Interview: Letty Wilson

Today we’re joined by Letty Wilson.  Letty is an amazingly talented artist from Scotland.  She’s a semi-professional comics artist, writer, and illustrator and wow, her work is incredibly eye-catching.  Browsing through her portfolio, one can’t help but be impressed with her creativity and talent.  My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

Well I always seem to have a bunch of projects going on at any one time, but at the minute I’ve just finished the first issue of Meteor, which has been my baby for the past year! It’s a big, melodramatic superhero comic with swearing and violence and laser-robots and I’m so excited and so nervous about how it’ll be received, partly because it’s the first really big project that’s been just me (writing, drawing, slaving for hours over copy-editing), and partly because it’s also going to be my first go at making something with an openly asexual protagonist. I also just finished the second issue of Cosmic, which is written by the awesome Erin Keepers. That’s a sci-fi adventure about a girl who is part alien, part human, created when an alien creature crash-landed on earth, and how she tries to find her way in the world and figure out who she is. There are also a few other collaborative projects I’m working on, most of them with Panels, the comics team I’m lucky enough to be a part of. We met whilst studying comics at Dundee University and have sort of grown from there. It’s so fantastic to have a close group of other creative people to work with, even if I complain about being overworked a lot!

What inspires you?

I’ve always been really interested in science – particularly zoology and botany, so a lot of inspiration comes from stuff like new scientist articles and zoological art – though I love fantasy and surreal elements, I often try and draw that from the weird and amazing things that are really happening in the world. That said I’ve been in love with the escapism provided by fantasy and magical realism since I as a kid. At the moment I’m reading China Mieville’s Perdido Street station and Ali Smith’s How to be Both, and for comics, Nonplayer by Nate Simpson and Noelle Stevenson’s Runaways, watching/ listening to Bojack Horseman, Steven Universe and Welcome to Nightvale, and replaying Dragon Age 2. I guess I have a pretty short attention span!

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What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I think it was always one of the options. As a kid it was always 50/50 between being a writer and being a scientist of some kind – I actually put off making the decision for so long that it was made for me – I applied for both zoology and English courses at university, but got a scholarship to do English and creative writing, and that settled it. I never really had any training as an artist but I’ve always loved drawing – for most of my teenage years I had pretty bad anxiety problems and drawing was a release and a diversion – I still doodle compulsively. I never really thought of comics until I was in University, and I was writing all these stories and kept finding they had all these visuals that I wasn’t really getting across in prose – I would reel off pages of description, it was ridiculous, no word count could contain me – but when I started trying out comics everything felt like it worked much better, I could tell the stories I wanted to in a way that did them justice. I started a webcomic (it was called patchwork people, and it’s terrible), and it snowballed from there. After I graduated I flailed around aimlessly for a year until I stumbled on the idea of doing a masters, and found out that Dundee University does an MLitt in Comics Studies. I managed (with some very generous help from my family) to scrape the cash together for the course, and within about a week of starting I knew I could do this exact thing for the rest of my life. It helped a lot that everyone on the course was a fantastic person and they remain among my closest friends.

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?

Not really. When I just started comics I had various little creatures that I’d sneak into the panels – six-legged wormy salamander things and little yellow people with rotating heads, that kind of thing, but after a while it becomes a gimmick, and I got tired if it – also as I’m not doing a regular webcomic there’s not so much space for it. I do sneak in things that make me laugh when I can. I like putting secret monsters in complex panels, or posters with weird stuff written on in the background, or giving objects faces. Comics has a lot of room for things like that, because you have focus on certain elements of the art and often you can do what you like with the bits around the edges, either to make them beautiful, or meaningful, or, if you are bored and juvenile like me, to hide dick jokes in the margins

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Art doesn’t have to be Art with a capital A. It doesn’t have to be a career or a calling or even a talent. I think there’s a lot of pressure on kids, especially when they get to their teens, to make everything they do aim towards a future. But art, any kind of art, doesn’t need to lead anywhere, it has value just in the fact you are doing it, even if nobody sees, even if you never make a penny off it, even if you only do it when you’re sad or bored or to amuse your friends, even if you are absolutely terrible and you know it. Just the fact that you’re making something is valuable and you shouldn’t let anyone tell you otherwise

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m aromantic and asexual!

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

With the people I work with creatively, it’s been great actually, I’m lucky enough to have a close group of friends, many of whom are also queer in some respect or other, and who are all amazingly supportive. But outside of my creative work, I’ve run into some disheartening stuff. I’ve yet to have a day job where I’d feel comfortable coming out – you raise the topic to test the waters and people are often instantly dismissive, treating asexuality as something weird and creepy, or patronising, assuming that it’s a sign of abuse or denial or just something fat ugly people say to cover up the fact nobody wants to sleep with them. One of the things I used to find really hard to handle was the isolation. People assume you’re straight and talk about boys and stuff, and you find yourself a complete outsider to these conversations, nothing to contribute. When I first started to realise I was ace I was also realising I had pretty bad social anxiety problems, and the two were definitely connected. Finding a group of friends who knew me well and who I could really connect with was a lifeline – it makes it so much easier to deal with the ignorance and patronizing acephobia from other people if you have people you can go home to and laugh with about it all.

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What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

I have to spend a lot of time explaining how love and sex and romance are all different things, and how not wanting romance doesn’t mean I’m incapable of love, and how not having a sex drive isn’t the same as not experiencing sexual attraction. For such a simple concept it can take a lot of time to unravel people’s assumptions, and I’m afraid I don’t always have the patience to do a good job of explaining.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Take your time. Figure things out on your terms – these are difficult things to be sure about – you’re trying to quantify an absence, by its nature it can be difficult. But if you give it time, you will figure it out, and if you’re really uncertain the internet is a fantastic resource – we may be invisible in real life but online there are loads of us, and many will be happy to talk about our experiences and offer advice! But most of all know that you are awesome and brave for just being who you are, whether you’re out or closeted or still finding out how you feel.

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Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

My tumblr has general doodles and updates of whatever I’m working on: lettydraws.tumblr.com

My portfolio is where I put excerpts of comics projects as well as the nicer illustration and commission pieces: lettydraws.behance.com

And panels has a website with all our group projects and con-appearances and stuff: panelspublishing.com

Oh and I’m on twitter: @patchworkperson

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Thank you, Letty, for participating in this interview and this project.  It’s very much appreciated.

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