Today we’re joined by Brie Clemens. Brie is a phenomenal and unique artist. She specializes in customizing Converse sneakers (all of which are absolutely gorgeous). Brie is also a painter who paints murals and enjoys cosplaying whenever she can. She draws inspiration from a number of places and she’s a fellow Lloyd Alexander fan! Brie is an incredibly passionate artist and it really shows in her work. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
For the past few years I’ve been customizing Converse for people who want to really show off their geekiness. Everyone likes having something that’s just them so I really strive to make sure no two pairs are alike. I’ve done everything from comics to anime to sports and I love every minute of it.
In addition to the shoes I’ve done a couple of children’s room murals. Those were super rewarding. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a kid get excited about something I’ve made because kids are so honest with their emotions. They’re not going to pretend to like it to spare your feelings. I painted a Lego superhero wall for this 8 year old . . . sweet kid. I thought it’d be funny to have a Deadpool figure “helping” me paint, really take advantage of the whole breaking the fourth wall gimmick. I figured it’d be a bit subtle for the kid, but it made me laugh. Funny thing was, it was the first thing he noticed. Kids don’t get enough credit.
I’m also a huge convention nerd: I love going and dressing up. I wish I had the budget to really go all out but I’ve become pretty decent at modifying thrift store finds to work for me. I’ve made some pretty neat costumes that way. I save up for Dragon*Con every year and it’s always worth it to get appreciation for my Moaning Myrtle or my Fruity Oaty Bars spokesgirl . . . I hope to recreate my Barbara (Beetlejuice) costume from Halloween a few years ago out of more sturdy materials once I learn how to work with them.
What inspires you?
I’m a born and bred fantasy nerd. Harry Potter, Prydain Chronicles, Dark is Rising, His Dark Materials, Redwall, Pern . . . you name it I’ve probably read it, purchased it, and read it a few more times. I’m also pretty lucky when it comes to artistic influence. My stepdad, henceforth known as Moony, is an amazing artist (you can see his stuff at jerrymoon.net) who paints really beautifully. He’s actually teaching me to work with oil paints in his (practically nonexistent) spare time. One of his friends is a major artist for DC comics and aside from being majorly talented and always willing to give advice he’s also one of the nicest people you could ever meet. (Freddie Williams II. His current work is the TMNT/Batman crossover, but I’m particularly fond of Robin and The Movement)
I also live in Kansas City . . . which is great because Hallmark (whose creative offices are stationed in downtown KC, which is actually where Moony works) donates a lot of money to keep the museums free to the public. I can go and see all of my favorite artists whenever I like. I’m constantly inspired by the likes of Vincent Van Gogh, Wayne Thiebaud, John Singer Sargent and Thomas Hart Benton to name a few.
On a less globally-recognized scale, I’m constantly blown away by the talent of fan artists on Tumblr and Deviant Art. The love and effort that goes into their fan art blows me away. Off the top of my head I’d cite feriowind’s adorable Pacific Rim art as an example of the kind of thing that blows me away.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
No, actually. I’ve always been a big doodler. My high school and college notebooks are more illustration than notes to be totally honest. Kept my hands busy. I was always more interested in acting and writing in school. What got me started was actually a gift from Moony back when he first started dating my mom. He made me these really fantastic Converse for my 17th birthday, covered in quotes and doodles all relevant to my interests. Quotes from my favorite books, TV shows and musicals, that sort of thing. I loved them. Wore them every day. So, when the guy I was dating a few years later wanted a pair, I decided to try my hand at it. I posted the pictures on Facebook and suddenly I was getting requests from coworkers to make shoes for their kids. I ended up making an Etsy store. It’s not super successful but I’ve really grown to love it.
Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?
I’m still kinda working on a personal style. I don’t think that’s something you ever stop doing. But one of the things I really enjoy is working with glow-in-the-dark paint to create transforming effects. It’s almost invisible in the light so you can make create hidden secrets in your paintings. I’m particularly fond of these Walking Dead shoes I did where in the light Rick Grimes is human, but in the dark he becomes a zombie. It’s like an Easter egg in the artwork.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
I spent a lot of time minimizing my talent. “Oh, I’m not an artist. These people: they’re artists. I’m just goofing around.” I felt like, because I hadn’t dedicated all of my life and time to art I wasn’t really worthy of the title. And that’s dumb. It minimizes the effort I make and it’s insulting to the people trying to complement me. Don’t be arrogant or anything, but take pride in what you do. It’s OK to be proud of your work. You don’t have to do art full time to call yourself an artist and you don’t need to be your best right away: you just need to love what you’re doing and keep trying to improve. It’s part of why I’m doing this interview: an effort to really put myself out there and treat myself like an artist.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I’m still kind of figuring out which label works best for me. I’ve identified as demisexual biromantic for a while now but I really think sex-positive asexual is more accurate. I don’t experience any sexual attraction, but I enjoy sex as an act of intimacy with a partner I’m close to romantically.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
I haven’t really had trouble in my field, necessarily. It doesn’t really come up all that often . . . especially since a lot of my work is with kids: sexuality of any kind doesn’t really factor in. At my waitressing day job, however. Yikes. I think because I’m in a relationship with a boy a lot of people tend to assume I’m straight. I work with a fairly conservative group and they’ll run their mouths off with homophobic/transphobic/etc. B.S. or make these really sexual comments and I either tell them off or ignore them, depending on how poisonous the statements are.
The hardest part is when customers aggressively flirt with me. I’m really not comfortable with being touched or with overly flirtatious comments and you’d be surprised how often people are comfortable with harassing their waitress. Mostly you learn to read body language and keep a hot pot of coffee between you and the customer.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
I’ve mostly found that allosexuals have a really hard time understanding the difference between abstaining from sex and being asexual. It’s so ingrained in our culture that everyone becomes interested in sex eventually. The phrase “I don’t see people like that” just doesn’t compute.
Honestly, if asexuality had been mentioned as a possibility even ONCE in my sex-ed courses I would have been a lot less confused growing up. It’s like going through life with the wrong owner’s manual. You try to find the functions they’re talking about and you come up with something similar and think “Oh, OK. This isn’t quite what the diagram shows but it’s close. This must be it.” I spent a lot of time thinking everyone was exaggerating when they said things like “oh, man. I’d totally have sex with [celebrity] he’s so hot!”. I applied my own aesthetic appreciation for things – glasses, jewel-dyed hair, kind smiles, honest laughs – and assigned them the designation “sexy”.
It’s also totally different, as far as I can tell, from the self-discovery allosexual LGBT+ people go through. You take heteronormativity making close friendships between women Always Platonic with no “BAM! Sexual attraction! Like in the stories! You like girls!” and you get some awesome regrets about girlfriends-that-could-have-been. When you finally realize the difference between romantic and sexual attraction, the difference between romantic and platonic attraction is easier to recognize too and suddenly it’s “Oh my god. She was flirting with me. I’m an idiot: we would’ve been a great couple!!!”
It’s made coming out really difficult. I swear I’ve come out to my mother about fifteen times including publicly on Facebook, and she still refers to me as “straight” (especially frustrating because I’m biromantic, not heteromantic. She’s not even in the ballpark of being correct.)
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
Don’t feel like you have to be a sexual being to fit in. I went through a really awkward phase in college of trying to force myself to relate to people on a sexual scale. I tried to mimic the way my friends talked about sex and in hindsight my utter failure should have been a big sign. The desire to fit in also meant that I pushed myself to do stuff with a (now ex-) boyfriend that while I don’t regret necessarily, I don’t think I would have chosen to do if I hadn’t felt like I was “behind” my peers.
On the other hand, don’t feel like you’re not “asexual enough” if you enjoy sex. There really is a difference between getting pleasure from the act and experiencing sexual attraction. Your identity is still totally valid if you find yourself in a relationship where you want to have sex for whatever reason.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
To order something:
Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you, Brie, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.