Interview: Ashleigh Nicole

Today we’re joined by Ashleigh Nicole. Ashleigh is a wonderful young up and coming visual artist who is currently studying illustration at uni. She specializes in character, concept, and storyboard artist. Her work is beautiful, showing an amazing use of color and line. It’s clear she’s a passionate artist with an incredibly bright future ahead of her. 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 a second year Illustration student and my work focuses on concept, character and storyboard art, but I also like to create random illustrations of my own. I also want to move into comics at some point!

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by plants, superheroes and fantasy- they feature a lot in my work. But I also watch other people’s work on Instagram and twitter and I enjoy getting inspiration from their work too whether its colour pallets that I didn’t think of exploring or a brush technique.

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

I have always drawn, but I was actually set on becoming a fashion designer since year 7. I changed degrees before I started because I was filling sketchbooks more than I made clothes in my gap year and thinking about selling my art. I still like fashion so maybe I’ll go back to it at some point.

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Friends Girls

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 don’t! I feel like I should though!

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Learn anatomy, perspective and colour theory. I still haven’t done that to be honest but I’m on my way!

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Rosa Signature Version

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I just go by asexual- sometimes demisexual but very rarely.

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

I have encountered people (not in the creative sector just in general.) that think it’s a choice…I have no words. Asexuality is still a bit unknown in the wider world so it’s mostly a general prejudice towards LGBTIA+ people that I’ve seen.

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

Many people don’t seem to understand asexuality as a spectrum. People have different levels, if’s buts and whys and don’t experience things the same as another person.

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

Find people like you! Whether that’s online or in person, speaking to people who share similar experiences is great!

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

I’m on Tumblr, Instagram, and YouTube under the username mashmato!
My portfolio is http://ashleighnicole.myportfolio.com

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

Interview: Ash Kleczka

Today we’re joined by Ash Kleczka, who also goes by Umber online. Ash is a phenomenal visual artist, an all-around fantasy enthusiast. They love using visual art to tell a story and highlight beauty. Their images show a unique style and a very vivid imagination. It’s clear Ash loves to create, 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 a fantasy illustrator, a painter, concept artist, and all around enthusiast… I was going to add more to that statement, but honestly I think ‘enthusiast’ about covers it. I get really excited about concepts that are self-reflective in some way, or that highlight an unexpected beauty.

I really try to create art that tells a story.

What inspires you?

Nature, mythology, the occult. Things that are taboo or archaic. I’m also deeply inspired by role-playing games like D&D and the character building process.

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Hogwashn Newton

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

The simple, inelegant answer is that I got into visual arts because I was dissatisfied with the attractiveness of some characters from a video game I was into at the time – and I wanted to make characters that would appeal to me.

It’s an ongoing struggle haha.

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 super-secret naming convention for pretty much any character I’ve ever created ever is to try to match their personality/appearance/some interesting feature to a bird or other natural flora or fauna and then I build their name around the scientific binomial of that thing.

So for example, one character named Cyril Alcyon is based around the belted kingfisher megaceryle alcyon. Another is named Melia Edarach which is taken from the chinaberry tree, or Melia azedarach.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

My advice is to just keep going. It’s OK for things to not look exactly as they do in your head, or to be dissatisfied with where you are with your art. It means that you have room to grow! Stay open to new ideas and roll with the punches. Art, like life, is full of happy accidents.

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Greed

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Grey-Ace/Pansexual

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

I’m not particularly open about my sexuality in the workplace, but the few times it’s come up typically end with the person I’m talking to feeling sorry for me. It’s not hateful – just a lack of understanding. So I try my best to explain that it’s not a negative part of my life experience. It’s just an orientation in the same way that being gay, or bisexual is.

I have encountered prejudice in my personal life however. One instance was in my last D&D campaign. I played an ace/aro character, and was met with some questionably in-character commentary from another player. That was really the first time I’d encountered something like that in the wild before, and honestly…I’m open to advice myself.

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Fort Save Web

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

That it’s something to be fixed.

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

Find people you trust that you can talk to, and be patient with yourself. Sometimes it’s not as simple as just being one piece of the big sex/gender pie. Sometimes you’re a triple decker slice of pie with whipped cream and cherries.

I’ve found it really helpful to talk to my husband (who’s allo) to see where we differ. Sometimes the answers you’re looking for are in the empty spaces between two truths.

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

I have a website umbertheprussianblue.com!

You can also follow me on Instagram and Twitter at ThePrussianBlue

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Solas

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

Interview: Lucas Wilga

Today we’re joined by Lucas Wilga, who also goes by luci online. Lucas is a phenomenal game maker and writer. They create tabletop role-playing games and the first one is entitled Sundown, which sounds fascinating and I highly recommend checking it out. Lucas has recently branched out into writing short stories set in the Sundown universe. It’s clear they’re an incredibly passionate and driven artist, 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 make tabletop role-playing games, and I recently branched out into writing fiction as well. The first game I’m creating professionally, Sundown, is currently in an open playtest. It’ll have an official launch sometime next year. It’s light on rules, and it’s set in this cyberpunk, biotech inspired fantasy setting. It has transhumanism, politics, and sword cowboys. My work on it is mostly done, so I’ve started occupying my creative time writing a serial of short stories set in Sundown, starring a sarcastic young monster slayer.

What inspires you?

Other games and works of fiction. I’m always itching to design something new after I read a new game. Sundown itself came out of a modification of a different game I’d recently picked up at the time.

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

I’ve always been imaginative. I entered the hobby at eleven, and I started running games and designing adventures at fourteen. This eventually turned into creating my own games, but I didn’t know I wanted to make a career out of it until a year ago.

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 style is all about keeping people engaged, so my signature has become brevity. I keep things short and snappy. Whether teaching a game or weaving a narrative, it pays to avoid toiling too long on the nitty gritty.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Especially when designing a game, start small. Keep your scope limited. Know what you want to say and cut anything that isn’t in direct support of it. Don’t overthink it. Don’t spend too long thinking about one specific thing. Don’t try to create the perfect piece. You’ll burn yourself out chasing perfection.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I don’t know if there’s a word for this yet, but I’m okay with sexual things that take place entirely within my imagination. Things like smut. Sometimes images are okay, too. But I have no desire for, and am usually repulsed by, sex ‘in real life.’

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

I’ve had folk tell me to tone down the queerness in my work, but I haven’t really encountered any sort of acephobia. There is a strong queer independent tabletop role-playing game community, so I don’t really have to try to sell to, or interact with, non-LGBT+ spaces.

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

The most common misconception, I’d say, is the idea that asexual is synonymous with aromantic. Especially for ace folks in relationships, it can get tiring to explain the difference.

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

This might be hard advice to follow, but just don’t give it so much weight. It’s okay for your sexuality to shift or change as you grow as a person and learn more about yourself.

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

Grasswatch Games is the company my two creative partners and I created to work on Sundown. Its website, grasswatchgames.com is the hub for our current work. You can find Sundown itself there, as well as my first short story. You can also find our Twitter, Facebook, and the Discord server we’re running Sundown’s playtest on.

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

Interview: CG Thomson

Today we’re joined by CG Thomson. CG is a wonderful fantasy author who is currently working on a seven-book fantasy series. She’s currently pursuing representation for the first novel of the series. CG is an imaginative and passionate artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m a fantasy writer, currently working on the fourth book of my seven book series while seeking representation for the first book.

What inspires you?

Everything. 🙂 No, really. I have so much wonder for this world we live on. I find inspiration in nature, humanity, everyday life. I can spend twenty minutes marveling at sunlight dappling the ground, lose hours by the sea.

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

I’ve been writing since I was three. My mother chose storytelling as a way to focus her very ADHD toddler and whether I was simply telling her stories or learning how to write them down, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a writer of fantastic tales.

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?

There is always an element of found family in my work, specifically a flawed heroic father figure, a man whose daughter is not his biologically but chosen by heart. This is an homage to my father who is (technically) my stepfather. We chose one another when I was very young and he has defined my life like no other.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

There’s so much advice out there, and most of it is good, but no matter how good, no matter how successful the person giving that advice, that does not mean it will work for you. Figure out what you want from your art. Not everyone wants a career and not everyone can make a career of it (I’m certainly still waiting to see) and there’s nothing wrong with that. Figure out what you want and then figure out what works for you. Sadly, there isn’t a formula for success, but if you’re doing something you love and you’re improving regularly, you’re on the right path.

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?

Interestingly enough, I would have answered this with a no just a week ago, but when I tweeted a boost to this website’s call for interviewees, I lost followers. That said, as a cisgender female married to a cisgender male, I am heteronormative passing. There is some privilege there and I acknowledge that and try to use it to raise asexuality awareness.

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

That being on the asexuality spectrum means a person must be sex-repulsed. Of course a person can be, but frankly a person who is not asexual can be sex-repulsed. Likewise a person can be asexual and sex-ambivalent or even sex-positive.

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

Understand that you don’t have to “know” right now. You can be questioning. You can still be figuring things out. No matter what, you are perfect and lovable just as you are.

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

I’m currently seeking representation, so there’s nothing out yet, but anyone wishing to keep up with my process can find me at onaredhorse on Twitter.

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

Interview: Sarah Viehmann

Today we’re joined by Sarah Viehmann. Sarah is a phenomenal author whose debut novel, Unrooted, is scheduled to be released this winter. Unrooted is a retelling of Snow White that features two protagonists on the ace spectrum. When she’s not writing novels, Sarah frequently blogs about fairy tales and sometimes about asexuality. It’s clear she’s a dedicated and passionate writer, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am a novelist writing adult fantasy, a series of fairy tale retellings beginning with Unrooted, debuting Winter 2018 with REUTS Publications. The first book retells the “Snow White” fairy tale and features protagonists on the ace spectrum, along with other LGBT+ characters, disabled characters, and characters of color. Unrooted is the first in a series of five books called The Iridia Series.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by the human impulse that drives us to tell stories. How do we use stories to communicate deep needs within the individual and the community? How do stories changes based on who is telling them? How have stories changed and how will they continue to change in the future? My fairy tale retellings seek to explore, if not answer, these questions.

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

When it comes to fairy tales, I was introduced to them by my father reading me Three Billy Goats Gruff and similar fairy tales before bed at night. I also frequented the local library and always went directly toward the 398.2 section where fairy tales are housed. As for writing, I tend to joke that I’ve been writing since I could hold a marker, but that really isn’t too far off from the truth! I’ve always been inventive and a lover of words, so combining those two things into writing seemed to be incredibly natural 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?

Oh goodness . . . I’m not sure how to best answer this. I think the themes that appear most frequently in my work include mother-daughter relationships, women who have lost and regain their voices, and attention to language. There are also many elements from my academic study of literature that appear in my work, such as structuralism and mise en abyme (the mirror in the text), and those who might be familiar with such ideas should be able to pick them out.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Do it, and do it for yourself. Disregard any thoughts of “what if no one likes it?” It’s yours to like, and what other people think only matters once the work is done and/if you decide to share it. Don’t let the input of others affect your creative process, because then the work won’t be true to you.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as asexual and grey-biromantic. The latter part of that is more nebulous for me and I slide around a lot. I tend to find cis-women and nonbinary people more aesthetically attractive than cis-men, but that could be a matter of circumstance than anything else!

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

Yes. I once pointed out amisia in a very popular book series that appeared in the preview a few days before the newest book release. I spent a weekend fending off aggressive anons on tumblr telling me I’d read it wrong and I shouldn’t be upset by it. It’s difficult being in the minority of writers and readers who can and do point out things like that in published writing (and that’s not the only example). I still find it very important to point these things out so readers and writers alike learn, but it’s always a little uncomfortable having to be That Person. In addition to that, I try and model positive ace and aro representation in my own writing as a model for what I as an ace and grey-ro person would like to see in writing.

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

Recently, I think it’s the idea that ace people don’t like sex or are disgusted by it. That’s not the experience of all ace people, and it shouldn’t be a stereotype. That said, the experience of those who are sex-repulsed should be respected.

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

It’s okay to try on labels to see what fits. You’re not betraying anyone by adjusting the label over time to figure out what fits you best. I had to play around with my romantic orientation a lot before I decided on one, and I’m still not wholly committed to it. Also, seek out other ace folks, because on the whole I find we’re an incredibly kind and welcoming community willing to help you figure things out if you have questions.

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

My official website is www.sarahviehmann.com, but I’m most active on Tumblr (sarahviehmann.tumblr.com) and Twitter at SarahViehmann. You can also find Unrooted on Goodreads! Please stay tuned for its release and other exciting things leading up to the release date!

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

Interview: Lauren Hemphill

Today we’re joined by Lauren Hemphill. Lauren is a wonderful author whose novel, Viridis, is available for pre-order. She has created a sci-fi narrative revolving around an aromantic asexual character, who is supported by numerous LGBT+ characters. Lauren has written the characters that she wished she had growing up. It’s clear she’s a dedicated and passionate author with a bright future, 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.

My work is primarily fiction writing, specifically sci-fi and fantasy. I focus on themes such as gray morality, loyalty, and friendship. I also tend to write LGBT+ characters, with a focus on aro-ace orientations.

What inspires you?

Music tends to be what inspires me most, with instrumental songs from various soundtracks being what I write to most. Excellent storytelling by fellow writers also pushes me to do better, be it T.V. shows or other novels. Seraphina, Orleans, and The Uglies being some of the novels that have inspired me throughout my writing career.

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

Since I was a child, I have always been telling stories. Originally, I sought to be a painter, where I could tell stories through the canvas. As I grew, though, I found myself drawn to writing, and amazed by the use of words and style to make a world come to life. The Uglies by Scott Westerfeld was the first novel that ever hooked me, and is what ended up inspiring my road down writing.

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?

A common theme in most of my written work is the graying of morality. I tend to enjoy playing with the idea that not everything is black and white, that good people do bad things, and vice versa. I seek to show the world as complex in my writing as it is in real life.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Advice I would give fellow artists is this: not everyone will believe in you. Throughout my time as a writer, I have had many people doubt my ability to be published and be successful. In those times, remember how far you’ve come, remember that you need to be your biggest fan. All the best things in life are hard to achieve, but I would encourage all of you to continue your art, because there are people out there that need it more than you could ever know.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m an aromantic asexual.

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

Luckily, I have seemed to dodge most prejudice within the writing field. I’ve found a good group of friends and writers who support what I’m doing, and haven’t had to face writers being ignorant of the orientation. I have encountered people in the outside world who have disliked my inclusion of LGBT+ characters and believed asexuality to be a phase, but writers themselves have come across as inclusive and kind in my experience.

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

I’ve heard most often that asexuality is a phase, or something that will pass when I get older. As I have held no interest in any gender in either a romantic or sexual sense for over twenty-four years now, however, I don’t see legitimacy in the claim.

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

I would tell my fellow aces that it’s okay to not be sure, and it’s okay to take things slow. You should also know that you’re not broken. I know that’s common rhetoric within the community, but please believe all of us that you’re truly not broken. It can be hard accepting your orientation when it’s different than what the world would like to accept, but there’s a community where you belong, and there’s a community that will support you as you figure yourself out. Take your time.

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

My first novel, Viridis, featuring an aro-ace lead and a cast of LGBT+ characters in a sci-fi universe is for preorder now on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble! Searching my name on either website will bring up my novel, or you can follow this link:

http://a.co/6fHcDAC

My website, winter-publishing.com, is occasionally updated with writing WIPs and various other projects, and my YouTube channel, TheKnightmare, is a place where I review indie animated series. You can also follow me on Twitter at knightmarelair and DeviantArt at knightmarekm.

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

Interview: Minerva Cerridwen

Today we’re joined by Minerva Cerridwen. Minerva is a phenomenal SFF author and visual artist. For writing, she has a story published in Unburied Fables and recently released her novella, The Dragon of Ynys (which features an aro-ace main character). Visual art is more of a hobby for her, though she does do commissions. Minerva does handlettering and draws, using traditional mediums such as pencils and ink. It’s clear she’s a very passionate 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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Bianca (own character)

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’ve always loved writing, and to my great joy I can call myself a published author these days. I mainly write fantasy and science fiction and sometimes dabble in poetry and horror. So far I’ve got a short story in the queer fairy tale anthology Unburied Fables and my debut novella, The Dragon of Ynys, came out in May 2018.

The Dragon of Ynys is a light fantasy tale suitable for all ages, starring aro/ace main character Sir Violet, the knight of Ynys. He helps Holly, a trans woman, to find her missing wife, the baker. They suspect the ever-thieving dragon who lives near the village might have something to do with her disappearance…

02 Cover for 'The Dragon of Ynys' by Kirby Crow
Cover for ‘The Dragon of Ynys’ by Kirby Crow

I also love drawing and handlettering, using traditional materials—mainly because I haven’t had the time yet to learn more about digital art. I like to experiment with different techniques: I’ve been using pencils, watercolour, brushmarkers and ink, both for original works and fanart. I wouldn’t mind taking this to a professional level someday, but so far I’ve mainly been drawing for myself and my friends.

What inspires you?

I grew up with fairy tales, both the ones my mother read to me as a child and all the Disney movies I watched so many times. It’s no wonder that I love writing fairy tales myself. However, the big difference with the tales I consumed at a young age is that there will always be queer characters in my stories. It’s so important to be able to relate to characters when you’re trying to figure out your own identity, and I feel like it took too long before I finally experienced that moment myself. Once you’ve seen your identity validated in popular media, it’s so much easier to accept who you are, rather than to believe those who say you can’t feel the way you feel or be the way you are.

I hope that my writing will make it easier for future generations to find stories that tell them they’re not alone, not broken, and that teach them acceptance towards others as well. In that light, I write the stories that I would love to read myself, with all the dragons and magic and hopefully wittiness that I adore in the works of Pratchett, Rowling, Tolkien and other masters.

For more specific inspiration, my friend Fie and I started a project in 2013, inspired by Erin Morgenstern’s Flax-golden Tales. Every week, she took a picture for which I wrote a ten-sentence story. These days we’ve dialled it down to two photo-story combinations per month, but Paranatellonta is still going strong after five years! Getting random prompts from friends is a great way to stay inspired at all times.

When it comes to visual art, getting an Instagram account has definitely done wonders. There are a lot of awesome artists out there whose samples inspired me to try new techniques. Every month there are challenges going around in different themes, for any kind of art actually, but in my case those mainly influenced my handlettering. Practice really helps! I also finished Inktober last year. It once again proved that an inspiring prompt doesn’t need to be more than one word or one image. You can see my Inktober drawings if you scroll down a little on my Instagram.

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

I’ve been telling stories for as long as I can remember. As I said, my mother read fairy tales to me from a young age, and once I learned to read myself, my greatest joy was to discover more fun stories. There were never enough of them, so it only made sense that I wrote down my own as soon as I could. Surrounded by those fictional adventures, somewhere deep inside I knew what adventure I wanted to have myself, even when I was five years old: I wanted to be an author, like those wonderful people who’d given me all those beautiful tales to enjoy.

My drawing story is completely different. For a very long time I was convinced I couldn’t draw at all. I just didn’t have the talent. Looking back at art class in school, I feel like they never stressed the importance of studying references enough. I was always doodling in my school books for fun, but it never felt like that counted.

Fast-forward to when I’d finished university and my parents were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. I didn’t have much gift inspiration, and they joked about a “grown-up” child making a drawing for their parents—and the fact it was a joke tells you enough about how much the arts are respected unless you’re a Big Name. I often feel like our society expects people either to be a grand artist or talentless, and the fact that there must be a learning process in between is often completely neglected.

Anyway, I went through with it, and as I was drawing my parents from a reference photo, it turned out pretty okay (especially considering it was supposed to remind them of a child’s drawing). Most important of all, I had a lot of fun working on it. I’d been looking at a lot of art online since I’d last taken up a pencil, and combined with using a reference for the first time, I could see I’d massively improved since my last school drawing years earlier.

From that point on I let my more artsy friend Fie convince me to take part in courses on Skillshare to improve my drawing techniques and handlettering. Now, almost five years after that anniversary drawing, I actually feel like I’ve made some pretty things!

03 Fiery Mushroom - brush markers - 2017
Fiery Mushroom (brush markers)

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?

As I mentioned above, you’ll find many fairy tale elements and queer characters in my writing. More specifically, you’ll encounter a lot of dragons and spiders. The dragons are a more conscious choice than the spiders, who just always happen to show up… Just like in real life, I suppose.

I don’t think I have any recurring elements in my visual art, but I’ve been using a signature since late 2016. It’s made up of the initials of both my pen name and legal name.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

I think it’s an important message that you can always learn and improve. That’s something I only truly learned from starting to draw. I’d always been “born” a writer: I started at a very young age and people told me I was talented. But I had to work to become better at visual art, and that made me realise that the reason why I’d loved writing all my life was that I’d been exposed to so many stories to learn from. Having played with words from a very young age, stories had never been the big “mystery” that a beautiful piece of art was. So what I mean to say is: people aren’t born a Grand Artist. They become them. And going down into history means you’ve worked hard, but also that you were lucky (or, in some cases, unlucky) enough to have your name picked up and talked about. But that luck, too, is something you can influence by promoting your work. Like doing interviews on awesome websites. 😉

04 Space Ace 2 for Tanouska - watercolour - 2018
Space Ace 2 (watercolour)

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m asexual and somewhere on the aromantic spectrum, but I usually go with “aro-spec” rather than a more specific label, because it’s difficult for me to figure that one out.

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

There’s certainly a lot of ignorance. Even in some queer organisations, it seems the A’s are often forgotten. I can only hope that my stories will spread more knowledge, while still being entertaining rather than feeling like a lecture.

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Violet (ink)

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

That asexuality would mean you never have sex. It can mean that, and I guess it does for me. There’s certainly nothing wrong with a life without sex. But for sex-positive aces it makes things all the more confusing to figure out their orientation when people keep asking: “But you’ve enjoyed having sex, how can you be ace?”

Aside from that, I think that asexuality and aromanticism are too often considered the same thing. This also makes it hard to find a label that fits you when you do experience romantic attraction but no sexual attraction, or the other way round. When different sources tell you that you need to feel things a certain, very specific way in order to identify as ace or aro, it can be a long search to find a label that fits. And of course not everyone needs to label their orientation, but in my own experience finding the names and other people who used them certainly helped to stop thinking I might be broken or wrong.

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

You’re not alone and you’re not broken. For me it was a massive help to enter queer spaces (in my case on Tumblr) and read experiences from other queer people. It made me discover terms (like asexual and aromantic) which I’d never heard of before I made a Tumblr account almost 10 years ago. It showed me that they weren’t some kind of theoretical concept, but a whole spectrum of people who experienced things in different ways—and some of their experiences were just like mine! Suddenly I was no longer “the weird one”. Which actually took me some time to adapt to, because I’d become quite used to being “just odd” and labelling myself that way 😛

However, in the long run, learning about all flavours of queer (be it through books, blogs, or directly talking to others) taught me to be more open-minded in general and made me more comfortable with myself.

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

My website is http://minervacerridwen.wordpress.com/. There you find everything about both my writing and drawings, with links to my social media. Feel free to follow me!

Paranatellonta, a flash fiction project inspired by my friend’s photography, can be found at http://paranatellonta.tumblr.com/. It updates twice a month and you can read all the stories and see all the pictures for free.

My visual art can be found here: https://www.instagram.com/minerva_cerridwen/. I’m posting pretty much everything I draw on Instagram, showing my learning process with both the pieces that worked out and the ones that didn’t. Mainly because I find it interesting to track my own evolution and learn from that in turn!

Other places you can find me:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/minerva_cerr
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/minervacerridwen/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15904760.Minerva_Cerridwen

And places to buy my stories:

– The Dragon of Ynys (Publisher | List of other retailers)
– Unburied Fables (Amazon)

06 Cats Rule the World for Ether - watercolour - 2017
Cats Rule the World (watercolour)

Thank you, Minerva, 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!

tapas1

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

Interview: Jennifer Lee Rossman

Today we’re joined by Jennifer Lee Rossman. Jennifer is a phenomenal author who also does cross stitch. For writing, Jennifer writes science fiction and fantasy. She has written stories for various anthologies and just recently released her debut novella entitled Anachronism, published through Kristell Ink. When she’s not writing, Jennifer enjoys cross stitching and comes up with her own patterns. 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.

1. AuthorPhoto18WhiteHatCropped

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m a sci-fi and fantasy writer. I’ve had stories in several anthologies and my debut novella, Anachronism, was published this year by Kristell Ink, an imprint of Grimbold Books.

I write weird little stories that make people happy (or at least cry while smiling) and hopefully make them see the world from another angle. Violence and swearing levels vary from story to story, but there’s never anything too gory and swearing is usually limited. Sex is a part of life for a lot of people, so while it might be mentioned as part of the story, I will never show anything more than a kiss on the page. (I don’t write anything I wouldn’t want my grandmother reading.)

My goal is for my words to be a safe space no matter your gender, orientation, ability, race, or body type.

I also cross stitch. I make all of my own patterns, mostly dinosaurs and nerd stuff.

2. Anachronism Front CoverSmall
“Anachronism” front cover

What inspires you?

Weird science facts and song lyrics, mostly.

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

I’ve been writing since I could hold a crayon, but only got serious about it when I realized my disability was going to make having a traditional job impossible.

Cross stitch was a natural path for me to take: I love crocheting, but my muscular dystrophy makes that much movement difficult, so I needed something smaller and more fiddly. I grew up making Pokémon sprites on the computer, and it turns out cross stitch is really just analog pixel art!

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Loch Van

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

For crafts, bright colors and animals that are cute while still being scientifically accurate.

In my stories…I guess queer people and Jurassic Park references show up a lot.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

You know that weird idea you have? The really silly thing you want to make, but it’ll probably suck and no one but you will like it? Do it. Give it permission to suck, let it be just for you. Chances are it’ll be amazing, and your fellow weirdos will find you and you can be weird together.

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Shells

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Not entirely asexual, but pretty close. I experience romantic attraction, but sexual attraction is kind of an abstract concept to me. It’s there sometimes, not very often and not very strong, and sex sounds interesting in theory, but most of the times it’s just not something I even think about.

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

Ignorance more than prejudice. When you’re writing about aliens and robots, it’s easy to fall into the “this character is just as human as the humans because they feel attraction” trap. I usually try to point out the errors in my reviews.

5. Dinosaur_Rainbow
Dinosaur Rainbow

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

That all disabled people are asexual. My disability has nothing to do with my asexuality, and there are plenty of disabled people who experience sexual attraction.

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

You’re not broken just because you’re different. Find some ace people on the Internet — we’re super friendly and our pride flag is beautiful!

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

I have a blog https://jenniferleerossman.blogspot.com/ and I’m on the Twitter https://twitter.com/JenLRossman Links to all of my books (including my debut novella Anachronism) and stories can be found here: http://jenniferleerossman.blogspot.com/p/my-work.html

I don’t sell my cross stitch because each piece is usually custom made for myself or someone I know, but I’m always happy to take on a new project.

6. Phil2
Phil

Thank you, Jennifer, 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.