Today we’re joined by Keelan. Keelan is a wonderful visual artist who hasn’t met a medium he doesn’t like. Right now, he’s focusing mostly on ace pride/positivity and autistic pride/positivity, both of which are greatly needed in today’s world. His work is so beautiful, brimming with color and life, as you’ll soon see. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
My art is mostly fanart, sketches and positivity/pride drawings. I have also done a bit of costume design and costume making for some local theatre. I’ve experimented with a variety of mediums such as oil paint, acrylics, chalk/charcoal, photography and ink + bleach but I mostly stick to pencil and digital drawings because it is what I am most comfortable working with, and what I have the most access to. In the past year or so my art has been focused mostly on asexual/a-spec and autistic positivity because they are both important parts of my identity and I want to express that and my love for the two communities. I’ve been drawing with pencils for a long time, but digital art is still very new to me because I only started exploring it last year.
What inspires you?
Other artists and their work are a huge inspiration to me. Seeing the beautiful work other artists create inspires me so much and motivates me to keep on practicing and improving. Sometimes they inspire me to try new things as well. I probably wouldn’t have begun to explore digital art if I had not seen and been inspired by the progress of other artists on social media. I am also inspired a lot by the communities I am a part of, such as the online asexual and autistic community. They have given me the confidence and inspiration to express myself more through my art and take pride in my identity through it.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I’ve wanted to be an artist ever since I was little, and I began to put effort into learning and improving my art when I was around eight and wanted to be able to draw my original character properly. That goal from when I was a kid has been motivating me for years to keep on trying. Unfortunately, because my main focus was being able to draw a character that meant that for years I didn’t explore anything outside of drawing people in pencil and pen. I only began to pick up exploring other things such as colour and different mediums when I chose to do Art in GCSE when I was fifteen. Even though my career goals are a little different from when I was younger, I still want to continue being an artist as a hobby.
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?
Not really. I used to have a habit a few years ago, of signing all my art with my initials. I don’t do it as often anymore; however, I try to keep it up (inconsistently) with any art I post online. In all my autistic art I make an effort to include the neurodiversity symbol; a rainbow infinity symbol.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Keep on trying. It can be difficult and very frustrating but the thing about art is that you are always learning. Even those artists who seem to have mastered it all are still learning and making mistakes and improving. Art takes practice and time so its fine if you struggle with and take a long time to learn something (such as how to draw hands or animals). Looking back on your old art might make you cringe but that’s only proof of your progress. Its proof that you have grown a lot and will probably only continue to grow and become more skilled.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I am panromantic asexual, though I also identify with demi-romantic.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
I have encountered a little. In my life offline I experience it less because not as many people know I am asexual. I have received some ignorant and slightly insulting comments from people who do know, or from people who don’t know I am asexual but have heard of it. It always hurts and frustrates me a bit to hear it. I tend to either speak up about it or let it slide depending on the situation and how well I know the person. I don’t handle confrontation well so I admit I tend to avoid it even when it might be best to speak up.
I have definitely experienced more prejudice and ignorance online. I am fairly open about my sexuality online and I post most of my asexual positivity art on my blogs and it has caused me to receive some unpleasant comments as a result. I find it is best to delete the messages, block the sender and not let it bother me. In fact it usually motivates me to draw even more ace positive art.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
That asexuality is just a lack of interest in having sex or a form of celibacy. It’s a misconception that frustrates me a lot because I have seen it be used against asexual people to invalidate them or make incorrect claims based on that misinformation. It is also, I suspect, where the comments from my family that I “just need to meet the right person” or that I am a “late bloomer” come from.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
You aren’t broken and you are not alone. There is nothing wrong with being asexual and there is a wonderful community out there for asexual and aromantic people. It’s okay if it takes you a long time to come to terms with being asexual and it’s okay if you aren’t sure of your orientation.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
I post a lot of my art on my Tumblr main: keelan-666.tumblr.com under the tag #keelan-art and on my side blog: autistic-space-dragon.tumblr.com under the tag #space-dragon-doodles. However neither blogs are purely art blogs so a lot of other stuff is posted there too. I also have an Instagram: keelantheace.
Thank you, Keelan, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.