrations of those. I am especially interested in drawing diverse characters. Most of this fanart is digital – I use a wacom tablet and Paint Tool SAI most of the time. I also do normal traditional sketching and painting, and one of my classes last year was printmaking, which was interesting.
What inspires you?
As I’ve said – I do a lot of fanart of books, especially lesser known and queer books. I like to illustrate things that don’t really have any visual representation of yet – I love to show people how I imagine things, and it makes me happy when my art makes other fans and the authors of the books happy too. I find that it’s often books with lots of queer characters and POC that don’t have enough fanart, so I mostly do those characters because they are important to me. Asexual characters are especially important to me, especially seeing as there’s so few of them, and I’ve done a series of drawings of asexual characters in books to show this.
Other than that, I really love fantasy, especially faery-related things, and the New Zealand landscape (where I live.)
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I’ve wanted to be an artist all my life – I’ve been making things since I was able to do so. In primary school I went to the local art gallery every week for a kind of art class/workshop thing, and a similar thing with a local artist. In intermediate and high school I took pretty much every art class I was able to – 4/5 of my classes were art related. In about a month I’m going to university to do a bachelor of fine arts or design which I’m extremely excited about, and I hope to figure out what I want to do with my art in the future there.
Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?
Not really, I just sign my name..
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Well, I still consider myself an aspiring artist. But really, just do what you love, and practice heaps. Learn about other people’s art, and try new things.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I identify as aromantic asexual – but really I’m not entirely sure exactly where on the spectrums I am. If later on in life I realise I might be demi or gray-ace I’ll be cool with that but for now I just say I’m aro ace.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
Well, the only times it really comes up in relation to my art is when I’m posting it on tumblr, which is generally pretty accepting of asexuality (or at least the people who are likely to see my art are), so I don’t really face much. But in other places, I find that mostly people just don’t know much/anything about it, so I’ll try to correct people and educate them if I can (and if my social anxiety doesn’t stop me.)
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
Often it’s just that people haven’t even heard of asexuality, and they literally have no idea what it is, or don’t believe in it. But other than that, I’d say probably just people not understanding that romantic and sexual orientations are two separate things.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
Find validation – whether that’s by researching it, finding other asexual people to talk to (there are heaps of people online), or finding books, tv shows or fanfiction with asexual characters. If you feel safe doing so, maybe tell people close to you (you might have to explain it), because other people knowing can make it feel more legitimate. And remember that whatever you feel is okay.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
Thank you so much, Laya, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.