Today we’re joined by Morgan Lees. Morgan is a wonderful artist who specializes in fantasy art and illustration. They’re have an ongoing comic entitled Corner the Maze, which is delightful urban fantasy about a racing driver who winds up in a different dimension. Aside from the comic, Morgan also does a lot of freelance illustration and has done some theater (including stage combat) in the past. Their work is beautiful and the detail is extraordinary, as you’ll soon see. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I draw, paint, write, and do theater – some of those things more than the others. I’ve been focusing primarily on my comic of late, and I’m a freelance illustrator. My comic work is done in pen and ink, and I’ve been working with pencil on toned paper a lot lately for other art. I haven’t done much with theater aside from stage combat lately, but I’m hoping to get into it more again when I have more time (which I’ve been saying for years now, so who knows when that will be). I guess the common thread is that I like telling stories with art in one form or another.
My comic is called Corner the Maze, and it follows the adventures of a racing driver who finds himself inadvertently trapped in another dimension after falling into a strange portal during a race. It ties into the same setting as the books I’m writing, and some of the characters end up appearing in both, but I’m making sure that they both work well as standalone things, too.
What inspires you?
Mostly I have a lot of story and character ideas jostling about in my head, and I want to get those out and in some form where other people can (hopefully) enjoy them. I’m also inspired by music, nature, and rather unpredictable flashes of insight coming from seemingly random sources. So, I guess mostly it’s whatever happens to set my imagination off, which isn’t very predictable.
Roleplaying games have also been a big source of inspiration for me since I was really little. A great percentage of everything I’ve ever drawn has been one of my characters or another, either in pen and paper games or from CRPGs, and that probably had something to do with getting me thinking about characterization and storytelling so much as well.
Stylistically, again with the roleplaying games, I always really liked the black and white illustrations found in the RPG books I grew up with – first edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, and then Middle-earth Roleplaying/Rolemaster – and I’m sure that had some effect on my pen and ink style. Same goes for Choose Your Own Adventure type books.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil, but I didn’t get serious about it until I was eighteen or so. For some reason, both drawing and writing as career options seemed out of reach to me when I was younger, but then I decided that I was going to give it my best shot and see if I could make it work. I was actually more focused on theater (directing and lighting design especially) when I was younger, but the amount of travel that would end up being necessary for that put me off in the end – that, and what I really want to be doing more than anything is telling my own stories. That’s what led me to the comic, and what inspired me to get my writing in shape.
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 sign my work with my initials and the date, but that’s about it.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Don’t stop practicing. Whenever you’ve got time, as much as you can possibly stand it, practice. When I look back and see the difference between where I am with my work and where I want to be, and look at the people who are where I want to be, the single greatest difference is always that they were more dedicated earlier on. I goofed off a lot when I was a kid and a teenager – there were plenty of whole weeks where I didn’t draw at all. There are lots of different ways to learn, and there’s no one piece of advice there that will work for everyone, but practice is universal.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I’m aromantic and asexual. I’ve simply never had the slightest sort of romantic or sexual interest in anyone else. It took me an oddly long time to realize that’s not how most people are, and once I realized that, it “only” took me another few years to realize the rest of it.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
The worst I’ve encountered is people thinking I’m weird, but then, the place I’ve generally spent the most time with other people in my life is in the theater – and it is true that people tend to get less flak for being seen as different there than in some other places. I was also home-schooled until I went to college, so overall I’ve had a lot less opportunity to encounter prejudice than many people. I did deal with some in college, but again, pretty mild and not directed at me (I hadn’t yet quite realized that I was asexual at the time). It made me uncomfortable, but that’s about it.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
I did get a lot of people telling me I would grow out of it when I was younger (although that was only when I expressed a lack of interest, since I didn’t identify as asexual yet), but nothing in that vein for the last six or seven years. Again, I’m probably lucky with my circle of acquaintances in this regard; they tend to be rather reasonable and open-minded people.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
There’s nothing wrong with you, and if you’re happy with yourself, that’s what matters. There’s no one recipe for happiness, so don’t let anybody tell you that there is. You don’t need to have a romantic relationship or have sex to have a great life (although of course neither of those things will stop you from it either), and being unusual isn’t worse in any way, just different.
I wish I had more useful advice, but I just went about happily assuming that nobody else actually cared about those things either until I was already in my twenties, so… yeah. I’m kind of oblivious about things sometimes, especially where people are concerned.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
My comic can be found at http://cornerthemaze.net/ and updates every Tuesday and Thursday, my illustration portfolio is at http://morganelees.com/ (which is also where my writing stuff will be, when I get any of that up again), and I generally post all my art to my DeviantArt account at http://remmirath-ml.deviantart.com/. I try to keep those all just about as much up to date, but if anything’s going to fall behind, it’s usually DeviantArt.
Thank you, Morgan, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.