Interview: Kaylee Schuler

Today we’re joined by Kaylee Schuler. Kaylee is a phenomenal author and visual artist. She writes a number of different things, including short stories and poetry. She’s currently working on a novel with an aro-ace protagonist. When she’s not writing, Kaylee enjoys drawing. She frequently draws characters from her stories. It’s clear she’s a passionate artist who loves to create, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am an author and an artist. I usually write short stories, but I’ve dabbled in poetry, spoken word, and am currently working on a novel that happens to feature an aro-ace protagonist. I’ve self-published a children’s book and plan to self-publish its companion once my edits are done. One of my short stories just won 10th place in a Reader’s Digest competition, so I’m very excited about that!

What I value most in writing is emotion, so I try to write things that make people feel. I try to tell stories that I think are important, that I know no one else can tell. I strive to write pieces that are powerful, influential, and cathartic. Even though it’s a lofty goal, I want to write something that will change the world.

As for art, I started out with sketches and drawings, but I currently work with a variety of mediums, some of my favorites being watercolor and digital. Good old graphite never fails me, though.

I create art about pretty much anything — I draw a lot of people, often characters within the stories that I write. Drawing for me is somewhere between a hobby and a potential career. I’m currently studying it in college, but I still draw mainly for myself and create things that I want to create.

What inspires you?

I get inspiration for my work in everything I experience. The villain in my novel is based on a character who showed up in just one episode of a TV show from the ‘90s that I used to watch reruns of. Another character is named after a friend who was super supportive of my writing. I write the books I want to read, so I often take inspiration from a lack of content. I don’t see enough diversity in the media I consume, so I want to add that to my work. My visual artwork is often inspired by my writing or other people’s work that I enjoy. The main thing that inspires me is the hope that someone out there will encounter my work and be inspired to create something of their own. Art is such an incredible force for change, and my desire to be a part of that drives me to create.

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What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I’ve been writing for my entire life. It’s something that comes naturally to me, but even beyond that, I feel like a part of me is missing if I’m not writing something. It’s a huge part of who I am. I started writing my self-published book when I was 8 years old and haven’t stopped since.

I’ve also been creating visual art as far back as I can remember. Just like my writing, my artwork feels like an extension of my very being. Because art, be it written, visual, or otherwise, can be a catalyst for social change, and because I’ve always wanted to use my talents to better the world, I figure that the best way for me to make an impact is to combine those two things. My desire to improve this world and my desire to create go hand in hand.

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 one of those artists who’s never been able to pin down a style. I suppose that’s a blessing because it gives me greater freedom and versatility in the content I create, but it’s also a curse because most of my pieces aren’t recognizable as belonging to the same artist. One thing I aim to do is include as much diversity in my work as I can. I think everyone deserves to see someone in media who they can relate to. I’m still learning how to improve my art and my representation, but I feel like making an effort to be inclusive and diverse is crucial to being a good artist and a good person.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Art is something so incredibly personal to each individual. My advice is, first, to not be afraid to pour your soul into your work, and only share it when it’s ready. Share it first with people you trust. This especially applies to writing, though also to visual art you’ve worked particularly hard on. Find people who will build you up, not tear you down. And a note on criticism—at the end of the day, this is your work. Create for you. When people tell you what to do with your craft, that’s what they want. I’m not saying to never listen to criticism. Feedback can be very useful and it will help you grow as an artist. But make sure you put what you want first and remember that, at the end of the day, what you do with your work is up to you. And try to remember that critiques are about the work itself, not the part of you that you put into it. On a different note, something I want to stress is that artists have to support each other! We all face challenges in art and in life and I believe that we can never spread too much compassion and positivity. And finally, never give up on your dreams. One of my creative writing professors once shared something with us that his friend told him—the reason successful artists become successful is that they’re the ones who don’t give up. If you want to create, create. Keep at it, you’ve got this!

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Mental Illness

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m aromantic and asexual. I always knew there was something different about me, and finding labels for my feelings was an incredible relief. I’ve never felt romantic or sexual attraction, and I’m also sex-and romance-repulsed. This definitely affects my work, especially my written work, because you create what you know. It’s hard for me to imagine being anyone other than myself, holding any identity other than aroace. As a result, much of my work features characters who are asexual and/or aromantic.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

Specifically related to my art, I haven’t come across much negativity. I think this is largely because most of my work concerning asexuality hasn’t made it very far out into the world yet. I worry that readers won’t understand the way my characters feel and interact with the world, and I worry that artwork about my asexuality will result in negativity directed at me. I think it’s likely that I will encounter prejudice or ignorance when my work spreads around a little more, and when faced with it, I think I’ll have to remember that all of us are ignorant to something and that the only way to educate is through understanding. I’ve been uninformed and misinformed about countless topics, and I was able to learn more about them when people treated me with respect and open-mindedness. I will strive to do the same. If that fails, though, if I run into someone who can’t see my point of view and won’t make an effort to do so (as I have frequently encountered outside the art world), I’ll need to remember a mantra my therapist once gave me: “They’re doing the best they can.” Sometimes, other people’s “best” isn’t enough for us. But we have to remember that we all have our limits and that, sometimes, our knowledge is beyond the limits of someone else. At that point, I’ll have to take a step back from my stubbornness and abandon the argument. It’s not always worth it.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

I commonly see this both outside and within the LGBTQ community, and the latter can be particularly frustrating. Many people think that asexuality is synonymous or similar to abstinence, which isn’t true. They believe that asexuality is simply a lack of desire for sex, and that’s not quite true. Asexuality is a lack of attraction (and even beyond that, it comes on a spectrum). Not all asexuals are sex-repulsed or sex-averse, and some asexuals engage in sexual acts for a variety of reasons. Furthermore, many people seem to think that being asexual is the same as being aromantic. I often find it difficult to explain that there’s a difference between romantic and sexual attraction and that some asexuals do, in fact, feel romantic attraction.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

The main thing that’s often said but can never be said enough is never be said enough is you are NOT broken. I spent years of my life thinking I was and became resigned to the idea that one day I would have to have a relationship, even though I didn’t want one. Here’s what I have to say about that: you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. You don’t have to try to force yourself to feel something you don’t. Wherever you lie on the spectrum, you are valid, you are seen, you are whole, and you are not alone. You may feel guilty sometimes for not reciprocating someone’s feelings. You may feel empty sometimes, or alone, or angry. And all of that is valid—your feelings are always valid—but you don’t have to feel any of that. Teach yourself that you don’t need to be ashamed of your orientation. It’s a part of you, you can’t get rid of it, so you might as well learn to love it. And you can. I have.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

I don’t yet have a proper website, but you can find me on social media. My art Tumblr is https://www.deepspaceart.tumblr.com and my main Tumblr is https://www.deepspaceace.tumblr.com. I’m also on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/deep.space.ace. You can find my art on Redbubble at https://www.redbubble.com/people/deepspaceace. You can read some of my written work at https://www.wattpad.com/user/CelestialFalcon. You can buy my children’s book at https://app.thebookpatch.com/BookStore/midnight-a-wolfs-tale/ce878c14-8bd6-44ad-bb38-93b585c582e9?isbn=9780984719808 .

Have a great day! 🙂

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Enamorarse

Thank you, Kaylee, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Gemma Irene

Today we’re joined by Gemma Irene. Gemma is a phenomenal writer who writes a variety of things. She’s written a few novels and hundreds of poems, as well as some fanfiction. When she’s not writing, she enjoys visual art. Gemma draws, paints, sews, and takes photographs. She even plays the violin. It’s clear she’s a dedicated and passionate individual who loves to create, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m primarily a writer, though I’ve been known to draw, paint, sew, take pictures, and play violin. Anything to keep my hands busy! As far as writing goes, I stick to fiction, with occasional detours for poetry, and a song on the very rare occasion. I haven’t published anything yet, but I’ve got about three original novels and around a hundred poems under my belt. I’ve also been pretty immersed in fan fiction the past few years, writing for The Phantom of the Opera, The Boondock Saints, The Walking Dead, and Supernatural.

What inspires you?

I hate to say it, it sounds cliché, but inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. I wrote my first novel after a daydream I had when I was bored at the mall and trying to entertain myself. I’ve drawn things I’ve seen in dreams. I’ve photographed things that happened to catch my eye. One of my favorite poems I ever wrote came about while I was sitting outside listening to the creek flow. I try to stay alert to anything that feeds the muse, which means either living very much in the moment, or hiding out in my own little world.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I’ve always loved stories and storytelling. One of my earliest memories is of sitting in my grandpa’s lap with a book, with me reading to him as much as he read to me. I remember telling stories to my mother and her writing them down in a blank journal. I relate a lot to Anne Shirley, or Sara Crewe in A Little Princess like that; my stories always started as a game of pretend, and realizing I could share them with people was a game changer. With the Internet, I could share with even more people. And in the case of fan fiction, connecting with people who were as passionate about the same characters as I was helped me get even more joy out of it. So, long answer to a short question, I’ve always wanted to do this!

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?

In my writing, I notice a lot of alliteration, and a lot of fire imagery. I like getting down into the deep, personal aspects of storytelling, so I’m very concerned with the soulful and intimate. I don’t know if there’s any specific thing that watermarks my writing as mine…if any readers would like to point something out?

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Experiment. Let yourself suck. That first novel I wrote? As is, nobody is reading that, if I have anything to say about it. There’s a lot of hang-ups about being trite or cringey, but that’s the only way you grow and evolve. And it’s cool if you want to pursue more interests than one, or if you’re only so-so at something else but do it for the joy of it. I’ve worked for years at my writing, but only ever turned to drawing when I needed the release it gave me. Consequently, it’s not one of my strongest skills. Same deal with the violin. I’ll never be the next Van Gogh, or play in an orchestra, but that’s fine. I draw and play for love of both, and that’s enough for me.

The inverse is true, as well. If you’re passionate about your art, don’t be afraid to invest yourself in it. Any way you feel called to. I’m going to go off on a tangent for a second and say how glad I am that fan fic is slowly getting positive traction, because if I hadn’t started writing fic, I would never have found an audience, much less one willing to give feedback and help me grow as a writer. That’s the thing about finding someone genuinely interested in what you’re sharing, they want more, and they’ll often help you in the process. Whether it’s encouragement, advice, or simple enthusiasm, it’s out there. Hold it up to your ear and give it a listen, then decide if it will help you develop your art. Keep what does, discard what doesn’t. That’s what fan fiction did for me, is help me find my voice a lot sooner than I might have without it.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m a panromantic demisexual, which is at once very broad and very specific. To me, they go hand-in-hand. I don’t develop sexual attraction without an emotional bond, and if I’ve gotten close enough to someone to form that bond, I’m unlikely to care about gender. It’s the person I’ve developed feelings for.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

In my field? No. In my life? A bit. I was discussing sexuality and orientation with a group of ordinarily open-minded individuals and casually mentioned I identify as demi. I explained it was similar to being asexual, and they were on board with the ace part but casually dismissed the demi part. “Some people just want to be special.” It took a while to get past that, and I’ve presented myself since then a little differently. On social media, I proudly post all the ace, aro, demi, bi, pan, gay, trans, nb, everything, supporting positivity that I want to see in the world. In person, I’ll comment on my aesthetic attractions, regardless of gender, I’ll express support of representation, and shut down discourse when I hear it. I do what I can to be an ally and a safe space, and hopefully send a message that I won’t stand for any prejudice.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

That we’re prudes, afraid of sex, damaged, or “waiting for the right person.” Yeah, some of us are, but so are some allosexuals. Sexuality is such a complex, complicated subject, and I don’t understand the aphobia and ace discourse I’ve seen. The thing is, we’ve always been here, it’s just that now we’re willing to claim our space, and hopefully we can spread more knowledge to put an end to the misconceptions.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Hang in there. It’s a process. I remember that I was elated at first to realize I was demi, then I had to process what that meant to me, evaluate my relationships with people in light of my new understanding of my identity, decide whether this was something I wanted to keep to myself or make known to others. Then on down the line, after I felt reasonably secure in my identity, I realized I was panromantic and had to start all over again. I’ve found my writing is a very good way to explore my sexuality and my orientation, and I’m working on more aspec characters to reflect how I feel about my identity.

My biggest ongoing struggle is feeling ace enough to identify on the spectrum. I’m very sex positive, and I lean towards the, let’s say, colorful side of sexual expression, which is far removed from the misconception about asexuals and how we’re all prudes afraid of sex. That’s where the ignorance hurts us the most, in my opinion. We measure ourselves by the stereotypes and assumptions, which are often incorrect, and we cut ourselves down when we don’t fit. Thing is, I’m still aspec whether I like sex or hate it, whether I’m kinky or vanilla, because it’s about attraction, not action.

Aces, grays, and demis, you do you. Own your identity. Share it if you want, or keep it secret. It’s who you are, and it’s as much about discovery as the rest of you.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

Tumblr is my primary hang out. My URL is at risingphoenix761, and my blog is a giant mess of fandom, writing, music, humor, and positivity. I’m also on Fanfiction.Net as AngelxPhoenix, and Archive of Our Own as RisingPhoenix761. For anyone interested in my visual art (I consider myself a passionate amateur), my Instagram is at risingphoenix_761. Come say hi to me!

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Thank you, Gemma, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Atraxura

Today we’re joined by Atraxura. Atraxura is a wonderful visual artist who specializes in drawing. She also paints, takes pictures, and makes jewelry, but she’s focused mostly on her drawing. Atraxura enjoys using limited color and it results in very striking imagery. It’s clear she loves what she does, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participating in this interview.

Guardians of Irkalla Kur
Guardians of Irkalla Kur

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I experiment with many different styles and media. I draw, paint, take photographs, make jewelry and write personal essays. In the past year, I have been focusing on drawing, and I have begun to evolve a style in my recent work with limited use of color, usually a vibrant, highly saturated red. I prefer the warm end of the color spectrum, from yellow to red-violet, and color psychology is integral to my work. I pay attention to geometry, ratios and perspective. You don’t necessarily notice it in my work, but I am fascinated with how important numbers are in aesthetics.

While I strive for realism, none of my subjects are merely representational. Everything illustrates a concept: animals are symbolic, as they were in ancient cultures. Skulls are the exoskeleton of the mind. A red eye in a pale background represents the will rising above apathy.

What inspires you?

Horror inspires me on the aesthetic level. I am drawn to the intense feelings it can evoke. I love high-energy excitement and intensity, not calm or complacent “happiness”, which feel toxic and antithetical to me. I want everything I do to reflect powerful, high-octave intensity.

I am a type-A person of a purely choleric temperament; ENTJ on the MBTI. I have a very angry and hostile nature, and I like to explore and defend this in my art. I also like to attack concepts I despise, e.g., conformity, complacency and all agents of passivity and inertia. I don’t do this to “calm down” — I detest calm — or to get rid of anger. I do it to communicate in a more powerful, profound way which reaches more people.

Collaboration with my soulmate, who is a musician and of very similar views and vision, also inspires both of us. I hate working alone.

Ignition of the Artless
Ignition of the Artless

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

Art has always been instinctive for me. Inert matter, such as a blank paper, exists to be acted upon. I want to change it to reflect my ideas and vision. I want to communicate with others on the most profound level possible. Art is naturally an ideal means for this, and for generating dialogue with like minds. That said, I have never wanted to “be” any one thing, but I always had a clear and exact vision of the lifestyle I wanted. It has always been imperative that I live on my own terms in every aspect; autonomous, being my own boss, keeping my own council.

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 initial every drawing and painting. The “A”, along with being the initial of both my artist name and my legal name, represents my highest values: ambition, high standards, and to be forever striving upward. I strive to be the “alpha” in everything I do. If I were perfect, I would want to push the boundaries of perfection. I am changing the look of my initial now, to be more angular and volcanic.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Erase words like “can’t” and “hard” from your vocabulary. I’ve destroyed innumerable paintings and drawings in rage when things don’t go exactly the way I want, but I start over with a better strategy. If something is difficult, it obsesses me. I persist until I get what I want. I refuse to be defeated by my own art.

Also, learn the basics of your craft, and dedicate regular time to work on improving your skills and becoming proficient with your tools/media. Develop an honest perspective on your abilities, so you can see your strengths and your areas which need improvement.

Finally, take yourself, your time, effort and ideas, very seriously. Others won’t until you do.

Love Between Cholerics
Love Between Cholerics

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am a sex repulsed libidoist. Perhaps I am demi-hetero-sapio-romantic. I met my soulmate on DeviantArt at the age of 23 and very quickly formed a deep and intense obsession, but I had never had an interest in anyone else. It was important to me that we have similar values and could interact on a profound level. I emigrated to France from the United States at 25 so we could live together. I don’t know if I would describe my feelings as merely romantic. I feel like the word doesn’t convey enough intensity, and this intensity has only increased with time.

Power in its multiple forms, especially knowledge, ignites my libido, but even the thought of sexual activity disgusts me and extinguishes the feeling. I find it revolting on the physical level (even with someone hygienic and physically attractive) and deeply disturbing and traumatizing on the emotional level (even with someone I love). For me, it threatens bonds rather than building them. I also have an extremely low tolerance for boredom, and despite the hype it gets, sex is the most tedious, banal activity which ever existed – not to mention an enormous liability with no inherent benefits.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

I have read a lot about other aces experiencing prejudice, but I have not experienced any myself – not in the arts, anyway. If I did experience prejudice or ignorance, depending on the situation, I would try to clarify my experience and perspective. It is important for us to speak out about our own experiences and to be obstinate about this, so as not to let “reality” be defined by others, especially if they are hostile to us. After all, truth and wisdom are not usually found in numbers, even if strength and volume are.

I am fortunate enough to have read an article about asexuality in the (now extinct) magazine ElleGirl when I was 12 or 13 years old, so I knew that asexuality existed and that it seemed to fit with how I felt. If I hadn’t known about asexuality then, I would have probably experienced a lot of distressing confusion about myself throughout my life.

Later, I read about “sublimating” the libido into art or other activities, in The Satanic Bible, by Anton LaVey. (Napoleon Hill’s book Think and Grow Rich also speaks of sublimating the libido.) This in particular resonated with me deeply, as it described something which I had always been doing. “Sublimation” of the libido has always been natural for me, long before I knew what “sex” or “masturbation” meant – whereas having sex, or even thinking about it, still seems bizarre and unnatural to me. As I see it, sexual activity is only one outlet for the libido and definitely not the driving force behind it. I also realize that non-libidoist asexuals experience things differently from me, so this may be a prejudice which they encounter.

The Pallor Out of Time
The Pallor Out of Time

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

Almost every time I have told anyone I was asexual, they ask if I had been molested as a child. I have not experienced any kind of sexual trauma at any point in my life – though I know that some asexuals have – and I’m quite certain that I wouldn’t want to tell them if I had. This assumption can annoy me, as I feel like they are implying that the notion of someone not liking something “natural” is inconceivable unless the person had experienced something terrible which turned them against it. I realize they may not intend to imply anything.

I have had two different people try to use the fact that I didn’t date as “evidence” that I was insane, though I had not explicitly told these people I was asexual. I’m glad I didn’t waste my time and efforts dating people I had zero interest in.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Above all, don’t settle for a life or a lifestyle you don’t want, because someone –or society — pushes the idea that you “have to” live a certain way. There is no “have to” in life, beyond breathing. Seeking out positive and supportive people and choosing to spend your time with them can help to not feel alienated and marginalized; it can alleviate the pressure to behave a certain way to fit in.

I have always had a very exact vision of the life I wanted from as long as I could remember, with no compromises. I’ve always felt the need to live alone with a life partner or soulmate, with absolutely no children or family, but possibly a pet. Someone accepting of my asexuality. Someone I could be myself with and collaborate with. Someone who doesn’t smoke. Someone with a unique fashion sense, as shallow as that may seem. For so long, it seemed like no such person existed for me, yet “compromising” or settling for anyone else would have been intolerable. Now, I am so grateful to myself that I never did.

I know that there are people now, even among sexuals, who are in the same place I was, fearing that they will be alone forever, and being asexual can statistically narrow your options. I am skeptical about everything, so I was very aware that the odds were against me. All I can say now is that my dreams came true in this regard, so there’s hope for everyone. I feel a little awkward saying it, as it seems cliché, but it happened for me.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

I have a website, and I am on most social media platforms; Instagram, Twitter, and DeviantArt. I also have a blog on WordPress – and I usually follow back (with sincere interest). Most of my work is available as prints and merchandise on RedBubble.

Vermillion Snow
Vermillion Snow

Thank you, Atraxura, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Imogen

Today we’re joined by Imogen. Imogen is a phenomenal performance artist from New Zealand. She does a bit of everything: acting, singing, dancing, and was even in orchestra for a bit. When she’s not performing, Imogen loves to write. She’s currently writing a novel and recently, a play that she wrote and directed was performed. It’s clear she’s a talented and dedicated artist who loves to create, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I suppose that my art is in storytelling, or presenting. I am a performer, in all areas. I did ballet for 12 years, did singing, was involved with the school choirs and orchestra and I am currently writing a novel.

I act whenever possible, and often say that ‘I am most myself when I am on the stage, pretending to be someone else.’

Recently I wrote and directed an original play called “Evil Con!” It was fun play about a bunch of villains hanging out, and a henchman (Bob) who ruined their time.

What inspires you?

Death.  Both the character (mainly the Discworld version) for his … belief in humanity for lack of a better description, and the act itself. We are all going to die eventually, and this life is all we have, so we should try and make it to our deaths alive.

It sounds contradictory, but that is what inspires me. The fact that we will one day die inspires me to live, and to do what I love – Reading, Writing, Shopping, Dancing, Singing, Acting.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

… Everything I suppose.

I’ve always loved performing, and when I started dancing; I fell in love with the discipline it requires and the freedom and emotions it allows you to express. The same with writing. You have to be disciplined to keep writing, and writing allows you to explore and understand everything that there could possibly be.

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 not sure if anything I do is unique or special, but I suppose that there are constants of my works. My writing is very character driven with simple plot-lines. My movements are infused naturally with the twelve years of ballet, I find it very challenging to NOT have perfect posture.

I also like to use and mock clichés. A friend once said “Clichés are cliché for a reason; it’s because they work.” She was right. I like using clichés because they do work, but I also like to mock clichés … because they are cliché. It makes for an interesting balance within my work.

I don’t want to mock too much to make my art into a parody, but nor do I wish o be too serious in my use of clichés as that could take away from the worlds I’m trying to create.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

The same advice that any artist gives. “Don’t give up” and “Create the Art you want”. Write the stories that you want to read, draw the images you want to look at, make the music that you want to hear, produce the shows that you want to see. And whatever else you do; don’t give up. This is the advice given by any successful artist, and it is true.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Greysexual. I think of it as – on a scale of 1-10 (0 being absolutely Asexual and also Sex-Repulsed, and 11 being Nymphomaniac/Sex Addict) I am a 2; occasionally a 3.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

I am quite lucky in that I haven’t personally had ace prejudice directed towards me. I actually believe that everyone should be involved with community theatre at some point in their lives; yes, there are a couple of divas, but most people are really awesome, open-minded and accepting of everyone else. It’s definitely a place where you can be free to be yourself.

I have felt prejudice in life though.

Whenever I see those arguments online about “Girls do actually only wear make-up and form-fitting clothes because they do actually want attention – even if it’s only subconsciously.”

Those arguments are completely frustrating. They infuriate me – not just as a girl who likes to wear makeup, but also as someone on the ace spectrum. It completely disregards the fact that some of us have no interest in finding a ‘sexual partner’ but like to look nice – I don’t wear makeup and formfitting clothes because I’m “trying to find a mate”, but because I’m Vain, and I like looking at myself in the mirror! I don’t need to be interested in sex to be pretty.

I usually deal with it by trying to ignore it, and by remembering that there are intelligent people in the world who don’t share the above opinion.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

Possibly the whole ‘just need the right person’ thing.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

The same advice I’ve seen on these awesome interviews. That you’re not alone and that you are definitely not broken. You are you, and as long as you are okay with that, then that is the only thing you need to be.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

Unless in NZ people probably won’t be able to find my work, but I do have a couple of fanfictions written under the name ‘Aslansphoenix’.

Although if you give me a couple of years and hopefully my novel will get published and enjoyed.

Thank you, Imogen, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Hanna

Today we’re joined by Hanna. Hanna is a wonderful artist who mostly crochets. She also writes and does photography as a hobby. Hanna loves to crochet and has crocheted a bit of everything, including fandom-inspired plushies. It’s clear she’s a dedicated and passionate artist, as  you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I do a little of a lot of things. I love to write and am an English major at UC Davis. I love taking photographs, though that’s mostly a hobby right now, and I love tinkering in the kitchen and making spoonie friendly or food restriction friendly recipes. My main focus tends to be crochet though. I started teaching myself to crochet something like 7 years ago give or take a year. I started with the standard terrible scarf and moved on to plushies and blankets mainly. I work with free designs from various internet sources or create my own. I’ve made a lot of fandom inspired plushies, a few headbands, some wall hangings and even a bag.

What inspires you?

A lot of things inspire me. I started tinkering with baking and cooking because I have a lot of food allergies and a lot of my family members are diabetic. I started to love photography because it lets me capture a moment or show my point of view on things. I started writing because I’ve always wanted to tell stories. My mom says that when I was a toddler she’d try and put me down for a nap, but I’d insist on telling my own stories and she would be the one to fall asleep instead. I started crocheting as a way to cope with a lot of new pain (I have several chronic illnesses that only started showing up around that time in my life.) It also helped me cope with anxiety and depression, I could put all my feelings into the crochet and disappear into it for hours at a time. A lot of my fandom-based projects were created in bed or on the couch while I binge watched shows or listened to podcasts and audiobooks because I couldn’t really do anything else.

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What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I have to give credit to Diane Duane, specifically her Young Wizards books. They are all about fighting entropy and doing your best to improve the universe. That’s what I try to do with all my art. I write to make people happy, sometimes it’s just me, other times it’s a friend who’s had a bad day, etc. I create safe foods so that I and those I love can experience a little extra pleasure and it always makes me happy to feed people I care about. And I crochet because a- it lets me create new things in the world rather than destroying anything (as a teenager I was a little too destructive in my worst moments.) and b- I can give things to people, tangible things, that make them happy. I’ve always wanted to be a writer or a creator of some sort, I’ve always wanted to make the world a better place and that has always been closely linked to being creative for me.

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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 can’t say that I do have anything quite so specific. A lot of my photographs end up featuring my pets though. I often use one of them as a model or background when I’m photographing new crochet designs too. I guess you could call that my unique signature!

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Keep trying. It is always, always, always hard to start. It does get easier. But here’s the thing, I’ve been writing for 20 years now, I’ve been cooking since I was 3, I’ve taken photographs probably for nearly the same amount of time, and I have been crocheting for almost a decade. I still struggle with all of those things. Mistakes happen, failures happen. My best advice is go ahead, take a moment to mourn the failures, then learn from them and move forward. I take breaks from various things when I have to for health reasons, but I never give up on them.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am asexual. I can find people aesthetically pleasing sure, but I do not experience sexual attraction to anyone, never have. Maybe one day I will, and at that point I may change how I identify, and that’s fine, sexuality is fluid, but right now, I am ace.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

Yes. As an English Major I have taken a lot of English classes, both literature and creative writing. So many of these classes have had a lot of sexual content and a very heteronormative focus. It gets tiring and it gets uncomfortable, and there have been classes where I just had to leave the room because the discussion was too much for me. I try and take a read of the professor, I always try to approach all of these professors and explain asexuality at least once, but some of them refuse to listen and I have to back down in order to continue to feel safe in the class. My favorite professors are always the ones who start things off with offering pronouns at the start of the term and have an open-door policy to discuss any issues with the way they teach the class. Unfortunately, those professors are not as common as I’d like, but I have a feeling that might change as the next few generations step up to the playing field.

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What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

I think it is ‘so that means you can’t ever have a real relationship’ which is incredibly inaccurate and hurtful. I am in a relationship with another ace person, we have been together for 4 and a half years now and we are very happy together.

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What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

I know it can be strange and painful to not fit in with so many of your peers. It can feel like you are broken or sick or like something else is wrong and if only that one thing would change about you, you would be Normal. You are not broken, you are not wrong. I highly recommend reaching out to other ace people and talking. You are not alone.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

Well, I have a Tumblr (Devieklutz and Deviecrochet), though I do not use it very often these days. I am frequently on the Slack for the Young Wizards fandom (youngwizards.slack.com) and we have an incredible ace community there. This fandom is the most supportive group of people I’ve ever encountered, and we have an unusually high percentage of ace members (I think it was nearly 50% as of the last survey!) I also help run a convention for the fandom: CrossingsCon (crossingscon.org) our next convention is in Montreal in June of 2019, we have plenty of badges available if anyone wants to come and hang out and meet a lot of very cool, very supportive people.

7. christmas tree crochet

Thank you, Hanna, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Paola

Today we’re joined by Paola. Paola is a phenomenal musician from Sweden who has recently joined a new punk band called Psykonauterna. The band formed last September and doesn’t have an album out yet, but have recorded and played covers of punk and grunge songs. They’re planning on playing some gigs in the summer. Paola is incredibly dedicated and excited about music. She obviously loves music, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am the guitarist, lead singer, and songwriter in a recently formed punk band called Psykonauterna (Swedish for “the Psychonauts”).  We formed in September 2018 and so far, have been playing covers of punk and grunge songs in small gigs, though we hopefully will soon begin working on our first songs and album.  My inspirations, specifically, come primarily from the Manchester music scene of the 70s/80s/90s—things like the Smiths, Joy Division, the Sex Pistols, etc. — but I also endeavor to find my own path when I consider the kind of songs I want to write. I have been playing guitar for less than two years and spend most of my time learning songs written by musicians I admire.

What inspires you?

What inspires me the most, musically, is the punk movement and attitude.  Nearly every punk musician, especially during the early punk years of the late ‘70s, came from poor and/or inexperienced backgrounds. After being inspired by their contemporaries, people would just pick up a guitar or bass for the first time, gather some friends, and weeks later they would be playing gigs together and eventually writing songs.  As someone who has been playing guitar less than two years at this point, this “anyone can do it” attitude of punk is alluring to me and helps me to realize that I do not have to be Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page or any of the legendary guitarists of the past 100 years to make it as a musician.  If Peter Hook [bassist to my favorite band] can go from hardly knowing what a bass guitar is to writing amazing songs within a couple years, then I think I may not be in such a bad position.  I feel captivated by learning the stories of these musicians because they make me think, “Hey, this could work!”.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

Yes and no.  Perhaps everyone has experienced this, but I have always been fascinated by the guitar.  As a child I would daydream about playing the songs on the radio or my iPod that had cool riffs, and from the age of about 15 I remember telling people that I wanted to someday learn guitar (I specifically remember saying I would learn Stairway to Heaven first, which I have yet to do, shame on me).  However, it was not until the past year or so that I seriously decided that I wanted to write my own songs, be in a band, and have a career within music.

As for what got me interested in my field, the short answer is all the music that I love.  I’ve always been passionate about listening to music—everything from punk to new wave to synthpop to grunge—and learning about the musicians behind the music that means so much to me.  I connect better to music than I do to novels and films, despite also being a hungry consumer of those types of media.  When I listen to a song, I often pay attention to every part: the lyrics, the bassline, the guitar, etc., and how they fit together, often getting moved by more than just the lyrics of the song. The right bassline or guitar riff or synth sound can energize me and make me feel things just as well as a well-written lyric. Shortly after picking up my first guitar and learning some of the simpler songs that I enjoy I began to hunger for more. It probably wasn’t a specific moment that this happened, but I eventually began to think, “you know, I want to do this. I want to be like all the musicians I love and admire, going up there on stage and both playing and singing my heart out.” So, I began to write lyrics.  Simple things inspired by my favorite lyricists, Ian Curtis and Morrissey, as well as my own experiences.  By September 2018, this dream started to become a reality when I grouped with several people as a band and prepared for my first gig.

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 haven’t finished any of my self-written songs yet, but when writing lyrics, I keep in mind the thought of writing songs that can touch a variety of audiences.  Of course, I endeavor to “write from my heart”, as in lyrics that mean something to me since good lyrics often come from the author’s experiences and feelings.  However, most of my songs so far have been neutral in that they talk more about the feelings aspect and don’t focus specifically on a certain gender in either the perspective or the subject of the song.  Most are not even explicitly or implicitly about romantic relationships. I have these half-written song lyrics that are about different painful experiences I have gone through—mental illness, losing friends—that have nothing to do with going through a breakup, which is contrary to what many songs of varying genres are about.  Like the late Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks said, “I enjoy writing songs that do not exclude anyone.  The only people they exclude are people who don’t know anything about love.” In my case, I consider the broad definition of the word love.  Though it may not be as direct a signature as other artists include, it is my way to let my identity shine through and to include people of varying genders and sexualities, much in the way Pete Shelley did.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

My advice? Dare to try. I know it is cliché, but I never would have made it half this far if I didn’t just dare to try.  Emphasis on the dare.  If I didn’t for example dare to attend that club for musicians who wanted to be in a band, instead of listening to the voice in my head saying that the others would be much better than me, then I would still be playing chords by myself in my bedroom. Not only were we all at a similar level, but we also developed and learned so much together—things I never would have learned and experienced if I didn’t take that step.  I think this applies to any artistic field.  Maybe you want to be a cartoonist but don’t feel good enough at drawing to do the pieces in a local newsletter. Well, you never know until you ask.  Or maybe you want to a publish a novel but feel insignificant, unskilled compared to the authors on the bestseller lists.  Sure, they may have experiences, skills, and techniques that you feel you lack, but their skills do not take away from yours.  Dare to send in that art portfolio.  Dare to contact that publisher.  Dare to answer that “band members needed ad”.  I can’t promise you would achieve everything directly, but I also won’t suggest you would “fail”.  When you ignore that nagging voice in your head that says you are not as good as everyone you admire and that you therefore won’t succeed, impressive things can happen.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

It is all a bit hazy for me, but I have been calling myself demisexual/romantic because I’ve only felt those kinds of attractions toward one person (a friend), though since it has been over a year and seems unlikely I will experience it for a blue moon or several, I sometimes consider myself more on the aro/ace side of the spectrum. This doesn’t much have to do with the ace spectrum, but I also like to think I could be pan.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

Fortunately, not, though that could be in part to the fact that I am not completely out to the “real world”.  Only a few close friends and some LGBT+ friends/peers that I have met in real life know my identity, and with my friends/peers/contemporaries/etc in the music industry the topic of dating or sex has never come up, so I haven’t had the opportunity or necessity to share. However, the people I associate with seem welcoming to LBGT+ people and I would expect them to be understanding of me.

I will perhaps face more difficulties as I gain more experience in this field, considering how sex is typically seen as an essential part of music industry.  It is almost expected that musicians would have sex with their “groupies” and indeed I jest about wanting a “rock n roll” life first when faced with questions from friends I am out to about marriage/dating.  But so far, most ignorance has come from coworkers pressuring me about having a boyfriend and have had nothing to do with the music industry.  I will just continue being unapologetically myself no matter what prejudice or ignorance I may someday face.  In a way, it will feel truly punk, standing up to the stereotype of musicians being male and getting with their groupies, solely by being myself.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

Gosh I come across so many all the time I scroll through the internet, more so when it comes to being demi specifically, but I think by far the most common is that asexual is a label used by people who want to feel special for being celibate and/or for not being interested in having sex.  It frustrates me to no end! We are not just people who are celibates, or prudes, or uninterested in sex who want to be “holier than thou” because of that.  We do not feel sexual attraction or feel it rarely in some cases.  Some aces are even the opposite of those labels and have sex with their partners as an act of intimacy, even if they do not feel attraction.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Take your time and don’t be afraid to try different labels that may or may not fit.  It is okay to not be sure of your exact identity and to change from different labels if you realize one does not fit anymore. It is also okay to not have a label or not want one and to just consider yourself aspec, because that is a catchall term that will always be there for you. Remember also that you are not lesser or immature for not feeling sexual attraction or for feeling it less than your peers, no matter what they say to the contrary.  You are a loved and precious individual.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

My band does not have an Instagram account or anything yet, but if you want mini updates you are welcome to follow either of my personal Tumblr blogs, at winterknightdragon and at thequeenisstilldead where I sometimes post my cover songs and will eventually share the link to our band Instagram.  You are also welcome to dm me if you want a link to something. My work is all over the place now so that is the easiest way.  You don’t have to be shy! I’m not scary just because I am in a band.

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Thank you, Paola, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Senta

Today we’re joined by Senta. Senta is a phenomenal illustrator who works mostly in digital mediums. He does enjoy using ballpoint pen on occasion. He has his own style, but can also adapt to a variety of other styles. It’s clear he’s an incredibly passionate artist who loves to create, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

1. CU2

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I draw, mostly digitally but sometimes I like drawing with ballpoint pen. My personal style is kind of muted colors and darker settings, but I do lots of other stuff depending on the vibe I’m trying to show. I take a bit of pride on the fact that I can cater to people’s interests, that’s especially useful in my line of work, I’m an illustrator 😉

What inspires you?

People inspire me, mostly fictional characters to be honest, but I love to draw people, I love to create characters and create stories for them. I do a lot of fan art of whatever I’m interested in the moment, or whatever catches my eye. Sometimes it’s just a photo or something that gives me a vibe for a character and then I have to draw them.

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What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I honestly don’t know how I started drawing, but I’ve been doing in since I can remember. I used to draw with chalk on paper when I was a kid cause my kindergarten didn’t have pencils for all of us. I’ve always wanted to work in the field, yes, but I wasn’t sure what would I do exactly, I wanted to be a graphic designer for a long time until I realized what that was and that I couldn’t really draw much, then I went and studied to be an Illustrator 🙂

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 sign all my work as Senta, but someday I will come up with a tiny character or something to hide in all my work, I really want to do that, but I’m not sure what. I follow at least 3 artists that do that and I loooove it, I love to search for the little Easter egg in all their art.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

I’m not great with advice, but I would say PRACTICE! Practice a lot, and surround yourself with people and things that inspire you to create. Nice supporting friends that share your passion for art are truly special, whether is online or IRL. Also, really practice! Nobody is born knowing how to so stuff, all those awesome artists that you love? Those people busted their butts off to get there.

3. John
John

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as ace and quasiromantic bi (that label is pretty recent 😉 ) but I usually go with queer, it’s shorter.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

Not necessarily on my field. I’ve encountered it online, where I post my art, or in fandoms I make art of, but it’s never about the art itself (thankfully). Either way I try to let it go and not let it affect me too much. People are ignorant, a lot of people are, and if I offer some education and they deny it by being close minded then there’s nothing I can do about it… That said, it does affect me sometimes, and then I just go and talk to supportive people, I vent a little and then I usually forget why I was upset in the first place.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

I’ve had a lot of “being asexual is basically being straight”, some “you have to be attracted to someone”, and a few people invalidating queerplatonic relationships and saying they’re “basically just friendships”… As I said, ignorant people ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Look, I’m the kind of person who loves labels, I looove having a word to explain how I feel, to know that there’s someone out there who feels the same, so I hate it when people say “you don’t have to label yourself, just be you”. But as much as I hate it, they do have a point… cause even if you don’t find a label, it doesn’t mean you’re alone, there’s so many people in the world I’m 100% sure there’s at least 50 more people who feel the same.

Specially in the asexual community, we talk more openly about it being a spectrum, so it’s hard to find your place in it, and it might even move around, but it’s ok, take your time. I’d say don’t rush anything, don’t pressure yourself to know everything, it’s ok not to know. And don’t be afraid to change your mind, that doesn’t mean you’re fake, you’re just figuring things out, and to be honest, we all are… Be patient with yourself, be kind, and don’t let anyone define you, only you can decide your labels (if you decide they’re for you 😉 )

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

I’m on Tumblr: sentaart (and the-doctor-is-ace is my personal blog) and Instagram: senta_art

4. Miranda
Miranda

Thank you, Senta, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.