Today we’re joined by R.A. Faller. R.A. is a remarkably talented artist who recently graduated from the Columbus College of Arts & Design. Their focus is on creature and animal art (the animal lover in me just absolutely perked up when I read that). They keep a side blog where they draw dinosaurs based around pride flags for marginalized sexual and gender identities weekly. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I am a freelance concept artist who specializes in creature and character design. My main focus is on creating imaginary animals that are (relatively) scientifically/anatomically accurate and that could potentially function in the real world. I love birds, reptiles and dinosaurs, and I tend to take a lot of influence from them in the creatures I draw.
What inspires you?
Mainly nature, animals and science. I’m obsessed with doing research and examining the world and the living things around us, and I think the majority of my work stems from that thought process – of simply asking what else could exist in our world. Naturally, zoology and paleontology are central to what I do, but I also get a lot of inspiration from fictional stories, fantasy and mythology. I also like to look back on things that I enjoyed during my childhood – like Pokemon, Disney and Don Bluth cartoons, monster-suit Godzilla movies and of course dinosaurs.
I’m also incredibly inspired by the reactions people have to my work, as I love positivity and making people happy with what I do. And of course I’m always motivated by seeing the work of the artists I look up to and aspire to be like.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, although it took me a while to realize that my main calling was in visual art. For a long time, I wanted to be a writer; it wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I realized the characters and stories I wanted to convey would come across clearer through pictures, not words. I think the creature design aspect of my work comes from a lifelong love of animals and nature, and a childhood of doodling monsters and dinosaurs on every available surface material.
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?
My signature is typically just my name, which isn’t very exciting. I guess the most consistent feature in my work is that usually I like to paint digitally over scanned in watercolor or canvas textures. I also like to draw my lineart traditionally as well. I feel like traditional lineart (and, well, traditional media in general) is dying out in my field (which worries me), but there’s just something about the tactile feeling of leaving marks on paper that I can’t let go of yet.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Never stop drawing, never stop practicing. And never stop researching other artists, other techniques, or other art styles. Don’t worry too much about developing a consistent style (it will come in time), but try to find a balance between working in a style that you’re comfortable with and experimenting with different things. Versatility is important, and experimentation will help make your work unique.
Also, never be afraid of reaching out to artists that you admire. I know that I’m always really intimidated by contacting other artists, but I’ve gotten some of the best advice of my artistic career by doing so.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
Sex-repulsed, aromantic asexual
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
I only finished with school very recently, so I can’t say that I’ve been active enough in my field to really encounter any prejudice or discrimination. That being said, I have encountered a fair share of ignorance and disbelief in my personal and academic life when it comes to the subject of asexuality. It just feels like something non-asexual people don’t want to hear about – it’s always the same reaction of blank stares, visible discomfort, a quick change in subject matter, or worse, the classic “How do you know” or “How can you live without wanting sex?” Even my closest friends, the people I actually consider myself “out” to, have the same reaction – it’s like they just don’t want to connect the concept of asexuality with their personal concept of myself as a person.
I’m extremely sensitive to stuff like that, so I feel like on top of the outside prejudice I have a lot of internal strife related to my identity as asexual. Before I discovered that asexuality was a legitimate orientation, I spent a large portion of my high school years thinking that I was some kind of abnormal freak, in not feeling any form of sexual attraction or desire. I would be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes feel the same way today. Half the time it’s as though I feel intensely proud of the fact that I’m asexual, while the rest of the time I feel deeply ashamed of it. It’s very confusing.
Lately I’ve just been trying to ignore the shame and be more open about who I am, both in terms of my sexual orientation and my gender identity. I know I have a lot of internal bias to overcome, and I know I’m probably going to encounter even more prejudice and ignorance in the outside world, but I figure that life is too short to not do what I want to do, and to not represent myself in a way I want to be represented. So I guess the bottom line is, I haven’t been handling the acephobia very well, but at least I’ve started trying.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
The usual – that it’s a choice, that it’s the same thing as celibacy, that it isn’t a valid orientation. Or that I’m somehow suffering or missing out, because I don’t feel the need to have sex. And of course, that it’s not something worth being proud of.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
Remember that you are the only person who can choose to define or label your identity, and that it’s perfectly natural to be confused, or for your identity to feel like it’s changing. Also, never let yourself be pressured into coming out if you don’t feel comfortable doing so just yet – coming out as any non-heteronormative orientation is a huge and terrifying process, and there is absolutely no shame in staying in the closet until you’re ready to come out.
It can feel incredibly isolating being the only asexual person in a group of people, but also remember that there are so many resources and communities available online that you can contact whenever you’re feeling that kind of alienation. Sometimes that simple realization that there actually are other people like me out there is enough for me to remember that I’m not abnormal and I’m not alone. Never hesitate to contact people on places like the AVEN forum or on ace-friendly blogs on Tumblr if you feel like you need advice or reassurance.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
My main website is www.rafallerart.com, and you can also find me on Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook under the username rafallerart. I also have a side blog (http://pridedinosaurs.tumblr.com/) where I draw weekly dinosaurs based on the pride flags for different marginalized sexual and gender identities.
Thank you so much, R.A., for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.