Interview: Ella

Today we’re joined by Ella. Ella is a phenomenally talented artist who specializes in designing creatures and props. She works as a graphic designer and also writes, both original work and fanfiction, and bakes. Ella is most passionate about making creatures from movies. They’re exquisite, as you’ll soon see. Ella is a passionate and dedicated artist, which really shines through in her work. 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 lots of things! I’m a graphic designer, I bake, I write stories … But I think my creatures are the things I’m proudest of, so I’m gonna talk about them.

Have you ever sat in a movie theatre and went: ‘that animal is the most adorable thing I have ever seen and I want to hug it!!’

Me, too. Sadly, most of the animals on films and series are either lethal, imaginary or trained. So you’ll have to live out the rest of your life, knowing you would never get to hug that little critter.

I refuse to live out my life that way. That’s why I make the animals myself.

I have made a Toothless costume from How To Train Your Dragon, a BB-8 from Star Wars, two creatures from Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy, and a plaidypus and the pig Waddles, from Gravity Falls.

My greatest joy comes from bringing the creatures to a convention, so other people can hug them, too.

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What inspires you?

The movies the creatures are in, mainly. But never underestimate the reaction other people have to your creations. People keep me going. People going “He’s so CUTE! Where did you buy him?” And then I can say: “Oh, no, I made him!”

Then again, everything can inspire me. A walk through the dollar store is very helpful, for instance.

The thing that inspires me the most is that sometimes, kids believe that my creatures are real. To me, that’s the best compliment I can get.

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

I just sort of… ended up in it. My job is graphic designer, but I only went to that school because it was close to home. I started working on Toothless when I was 18 or so. I always thought I wanted to be a comic artist, or just an illustrator. Or maybe an actress. Or maybe something with languages! Then it turned out that my drawings are not that good, I don’t have patience to practice and I didn’t like languages all that much.

But, man. I started work on Toothless, and it just flowed. And then I started to work on BB-8, and that flowed as well. Writers tell about it, too. As if a book wants to be written.

I guess my creatures just want to be made.

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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?

For some reason, I love the number eight. I usually try to put it somewhere in my writing, art or creatures. Or I incorporate something of myself. The lines on the hands of the big white ape-like Dougal are the same as the lines on mine. And I love special effects. The eyes of Dougal light up, the Niffler has a pouch in which bells are glued so he rings when he is shaken. BB-8 rolls and makes sounds. Toothless’s wings could go up and down.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t force yourself to do anything that you deep down feel you don’t want to. If drawing secretly isn’t your thing, try clay! Try writing!

If you wanna do something like the things I do, buy a glue gun. It’s the best tool ever.

Stay kind to the other artists. They started like you did. And above all, stay weird. Find that one small spot inside yourself that screams “this is me!” and hold on tightly.

Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you aren’t good enough. If they do, hot glue their fingers together. Trust me, it hurts.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as Straight and Asexual Until Further Notice.

That basically means that I have no sexual interest in people, but I don’t know what happens when I actually do get a relationship at one point.

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

My colleagues don’t often understand it. They ask questions like “But if your partner wants to, and you don’t, what do you do?”

The answer is “We don’t do the do.”

I don’t have much prejudice or ignorance, really. I guess people already see me as a strange person and are like “well, we’ll just add that up to the total picture”

Most people just want explanations on How It Works. Here’s my tip on that:

Ask if they have pets. Most people do. Then ask them if they think that their pet is the most beautiful thing in the world. Most people say yes. Then ask them if they would like to have sex with their pet. The people go “NOOO EEEEW”

Then you go: ‘That’s how I feel about everyone’

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

That you can get rid of it.

“Oh, no matter. Once you meet the right person…”

You can’t get rid of it. It’s like your spine. Sure, you could try to get rid of your spine, but that would take immense force and possibly trauma.

Please don’t get rid of your spine. (unless you medically need to or something)

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

Relax. Sexualities change. At first I thought I was completely and utterly asexual, now I’m thinking I might just be demi. Your atoms and molecules replace completely every seven years or so. Who says you can’t?

If you don’t want sex, don’t have it. And if you are struggling with anything, do some research. Talk to people. Talk to your partner, for goodness sake.

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

My stories: SleepingReader on AO3
My cosplays: EllaFixIt on Facebook or FixitCosplay on Instagram.
My Tumblr – feel free to talk to me about anything- SleepingReader.

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

Interview: Rachel

Today we’re joined by Rachel (who goes by badasszombiespinster on Tumblr). Rachel is a phenomenal visual artist who specializes in conceptual art. She has a variety of interests including character and creature design. Much of her work is fantasy and scifi based and she has also done some 3D sculpting. Rachel also happens to be a fellow badass feminist (yay!). Her work is absolutely amazing, as you’ll soon see. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

Black Shuck (finished) copy
Black Shuck

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m a visual artist, who works mostly in conceptual art! I design characters, creatures and environments (though mostly the two former), in the hopes that I will be able to study Games Art and Design at degree level! I also do my own pieces now and then, including little doodles, that are either fantasy, sci-fi, or animal based (one of my favourite doodles, a cat called Inky, is actually my blog icon). I’ve also done a small amount of 3D work in the programme MudBox.

What inspires you?

My art is influenced and inspired by lots of things, but when it comes to the creatures I design, it boils down primarily to nature. Nature creates some of the freakiest things and some of the most beautiful things you can ever encounter. Nothing I can create will ever match the sheer mass and unique qualities of animals already alive and walking around, but I can draw inspiration from them for my own work. When it comes to characters, well, my and other people’s stances on subjects such as sexism, racism, transphobia, homophobia, etc. has a definite influence on what characters I create. As my political and moral stances have changed over the years my characters have become more diverse, and furthermore more interesting! I want my characters to be engaging, and to break the mold – not to be the same old white, straight, cisgender and primarily male characters you see everywhere in fantasy and sci-fi art.

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

No, actually, I haven’t always wanted to be an artist. When I was younger, I was determined to be a marine biologist and even pursued scuba diving in this desire, becoming a certified Open Water diver when I was thirteen. Then I realized that open water (no reefs or ocean floor beneath) terrified me; that and I barely passed science. I decided then I was more of a creative, and went for creative writing, no hard-focused on becoming a fantastic author. Then after my first year of A Levels I discovered I hated English Literature (which was necessary to do Creative Writing – something which still bamboozles me a bit), and I actually loved Media Studies, where I was learning all about the male gaze, representation and racism in movies, games and magazines. I was also studying Art and Design at the time because, while I wasn’t considering it for a career choice for a long time, I still enjoyed it and wanted to do more (though the A Level Art and Design course was a bit too academic for me, I still managed to pass!). It was through the two of them, and with the support of my Media Studies teacher, that I first learnt of Games Art and Design, though I didn’t consider it seriously until this year, when I started my Foundation Art and Design course.

Now, I’m surprised I hadn’t learnt of it sooner!

Deer
Deer

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?

Unfortunately no! The most I stick on my work is my signature which looks like a weird scribble.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Whatever you do, don’t believe the claptrap that there is no work in Art. This is what I believed for donkeys years and it was actually what made me put off looking into the creative industry for so long! Everyone I knew told me there were no jobs in Art, that people who went on to study it left with no jobs and starved on the street. It wasn’t until I started looking into University with my Art and Media tutors that I realized there was much more diversity of subjects in art that I believed, and all of them could be a possible job, and it was mind-blowing! There is an incredible range of jobs out there for artists – illustrators, graphic designers, costume designers, concept artists, architects, 3D modelers, jewellers; art is such an intrinsic and important part of our culture! It takes up a place in everything from the advertisements on the billboards, to the houses on every street – all of them had an artist at some point behind them, so don’t believe these people who say there’s no jobs there for you! If you’ve got the passion and love for your art, you can find a way to go!

Gold-Crested Tropics Dragon
Gold-Crested Tropics Dragon

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Asexual biromantic! I’m not yet certain how I feel about sexual stuff, but for the moment I stand as sex-responsive.

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

Generally just the ignorance it exists, but I have encountered a few people who have flat out told me it was a made-up sexuality. I’ve only ever had men say it straight to my face though, and I’d say that was definitely coupled with misogyny. Unfortunately my field of art does generally have a higher ratio of men, particularly white, cisgender, straight men who are usually the ones making the decisions. Thankfully, the numbers of people of other genders and sexualities are starting to increase in the sector and I hope it makes a difference!

As to how I handle it? Social anxiety keeps me from ever really having an argument with them, but I do like sticking asexuality jokes all over their monitors and talking over them whenever a conversation comes up about sexism and homophobia in the media – usually a “screw you I studied this for two damn years” sort of attitude.

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

There are quite a few misconceptions that I’ve bumped into about asexuality. For a start, a lot of people seem to assume that the term only comes from the “Tumblrs” and is a way to identify ourselves as “special snowflakes” which is demeaning, patronizing and completely wrong. People outside of the ace community also seem to be completely unaware that asexuality is, like all sexualities, a spectrum with a lot of variety, including a variety of romantic attractions (which they seem incapable to separate from sexual attraction; the assumption is usually that all asexuals are automatically aromantic as well) That or the forever unfunny “so you’re a plant” response.

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

It sounds weird, but the Internet is a wonderful tool. Its how I recognized my own asexuality and gave it a name – and no longer felt like I was weird – and gave me access to a much wider community who are more accepting of asexuality. I’m utterly thankful for it. And, if you’re concerned that maybe you’re not ace enough, there are lots of blogs on Tumblr that are super helpful about asexuality and romantic attraction that might be able to help you figure things out (and believe me when I say, you’re ace enough).

About coming out, I can’t say. I have personally never come out to my family, though I do plan to this year (wish me luck!), but I have come out to my friends. If you’re concerned that maybe they won’t understand you, or be nice to you, or even like you anymore, try to prompt some discussion on it first, get their point of view. If they don’t seem accepting, don’t come out to them. Your safety and happiness is top priority, and if people aren’t willing to be kind or accommodating of that, then they don’t need to know. Take care of yourself loves ❤

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

I currently don’t have one set art blog, but I will be setting one up soon! I do have a more casual Tumblr blog, at badasszombiespinster.tumblr.com, and I will occasionally post my doodles and artwork there.

Tundra Dragon
Tundra Dragon

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

Interview: R.A. Faller

Today we’re joined by R.A. Faller.  R.A. is a remarkably talented artist who recently graduated from the Columbus College of Arts & Design.  Their focus is on creature and animal art (the animal lover in me just absolutely perked up when I read that).  They keep a side blog where they draw dinosaurs based around pride flags for marginalized sexual and gender identities weekly.  My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am a freelance concept artist who specializes in creature and character design.  My main focus is on creating imaginary animals that are (relatively) scientifically/anatomically accurate and that could potentially function in the real world.  I love birds, reptiles and dinosaurs, and I tend to take a lot of influence from them in the creatures I draw.

What inspires you?

Mainly nature, animals and science.  I’m obsessed with doing research and examining the world and the living things around us, and I think the majority of my work stems from that thought process – of simply asking what else could exist in our world.  Naturally, zoology and paleontology are central to what I do, but I also get a lot of inspiration from fictional stories, fantasy and mythology.  I also like to look back on things that I enjoyed during my childhood –  like Pokemon, Disney and Don Bluth cartoons, monster-suit Godzilla movies and of course dinosaurs.

I’m also incredibly inspired by the reactions people have to my work, as I love positivity and making people happy with what I do. And of course I’m always motivated by seeing the work of the artists I look up to and aspire to be like.

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

I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, although it took me a while to realize that my main calling was in visual art.  For a long time, I wanted to be a writer; it wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I realized the characters and stories I wanted to convey would come across clearer through pictures, not words.  I think the creature design aspect of my work comes from a lifelong love of animals and nature, and a childhood of doodling monsters and dinosaurs on every available surface material.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in our work that you’d be willing to reveal?

My signature is typically just my name, which isn’t very exciting.  I guess the most consistent feature in my work is that usually I like to paint digitally over scanned in watercolor or canvas textures.  I also like to draw my lineart traditionally as well.  I feel like traditional lineart (and, well, traditional media in general) is dying out in my field (which worries me), but there’s just something about the tactile feeling of leaving marks on paper that I can’t let go of yet.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Never stop drawing, never stop practicing.  And never stop researching other artists, other techniques, or other art styles.  Don’t worry too much about developing a consistent style (it will come in time), but try to find a balance between working in a style that you’re comfortable with and experimenting with different things.  Versatility is important, and experimentation will help make your work unique.

Also, never be afraid of reaching out to artists that you admire.  I know that I’m always really intimidated by contacting other artists, but I’ve gotten some of the best advice of my artistic career by doing so.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Sex-repulsed, aromantic asexual

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

I only finished with school very recently, so I can’t say that I’ve been active enough in my field to really encounter any prejudice or discrimination.  That being said, I have encountered a fair share of ignorance and disbelief in my personal and academic life when it comes to the subject of asexuality.  It just feels like something non-asexual people don’t want to hear about – it’s always the same reaction of blank stares, visible discomfort, a quick change in subject matter, or worse, the classic “How do you know” or “How can you live without wanting sex?” Even my closest friends, the people I actually consider myself “out” to, have the same reaction – it’s like they just don’t want to connect the concept of asexuality with their personal concept of myself as a person.

I’m extremely sensitive to stuff like that, so I feel like on top of the outside prejudice I have a lot of internal strife related to my identity as asexual.  Before I discovered that asexuality was a legitimate orientation, I spent a large portion of my high school years thinking that I was some kind of abnormal freak, in not feeling any form of sexual attraction or desire.  I would be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes feel the same way today.  Half the time it’s as though I feel intensely proud of the fact that I’m asexual, while the rest of the time I feel deeply ashamed of it.  It’s very confusing.

Lately I’ve just been trying to ignore the shame and be more open about who I am, both in terms of my sexual orientation and my gender identity.  I know I have a lot of internal bias to overcome, and I know I’m probably going to encounter even more prejudice and ignorance in the outside world, but I figure that life is too short to not do what I want to do, and to not represent myself in a way I want to be represented.  So I guess the bottom line is, I haven’t been handling the acephobia very well, but at least I’ve started trying.

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

The usual – that it’s a choice, that it’s the same thing as celibacy, that it isn’t a valid orientation.  Or that I’m somehow suffering or missing out, because I don’t feel the need to have sex.  And of course, that it’s not something worth being proud of.

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

Remember that you are the only person who can choose to define or label your identity, and that it’s perfectly natural to be confused, or for your identity to feel like it’s changing.  Also, never let yourself be pressured into coming out if you don’t feel comfortable doing so just yet – coming out as any non-heteronormative orientation is a huge and terrifying process, and there is absolutely no shame in staying in the closet until you’re ready to come out.

It can feel incredibly isolating being the only asexual person in a group of people, but also remember that there are so many resources and communities available online that you can contact whenever you’re feeling that kind of alienation.  Sometimes that simple realization that there actually are other people like me out there is enough for me to remember that I’m not abnormal and I’m not alone.  Never hesitate to contact people on places like the AVEN forum or on ace-friendly blogs on Tumblr if you feel like you need advice or reassurance.

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

My main website is www.rafallerart.com, and you can also find me on Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook under the username rafallerart.  I also have a side blog (http://pridedinosaurs.tumblr.com/) where I draw weekly dinosaurs based on the pride flags for different marginalized sexual and gender identities.

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