Today we’re joined by Nilah Magruder. Nilah is a brilliant visual artist and writer who I met at Capricon. She moderated a great panel that I was on about friendships in SFF and I was ecstatic to find out she was a fellow ace creator. Nilah’s work is absolutely gorgeous and I’m so excited to check out her new projects. Her upcoming graphic novel, M.F.K., looks particularly intriguing. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
By day, I’m a storyboard artist in the animation industry. In my free time, I make comics and children’s books. My most recent projects are HOW TO FIND A FOX, a picture book about exploring the outdoors and perseverance, and M.F.K., originally a fantasy webcomic that will be hitting bookstores in graphic novel form in September.
What inspires you?
Life! Stories! Observing the world, its nature, its people, its politics is a huge inspiration. I also get inspiration from other people’s art.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I saw the pencil tests for The Lion King for the first time when I was twelve (I’m old, and The Lion King was still under production at this point) and from that moment I wanted to work in animation. I’d loved drawing from a young age, but I don’t think I ever considered it a serious profession. I had no concept of how to become an animator; it was more a pipe dream than anything. So at first I was interested in pursuing music, writing, or something more practical like accounting. It wasn’t until I was applying to colleges that I found out you could study animation, and it rekindled my interest.
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?
Nothing unique or consistent like that. My work is kind of all over the place, actually, because I’m always trying new things. If there’s anything, I guess I draw a lot of girls.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Work on the fundamentals. Explore styles and influences. Be a sponge. Work hard, but don’t work yourself sick. Your health and life are important. Take breaks, stretch, exercise, eat well, sleep, enjoy the world around you, and learn to say “no” when you need to.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I am asexual and aromantic.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
I guess ace erasure is what I encounter most commonly. Most people don’t seem to have a concept of what asexuality is, so there’s very little representation in animation and comics. I’m trying to be more open about my own sexuality, but in the meantime, I include asexual characters in my work. The main characters of M.F.K. are asexual. In my own canon, asexuality is always present.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
I’ve been hearing the “asexuals are just straight people who wish they were queer” rhetoric a lot lately. And also the idea that it’s the same thing as celibacy, like it’s a choice. It’s sad, and also annoying to have your identity and feelings treated as invalid… something that I’d think more people would relate to, honestly.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
Asexuality is a fairly new term, but asexuals have always existed; we just used different language in the past. So don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t belong in the queer community. We’ve always been here.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
Thank you, Nilah, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.