Interview: Abi Stevens

Today we’re joined by Abi Stevens. Abi is a phenomenal visual artist who specializes in digital art and illustration. She makes colorful illustrations featuring monsters, myths, and folklore. Abi also does additional work about chronic illness and has recently run a successfully funded Kickstarter for enamel pins. It’s clear she’s a dedicated and passionate artist who loves what she does, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

Black Shuck
Black Shuck

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m a digital illustrator and I make colourful and detailed illustrations inspired by mythology, folklore, history and all things fantastical. My work is often influenced by elements of ‘visual history’, by which I mean historical art forms, architecture and objects. In particular I love stained glass windows and illuminated manuscripts. You can see references to these sources in the stylized borders and iconography in my work. I also enjoy including hidden details in my work and incorporating symbolism such as the language of flowers.

More recently my subject matter has expanded into more personal areas; exploring my experience with chronic migraine, and I plan to expand into other chronic illnesses and mental health issues as well. Most recently I have been creating enamel pin and sticker designs incorporating the words ‘chronic warrior’ and ‘migraine warrior’.

What inspires you?

Growing up I was obsessed with fantasy and science-fiction books and I devoured every story I could get my hands on. It was my own personal escape from reality and so this early love of the fantastical has carried heavily over into my own creative practice. I think we all enjoy stories of lives grander and more bizarre than our own. In some ways my artwork is still a means of escape, but one that I can share with everyone else.

My love of fantasy and science-fiction naturally expanded over time into a fascination with mythology. As an atheist I find the incredible range of deities and monsters we have conjured up across the world fascinating. There are mythical creatures so ingrained in our modern collective consciousness that everybody can recognise them. These imaginary beings are powerful historical heirlooms and vehicles for education and social narratives.

This sense of wonder carries over into my historical inspirations. I enjoy dramatic historical narratives and learning about different cultures through their past. However it is historical art forms that really spark in me a sense of wonder: details of architecture, stained glass, and illuminated manuscripts jump out at me and inspire me to create my own art.

Glass Books of the Dream Eaters
Glass Books of the Dream Eaters

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

Growing up I enjoyed creating but I was curious about a lot of things and my ideas for the future were pretty vague.  I was interested in pretty much anything that didn’t involve maths and for a long time I couldn’t make my mind up about what I wanted to be: a writer? A fine artist? A psychologist? A historian? A teacher? It took all my teenage years, 4 A levels and a Foundation Degree before I really knew what an illustrator even was! By happy accident it turns out I chose to study the one subject that can encompass all of my varied interests at once. As an illustrator you get to explore all sorts of subjects and there are so many possibilities for what you can do with your work that I never get bored. It’s an ongoing process; learning, improving skills, observing and researching, and overcoming challenges and deadlines, and I don’t think I could ever be ‘done’. Once you’ve chosen to be an artist, I think it changes the way you observe that world, and it really becomes a way of life as much as a vocation.

Kickstarter

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?

It’s not so much a signature per say, but I like to hide narrative or historical details in my illustrations: things that people who look hard enough will appreciate but that might go un-noticed on a first pass. This can mean anything from references to the language of flowers, to stained glass window references and various symbolism. I love the idea of people discovering something new in my work each time they look at it. For example ‘Volant’ (my flying mythological creature illustration) includes interactions between the larger mythological characters and smaller real-life animals that you may not notice on a first look: such as the moths being drawn to the flame the Phoenix carries, the blue tits trying to protect their friend from the Griffin, and the Siren’s child trying to catch a bat.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

First of all, to always be true to yourself and try not to be swayed too much by the trends on social media. It’s helpful to be aware of current trends but the best way to improve your work and stand out from the crowd is to stay true to your own interests. Passion for your subject is what will pull your best work out of you.

And second, don’t compare yourself negatively to other artists. Everyone is at a different point in their journey and has different resources available, so the only point of reference that is truly relevant is the measure of your own personal progress.

mental health online
Mental Health Online

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I dither a bit to be honest as I’m still figuring myself out, but I usually go with Grey-Ace.

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

Not yet. To be honest my sexuality doesn’t come up much in conversation and while I’m pretty open about it online, it hasn’t been discussed in a professional context yet, or really in many personal ones. I’m hoping I’m lucky enough to avoid that kind of behaviour in the future as well. I know others haven’t been so lucky.

mental health
Mental Health

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

Probably the idea that all asexuals are sex-repulsed and A-romantic. There’s actually a wide spectrum of asexuality and this clumsy assumption left me feeling completely out of place for a while. I didn’t feel like I fit clearly under straight or LGBT+ labels and that was a lonely feeling.

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

I think to pay close attention to their instincts and how their body is feeling. I’ve got some uncomfortable memories from times where I squashed down my instinct that something didn’t feel right with the idea that I should want certain things, I must feel a certain way, or put another persons wants before my own comfort. Our cultural preconceptions of what ‘normal’ is can have such a huge negative impact on our ability to cultivate a healthy self-image, and if your on the ace spectrum it can require a lot of effort to re-program yourself to listen to how you really feel and not how you think you should. This is possibly the biggest hurdle to being comfortable with your orientation.

migraine
Migraine

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

I have a website at www.abistevens.com which displays my portfolio and also a blog with an introductory blog post explaining more about my work.

You can also find me on Twitter (AbiStevens_Art) and Instagram (abistevens_illustration).

At the moment I am running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the Chronic Warrior and Migraine Warrior enamel pin designs I mentioned earlier. The first pin has already been funded and we’re on our way to the second. You can find that here.

poster
Poster

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

Interview: Civvi

Today we’re joined by Civvi. Civvi is a phenomenal visual artist who mostly does digital art. She does a lot of fanart, but has also done some original work as well. Her work is bright and colorful, making use of vibrant shades to make the drawings pop. 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.

1. hell yea fam
Hell yea fam

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I do mostly digital art these days, I highly favor drawing cute girls because, well girls are cute! I draw mostly fanart, as it was what first inspired me to draw.

What inspires you?

The media I consume! Most of my urges to draw come from seeing a character in a show and being filled with the desire to create my own rendition of them. Fanart makes me really happy and I love sharing it with other people who like the same things that I do.

2. colorlull
Colorlull

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

I started drawing casually in middle school, 7th grade, because I was so enamored with the Warrior Cats book series. I remember the very first drawing I actually put effort into. I spent the whole school day carefully sketching out a drawing of a cat, laying on her side with several kittens around her, I used my thumb to rub the pencil and smooth the texture, I started scratching through the notebook paper going over the lines too many times. It’s probably been about 10 years since then, but I can still remember the almost foreign feeling of pride I felt looking at what I had done. Until then I had been praised for my intelligence and nothing else. Now I made something, and creating felt good. I did art very casually without trying to improve up through high school, and only got semi-serious about improving my skills about a year or two ago. Since then I’ve made such great progress I’m really proud of how far I’ve come!

3. New Lulu
New Lulu

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?

Ah I don’t really think so. Some friends have said that the noses I draw make it easy to recognize my art? But my style is always changing and shifting so I don’t settle on one thing for very long at all.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Do what makes you happy! For a long time, it made me happy to draw without thinking critically about what I made and how I could improve, and that’s totally fine! Then when that stopped making me happy, and I wanted to improve, I started doing that. If you just want to draw the same self-indulgent stuff over and over, don’t let anybody tell you that that’s wrong or that you aren’t “allowed” to just draw for yourself. Whatever makes you happy is the right thing to do.

4. LuluIcon Done
Lululcon Done

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as asexual and biromatic.

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

Ah not really, not in real life at least. It’s always very disheartening to learn that artists I admire and aspire to be like are aphobic, but that’s just another one for the block list.

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

That I’m not allowed to make dirty jokes! My sibling called me “a weird asexual” for liking a song with a sexual meaning, and almost everyone I’m out to has made comments about how weird it is that I make dirty jokes “despite” being ace. My sexual orientation does not determine the music, comedy, and media I enjoy! I have the humor of a high school aged boy and I won’t let anyone take that from me.

5. Elf Druid
Elf Druid

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

It’s okay, whatever you’re feeling, it’s okay. You’re not broken, and you’re not alone. I wish I had heard about asexuality in high school, it would have saved me so much self hatred. I thought I was so wrong for not being like everyone else. But I’m not wrong for being me! At first I thought I wasn’t “allowed” to be asexual because I had a partner, and we would have sex, and sometimes I would enjoy it. But that doesn’t make me any less ace! As soon as I learned that, and accepted who I was, I know it sounds cheesy but it really did feel like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. It feels so good to be me! I hope every questioning aspec person out there reaches the point where is just feels good to be themselves.

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

I’m on Tumblr civvi-the-civilian, and civvi-draws-lapidot, and on Instagram civvithecivilian. Those are the best places to reach me.

Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/civvithecivilian

6. space elf white lines
Space Elf White Lines

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

Interview: Ria

Today we’re joined by Ria, who also goes by rainbowbarfeverywhere. Ria is a phenomenal character animator and digital illustrator. She has worked on a TV show and does animation for a living. On her free time, Ria loves to draw. She does a lot of fanart and enjoys focusing on friendships between characters. It’s clear she loves what she does, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

1. Ace Week 2018
Ace Week 2018

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I part time as a character animator in an outsourcing studio, Toon City Animation. I’ve only been working there for a year and I’ve worked on the television series Big Hero 6. Though I’ve been animating for a while now, I haven’t really made any personal animations though I hope to do some someday.

I mostly draw fanart in my free time. I’m a digital artist and I mostly use Clip Studio Paint and Adobe Photoshop. I love drawing for anime and other animated series or films. I’m not as active as the average fanartist but I love drawing for fan events like fandom weeks or big bangs. Although I used to be a big shipper and drew my pairings all the time, now I like to focus on individual characters and friendships.

What inspires you?

When I fall in love with a work, a character, or a relationship, I want to convey my love for it through art. When I appreciate something, I want others to appreciate it too and I can do that either by exchanging ideas or thoughts, or by making fanart of that something. It’s my little way of giving more love to the series.

I also get inspired by other fanartists. Their skills become a goal I want to work towards. When I see an artwork that stops me at my feet, I become driven to also touch someone like that.

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

I’ve been drawing forever. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t draw. Even as far back as preschool, I already remember when I drew my favorite cartoons. Art is a part of me and I can’t imagine myself without it. When I thought about what I wanted to do in life, it seemed like a no-brainer to be an artist of some kind.

Becoming an animator came later in my life. I, at one point in my childhood, wanted to be an animator since that was the only field I thought I could work in as an artist. But I let go of that dream pretty early on. I had to be practical and while I liked my drawings, I didn’t think they were exceptional.

The opportunity to learn animation and become an animator only came late into my university life. I had taken a leave of absence and my cousin told me about an animation workshop that happened near me. I fell in love with animation instantly.

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 special cat symbol that I always included in my drawings when I was young. I used it as a sort of artist signature. I did realize later on that it would be hard to identify whose signature it was unless you were already familiar with me. In the end, I just use my artist handle when I want to sign my work. It makes things easier for my audience.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Love both yourself and your work. It will be hard to get far and stay far in life if you don’t.

You will never be satisfied if you don’t love your work and people can feel the emotion you put into your work. Without love, it will be hard to touch other people’s hearts. You also need to take care of yourself. So many artists have fallen sick or died because they didn’t care for themselves. There can be no art if there are no artists. Be kind to yourself.

2. Yamakage (march 13, 2016)
Yamakage

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as aromantic asexual.

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

I don’t share my sexuality to a lot of people. Only a handful of people in real life know that I’m ace and none of them are people I know from work.

On the other hand, I’m open about my sexuality online. I have it in my description and I occasionally talk about it in my posts or tweets. Still, I only interact with an intimate amount of people online. While I don’t hide my asexuality, only the people I interact with would know. And I make sure that the people in my internet circle are accepting.

I’ve never been outright attacked or singled out, but I’ve seen hate for my sexuality in different parts of the internet. I simply choose not to engage in them because I feel they won’t listen to me either way.

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

The two most common misconceptions about asexuality is that it’s only temporary (that it’s a phase or asexual people just haven’t found the right person yet) and that there’s something wrong with us for us to feel this way. People think that we’re just misguided and need to be taken to the right path.

But asexuality is just a part of us. Just because we’re not attracted to other people that way doesn’t mean that we’re broken. It just means that we care more about our friendships and families. There’s nothing missing in our lives just because we don’t have a significant other.

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

No matter what anyone says, you and what you’re feeling are valid. There’s nothing wrong with you and you’re not broken just because you don’t feel that kind of attraction for other people. There’s more to life than romantic love or sex. It can be just as fulfilling with the people you have in your life.

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

My primary account is at Twitter and you can find me here: https://twitter.com/rainbowbarf_/

I’m also at Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rainbowbarfeverywhere/

You can support me through Ko-fi: https://ko-fi.com/rainbowbarfeverywhere

3. Galaxy (april 16, 2016)
Galaxy

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

Interview: KelbremDusk

Today we’re joined by KelbremDusk. KelbremDusk is a wonderful visual artist who specializes in digital art. She does a bit of everything, including webcomics. Her work is eerie and interesting to look at. It’s clear she’s a passionate individual who loves to create, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

12-13x

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m a digital artist, I’ve been working with a tablet for about 11 years now. I was never big on traditional art, even when I didn’t have access to a tablet but recently I’ve been trying to get into oil painting and so far it’s been kinda fun.

I draw everything from original to fanart and even in comics. I have a webcomic which is unfortunately in hiatus right now but I also make short comics for my various characters and worlds.

On the side I’m currently working on a novel, which I hope to finish this year (or at least early next year) called Black Sun Rising. Four friends on a post apocalypse roadtrip with no main character romance.

What inspires you?

I get inspiration from everything. Stories, movies, illustrations, photographs, everyday objects. It’s wild. The more abstract I can make something that would normally be mundane and boring, the more fun it is to work with.

93

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

This was never really a plan of mine. I just kinda started drawing around 2004, I drew a lot before that but something just made me keep going. Boredom, the need for a creative outlet. I didn’t have a lot of friends, didn’t go out much. Mostly stayed at home in front of the TV. So I needed something to do.

I guess Anime was the thing that really made me keep going. Especially Inuyasha and Wedding Peach and Doremi.

And the new novel writing stuff, that also just kinda happened. I’ve been working on that story in my head for about 4 years at that point and I wanted to make it into a comic first but that would have taken ages and it got really demotivating. So one day at work, while my boss was out, I just opened up word and kept writing and writing. By the end of the day I had the prologue done.

Sometimes things just happen I guess???

aceincubiclub

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?

Oh boy, if I were to reveal more of my stories, you’d certainly see a pattern in them. Especially when it comes to family. Lots of single parents … or no parents at all.

Another thing would be about two characters which show up in every story in some way. Either as an actual character, a background character, the name of a cafe, a street name etc. Look out for that.

And my unique signature you might even be able to see on the pictures featured in this interview. The winged skull wearing a crown. No real symbolism behind it other than 1. Skulls are cool, 2. Crowns are dope and 3. I only added the wings to make the logo rectangular.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Find a medium that suits you and go nuts with it. If you suck at watercolor, even after countless hours and desperately trying, watercolor might not be your thing and that’s ok! “Practice makes perfect” but sometimes you just gotta acknowledge that you can’t be the best in every medium.

Look at references! Poses, faces, buildings, plants. You are not obligated to draw everything from memory. Nobody is going to come for you for drawing from a reference. The old masters did it, so you’re allowed do it as well!

cherubim

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am an Aromantic Asexual. I dabbled in many different identities in my search to find the right one and about 4 years ago, after lots of back and forth and self-reflection, I settled on this.

It was a long journey to come to this conclusion. I spent my entire school life thinking something is wrong with me for never falling in love with anyone, while my friends and classmates had boyfriends and girlfriends. This continues into my time at trade school. Where I even had people telling me that they’re interested in me romantically but for me it was just … never an option. I don’t know how to behave around such people. I’d have to let them touch me and they’d want to be around me and my social battery is just not capable for that amount of affection.

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

Most prejudice and ignorance I get is not at work cuz my coworkers or boss doesn’t care. It was from classmates and trade school and my own family (mostly my dad).

“What do you mean you don’t want to have children?” and “Oh you just haven’t found the right one yet” are the most common. I never outright day that I’m asexual, to avoid awkward conversations, but I say “I don’t date” and for some reason that really grinds people’s gears???

Like I said, my dad is the worst one. He’d constantly ask me when I’d bring my boyfriend over and it made me so uncomfortable. Or whenever I had a good announcement he’s ask “Are you pregnant?” He thankfully stopped doing that for now thanks to his new wife (who is super lovely and really understanding). Whenever he brought up the topic I’d just roll my eyes and tell him to shut up.

I was never able to tell my mom about my asexuality before she died, but I’m positive that she would be understanding as well. She already accepted that I never brought home any boyfriends and didn’t even ask or pester me about it. So I feel like she knew.

persona FC_eulenspiegel

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

According to some, all asexuals are just plants and have no libido. Wrong, there’s different types of aces just like there’s different types of gays and lesbians and bi people. Some aces are sex repulsed, but not all. Some aces enjoy a good wank at the end of the day and some don’t. People are different and you can’t throw them all in the same drawer.

“Oh you’re just saying you’re asexual because you can’t find anyone to date you!”

Fam, no, that is the complete opposite of what I’m telling you. I don’t want to “find anyone to date” I don’t date. It’s simple as that.

True fire obsidian

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

You will feel alone, you’ll feel pain, you’ll feel like there’s nobody in the world who feels like you but I will tell you now that that’s not true. Don’t force yourself to do things you don’t want to do just because you think you might be broken. You’re not broken, you never were.

Go into yourself, find yourself, acknowledge and cherish the things that make you happy.

I still feel extremely alone, I haven’t found many people who feel like me yet but I’m hoping that through this I can reach out to some of them.

I can always lend an ear for anything.

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

Here’s a bunch of links you can find me on and look through more of my work.

Tumblr: http://kelbremdusk.tumblr.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1NaDNqgbf5SN5HnfYiOR-A
Twitter (although there’s barely anything): https://twitter.com/eatshitdr0pdead
My webcomic: https://tapas.io/Kelbremdusk
and my NSFW discord server (you can pm me for that one)

life

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

Interview: Aodhan

Today we’re joined by Aodhan. Aodhan is a phenomenal visual artist who is a first for asexual artists. His works involves a lot of rotational symmetry and either extremely light or heavy contrast between them. I was studying the work he sent with his interview and there’s something almost hypnotic about it. His work is incredibly interesting to look at and it draws the viewer in. It’s clear he’s a very passionate artist who enjoys what he does, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

1

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I do mostly visual art that deals with colors, gradients, and rotational symmetry. It’s all done digitally through mirroring and color changing software. The main stylistic choices that I use are very soft and very heavy contrast with minimal blur, or sometimes forgoing some levels of symmetry for a level of blending or shadows.

Most of my base pictures are pictures I take or random gradients. Sometimes I use random memes or just odd pictures just for the level of fun I get from realizing that I just turned some random image from my gallery into a piece of art.

2

What inspires you?

My main inspirations were funnily enough my cat Cider, eyes, and many types of butterflies and moths. I was always fascinated my cat’s fur and the patterns in it despite how minimal they could be, and wanted to recreate them in digital art. When it came to eyes, I was always enthralled by how they looked, especially the iris. Then for butterflies, well they were pretty and symmetrical, what more was there to like?

3

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

Oddly enough, I started doing it for the sheer purpose of messing with people and using it to add more “pylons” to a picture. The meme of “You must construct additional pylons,” was one that I enjoyed, and someone bet that I couldn’t make a bunch of copies of the Starcraft pylon in an image look pretty. I took this challenge in stride, made five dollars, and found a passion in creating these odd pieces. As one could guess, I wasn’t always too keen on becoming an artist. However when I found a medium I enjoyed, it kind of just sparked.

5

 

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 they’re usually symmetrical as the term rotational symmetry implies, but other than that there is no real signature that can be found.

6

 

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

For life, I’d say to find and do what makes you happy. When it comes to art, I’d suggest to try weird styles and challenge yourself in weird ways. You may just find exactly what you love doing.

7

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as a homoromantic asexual.

4

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

Only once, and it was with a friend who did not know what the term meant. He acted rudely at first but thankfully he’s an accepting person and with an explanation of how it worked, he understood and became rather nice about it. In general, if it would happen again, I’d just explain the details and if it doesn’t help, I’d back off and recognize that it wasn’t working.

8

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

That we identify as asexual because we can’t find someone to have sex with.

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

You aren’t broken, you weren’t made incorrectly, and most importantly you are absolutely valid however you express yourself or identify.

9

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

You can find some of my work at my Tumblr at tripping-ace where I sometimes post art but usually drop some stupid humor.

10

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

Interview: Runesael Johansson

Today we’re joined by Runesael Johansson. Runesael is a wonderful digital artist who specializes in character design. He works mostly in roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons. He has recently gotten into drawing World of Warcraft characters too. It’s clear he’s a dedicated and passionate artist who loves what he does, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

aur gyu1

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

Most of my work these days centers around Dungeons and Dragons player characters and NPCs, alongside other TTRPGs and roleplaying games. I’ve also done a fair amount of people’s characters from World of Warcraft.

I work almost exclusively in Photoshop CS-6 or Procreate.

What inspires you?

Primarily, stories. One of my absolute favorite things about doing the work that I do has to be hearing other people’s stories about their characters and the adventures they’ve had with others. There’s such a broad variety of individuals and experiences across the TTRPG community, so every character I ever get to draw tends to be unique or unusual in some way. Even if you have two chaotic good fighters from a small village who’ve sworn an oath to protect their friends, say, those two fighters can and often will be radically different people.

The TTRPG and WoW communities are both enormously creative, and getting to see all of the various ideas that people come up with is something I’m really grateful for and honored to be able to help bring to life.

Additionally, music – I can’t paint without it!

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

I began drawing because I wanted people to be able to see the characters and places I described in my stories as a kid. However, it was never really anything more than a serious hobby until about 2016.

As obnoxious as this might sound, I’ve never not been an artist, so I’m not sure what it’s like to want to be one. I’ve been drawing since I could hold a crayon.

My original career was in music performance. An injury exacerbated by overuse and stress pulled me out of a performance career, and I kind of spent my twenties wandering around with absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with myself or my life. I was really lost. I’d gotten a full scholarship to a small school, and figured I’d make my way through a four year degree before going on to pursue a masters. That did not happen.

During my late teens and twenties, I was also a volunteer storm chaser with ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Services), and working emergency telecommunications. I loved the work, but it stopped being fun after I realized the extent of the impact that natural and man-made disasters had on the human lives around me. Though the work was fulfilling, I knew I didn’t want to do it for the rest of my life.

There were a few attempts at other careers. Honestly, all they ever taught me was about all of the things I didn’t want to do with my life. The last one being that I wanted to become a French translator and a linguist.

As a sort of last hurrah, I posted a thread on Reddit in 2015 offering to draw people’s World of Warcraft characters. There, I met a handful of really incredible people who brought me into the WoW art community, and from there I got into Critical Role and started becoming increasingly engaged with the TTRPG community. The rest, as they say, is history.

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?

Most of my work these days is done for other people, so you’re not going to find much of my own personal motifs in the majority of my portfolio.

The signature that I put on my artwork is the text symbol for “thunderstorm.” (It looks like this: ☈) It’s a play on my first name and it’s a nod to the work I’ve done in the past. Also a reminder to myself – if it’s not a tornado, it’s probably not worth getting super worked up about.

I use a lot of blue and gold – they’re my favorite colours, mostly because I’m from a coastal town in Florida and have always loved the water.

There’s so much music in my work, to the point where all of my Inktober pieces this year were just based on songs.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

There’s enough tutorials and technical advice these days on the internet that I feel like anything I could say on those subjects has already been said. So, instead, here’s some lessons I learned the hard way.

First of all. Don’t be an asshole. It does not matter if you are the most skilled artist in your particular field, if you treat people like garbage, no one will want to work with you. This includes being vocally critical of other artists. This includes treating the artists around you as competition or as enemies, rather than potential friends or coworkers. This includes being a sarcastic, sardonic shit about everything. Cynicism doesn’t make you cool. It doesn’t make you some enlightened sage of the ages, it makes you a prick. Empathy, kindness, understanding and patience will get you far, far further than raw skill alone. Praise others in public, critique if asked in private. Don’t be an ass to younger artists, they’re doing their best.

Second. Art is extremely hard work. There is nothing cute or fluffy about being a creative of any sort. You don’t get to float around waiting for inspiration, or depending on some “muse” to bring your ideas. If you do you’ll never get anything done, and you’ll never get better.

When you first start making stuff, you will suck at it. You’ll suck at it for a while. It’s normal, don’t stress. Art isn’t something you master overnight or in a year or even in ten years. You will be fighting a continual, uphill fight for most victories and breakthroughs. When you “level up” as an artist, it will be because you worked your ass off. The answers to the problems you face will not be written out for you in books. You will need to find those answers for yourself. If that doesn’t sound like a good idea to you, don’t be an artist.

Third. Talent is a myth and an excuse. There is no bullshit force in the universe that ~magically~ gives you the ability to create anything. There is the only the work, the desire to do it, and the determination to keep doing it when it gets hard. That’s all. You get better by practicing and studying your craft.

Fourth. Art is for everyone. See number three. Art is not for special talented people who have ~the gift~. The arts in general, creative work – they are for everyone and anyone. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If someone says you’re talented, say, “Thank you, I work very hard.” They mean well, take the compliment.

Fifth. There are a bunch of people who will tell you in kind ways and not-so-kind ways that the arts are for fools who can’t manage a “real” career. What they do not and perhaps cannot understand is that not being an artist when you want to be simply leads to a chain of unfulfilling and meaningless careers that you never fully commit to or enjoy. Life is far too short to go through it longing.

Sixth: Don’t be alone. Involve yourself in a community. Isolation is death for artists. Surrounding yourself with artists of all different skill levels will teach you more than any class ever can. A good community will raise you up when you’re struggling, and will keep you grounded. There will always be someone better than you, don’t let that discourage you or inhibit your progress.

Seventh: Rest. If it hurts, stop. If you’re frustrated, take a break. If you need help, ask. Don’t let pain and exhaustion be a point of pride and don’t work yourself to death. Sitting in front of your tablet or easel for sixteen hours a day without eating or drinking is going to fuck you sideways when you get older. It doesn’t say that you’re devoted and hardworking, it says you don’t take care of yourself and don’t manage your time properly. Eat regularly, take your medication, make sure you drink water. Don’t survive on sleep deprivation and energy drinks. Your work suffers when you suffer.

On that note. Great art does not come from great suffering. If you create beautiful things from pain, imagine the things you could make when you’re safe and okay.

Tragedy, trauma, angst, anger and sadness don’t make you interesting. They inhibit your feelings, keep you from growing, they keep you from forming good and healthy relationships with the people around you. They keep you from becoming the person you want to be. Don’t wear your sorrow like a trophy, because it isn’t. The fact you survived it makes you strong. What will make you interesting – and your work interesting – is how you recovered and grew beyond those circumstances.

You are worth more than the things you produce. Don’t tie your self-worth and self-esteem to your craft.

Stay humble. Work hard, be sincere in your passions and in your relationships with others. Be as good to the people around you as you can be, and if you can’t say anything kind, shut the actual fuck up because no one needs your bullshit.  The most important thing in this world that we can be is kind. Life is difficult. Life as a creative is even harder. Do not be the reason someone else decides to quit doing what they love. Everyone has something amazing about them, be receptive to finding it.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m demisexual.

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

Personally, no. I don’t talk about it much as I’m a pretty private person about my romantic relationships.

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

That asexual people are sex-repulsed. That we’re frigid or cold. That we don’t actually enjoy any form of physical contact whatsoever. That we’re broken or defective.

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

“Even if it gets hard

don’t lose that light.”

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

http://www.twitter.com/runesael

http://runesael.squarespace.com/

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

Interview: NW

Today we’re joined by NW. NW is a phenomenal visual artist who specializes in fanart. She does mostly digital art, though she does occasionally dabbles in traditional media. NW does a lot of costume and character design. She enjoys doing mostly fanart, but will occasionally do original art. It’s clear she’s a passionate and dedicated artist who loves what she does, 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.

So, a lot of my work right now is done digitally — that is to say I don’t have an aversion to traditional media, it’s just more accessible to me at the moment — and usually it’s of people. Ranging from character or costume design, fan art, and a lot of my original artwork I don’t get to post. I love drawing portraits and faces, so right now, I guess the majority (that I post, anyway) is of that. I’m mostly self-taught; I’ve learned through practicing, studying classical paintings, and even watching Bob Ross as a little girl. I’ve had the traditional drawing courses (you know, still lives of apples or shapes) in addition to a lot of experimentation software like Paint Tool SAI, Adobe Photoshop, and Procreate.

I don’t particularly stick to one “style”; I don’t really like doing line art, I find it too time-consuming and I have issues with tremor, no thanks to my medication I take. So my style is very “paintery”, if you like. What I’ve learned in painting courses (and, again, Bob Ross) and I paint over my mistakes. When I do traditional media, I usually go back to the pencil or watercolors. I’m a visual person and I love coloring and colors. My favorite thing about creating art is eventually coloring it.

What inspires you?

A lot of things inspire me.

Art has been a therapeutic thing for me and I’ve gone back and added my own feelings in them. I’m very guilty of day-dreaming and since I was a kid, those day dreams inspire art. I think of stories and they become my pieces. Things I see in real life, whether it be color combinations, fashion, or images I pass, I try to hold onto that visual memory and bring it back.  Nowadays, I carry my iPad and stop to at least get it out before it goes. Movies definitely do—I hadn’t realized how much movies affected my stories and images until I got older.

Other artists most definitely do, which is why I’m Tumblr a lot. Most of the blogs I follow are other artists. There are also a few blogs that post traditional and classical artwork that I love. And, really, the music I listen to also is a huge influence on me and I always listen to certain bands and artists to try and captivate a mood in my pieces. My usernames “ofborrowedlight” and “rainbowillness” actually come from one band that I listen to a lot when I do artwork, Wolves in the Throne Room. They’re titles to two songs, “Rainbow Illness” and “Queen of the Borrowed Light”. For my personal “project”, I listen to them quite a bit.

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

Well, I’ve been holding a pencil since I had an Etch-a-Sketch and I cannot recall the rest. And I keep bringing up Bob Ross for a reason—I watched him religiously as a little girl. I’d say that he was actually the first influence that wanted me to get into the field. By the age of five, my mind was made up: I wanted to be an artist. I struggled with dyslexia and bullying and art was my constant companion for me. Having that man on television taught me so much about color and composition at an early age and his attitude of “there are no accidents, only happy mistakes” is such a positive thing to have and he’s really still pushing me, to this day, with that attitude. If you ask me now, yeah, I still want to draw and create for a living. It hasn’t been easy working full-time and trying to earn money, though, but I have not given up. I still try to draw every day; unfortunately, I get really shy posting stuff online or I’m spending more time on it than I wanted to.

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

Not in particularly? At least I don’t think so; maybe my coloring?

Maybe the closest to it if anyone notices that I incorporate a wave or a flow around my figures, sometimes. That comes from how Gustav Kilmt, Alphonse Mucha, and some traditional Japanese paintings that seem to have a special way to draw smoke and water. I can’t really write it, but anyone can find it in my sketches. But flat out, there’s no real unique symbolism, usually. If there is, it’s with my original stuff with little hints, but no one is going to know context, it’s just me, because I haven’t really presented the world with that story yet. It’s an inside joke with me, I guess.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Keep drawing, draw as much as you can, and don’t be afraid to expand your style. I was like a lot of artists out here on Tumblr; I’d print Sailor Moon illustrations and copied them. It’s good to do that to get up on your feet, but don’t allow that to be a dependency. Don’t be afraid to get books for the sake of illustrations—I still do. And don’t feel bad about your level of technique doesn’t match your friends or other artists out there. Art is all about your interpretation. While I can go on hours how stupid still lives and contour drawing is, they are essential to getting better. Take classic courses; if they’re not accessible to you, check out Udemy or Coursea.

With digital art, it’s a lot of practice. You just need to play around with features in software and you’ll find some really cool effects to enhance your coloring. Transitioning from a sketchbook to a drawing tablet is weird and don’t feel bad about not getting it; it took me years to get it and I’m still trying to play around with it. You’ll find a favorite program that you love! And even then, I would encourage you to have more than one digital art program. I hop around Paint Tool SAI, Photoshop, and Procreate all the time.

And really, I can’t stress it enough: don’t give up. You’re in an age where more of these things are accessible to you and it wasn’t when I was a kid. Keep drawing, draw more, and draw whatever you want.

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Versus

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Heteromantic asexual but more often gray-sexual. I think men are handsome, that’s about it. I’m not bothered by it and I really don’t care about relationships. Finding a man attractive is the furthest I’ll go; I don’t want much interaction after that.

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

The closest I’ve experienced any sort of misconception have been at concerts, anime, or comic conventions (surprise, I draw there too) and having to really push back men that have approached me for a date or my number. If they really can’t take the hint or accept “no” for an answer, I’ll get up and leave. A few times I’ve had men at just concerts or gatherings telling me they can “fix” me or change my mind. Then I’ll just tell them to fuck right the hell off, literally.

However, the most prejudice and ignorance I experience is outside of art and I experience it more with my family. It’s an odd mix of Irish and Mexican Catholicism where most of the women in my family married young (we’re talking 17-19) and they think there’s something wrong with me because I have no kids and I’m not married. No matter how many times I tell them “I don’t care, I don’t find anyone attractive” or “sex doesn’t interest me”, it doesn’t seem to sink in. Even when I told them there’s a community of other asexuals, one said “well, they must all be very depressed”. I make jokes about things like “this is why I don’t date” and use it to reiterate I don’t care about relationships.

So I’d say the run of the mill crap—“you haven’t found the right man”, “you’ll change your mind someday”, or “you must be very lonely”. I just shrug it off because I’ve had this conversation so many times with my family.

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

I’m not sure if this is common, but my father believed it was the same as bisexuality—I’m just glad he recognizes that even if I’m not!

One thing I’ve seen is people assume its celibacy and then I have to explain there is a huge difference between the two. It does get tiring having to explain it’s a lack of physical attraction and a desire for it and no, I am not going to change, I’m not worried about not being married, and I’m well over 20 years old and it’s not likely I’m having second thoughts. I am, myself, sex-repulsed, but other asexual people are not and that’s usually one assumption that people go with. Having other people chime in and say they aren’t hleps.

Unfortunately, I will say that because I struggle with PTSD from abuse, therapists assume that the asexuality may be a cause of it. I’m sure it’s a contribution, but more along the lines I just find general touch revolting, though I’m confident that it’s not the ultimate reason why I’m asexual. I feel like psychology needs to learn more about it because I am tired of that assumption is because its due to trauma. I don’t think it’s asking too much that therapists and psychiatrists learn about asexuality. We’re not all like this, not every asexual person is like that due to trauma. And this thinking let me believe that I was really, really destroyed for years when I was not.

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

If you also had a past of trauma like me, I’d say check out Aven and other communities geared towards asexuality so that you will know you’re not broken. I feel like this isn’t really talked about that much and it’s a shame. This isn’t part of PTSD or other forms of mental illness; you are not mentally ill if you’re asexual. When I first heard asexual at 18, I didn’t know about these things and I’m so happy other people have this access. Even now, at Pridefest here in Denver, there are asexuals and I haven’t seen them not even five years ago. My present employer, Ikea, even had “asexuality” listed on their diversity and inclusion talks—that’s really awesome.

There’s a lot of research and groups, there’s a whole world out there. But if you get the same spiel as I do, I think at this point, all we can do is just poke fun at it. Nothing makes me feel better than mocking these conceptions with other aces, it’s a nice reassurance. And if you’re in the same boat with me and family, yeah, post a link on Facebook or just print it off and be like “read this”. I don’t feel like we have the same level of resistance to people that are gay, lesbian, bi, and trans, so we need to also understand that. Watching a family member bullied out of the closet was horrific; I still couldn’t draw comparisons to their situation. Ours seems like a lot of people just can’t comprehend a life without physical attraction, I think. I just hope people remember that, especially.

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

Most of my stuff is posted on Rainbowillness.com, which is hooked up to Tumblr. If you’re in the American McGee’s Alice fandom, you know me, I’m sure you’ve seen my stuff. I’m also on Instagram under “ofborrowedlight”; sometimes I will post WIPs (works in progress) on my personal Tumblr, “ofborrowedlight”, but I urge everyone just go on my site and follow me there.

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