Today we’re joined by Jack Fallows. Jack is an amazingly talented visual artist. They were inspired by comics and it shows in their technique. Their pictures are quite unique and interesting to study. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
When I was a kid I used to draw really detailed pictures of aliens fighting monsters with super hi-tech weapons and equipment. There were blood and guts everywhere, and somewhere in the background I’d draw the thing that was really bothering me – someone or something at school, usually. Or I’d draw a comic about a kid who had the ability to turn invisible, or to control things with their mind. My art has pretty much just been that mixture of catharsis, revenge fantasy and faint aspiration towards something better over and over again in all kinds of different iterations. But I think I’ve made progress in so far as what I want to say feels like it has a little more foreground in the things I make now, and I’m not quite as petty, and the aspirations aren’t always unrealistic and have helped open some really useful real-world conversations with people. It’s a really amazing coping mechanism that I think everyone has and should look into. The end results are often besides the point after a while.
What inspires you?
Meeting other artists who are interested in art as a fundamentally human thing. Artists who know art is most needed in exactly the places it’s often made unavailable. Artists who have enough perspective to see that their development in their field and the voice they have been able to shape with autonomy and passion is, in fact, a massive privilege. Artists who know that to be professional still just means to serve a slightly different function in a capitalist society ruled by the same rich, white people that rule everything. Artists who are inviting conversation and community and inclusion in their work, not making rehashed statement pieces, or working towards commercial success or pontificating blindly from a tower too high for anyone to hear aside from those who share their platform. Artists who see no point in a circle of people sitting in a room together, passing a message from ear to ear. I’ve had the incredible fortune of meeting many such artists, especially in the last couple of years. They’ve taught me a lot and I’m really grateful to them for being such total babes. These people and other friends inspire me to be a better person, and making more art is how I go about it.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
Reading the Beano and Spiderman got me into comics from the point I could read onwards, and I always made comics alongside reading them. That’s one habit I’ve never broken, I’m proud to say. Listening to REM as a kid made me want to sing and write music. I had my first hit as a 10 year old when I sang and did a dance routine to a song I wrote about myself in the school yard for a few days until everyone got bored of watching. That sense of rejection is probably what spearheaded my increasingly narcissistic musical career. And writing has always been part-and-parcel of making up stories, which is how I would do it at school when I couldn’t draw comics. ‘Have you always wanted to be an artist?’ is an interestingly complicated question. I’m not sure exactly what ‘being an artist’ really means but when it comes to making art, the only sense of longing I tend to have is one to cure myself in some way. Entertaining the idea of being a full-time freelancer is always on and off and I’ve done a little of that too. But that’s a money and time issue and has nothing to do with the art itself (aside from the disconnect between what you want to say and what you’re being paid to say). I can say I’ve always had an intense relationship with art, for whatever that’s worth. Even when I haven’t been as active myself, I’ll still be questing for it. And even when I’m bored with everything, my own work and others’, it’s such an intense boredom I end up having an existential crisis and questioning the meaning of my life. The need for art may have been left undiscovered if not for my privilege (my Dad having enough to buy me new comics on the weekend, my parents and school generally being supportive enough of my art to help me improve etc.) and I’d probably have fallen through the cracks in the same way many members of the community I grew up in did, had I not been so privileged. Art literally saved my life and continues to, regularly. That’s what keeps me interested in my field.
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?
I draw myself a lot but that’s a fairly easy one to spot. Mostly I try to be as upfront as possible these days but I did do this whole comic series called The Big Bang (nothing to do with that piece of shit show that laugh-tracked an acephobic joke (and before it reached us in the UK)) which was very much about hiding things in the background and being subtle enough with the art so that people would be forced to go back and double check stuff. But it all felt really phony after a while. I put out three issues and had the script ready to go for the fourth and final part before I threw the towel in on it. I like to draw in symbols used by political movements I support as background detail in my comics sometimes but it’s not typically integral to the story, just aesthetic afterthought.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
You’re in a unique position to start challenging the bullshit you’ll be taught about art in school while it’s happening to you, and to grow stronger in its adversity; seize that. Make exactly what you need to make in order to connect with those you feel estranged from, or those you want to call in or those you want to support, celebrate or protect. Ignore everything and everyone else forever. Your art is your own, it deserves to take up space like everyone else’s. Grades are meaningless, many people’s perspectives will also be meaningless to you.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I’m panromantic demisexual. My attraction to others rarely has anything to do with gender but certain learned, gendered behaviours do feel threatening and uncomfortable for me. The attraction is always firstly an interest in a person, minus the hypothetical prospect of sex, and most often that’s where it remains. Where I have felt sexually attracted to others, it has been an extension of an already existing intimacy with them. One night stands or we-ought-to-because-it’s-the-third-date type sexual narratives have left me feeling very alienated and empty in the past. Beginning to throw away the performative elements of my life has given me perspective and helped me listen to what I really want, which is different for everyone. Should note here that I totally support (and include in ‘everyone’) people having as many one-night stands or following as many socio-sexual codes as they like, so long as it’s consensual. Having labels like these just helps me feel grounded when being true to myself becomes an isolating experience. It’s a nice reminder you have a community scattered around out there.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
I’ve mostly just encountered flippancy or the kind of no-questions-asked acceptance that someone who wants to appear accepting of everyone always gives, while simultaneously waving away your problems like you won’t find any with them. Which hardly sound like problems at all but when you’re trying to open a dialogue with people, it can feel really frustrating. The best reactions I’ve had are the ones where people have asked really blunt and problematically phrased questions because at least there’s somewhere to go from there. That’s a person who has put themself in a position to learn and grow, whatever their intention might have been when they started reacting to my work. I also entirely acknowledge my failing as an artist to stimulate these questions (probably 90% of the problem). But there are always going to be people too far gone down the rabbit hole of heteronormative propaganda to have meaningful conversations with. We just have to hope some other learning opportunity forces its way into their life and steers them back towards the light. When you’re that buried and polarised, you’re not ready to digest anything new, you’re just ready to fight. I’m learning to recognise that in the different audiences to which I’ve brought my work, and separating out the places where there’s fuel for my practice and the ones that would just extinguish the flame a little bit.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
Definitely the whole trauma / haven’t-met-the-right-person-yet narrative; it’s like a disease with certain people that they always know your life better than you. I’m not saying I don’t give people cause to think I’m delusional but when it comes to matters of the self, there is literally no one in a position to decide what you are except you. I even put out a zine on abuse, asexuality and agender identity so I could draw the links between them and show they are not in a cause-and-effect reactionary relationship to one another. Any of the hate and disrespect that faces queer folks is so frustratingly transparent. When someone says anything that could fall under the category of ‘coming out’, we need to see it as the act of compassion that it is. People just can’t see you’re reaching out to them, trying to share an intimate part of yourself with them, a part you want to nurse into full health while the world batters it to bits. Whether it’s in the form of art or music or a conversation over coffee. If you just listen and ask questions, you’ll discover new and amazing dimensions to the people around you; there’s no cause to be scared or angry about that, no matter how much you’ve been socialised to think so. Honest!
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
Remember labels are just new language. While we grow up as a species and learn new things about each other and ourselves, we feel the need to create words so we can communicate more effectively and build communities and systems of support to help us with things that make us feel alone. Whether or not you’ve found a word you think describes you is kind of irrelevant – there will be people out there who feel like you, and you’ll find them in the most diverse set of places. A word will pop up eventually, but meanwhile the world gets to know you in 3D and that’s really cool. It would be great if the others who share your orientation were all just like you, and into all the same things you are, and hung out where you like to hang out, or worked where you work or went to your school. But more likely they’ll just be people who you have as much chance of getting along with as a random stranger you brush past when you step off the train. You don’t have to be around other ace-spectrum folks to feel safe and loved, feeling like that starts with loving and accepting the things that have made you feel different up until now, and celebrating them. If you find a word you can add to a bio or use as a conversation starter along the way then that’s obviously great but it’s far from essential. You’re great, you’re irreplaceable and the way you appreciate the people around you is just as valuable as anyone else’s. If you meet someone who disagrees they just aren’t paying attention.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
I have a Tumblr: http://jackfallows.tumblr.com, which has links to my art, music and ace awareness stuff. My friend CJ puts out my print work at Black Lodge Press http://blacklodgepress.etsy.com – or if you’re into swaps, send me an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or come find me at a comic con or a show in the UK and we’ll hang out! ❤
Thank you so much, Jack, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.