Today we’re joined by Phin. Phin is an amazingly talented and incredibly passionate artist. They’re currently working on a series of paintings meant to bring awareness to the prejudices against the LGBTQIA+ community. The images they sent along with their interview are nothing short of beautiful. This is an artist to watch because they’ve got a really bright future. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
My art is hard to describe, as I seem to have various styles that interact with each other interchangeably. My favorite mediums are intaglio printmaking and watercolors or gouache. My prints are generally black and white linear images that are incredibly detail oriented and more realist/surrealist in nature. The natural world influences my prints a lot and I’ve done prints of insects, birds, and a series with flowers growing out of people Flora and fauna are recurring themes. My paintings are a lot more expressionist and in some I’ve broken a few rules by using oils and watercolors together. I’m currently painting a series of art meant to bring awareness to prejudices against the lgbtqia+ community, and I’m also working on a completely different project to illustrate an educational biology based animal story. My personal art is my life, and I love art so much I can’t even say. I don’t like to define myself by anything, because as people we are ever changing, but art will always be an integral part of my being.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by anything and everything, and since my art is very personal a lot of it is inspired by my experiences. I have two majors, one in animal behavior and the other in studio art, and my areas of studies sometimes do blend together. Many of my prints feature aspects of nature, and lately flora has become much more of a motif in my works than ever before. After doing a series of three portraits of friends and family with flowers growing out of them, I spent a good half of a semester working on an illustration of ‘Ophelia regarding Gertrude’ based off of the infamous and flowery Hamlet scene, so flowers have popped up in nearly everything I work on since then. I was recently inspired by a personal experience of realizing someone I was very close to was very homophobic. Her homophobia has lead to a series of paintings of beautiful lgbtqia+ couples and individuals. She didn’t seem to believe that her homophobia was bad since she didn’t have the power to ‘stop the gays’ or anything, yet she was telling me, a queer individual, that a part of myself I find so wonderful was a sinful choice in her eyes. I’ve found a lot of people have the mindset of there being ‘no harm’ in ‘casual homophobia’, such as bigoted Facebook posts and prejudice religious beliefs. In response I’ve created a series of images I call the Untitled Project. Each painting depicts the beauty of a queer couple or individual to show the glorious population of the lgbtqia+ society, and each painting is titled with the name of a homophobic, biphobic, acephobic, transphobic, ect. individual to show the fights our community is up against every day with the average people we interact with. The colors used in the paintings have varied from colors I just like to palettes based off of the trans flag, the pan flag, the bi flag, etc. I hope to one day run out of names to use as titles, and will continue the project indefinitely. There are currently 8 paintings in it.
I’m also inspired by random occurrences in nature. I ended up keeping a dead bird I found for a while so I could paint and photograph it. His name was Squock-Tadashi and after 3 paintings, a print, and a photo I finally buried him in my yard. I really hope to get his skeleton one day, it would be amazing reference material.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
My elementary school art teacher is the reason I love art. As I was bullied back then, I used to hide in the art room during recess to draw, and she never made me leave. She was such a creative individual and allowed us to use art in our own ways and often repeated the phrase “Artists never make mistakes”. I was a perfectionist who would become teary and upset if anything got messed up in my artwork, and those words meant a lot to me but it took me years to understand them. At first I thought that maybe it meant that the bad drawings and the eraser smudges are still somehow art, but now I think it’s more about how we can learn from our mistakes as artists. It’s not a mistake if you learn from it. Many of my paintings are painted over again and again and instead of mourning the art that I paint over I acknowledge that I learned from it, but no matter how good bits of it looked it wasn’t right and I can move on. I think I’ve wanted to be an artist ever since I was Ms. Krog’s student in 1st grade. Maybe even before that, but Ms. Krog allowed me to believe it was possible, and art was and has always remained a safe place for me.
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 always hide the initials LA in my artwork, LA being the initials of my birth name. Even though now I mainly go by Phin, I still sign with an LA because it’s what I like. As a singer I was happy that my first and last name initials spelled out a commonly sung vowel, and I never wanted a signature longer than one or two letters. I don’t like huge signatures because I feel like it takes away from my work, especially my detail oriented prints, so sometimes I even hide the initials. The L and the A in my Ophelia print look like little flower petals falling in the water. There’s another print of mine where I hide my initials in the image of a bee. In my paintings, I don’t always try to hide the signature.
As for flowers, which are a huge motif in my work (especially flowers growing out of people) I started that after having the image of an arm with a plant growing out of it in my head for weeks. I painted it on my dorm wall, where I kept a large canvas sheet, and shortly after that started doing my print series of flowers growing out of whole bodies, not just arms. Though the inspiration behind the flowers is simply the imagery I found stuck in my head, sometimes I think its my own way of laughing at the first time I heard the word Asexual, when someone said “(Phin) is asexual and will only ever reproduce by budding”. It wasn’t until 4 or 5 years later I heard the word asexual again and learned what it actually meant in terms of sexuality. I don’t plan to ever reproduce, but it would be pretty cool to have plants budding, like floral tattoos come to life. It would also be rather threatening if someone said something ignorant and one could just choke out the acephobia with vines, or perhaps some poison oak. In a self-portrait I made that focuses on my sexuality, I’m covered in flowers and also decorated with a unicorn horn in the center of my forehead.
Unicorns and unicorn horns are also sometimes featured in my artwork, which is my attempt at reclaiming the symbol of the unicorn for asexuality. In historical artworks dating back to medieval tapestries, unicorns were symbols of virginity and the misogynistic concept of purity. Historically, pictures of young maidens with unicorns were usually images of their “virtue” or, in other words, virginity. I figure we might as well reclaim that symbol as something less misogynistic and sex shaming and more ace, an icon to show that sex really isn’t necessary for everyone, and sexual attraction isn’t experienced by all. Us aces can accept and love our unicorns. I also always loved unicorns, and when I was little I aspired to be one. I suppose I may have accomplished that.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Don’t forget that there are no mistakes in art.
If you’ve drawn something once, you can draw it again, so don’t be afraid to mess it up or sell it or whatever.
Let your art be personal, it’s for you. Don’t worry about certain people not liking it. And don’t forget that you can only improve, so just don’t stop practicing.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I’m a panromantic asexual. I’m also gender queer.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
I’ve encountered quite a bit of it, especially in the animal behavior field, as scientists sometimes mix up sex, gender, and all that jazz. I’ve had one fellow science friend tell me the scientific definition of asexual (unable to reproduce by meiosis) when I tried to come out to them. I asked them to stop trying to reassure me that I was straight, because not only am I not a hetero, I don’t wish I was a hetero, and it really does annoy me when I’m trying to come out to someone and they think they need to save me by telling me I can still be a straight. I am very happily not straight. As for with my fellow artists, there’s Laura, who’s hatred inspired the Untitled Project. It always surprises me how conservative some artists can be. I handled it by naming a painting of kissing lesbians after her, and its turned into a series with 8 works so far. With cases of ignorance, I try to educate. With cases of peer prejudice, I’m careful to surround myself with open-minded individuals. My friendship with Laura taught me I could never be too careful.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
That it’s repression or celibacy instead of a sexuality, or that its not ‘queer enough’, both of which are absolutely ridiculous. It’s not straight, and it may not be homosexual, but its still queer. It shouldn’t be such an invisible sexuality, that’s quite a shame. I wish I’d learned the true definition of asexual earlier. (Not the meiosis one, the actual sexuality one).
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
Don’t listen to people who tell you labels like sexuality don’t matter. The labels you identify as do matter, and you’re not alone. Don’t be afraid that its “not lgbtqia+” enough, that’s what the a is there for. You’re the a. Also, try not to worry about being the only one. You’d be surprised at how many of us there are, and its wonderful to be ace. In this society it is hard and frustrating and scary, but my asexuality is an awesome thing, and I love who I am, and you should too. Also, don’t be afraid to identify as ace because you think it might change or you might be one the edge of the spectrum. No one will judge you as you figure yourself out, and a great community will be there for you.
I also recently found out about this thing where aces wear black rings on their middle finger of their right hands. It sounds odd but getting a little token to wear as pride has been great. I got a black ring right after I found out and I’ve had a black ring on ever since, and it makes me super happy about who I am.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
My actual art website is laartsite.wix.com/color but I’ve had some trouble with it and it sorely needs to be updated.
I have some tumblr blogs, one of which, http://untitled-art-project.tumblr.com, is dedicated to my paintings against lgbtqia+ hate and also sorely needs to be updated.
My instagram is phinn23 and that’s usually either art or pictures of animals. Or selfies, I do post a lot of selfies.
My twitter is checkmeowt23, which my sister made for me but I’ve never used it. I hope to start up with that.
Thank you, Phin, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.