Today we’re joined by Philomena. Philomena is a wonderfully talented and versatile artist, who does both music and writing. For music, she performs solo on piano, flute, and vocal. She’s currently studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music. For writing, she is working on a queer-centric romance involving mer-people, which sounds fascinating. Philomena is definitely an enthusiastic and dedicated artist. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I do quite a bit artistically, but I generally fluctuate between music and writing. I’ve even bound my own books before, actually! What I currently do can be sort of condensed into those two main things, though. The big thing that I’m currently working on with my music is getting all of my Royal Conservatory of Music certificates for Grade 8 Piano and Voice, Grade 5 Flute, and my Advanced Theory. I’m doing my exams for everything except Piano in June. Instruments that I just play for fun are sort of just variations on the theme. Other strings I play include pixie harp and ukulele, and I also play piccolo and alto saxophone in woodwinds. I’ve got my sights set on learning violin and guitar in the future.
With regards to my writing, I’m working on a novel called A Tale of Tails, that I’ve entered in NaNoWriMo, which is a month-long writing challenge that involves setting a word-count goal, and hitting a certain amount of written words each day to achieve it. The novel is going to be a queer-centric romance involving a girl n amed Calliope, who gets dragged into a crisis amongst nations of merpeople. It’s actually been in the works for a little under three years at this point. Oops.
What inspires you?
I’ve been really inspired by mainstream writers, Neil Gaiman being a major player, but I also owe a lot of my inspiration to a friend of mine named Kathleen. She’s a marvel of talent and skill, and I definitely wouldn’t be writing without the constant barrage of well-meaning texts. I can say without a doubt that she is amazing, and deserves a world of success and good fortune.
In music, I was really inspired by my choir director, Dr. Heather Eyerly. She’s also amazing, and she was the first music teacher I had that actually made me love it. I just realized, while writing this, that 40% of my music teachers have been WLW. The universe works in mysterious ways, I guess! Anyway, back on track. Dr. Eyerly was a huge influence in the way my vocal music flourished, and I don’t think I would have kept up with Vocal if not for her.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
As a child, I was very interested in learning useful skills. I took a pottery course, I learned how to knit and crochet, and I learned how to play piano. My brother was also learning how to play, but he quit after two lessons. I kept with it because of the sense of pride it gave me in my abilities as an artist, and because of how fun it was for me.
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?
The Nordic rune for M is something that I used as a signature back when I was really into Flipnote Studio, standing for the first letter of my nickname “Mena”, but I’ve yet to integrate it properly into any of my current artistic ventures. Nowadays I’ve taken up witchcraft, so it would be even more poignant, I guess–what with the Elder Futhark rune alphabet being used as a divination tool.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Practice! It doesn’t matter what you do, you just have to practice. You need to practice to get better, and you need to practice so you can commit your skills to memory. I still remember how to play songs I memorized years ago, because I practiced them! If you do traditional or digital art, look up references and practice drawing the poses or elements in them. If you sculpt, practice!!! Buy cheap clay and sculpt things with it. Knit? Thrift some wool and learn how to make socks! Dance? Learn the choreography to Single Ladies! Play an instrument? Learn all the songs from Ocarina of Time on your instrument! Have fun with your practice, but always practice your craft!!!! You won’t improve otherwise, and then you’ll be sad when you lose a skill you enjoyed. Like me when I forgot how to center pottery on a wheel. It’s devastating! PRACTICE AND YOU WILL NOT REPEAT MY FAILINGS.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I identify as a Panromantic Asexual. I’m currently in this sort of nebulous ‘gender-conscious’ place, where if someone asks, I’ll say I’m a cis girl, but I know that could change.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
I’m from a fairly liberal part of eastern Ontario, so there’s not much more than the occasional ‘Oh, yeah, I heard about that. Can you explain further?’ There are the few times every once in a while where I have to explain that ace people exist, or I have to ask my mom not to constantly out me to people who don’t know me, but other than that I’ve had a pretty safe run of things.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
A lot of people seem to assume that aces don’t understand attraction, or that we’re all prudish wallflowers who don’t want anything to do with any sort of relationship. Not to say that it’s a bad thing if that’s how one feels, I just don’t really enjoy when people around me say things along the lines of, “Not like you’d know” when they talk about pretty people.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
Make an account on a social media platform that works for you. You can meet other people who identify in the same way you do, and who experience the same types of attraction as you, and this can really help you to make decisions about yourself. It can take a while to completely find where you fit in the mould, and you may decide that you don’t want to identify as anything. That’s perfectly fine too!
When I originally came out, I thought very much that I was heteromantic because I loved the boy I was dating. I still think very highly of him, even though we eventually stopped talking. What I needed to figure out, though, was that my romantic attraction to one person didn’t need to dictate my attraction to everyone else on this giant planet.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
Thank you, Philomena, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.