Interview: AJ Drake

Today we’re joined by AJ Drake. AJ is a wonderful game design artist who is currently studying Game Art, Design, and Animation. He focuses mainly on particle effects and environment modeling. When he’s not working on that, AJ dabbles in concept design, graphic design, and photography. It’s clear he’s a passionate artist with an incredibly bright future, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am currently a student of Game Art, Design, and Animation (GADA). I focus mainly on particle effects (I make explosions look ‘splodey and rain look rainy) and have a bit of a side interest in environment modeling. I also dabble in other areas of art, like concept design, illustration, photography, and graphic design. Sometimes I try new things – I experimented with stained glass window stickies a while back, as well as hand-painted shirts!

What inspires you?

A lot of things really. Music is one. Books. The artwork in existing games (other people play video games for fun and follow the story and do missions. I’ll be in the middle of the mission and stop for half an hour to admire the materials used in a rock wall). Nature, sometimes. Sometimes friends say or do something that inspires me. History sometimes. Sometimes it’ll be something as simple as someone saying what their favourite animal is.

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

For art in general, when I was really young, I really didn’t like my sister, and I set out to do one thing, anything better than her. She used to be really good at drawing, so I settled on that. The rest is history, as they say.

As for GADA, there’s a game I play on occasion (called Furcadia), that is very maker-oriented. I started off doing my own art for it, then commissions for other players, and then I got noticed by the game’s owners and asked to do official artwork for the game. A couple of years into that, I realized I really liked working on game art, so now here I am, goin to school for it.

For the other things I dabble in, it’s a variety of “origin stories.” With photography, for example, I really liked doing it, and decided to get a DSLR, then decided to take some classes to learn how to do it better. For more crafty stuff, it’s because I have a drive to make custom things for myself to use.

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

In my art for the game I mentioned before, I sometimes would include a small skull sitting on top of a bone in a corner of an image to mark it as created by me. For other areas in my career, I now use my ‘Evil Skunk’ logo, along with my handwritten signature. In the past I’ve used anything from just my name in a corner, to a more detailed skull and bone watermark.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t compare yourself to other artists, unless it’s to learn from them. Each person has their own style and learning speed.

And to the aspiring artists out there living at or below the poverty line – don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t afford to go to art school, or that it’s a waste of time or money. FAFSA is your friend here, and you can make invaluable friends and connections at school.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m both apothiromantic and apothisexual. That is, I am both romance- and sex-repulsed. However, I’m still good for dirty jokes. I just don’t need, or want, detailed descriptions or imagery.

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

Not in my field, no. I’m too quiet offline to have it really come up often. Online and at my part time job, yes. Mostly I deal with it by walking away and reading a book for a bit, or hanging out with other ace folks and venting. Sometimes I try to help when I see another ace person being attacked online.

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

Honestly, the most common one I’ve seen is that “we’re all cisgendered heterosexuals trying to push our way into the LGBT so we’re can feel oppressed.”

It was incredibly frustrating to see it keep popping up this past Pride Month.

SugarSkOwl

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

You are not broken, and whatever you’re feeling is valid.

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

My art Twitter, which has everything from school work, to doodles, to furry art: at Evil_Skunk

My main Twitter, which has everything from politics, to pirates, to furry stuff, to general stupidity: at farrendustfur

My website, currently under construction while I turn it into a GADA portfolio: www.evilskunk.com

And my DeviantArt, which has art from way back in the day (2007 or so), so you can see my progression as an artist: http://ajdrake.deviantart.com.

TheBumbooHimself

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

Interview: Olivia M.

Today we’re joined by Olivia M. Olivia is mostly a hobbyist and an incredibly productive one at that. She does a bit of everything including traditional and digital visual art, game art and programming, and jewelry and accessory crafting. Her main focus is zines and she has made quite a few. This is an artist who is incredibly passionate about her art and it definitely shows in her art and in her interview. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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Ailenn Colored Web
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Ace Necklace

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m a student and a hobbyist when it comes to art. I work in a wide variety of mediums, including traditional drawing and painting, digital art, graphic design, zines, game art and programming, and making jewelry and accessories. Right now my main focus is on making zines, which are self-published, small run booklets that can be about just about anything. Most of my zines are personal writing, but also include some art and fiction. I do the layouts in a cut-and-paste style by hand or create them on a computer. Then I print them and sell them online or trade them with people around the world. Making zines allows me not only to write creatively, but also to do graphic design work.

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Neuro Metaphysical Recursion Flat

So far I’ve made 12 different zines. Most are in three different series. One is called (meta)paradox, and is a perzine (personal zine) series. Another is called Anecdata, a mini perzine series. And another is Psychometry, a found object zine/perzine hybrid. I’ve also made a minicomic, a science fiction zine, and two micro zines. I also help run a website called the Ace Zine Archive that documents zines that talk about asexuality, and I talk about asexuality in my zines, so my art intersects with my asexual identity.

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When it comes to my drawings, paintings, and digital art, I mostly draw people, preferably using a reference for realistic work or working in a cartoon style. I’ve taken several art classes, including a figure drawing class and an experimental drawing class. I also like drawing comics. One of my zines is a minicomic, and other zines include some of my short comics. A lot of my drawings are of characters that I write about. I write some fiction, but mostly just plan out characters and stories without ever getting any writing done.

I’m a computer science student, so it makes sense that my art intersects with my interest in programming. That’s why making games is so appealing to me. Making games allows me to combine programming, art, and storytelling. I’ve never finished one of my game projects, but I’ve dabbled in RPG-style games and visual novels. My current visual novel project is set at a school for people with supernatural powers and features queer romances and an asexual character. I make an effort to include diverse characters in my game and writing projects, as well as in my other art.

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Visual Novel 1
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Visual Novel 2
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Visual Novel 3

Lastly, I also make jewelry and accessories and sell them online. I haven’t been doing this as much lately, as I’ve built up enough of a stock for my online shop, but every now and then I make something new. One thing I enjoy making is LGBT+ pride jewelry. All of my ace pride jewelry has sold out! One of my favorite types of jewelry to make is cast resin pendants. Resin casting involves mixing two liquids and adding in glitter, beads and other bits and pieces before it hardens.

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Alondra Jacket Print
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Cute Necklace

What inspires you?

I find myself highly inspired by science fiction, fantasy, and other speculative fiction, whether it is in TV, books, movies, or video games, as well as YA fiction. My characters and stories tend to come from these genres, and even my zines and jewelry are somewhat inspired by them. When it comes to zines, I get a lot of inspiration from other zines that I collect and read. Some of my favorite zines that inspire me include: Taking the Cake (an asexual zine), No Missing Pieces, No Better Than Apples, My Aim is True, Pieces, Deafula, Collide, All in Your Head, Everything. Is. Fine., The Real Ramona, Julia Eff’s zines, Dig Deep, Seawitch, You’ve Got a Friend in Pennsylvania, Last Night at the Casino, The Emeryville Ethereal, asexual zines, queer zines, POC zines, disability zines, and mental health zines. My asexuality and other aspects of my identity, such as my Latina ethnicity, my atheism, being autistic, being chronically ill, being a skeptic, and more all provide inspiration for my zines. People also inspire me. A lot of times I find myself sketching people around me to practice drawing. I love working from references. I also have a wall of my room where I post up art and ideas that inspire me. I like to keep up with new books, indie video games, zines, and handmade jewelry styles for further inspiration.

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Angel Demon

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

I grew up in a family of artists, so it was never strange that I was interested in art. I’ve loved art ever since I was a child since I grew up surrounded by it. I also always enjoyed creating things, like drawing my own picture books, making booklets and family newsletters, which led up to my interest in zines as an adult. When I was 12 I discovered programming through website design and digital art. I was instantly hooked and into the idea of creating games. I knew that I wanted to have a career combining programming, art, and writing. I don’t necessarily want to be strictly an artist as a job, but to combine of all my interests. However, I always want art to be a part of my work.

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Ceris
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Ace Necklace 2

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?

Actually, yes! I have a personal symbol that I include in my zines and some of my art. It’s my logo for the work I do under the name Paradox Creations. The symbol is called the radialemniscate. “Radia” from “radiant” and “lemniscate”, which is the infinity symbol. The radialemniscate is an infinity symbol with a starburst at the center. It originated in a high school project to create an imaginary religion. Mine was called Infinitism, and the radialemniscate was its symbol.

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Logo
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Gummy Bears

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

I would tell young aspiring artists that as long as they create, they are artists. Even if their work isn’t at a professional level, they should never stop creating art as long as they enjoy it. Never let anyone tell you that your art isn’t “real” art. Art is about creation, not about staying inside of any list of rules.

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Girl
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Final Pose

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as panromantic (gray) asexual, though my primary identity is asexual. This means that I experience romantic attraction to all genders. Also, while there are many reasons to identify as gray asexual, I identify that way because I’ve never definitively experienced sexual attraction, though I’ve experienced some ambiguous attraction.

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Spanish Doodle 017

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

I don’t have a job in the arts, at least not one with a workplace. I sell my zines and jewelry online, so I haven’t interacted as much with customers as I would IRL and I don’t have coworkers, so there are less chances to encounter reactions to asexuality in my field. Of the interactions I’ve had with other people who make zines and on my blogs that involve talking about asexuality, most to all have been positive.

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Test Panel

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

From people that I’ve come out to, I’ve mostly had good experiences from people willing to learn, but occasionally I come across misconceptions. One of these is the idea that asexuals can’t have “real” relationships or that asexual relationships aren’t a thing. That is absolutely false! Asexuals can have all sorts of relationships, many of which don’t involve sex, and these relationships can succeed. Lots of asexuals are in relationships!

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Weird Portrait

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

Don’t despair! Society may make being asexual sound isolating and lonely, but community exists both online and in real life. I used to feel like no one could accept me as an asexual, but since then I’ve had many positive coming out experiences and have met dozens of asexuals in real life. So can you! No asexual has to be alone. There are possibilities for relationships and friendships. And there is nothing wrong with being asexual. It’s a natural variety of sexuality and perfectly healthy. Even if someone doesn’t accept your sexuality, there are hundreds more people out there who will.

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Woman Side Portrait
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Zine

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

I have a Tumblr blog where I sometimes blog about my work here: http://paradoxnow.tumblr.com/

My zine blog is here: http://oliviaszines.tumblr.com/
It has links to sites I have for individual zines.

My Etsy, where I sell zines, jewelry and accessories is here: http://etsy.com/shop/ParadoxNowCreations

The Ace Zine Archive can be found here: http://acezinearchive.wordpress.com/

Some of my older work can be found here: https://paradox11.wordpress.com/

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Return to Atlantis

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