Today we’re joined by Amber Engelmann. Amber is a very talented and versatile artist. She’s both a visual artist and a writer. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
In both my writing and my art, I focus on people. I love looking at people and dissecting how they think and breaking it down in my writing, forcing me to experience it along with them. In my art I love to simplify what I see into lines and expressions in my art in ways that don’t need words.
What inspires you?
Stories. I’ve always loved stories of every medium, be it from television or books or video games, I love to see what they have to say and let them inspire me to consider things I wouldn’t have otherwise thought about.
Though the last several years I’ve been paying more and more attention to the more personal stories – the ones of people’s personal lives and experiences that don’t traditionally get attention. I listen to what I hear and digest the information slowly, and I like to think that it shows up in my work as well.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
Ultimately I think my purpose is to fill the world with my stories, but I didn’t even consider the possibility of being a writer until sixth grade when my mother suggested it. I always thought I’d be like my mom and be an artist, but as time goes on stories have become more important than my art, though my art will always be an important part of my life.
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?
In my art, I don’t have a particular signature besides my name. However, I’m sure my writing will be very notable for having a non-Christian spiritual edge and an overwhelming majority of queer characters of various genders and sexualities. I couldn’t get away from them if I tried.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Do what you love, and hold onto it. There’s a lot of pressure to be like someone else or pleasing other people, but ultimately the only person whose job it is to make you happy is you. It’s incredibly powerful to know what you love, and actually follow through with doing it.
Also, don’t compare your work to anyone else’s. It’s just bad for your self-esteem.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
For a long time, I didn’t consider myself ace. I still find myself having to remind myself that demisexuality is on the asexuality spectrum, because no one really talks about it save for an occasional post on Tumblr. For me, demisexuality is this really weird space-between-spaces where I don’t quite fit into the sexual community and where I don’t really fit into the asexual community either. I never felt quite bothered by this, but I do feel like in a conversation where we’re trying to raise awareness, we need to be aware of the people who are in between, such as those who identify as demisexual or gray-A (or pan/bi or any non-binary individuals).
Let’s imagine people complexly and remember that there are those who don’t fit into the blacks and whites – especially when it comes to sexuality.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
I’m exceptionally good at avoiding drama, it seems. Though it helps that I haven’t been published yet, so there’s not much ‘industry’ for me to interact with yet. The people who come to me with asexuality-related questions on Tumblr are usually very respectful, and at least vaguely informed before contacting me. I consider myself lucky to have such well-informed followers.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
The biggest misconception that I’ve seen is that asexuality is just a phase – that the person will grow out of it, and they just don’t want to deal with the complications of sex yet. While it might be possible that some people will decide to change their mind later, this argument reeks of I-know-you-better-than-you-know-you and that is just not the case. It’s condescending, and disregards that the asexual individual probably has thought very, very hard about who they are and what they’re feeling, and completely invalidates their feelings. Every person is the expert on themselves, and we need to trust each other to know what is personally true for ourselves or not. Especially if the issue is as harmless as a label.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
Ultimately, a label is just a word. It’s okay to experiment with different words until you find one that fits. There are a LOT of labels out there defining all sorts of different attractions, and sometimes you won’t even have to look for them – one will just pop up and you can go ‘Oh, so THAT’S what that was all this time.’
Don’t worry about having everything figured out – sexualities are fluid and something that fit before might not fit later. I’ve identified as heterosexual, bisexual, a panromantic lesbian, and a quoiromantic demisexual with bias for ladies. And it’s still subject to change, based on how I’m feeling at the time, because sometimes I’m feeling one side of my identity than others – and that’s normal.
Long story short: Labels aren’t something that should stress you out, it should be something to play with and learn from. Don’t let other people police who you are or aren’t. You know who you are better than anyone else, so identify in whatever way makes you feel the most comfortable at the time. You can always change your mind later.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
I have a website, but it’s very old at the moment. One of my goals this year is to update my website with current information. For now, you can follow my personal blog (http://unprofessionalamber.tumblr.com/) or my art and story blog (http://amberskyewritesanddraws.tumblr.com/) for updates about my work. I’m also open for commissions! There is a link on my art and story blog.
If you’re interested in the book I’m in the process of writing, you might want to follow the official blog for the book (http://theplacewethriveseries.tumblr.com/). It doesn’t have much content right now, but that will be the first place I’ll put new information.
Thank you so much, Amber, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.