Today we’re joined by Hanna-Pirita Lehkonen. Hanna-Pirita is an amazingly talented comics writer from Finland. She’s part of a small comics group called Team Pärvelö. They make queer comics, which include asexual characters, as well as some about the anime scene in Finland. Hanna-Pirita also works for anthologies around the world. She’s working on a horror piece for “Hellcat Press Dark Lady” anthology. And, oh yeah, Hanna-Pirita is a badass feminist! I highly recommend looking up her work because it’s really quite remarkable. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I make comics. I am a comic artist and I make comics and illustrations for living. My comics are mostly educational and political, but sometimes I also make comics that are just pure fun. But even if I make comics just for fun, I incorporate minorities in the characters. My work is also very feminist in many ways.
What inspires you?
Everyday things that happen to me and discussions that I have with my friends. The sentence “What if…” is my favourite and most of my comic ideas come from that one idea “What if…”.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
When I was young, I wanted to become a fashion designer. I also wanted to be an artist, but my parents told me it’s not a real profession and I can’t live with being an artist. Well parents, look at me now! It took me a long time to become and artist, because I didn’t believe in myself when I was younger and I tried to get a “normal” job instead. Because of that, I have studied youth leading and I still use my knowledge about that in my comics.
Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in our work that you’d be willing to reveal?
Well normally I just write my name in there. My name is Hanna-Pirita and the name is very uncommon and there used to be only one Hanna-Pirita in whole Finland. Recently I found out that someone changed their name to Hanna-Pirita! I’m happy someone thought it’s such a beautiful name that they wanted to be Hanna-Pirita too!
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Draw every day. Some people say you need to draw fast sketches and some people say you need to spend many hours in one piece. I think it’s more important to do as many different techniques as possible. If you train just one aspect of art, you’ll end up knowing how to make one thing, but when you have to do something else, you will struggle a lot. That’s why it’s important to do as many things as you can and do them every day.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
Just plain asexual, nothing more than that. But, I’m definitely not aromantic. I think I’m polyromantic, even though I tend to like feminine people the most.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
Most of the ignorance I’ve encountered is because I’m a feminist and I get a lot of hate because of that. I have even gotten rape and death threats just because I am a feminist and I have made feminist comics journalism. Even though I’m openly asexual, people who aren’t my friends don’t really know about it, so mainly everyone’s been really nice to me. Seems that I happen to have amazing friends!
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
That my partner must be really unhappy and suffering a lot because there’s no sex. My partner tends to say that sex is not a human right. It’s a privilege and he can live without it.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
I have seen that many people think they’re not really asexual, that they’re just broken or something, because they don’t fit the asexual stereotype. For example, this one person I met was really worried about themselves because they masturbated but they didn’t want sex with another person. We talked and I told them I know many asexuals who masturbate and it doesn’t make them any less asexual. It’s a spectrum, like everything else in sexuality. It helped that person a lot.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
I have a comic blog that has most of the stuff in there translated in English too and the comics are also readable with a screen reader: http://hannapirita.sarjakuvablogit.com/
I also have a Tumblr sketch blog: http://hannapirita.tumblr.com/
And I belong to a comics group called Team Pärvelö and our website is here: http://www.teamparvelo.com/etusivu-en
Thank you, Hanna-Pirita, for participating in this interview and project. It’s very much appreciated.