Interview: Jess Renae Curtis

Today we’re joined by Jess Renae Curtis, who also goes by Jess or Pup. Jess is the phenomenal artist behind PuppyLuver Studios. She does mostly fan work at the moment but has also recently branched out into original work. She is currently dabbling with creating an original universe. Jess is mostly a digital artist and creates both fanart and original characters through drawing. Her work is bright and colorful, capturing the viewer and drawing them in. It shows an amazing attention to detail. It’s clear she’s an extraordinarily talented artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

1. owl barber
Owl Barber

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m both a writer and a digital artist. My illustrations are generally focused on characters, both original designs and those from fandoms I’m involved in, and tend to use a lot of varied color. My writing is involved in both fanfiction (notable ones I’m working on at the moment include Chronicles of Tajiria, a Pokémon series but with the Pokémon as people with superpowers/magic, and Sonata in Triplicate, a Legend of Zelda AU series) and my original series Theia Historica, of which I have the first entry (titled A Kingdom of Children) published.

What inspires you?

I don’t really have a definite answer for that, it could be just about anything depending on what sort of thing or things it ends up inspiring. I’ve had small one-page comics based on something funny that happened to me while playing a video game, I’ve designed a character because a YouTuber I follow posted a video of himself shaving his beard with a razor that I initially thought looked like an owl, I’ve drawn pieces based on something funny a friend said to me, lots of things. In fact, the general art direction of Theia Historica has its roots in one very specific part in the PS2 role-playing game Okage: Shadow King, but it’s a long explanation so that’s a story for another time.

2. mermaids working out
Mermaids Working Out

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

I’ve been drawing ever since I was a little kid, and while I always liked drawing it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life for the longest time. Funnily enough, my first career choices were astronaut and veterinarian, before I realized that the things in space kinda scared me and I was squeamish about blood and other bodily fluids, so around middle school I decided to try a career path that I already had some skill and comfort in. I started storytelling shortly after becoming literate, though unlike visual art that was always something I could see myself doing professionally, though more as an “after I’m done being an astrovet” thing than as part of my main career.

3. brunswick manor front
Brunswick Manor front

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?

Can’t think of anything in particular except for the star that I use as my watermark (a five-point star with each point being a different color of the rainbow except for orange). Also in major writing projects I tend to find some way or another to put myself in there. Just…self-insert in the background, there I am.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

If you’re feeling discouraged about your skill level, remember to keep trying and that you can only get better. You’ve got wonderful visions that’ve been concocted solely by the processes of your imagination, and only you can bring them to life for the world to see. Also, don’t pay attention to what cringe culture says. Make that multicolor Sonic OC if you want. Write a short story about you getting transported to your favorite fictional world and becoming best buds with the main characters if doing so cheers you up when you’re feeling down. Don’t let anyone stop you from enjoying something that makes you happy and doesn’t hurt others.

4. journey-traveler's hub
Journey-Traveler’s Hub

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m a sex-repulsed asexual. I’m not entirely sure yet of where I fall in regards to romantic attraction, but if I were to try dating I think I’d want my first attempts at romantic experiences to be with women.

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

Not specifically in my field, no, and I don’t really know how I would handle it if I were to encounter prejudice that was physical or coming from a position of authority. Most people I’ve told about my asexuality are a bit confused as to what it means at first, but once I explain they’re generally supportive. I have had encounters with people who flat-out refused to believe that I was an adult who didn’t enjoy sex and couldn’t ever imagine doing so, but that one was on me for commenting on a video explicitly titled “Why Does Sex Feel Good?” and saying that I couldn’t understand why sex-havers craved it so strongly (I mean, I technically can, cuz if sex weren’t at least somewhat pleasurable to those willingly engaging in it then the species would die out because then no one would be boinking and possibly making babies) and I thought the whole societal obsession with it was a bit ridiculous. I kinda walked into that one, and I ended up just muting that conversation and moving on.

5. skull kid and deku tree
Skull Kid and Deku Tree

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

If they don’t outright dismiss the possibility of asexuality/aromanticism existing, they tend to assume all asexual people share my feelings in that sex is something they wish to avoid. While I am not one of them, there are obviously plenty of asexuals who either are indifferent or even enjoy sex as an activity. I’m put off by all the mess that I’ve heard results from a typical sexual encounter to even consider trying it, but I will never knock on any sex-positive or sex-neutral aces.

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

Not having a sexual or romantic attraction is just as normal as having a sexual or romantic attraction to people of a different gender, the same gender, or multiple genders. You’re not broken just because all your peers are ogling “sexy” celebrities and you find yourself feeling indifferent to the whole thing. And don’t listen to all the highly vocal exclusionists plaguing the internet that say a-spec people don’t belong. They are the minority given megaphones, and the majority of LGBT groups and spaces are inclusive of a-specs.

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

You can find my stuff on DeviantART under the username PuppyLuver, and on Tumblr, Twitter, FanFiction.net, and AO3 under the username PuppyLuver256. I also have a Redbubble store and a Patreon.

6. shiny mahina
Shiny Mahina

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

Interview: Meg

Today we’re joined by Meg. Meg is a phenomenal visual artist who specializes in photo manipulation and book cover design. Her work is gorgeous, showing a keen eye for detail and a vivid imagination. It’s clear she’s an artist who loves what she does, as you’ll soon see. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I mostly do digital art with the program Photoshop CC. The majority of things that I make fall under the categories of photomanipulation and book cover design. I’ve been practicing doing digital art for five years now and I hope to continue in the future.

What inspires you?

Anything and everything. Sometimes I’ll be out walking on the street with my family and I’ll stop to take a picture of a design that I particularly like. They will confirm this.

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

When I was younger, I wanted to be the type of artist who did paintings and the like. Does that count? Of course, I realized I couldn’t draw for shit, so, you know, digital art. But yeah, I’ve always kind of wanted to do some kind of art.

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 wish. I will say that the majority of my work includes the color blue as it has been a long time favorite of mine.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

As Dory says, ‘Just keep swimming.’ Don’t give up just because you see someone that you think is way better than you, or because you think that you aren’t good enough. It may sound cliché, but nobody starts off any art as Michelangelo. On that note, try not to be too harsh on your own work, something I’m frequently guilty of myself. Whoops.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

So, so, so asexual.

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

Actually, I have not experienced a lot of prejudice in my field, and I’m very thankful for that.

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

That asexuals don’t have dirty minds. Oh my god, so not true. Speaking from personal experience.

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

It’s not ‘weird’ or ‘strange’ to be asexual. It is what it is.

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

I actually have a website! (Finally): pantographics.wixsite.com/pantographicdesigns

And an Instagram: at pantographics.

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

Interview: Renn

Today we’re joined by Renn. Renn is an extraordinary visual artist who also dabbles in embroidery and sings in their state’s LGBTQ+ chorus. They have mainly worked in traditional mediums, though they have recently started branching out into digital art. Their work is fascinating in its use of color and light. It’s clear Renn is an incredibly talented and passionate artist who enjoys what they do, as you’ll soon read. 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’m something of an ace-of-all trades (pardon the pun). Most of my work has been traditional pen and ink drawings- I’ve always been the most comfortable with felt pens as my medium since you can re-do the sketch as many times as it takes to get each line juuuuuuust right before finalizing it in ink. Every now and then I’ll do a watercolor- the colors can be quite vibrant and watercolors can blend together in a way markers and ink can’t. Watercolor is something of an exercise in discipline for me; I’m not the most patient of persons even without taking my ADHD into account- so waiting for the paint to dry before adding another piece of color can be trying sometimes. I’ve ruined plenty of paintings only because I just couldn’t wait! I recently started painting digitally with my beloved Huion tablet- a much better way for me to explore painting as a medium because there are no more wait times for colors to dry! And layers! Oh do I love my layers. Working digitally, I enjoy using a limited but vibrant pallet to challenge myself to really bring out the highlights and shadows of what I’m drawing, making the artwork overall more striking.

Sometimes when I have the time + materials + energy, I craft my own cosplays (and bowties!) In my spare time I also enjoy doing embroidery and singing with the Rainbow Chorale, my state’s local LGBTQ+ chorus!

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What inspires you?

A lot of my main drive to create comes from seeing the work of other artists. You know how your brain will see someone else’s work and go “Gee I wish I could draw like that!” I take that feeling and turn it into “Well why don’t I go and draw something I want to create that will look just as good that I and other people will enjoy!”

I also enjoy doing art as an out and visible queer asexual person, because it gives other people like me the chance to see themselves reflected in my art and see themselves being represented, even if they themselves cannot be out and visible like me.

Butterflies
Butterflies

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

I’ve been drawing since I was really little, like 4 or so. Creating art through drawing was something I would do to relax after school…  or something I did to avoid taking notes or doing homework… ah ha. For young, awkward, socially anxious me, art was the best way for me to express myself and communicate. So, in a way, I’ve always been interested in creative fields because that ability to create from my own ideas has always been with me. With respect to “wanting to be an artist” (I’m interpreting this as become a professional) drawing as a job isn’t something I want to do. I’m happy to take the occasional commission, or make something as a gift, but drawing as my main profession isn’t for me. Art is an escape for me, for when life gets to be too overwhelming. If that escape was invaded by the stress and pressure to constantly create and keep churning out artwork, then creating would no longer be that escape for me.

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 always sign my work (well, when I remember) with my screen-name (Renaissance Aeroplane) initials “RA” and a little airplane flying out from the “A”. Typically I’ll put it in the corner of digital paintings, and tuck it in somewhere in sight when I do pen and paper drawings.

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I’ve had that screen-name for a while, except ‘renaissance’ was spelled with two Ns since spelling wasn’t a strong suit of mine. Thus that turned into the nickname “Renn” which I’ve gotten rather attached to and started using as an offline nickname as well.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Take a deep breath, and relax. Sit back, stretch your arms, and release that tension you’ve been holding in. It’s okay- if you aren’t as popular as that one artist, if that one line just refuses to come out right, if you fudged up the inking, painting didn’t come out the way you wanted it to- It’s going to be all right! There’s always so much pressure as an artist, to keep making more art and be perfect and get likes/reblogs/retweets/site traffic. That pressure is overwhelming and the last thing that will help you improve is pushing yourself so hard that creating art becomes stressful and overwhelming. So take another deep breath, relax, and continue to do what makes you happy.

paletteportrait
Palette Portrait

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Definitely full-on asexual; the frying-pan of sexual attraction feelings won’t be hitting me in the face anytime soon. It’s not a sensation I’ve ever felt, likely will never feel, and I am cool with that being so. I’m probably?? somewhere on the gray-bi-romantic scale of things; every now and then I’ll become romantically inclined towards someone, but it doesn’t happen all that often. *shrug*

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

Fortunately I haven’t had much experience with prejudice aside from the occasional bigot being rude online. What I have encountered more of is well-meaning but ignorant folks coming into my inbox and expecting me to educate them. Which can sometimes be annoying, and other times be emotionally draining and exhausting. So, what I’ll do is send them a few links with good articles about asexuality (or trans/nonbinary issues because I get questions about that too. Yaaaaaay.) that I’ve read through beforehand to ensure all the info is correct. Then I’ll let them know I’m glad they want to learn more, but I don’t have the time/energy to educate them one on one on the basics, that the links I sent contain more info about the subject, and once they’ve read through what I’ve sent and understand it, I’ll be happy to talk with them later.

SCAN0226

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

That eventually I’ll “grow out of it” or “there’s always the possibility you meet the right person!” *barf* I get that for some people, sexuality can change or you can discover something you didn’t know about yourself, but that is not me. I already did all my soul-searching and exploring and I am quite happy labeling myself as ace, thanks very much. That and there’s something so gross about the insistence that I will become sexually attracted to someone. Euggggh.

SCAN0236

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

It’s helpful to ask for advice or experiences from other ace folks and to ask other LGBTQ+ folks about their experiences to help you figure out what you’re feeling- BUT what determines your sexuality, above all, is what YOU think and how YOU feel. So, if you think “Well I’ve never/rarely/only sometimes feel sexually/physically attracted to people” then congrats! You’re ace! And that is for you to decide whether or not you want to label yourself that way.

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

Y’all can find me on Tumblr at renn-aeroplane-art.tumblr.com where I post all of my recent works or if you want to trawl my old Deviantart for some of my older stuff I go by Senkokura there. If you like goofy cat pictures interspersed with the occasional drawing or selfie, then check out my Instagram at renaissance_aeroplane!

TheWitch
The Witch

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

Interview: Megan

Today we’re joined by Megan. Megan is a phenomenal visual artist who is starting out in writing as well. They are an illustrator and comic artist from the Kansas City area, who focuses mainly on storytelling and narratives. They do a lot of narrative illustrations and comics. For writing, they’re interested in writing fantasy and prose. They’re clearly an incredibly dedicated and talented artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

EmmalineTwist
Emmaline Twist

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am an illustrator and writer, working full time as a production artist to pay the bills, and then working on comics and illustrations with narrative components on the side. I primarily work digitally, employing both a comic-y inking style, as well as a realistic sort of oil-painting style, all either on my computer and display tablet, or on programs on my iPad. As a writer I love to write fantasy and other prose fiction, and have started efforts to build a portfolio and work towards getting published, both short stories and future novels.

What inspires you?

The first place I usually look for some sort of inspiration is anything Neil Gaiman has said. He has given many speeches and written many essays on the importance of story and art in the world, and those- as well as his words on imposter syndrome- give me strength.

But I’m also fascinated by people. Humans are capable of amazing things like constructing massive skyscrapers and engineering microscopic movies; surviving under dangerous conditions, and getting together to hold festivals full of color and light. Traveling to different countries and being exposed to new cultures has been eye-opening for me and is a never-ending resource for inspiration and creativity.

As of late, Dungeons and Dragons has also been stimulating for me, from the components like dice and figurines to the stories people tell through the witty and clever characters they (and I) create. Who doesn’t love goblins and magic?

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

I always enjoyed drawing and painting, although I was never really good at it. I loved getting new paint kits and sitting down to paint a little teapot or planter, but what really got me into art was my obsession with a particular video game. I was a high school sophomore, just starting part-time in college with the intent of pursuing a medical degree, and bored. My dad worked at my school, so I would sit in his office after class and wait til he could take me home. I vividly remember one day sitting in his office, and instead of doing homework, I started writing a fanfiction, pen on paper, that I had started rolling around in my head. Art had also sprung out of this video game obsession, where I discovered the concept of fanart on DeviantART (I was a sheltered homeschooled child). It made me honestly, truly happy to write and draw and see the progress I was making, and to see other people enjoying what I had made. When I took a college drawing course a year later, I only became more passionate and ditched the medical school plans for art, and never looked back.

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?

One thing I like to do is that whenever I have to draw a crowd scene, I like to sneak in some of my characters from other places- Dungeons and Dragons, or old fanfiction characters- just subtly enough that not many would see anything different, but if you know the character, you could find them. I hope someday it becomes a bit of a ‘Where’s Waldo’ game.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Have fun, and take care of yourself.

These two tasks seem so arbitrary but they really mean the difference for physical and mental wellbeing. Drawing can seem like a chore sometimes, especially when you’re only drawing or writing something to pay bills, but when you have free time to draw whatever you want, you should draw what you want to draw. Write what you want to write. If you go in with the idea that whatever you make has to be ‘good enough’ to be printed or published, you’re going to hit a lot of brick walls in the process that only give you headaches. But if you have fun with it, you’re more likely to finish your project, and just finishing is half the battle.

But taking care of yourself is vital as well, and I wish it was emphasized more in educational settings. You NEED rest, you NEED food and water, and though I realize the idea of the ‘depressed artist working 16 hour days’ is fairly romanticized, it’s actually incredibly debilitating to work like that, if you can work at all. You can’t make your best work while you’re exhausted, and pushing yourself too hard will end up destroying your mind and body. Seriously. Take a break. Right now, go stretch and drink a glass of water.

Oasis copy
Oasis

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as Asexual as a broad term, and I’ve definitely hovered over different labels and questioned myself several times, but I’m most comfortable for the time being with the umbrella term of ‘Ace’. I believe I may be demiromantic, but I’ve never had a relationship and don’t intend to explore that area just yet. Someday though.

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

I’m not really out about my identity, so I’ve avoided it. There aren’t many aces that I’m aware of in my field, so I haven’t seen anything. I’m sure there’s prejudice out there though, people are unfortunately afraid of things that are different.

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

That asexuals don’t like sex! I think that it could be more difficult for some to get into the mood, but Asexuality is defined as having a lack of sexual attraction to people, not the lack of desire for sex. An ace person could still be romanced for sure, or maybe they just really enjoy some self-love!

(Also, the A stands for Asexual, not Ally!!)

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

Nothing is set in stone, your identity is going to change as you explore and experiment. And that’s fine, most people try several different labels and have various experiences before they settle into something that ‘fits’. And sometimes, maybe you don’t find something that fits, and that’s okay, too. You’ll always be You.

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

You can find my artwork here, and my little baby blog is here!

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

Interview: Wolfberry Studio

Today we’re joined by Jay at Wolfberry Studio. Jay is a phenomenal visual artist who works in digital illustration. Their work is mostly in the science fiction and fantasy genres and features people of color, who are underrepresented in such genres. Jay’s work shows extraordinary attention to detail and the images evoke such an amazing sense of imagination and beauty. It’s clear they’re a very dedicated and talented artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

Kadal Kanni
Kadal Kanni

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am a digital illustrator who works mostly in vector. My fantasy and sci-fi illustrations focus on people of color who are under-represented in these genres.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by legends and myths from around the world. I enjoy exploring the differences and similarities between stories from different cultures. Stylistic influences include Chinese classical painting and Japanese animation.

In addition to visiting museums and galleries regularly to gain exposure to a wide range of styles, I do live drawing outdoors. Nature can inspire, even if you are not a nature painter.

Cables
Cables

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

I’ve always enjoyed drawing. I was one of those kids who got reprimanded for doodling in class in elementary school. I saw drawing as a way to tell stories. I drew comics about my classmates.

As I grew older, I became increasingly aware of the role of visual art in disseminating social messages. I had observed the lack of diversity in certain genres. One day, I realized that instead of complaining about other artists not drawing what I want to see, maybe I should draw what I want to see. That was when I decided to pursue formal artistic training.

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?

My studio signature is consists of the Chinese characters for Wolfberry Studio.  Wolfberry is another name for goji berry.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

It is OK to feel disappointed with your work sometimes.  The fact that you are self-critical is a good thing. It shows that you are ready and willing to improve. In art school, I saw that the artists who improved their skills most quickly were the ones who were the most open to critique.

Regarding how to deal with the gap between where we are as creatives and where we want to be, Ira Glass of This American Life says it best in a 2009 interview:  (http://www.mcwade.com/DesignTalk/2011/04/nobody-tells-this-to-beginners/)

He was talking about video producers, but his comments can apply to just about any field.

We are all on a journey to getting better. It never ends.

Lattices
Lattices

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Gray-A. Aromantic.

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

Not in professional relationships, since the subject has never come up with clients.

I do want to say that I am pleased by the presence of out asexual artists of all levels in online communities. Their visibility paves the way for the rest of us.

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

Some people think that asexuality is pathological, and that aces would be happier if they weren’t asexual.

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

There is no need to fit yourself into someone else’s concept of a happy, fulfilling life.  What’s right for others might not be right for you. You are the only one who knows what’s right for you.

People shouldn’t be giving you a hard time for being asexual any more than you should be giving than a hard time for being allosexual, or for being a football fan, or liking ice cream, or being into whatever else they’re into but you’re not into.

You’re the only one who has to live your life. You’re not living it for anyone else. Seek out people who respect you and accept you the way you are.

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

https://wolfberry-j.deviantart.com/
https://wolfberrystudio.blogspot.com/
https://www.instagram.com/wolfberrystudio/
https://www.redbubble.com/people/WolfberryStudio/portfolio.

Autumn Kitten
Autumn Kitten

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

Interview: Hampermarketplace

Today we’re joined by Hampermarketplace, who also goes by Sophie. Sophie is a phenomenal visual artist and fanartist. For visual art, they mostly do digital illustration, both original work and fanart, They also do some photography as a hobby. Aside from that, Sophie also cosplays and writes fanfiction. It’s clear they’re a dedicated and passionate artist as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

hampermarketplace homestuck collage
Homestuck Collage

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

Sure thing! I’m mostly a digital artist, though I don’t know if “drawing” or “painting” describes best what I do, but in any case, I have a lot of fun doing it. I draw a lot of Homestuck, (I’m unfortunately rather obsessed with it—and it’s easy to share online), but I also do original work, when the inspiration strikes. Since, when it comes to hobbies, I’m very much a jack of all trades, I’ve done writing (I once wrote a 40k fanfic, several one-shots, and began some original stories I’m probably never going to finish, I’ve got a word doc somewhere full of cringy poetry), cosplay (once again Homestuck—so basically, I’m just really good at putting on grey facepaint), and photography (I take my iPhone and try to take pretty pictures I then post on Instagram so it’s not just all filled with selfies).

Basically, I just like to create stuff, no matter the medium.

What inspires you?

You mean, apart from Homestuck? I’d say my life. Ok, I know that’s vague, but I haven’t quite got a more specific muse. There is a lot to show and tell about the subtleties of everyday life, the things I see, hear, or feel. I’m ADHD, so perhaps trying to put my constant zoning out to good use is my main inspiration after all. I think sunsets are good, too. They’ve got lots of pretty colors, there’s nothing like a rainy autumn sunset to get a good photoshoot full of pinks. The city inspires me, too. The sort of aesthetics born of the layered lives of so many people, written in the concrete and the weed peeking through it, the graffiti’s, the decaying factories and the shiny skyscrapers. In painting, I draw people a lot, too. I think it’s because the figure is so evocative. I like the humanity, the feelings, the fleeting joys and pains of life, and so I try to capture them whenever I’m bored enough. It’s cheesy, but it’s true.

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

Oh boy. Well, I’ve always hung around people who drew, and the envy that I felt at their cool talents pushed me to try my hand at it. Around maybe 11 or 12, I got into manga and anime, and the thing with those, is that they make the human figure very appealing, and yet very simple-looking to draw, for someone who is just starting out. I’ve been a casual artist ever since my early teens, and recently, when I graduated high school and all my friends entered art programs, I started to realize just how much I didn’t know about art, and that’s really what helped me get much better really fast. Just a year ago, I didn’t draw half as well as I do now, because now I draw almost every day, pay attention to the world and put a lot more effort in studying the theory of art than I ever did in any of my school classes, ever.

I’m still in college, and I’m not planning on making a career out of my art, but I’ve still got some ambitions to reach a point where I can paint and draw at a professional level, for myself.

Maybe one day I’ll write an actual book or make money from my art—I’ve been offered to be an assistant photographer once, when I showed my Instagram feed to the woman whom we had hired to take our family portraits, but it didn’t work out. In the end, I take opportunities as they go. Art is just one of the things for which I have potential and interest, it’s a refuge, and I don’t want to ruin that by forcing it into a business perspective.

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?

Well, I’m known on most platforms (Instagram, deviantart, tumblr—although only for Homestuck in the last one) as hampermarketplace, and I sign my digital paintings (some of them—I often forget) as HMP. By now, it’s how I sign pretty much all of my artwork. Often, I won’t put it in the lower corner, but try to include it within the drawing, if there is writing somewhere, graffiti or posters in the background. It’s my thing.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

You’re going to feel bad sometimes, like you can’t quite illustrate what you want, or like everyone is better than you. It’s important to learn to use that dissatisfaction as motivation, not as a deterrent. The process of improving is an adventure, to be taken one step at a time, so awaken your inner Moana or whatever, and sing about wanting to know how far you’ll go. When you’re stalling, and nothing works, push through by going back to your basics, and putting less pressure on yourself. Take a chill pill. Go watch some Bob Ross. It’s ok to just doodle for 15 minutes sometimes, you’ve got to make art time a time to meditate, to enjoy yourself. If you do it right, it won’t feel like a chore (too much—I can’t make any promises if you decide to make a living out of it). One day you’ll look back and be amazed by how far you’ve come.

montage instagram
Montage

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m asexual, low libido but not sex repulsed per se, and somewhere in the grey areas of romance, probably demi, although I still think of myself as a lesbian because I’ve always had a strong aesthetic attraction to women, and if I were to fall in love, I feel like it would be with a woman, or someone woman-aligned. I identify *mostly* as a woman, although I won’t deny to some gender fluidity as well.

Usually, the womanlier I feel, the gayer I get, then on some days I’m just what is gender and what is love, I want to blog about cats. My main on Tumblr is like 75% cats, 20% beautiful women and 5% ace positivity. I think that sums it up pretty well.

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

The most kind of ace prejudice or ignorance I’ve personally encountered is from myself. I’m usually quite down-low about it, I’ve come out a couple of times, but not to everyone, and I’m pretty sure most people going through my art aren’t even aware of my sexuality—I come off quite gay in real life. Since I don’t do commercial work, I can easily surround myself with people who are OK with my orientation, and anyway, I live in some of the most progressive places, where no one would openly challenge you on stuff like that, even if they disagreed with it. I’m lucky in that regard. I’m always afraid that people will still hold subconscious prejudice towards me, though, I don’t think I’m paranoid, but I need to get over it if I want to be myself, and work towards deconstructing those prejudices. When I’ve actually come out, I’ve been met mostly with love and acceptance—just once a bit of confusion. Also, once I came out to a sex-loving vegan by saying “I don’t like sex, but I do like ice cream” and she just told me “You go girl! Live your best life!” and anyway, she gets it.

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

I think this one is not an explicit, but an implicit misconception that even well-meaning people will hold, and that is this idea that aces don’t like to talk about sex, or be exposed to sexuality, and that the goal of asexual activism is to make a world where it’s possible to ignore the fact that sex and romance exists. I mean, some aces may be uncomfortable with discussions about sex, or don’t want to be exposed to explicit sexual content, but truly, anyone may have these holdups regardless of sexuality. The basics principles of consent, human decency and content warnings should be plenty to cover that. In my experience, most aces I’ve met are more than eager to talk about sex and the different types of attractions, so long as they are allowed to openly share their experiences without feeling like outcasts or weirdos. Unless they tell you otherwise, it should be perfectly fine to share your latest thirst with your friend who came out to you as ace. You don’t have to stop being yourself, and most asexuals don’t want to be treated like little kids with bleeding hearts that can’t handle the sexiness, neither do they want you to stop being yourself: they just want to be allowed to be themselves as well.

This is pretty abstract, I’m not sure if I’m making sense, but I feel like this needs to be said more. Asexuality doesn’t exist within queerness as a form of “Don’t force sex on me”, because, honestly, sex shouldn’t be forced on anyone, but rather as a force of “It’s OK to live in accordance to how you feel, regardless of social norms or whether or not it aligns with the majority around you,” because that represents much better the aroace community as I’ve known it: diverse, open, with a wide range of worldviews and experiences, just wanting to live their truth.

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

It’s not easy to find out who you are. Being asexual is challenging, because it’s probably even only one part of the identities you’re going to have to cope with—asexuality doesn’t mean you won’t have to deal with the prejudice of being gay, bi or trans—but it’s also challenging in and of itself. You’re going to have to deal with conflicting cultural ideals about chastity, lust, marriage and family, with a world that you’ll never quite understand despite your best efforts to do so, and which probably won’t even try to understand you. You’ll fidget in your psychology or sexuality class, not quite capable of explaining how you know for a fact the textbook is wrong without sounding like you’ve spent way too much time on Tumblr. You’ll smile, glad, at queer representation in the media, not quite daring to ask for some yourself—afraid it’ll take away some gay or trans kid’s chance to see themselves on screen. You’ll feel like you don’t exist, like there are no historical figures or public personalities who can bear your flag in your name, you’ll doubt yourself.

Don’t. There is nothing to doubt about it, there is nothing to be ashamed about. You’re on the frontline of progress, of our growing understanding of love and sexuality, as a society. Asexual people have always been there—the world just didn’t have a box to place them in until recently. Before that, we erred like bohemians among dandies and spinsters, bisexuals, pilgrims and nuns. But today, there are words for it, for asexuality, for aromanticism, for all the maybes and in-betweens. We are many, more than you would think, and we are solidary—to one another, and to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people, and to all other minorities, and it is our strength. Through sharing our experiences, through creating new words to define how we feel, we help people from all walks of life define themselves. So maybe, really, we’re something like great.

You can be proud.

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

My main blog on Tumblr is chaoticintellectual, though, like mentioned previously, it’s mostly  filled with cats and pretty women.

I have a Homestuck blog where I post art frequently, called Hampermarketplace, for all the filthy Homestucks out there

I write on AO3 under the name miki_and_company

Hampermarketplace is also my DeviantArt, though I don’t post much on there, but I do show my original art there more,

And finally, my Instagram, still hampermarketplace, where I post a lot of my photography.

My inboxes are open to talk, I’m quite friendly and impishly verbose, however I’ll be gone and inactive for most of the summer, sadly, but I’ll be back without question next fall.

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

Interview: Melissa Wilkinson

Today we’re joined by Melissa Wilkinson, who also goes by Art by Little Miss Luna. Melissa is a phenomenal visual artist who specializes in digital art. She frequently draws cutesy characters. For the most part, she has been drawing anime stuff for artist alleys but has recently branched out and done some drawings of plants. It’s clear she’s a talented and dedicated 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’m an unabashed anime fan, so I tend to draw cutesy stuff. I’m working on refining my style and branching out into other areas but I always come back to cute because, ultimately, it’s what I like. I’ve learned I don’t need to apologize for it. I’m a mostly digital artist but lately I’m trying to learn watercolors!

What inspires you?

I draw a lot of fan art so I love taking inspiration from cartoons, especially ones like “Steven Universe” that are mature beyond their core audience. Outside of fiction I take a lot of my inspiration from food. There’s so many colors and textures present in the edible!

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

I took a graphic design class in eighth grade and I’ve liked digital art ever since. I gave up on it to study hospitality when I went to college, but ultimately I came back to it and got a degree in graphic design, too. I didn’t always want to be an artist but I was always interested in creative things like cooking and writing.

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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 used to have a silly little symbol I’d stamp in the corner of all my drawings of a heart with bat wings. Now I just have a logo I use on my business cards.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

The best advice I can give is when you’re working on something and you’re starting to get frustrated, walk away. Take a break, take a nap, breathe. You won’t produce any good work if you’re angry so come back to it when you’re calm again. You can look at it with fresh eyes and try to figure out what’s going wrong.

hamham
Hamham

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I used to identify as alloromantic but currently I’m going by demisexual.

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

Not from other artists, no, but from my family, certainly. Most of what I hear is that I’m confused or I just haven’t figured myself out yet. Ultimately, I just have to accept that not everyone in my life is going to understand me and that’s ok. It doesn’t really matter if they don’t get it so long as I feel comfortable with who I am.

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

That it’s just a phase and that the internet has poisoned my mind and made me think I’m a “special snowflake.”

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

Once, during Thanksgiving break from college, I was hanging out with my friends from high school. They all started talking about their sexual experience from their first semester in college and I felt so utterly uncomfortable that I kept sneaking off into the bathroom, hoping that when I got back they would have moved on to something else. Eventually I left and went home and cried in my mother’s lap. I had no idea why I felt such a disconnect, why I felt so lost. A year later I read about asexuality on Tumblr and I realized that there was a word for why I was the way I was, and that there were other people like me. The internet is your friend. You are not alone. Arm yourself with knowledge and know that you are perfectly normal and there are people who will support you. I’m one of them. Shoot me a message on any of my social media accounts and I’ll be happy to talk things over! Ace artists have to look out for one another.

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

Lately I’ve been mostly using my Instagram (at artbylittlemissluna) but I also upload things to my DeviantArt (Little-Miss-Luna) and my Facebook (at artbylittlemissluna) and Twitter (at art_by_LML). I also have an Etsy store (at artbylittlemissluna) if you want to see the products I make and sell with my art!

yuri on ice cream 2
Yuri on Ice Cream

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