Interview: Megan Hustmyer

Today we’re joined by Megan Hustmyer. Megan is a phenomenal visual artist and author who does a bit of everything. They paint, sculpt, and do illustrations. On the writing side, they write poetry and prose. Megan is currently working on a novel featuring an asexual succubus. It’s clear they’re a very dedicated and passionate 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 am an artist and a writer. I draw, I sculpt, I paint, and I write prose and poetry. My work has undertones concerning self-love and acceptance, which is especially potent for me personally as a queer creator. I really love imagining queer creatures, aliens, monsters, realms and the like.

I’m working on my first magical realism novel, which focuses on an asexual, non-binary succubus living in contemporary America. So they’re pretty much screwed, but they make their best go at it.

What inspires you?

I’ve always loved fantasy, science-fiction, magic, mythology and folklore. More recently I’ve been attracted to queer theory, particularly the academic work of Ela Pryzbolo, an asexual scholar who writes theory on asexuality. I’m heavily inspired by her mission to expand and fuck with the limitations of asexuality/sexuality. I believe that a narrow definition of queerness isn’t queer at all. Which is why I want to write about an asexual succubus, it’s a great way for me personally to explore the identity of gray-sexuality and be able to look at sexuality through an asexual lens.

I also love ‘We Were Witches’ by Ariel Gore, trees, and affirming that nature is gay.

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

I didn’t actually start to think of myself as an artist until I was in my sophomore year of college, majoring in fine arts. I knew there wasn’t a way I could just not have art in my life. Before that, I considered it a hobby. I also daydreamed a lot, and for a long time I thought that it was unhealthy, but now I’ve come to terms with my imaginative sight-seeing and I use it as a processor for my art, my stories, emotions, and anything else I need it for.
Art itself is a fantastic processor. I’ll always be thinking about a lot of things at once and it can be overwhelming, so the artistic process is very helpful for me. I’ve always felt there was a link for me in particular between art and healing. Especially when drawing or painting, I’m able to think in ways on paper that would be too confusing in my brain. There’s a link to be made between art therapy and tarot readings… hmmm.

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?

An underlying fondness for grossness.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Fuck shit up.

They’re gonna tell you that it’s hopeless, that it’ll waste of time and you’ll just be a starving artist. Fuck that shit up. They’ll say that the art market won’t have you. Fuck it up. They’ll say there’s nothing to be done.
Fuck.
It.
Up.

01_MARSUPIALLOVEAFFAIR
Marsupial Love Affair

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Gray-asexual or as I’ve grown fond of, ‘grace’.

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

For the most part, I encounter ignorance. Whenever you’re open about being something ‘abnormal’, you kind of also become a spokesman for that identity, which has its positives and negatives. With asexuality, I’m still learning about it myself, similar to my gender identity.

I met someone who considered even acts of flirting or ‘feeling sexy’ to be sexual in nature, which is an arguable stance, and yet also admitted that the act of sex itself wasn’t always inherently sexual. By his definition of sexuality, which also included dancing and finding people attractive, I was sexual. By mine though, which is influenced by my conception of sexuality in contemporary America, I was gray-asexual. He had also been born in an earlier time in another culture. In that situation I was with someone I trusted and I valued his opinion, so it was a little hurtful to hear that he just didn’t understand my identity, but I’m glad we were able to talk about it openly.

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

That asking whether or not someone masturbates is an appropriate response to learning that someone is asexual.

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

Sexuality is confusing. It could be argued that asexuality confuses it even more. Is asexuality a lack of something? Or is it a presence? If it’s not a presence, then what is that feeling that completed me when I first identified as ace? Even if you’re unsure (I still am most days), if you know that feeling, you don’t have anything to prove. You’re not naive. You’re not broken. You have the courage to claim a name that fits you, and you wear it because you feel good when you do. That’s all you need.

And once again, fuck it up. Whatever that means for you. Maybe it means taking a rad bubble bath and reading manga. Maybe it means doing drag. Maybe it’s creating a loud sign and going to a protest. Maybe it’s singing as loud as you can. Maybe it’s listening to your favorite album. It’s whatever gives you strength. It’s doing what you need to do. It’s taking care of yourself.

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

The novel I’m working on is still under the radar for the most part, but I’ll be sure to post updates on it via social media and my main website.

My fine art, sculpture, social practice work, can be found here: meganhustmyer.carbonmade.com

My graphic design an illustration portfolio can be found here: meginetdesignsthings.myportfolio.com

My Instagram:  m.g.aoh or _meginet

my landscape
My Landscape

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

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: Casey Wolfe

Today we’re joined by Casey Wolfe. Casey is a wonderful author who writes in a number of genres with romance being a main feature in all their work. The author bio from their website: “History nerd, film buff, avid gamer, and full-time geek; all of these things describe Casey Wolfe. They prefer being lost in the world of fiction—wandering through fantasy realms, traveling the outer reaches of space, or delving into historical time periods.  Casey is non-binary and ace, living with depression, anxiety, and PTSD, all of which informs their writing in various ways. Happily married, Casey and their partner live in the middle-of-nowhere, Ohio with their furry, four-legged children.” My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

Author Photo

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m an author.  I write everything from contemporary to fantasy and everything in between, with romance as a main element.  My favorite genre to write has always been paranormal.

What inspires you?

Really, it can be anything and everything.  I find inspiration in music, photography, artwork…  I can find it while people-watching or in a random piece of conversation.  I’ve even gotten my fair share of inspiration from dreams.  I literally never know when something will strike.

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

I started writing in the sixth grade.  We had to write a short story for an English assignment and from then on, I was hooked. I began writing more short stories. I didn’t start thinking it could be a career until high school.  That was when I started to write my first novels – nothing that has seen the light of day, but it helped me shape my style and grow in my craft.

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 like to use star imagery in my work.  I’m also a geek and tend to include quotes from movies/shows/video games.  I’m always interested to see if people can spot the lines I’ve used.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Write, write, write. You’ll never get better if you don’t practice.  You don’t even have to show anyone your work – I know how hard that can be.  Just as long as you’re writing, you’re getting better. You’re working on developing your voice and practicing technique.  If you have a writing group in your area, or can find a trusted group online, then getting feedback is also a helpful step, but only when you’re ready for it.

Inquisition Trilogy

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Grey ace and demi

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

I’ve been very lucky to work exclusively with an LGBTQ publisher.  Everyone involved in the publishing house, including other authors, are queer as well, so we don’t have any issues on that front.  We’ve had people ask questions, wanting to know more. It’s a wonderfully open environment and we can all help educate as the need arises.

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

We don’t have sex at all. Some aces certainly don’t.  But we are a large spectrum with a wide array of comfort levels with sex.  Don’t just assume because I’m ace that I’m sex repulsed or that my partner must “suffer from a lack of sex.”  Trust me, he’s fine, and it’s really none of your business anyway.  It’s pretty rude to try to assert yourself into someone else’s bedroom.

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

You don’t have to “get it right” the first time.  You’re allowed to change your mind about how you identify later in life.  Never feel like you are being “fake” or you were “lying” because you identify differently now.  And definitely don’t let anyone else make you feel that way.  Give yourself time and space to explore who you are.

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

Website: https://authorcaseywolfe.wordpress.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorcaseywolfe
Tumblr: https://authorcaseywolfe.tumblr.com
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/authorcaseywolfe

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

Interview: Imogen

Today we’re joined by Imogen. Imogen is a phenomenal performance artist from New Zealand. She does a bit of everything: acting, singing, dancing, and was even in orchestra for a bit. When she’s not performing, Imogen loves to write. She’s currently writing a novel and recently, a play that she wrote and directed was performed. It’s clear she’s a talented and dedicated artist who loves to create, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I suppose that my art is in storytelling, or presenting. I am a performer, in all areas. I did ballet for 12 years, did singing, was involved with the school choirs and orchestra and I am currently writing a novel.

I act whenever possible, and often say that ‘I am most myself when I am on the stage, pretending to be someone else.’

Recently I wrote and directed an original play called “Evil Con!” It was fun play about a bunch of villains hanging out, and a henchman (Bob) who ruined their time.

What inspires you?

Death.  Both the character (mainly the Discworld version) for his … belief in humanity for lack of a better description, and the act itself. We are all going to die eventually, and this life is all we have, so we should try and make it to our deaths alive.

It sounds contradictory, but that is what inspires me. The fact that we will one day die inspires me to live, and to do what I love – Reading, Writing, Shopping, Dancing, Singing, Acting.

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

… Everything I suppose.

I’ve always loved performing, and when I started dancing; I fell in love with the discipline it requires and the freedom and emotions it allows you to express. The same with writing. You have to be disciplined to keep writing, and writing allows you to explore and understand everything that there could possibly be.

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’m not sure if anything I do is unique or special, but I suppose that there are constants of my works. My writing is very character driven with simple plot-lines. My movements are infused naturally with the twelve years of ballet, I find it very challenging to NOT have perfect posture.

I also like to use and mock clichés. A friend once said “Clichés are cliché for a reason; it’s because they work.” She was right. I like using clichés because they do work, but I also like to mock clichés … because they are cliché. It makes for an interesting balance within my work.

I don’t want to mock too much to make my art into a parody, but nor do I wish o be too serious in my use of clichés as that could take away from the worlds I’m trying to create.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

The same advice that any artist gives. “Don’t give up” and “Create the Art you want”. Write the stories that you want to read, draw the images you want to look at, make the music that you want to hear, produce the shows that you want to see. And whatever else you do; don’t give up. This is the advice given by any successful artist, and it is true.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Greysexual. I think of it as – on a scale of 1-10 (0 being absolutely Asexual and also Sex-Repulsed, and 11 being Nymphomaniac/Sex Addict) I am a 2; occasionally a 3.

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

I am quite lucky in that I haven’t personally had ace prejudice directed towards me. I actually believe that everyone should be involved with community theatre at some point in their lives; yes, there are a couple of divas, but most people are really awesome, open-minded and accepting of everyone else. It’s definitely a place where you can be free to be yourself.

I have felt prejudice in life though.

Whenever I see those arguments online about “Girls do actually only wear make-up and form-fitting clothes because they do actually want attention – even if it’s only subconsciously.”

Those arguments are completely frustrating. They infuriate me – not just as a girl who likes to wear makeup, but also as someone on the ace spectrum. It completely disregards the fact that some of us have no interest in finding a ‘sexual partner’ but like to look nice – I don’t wear makeup and formfitting clothes because I’m “trying to find a mate”, but because I’m Vain, and I like looking at myself in the mirror! I don’t need to be interested in sex to be pretty.

I usually deal with it by trying to ignore it, and by remembering that there are intelligent people in the world who don’t share the above opinion.

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

Possibly the whole ‘just need the right person’ thing.

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

The same advice I’ve seen on these awesome interviews. That you’re not alone and that you are definitely not broken. You are you, and as long as you are okay with that, then that is the only thing you need to be.

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

Unless in NZ people probably won’t be able to find my work, but I do have a couple of fanfictions written under the name ‘Aslansphoenix’.

Although if you give me a couple of years and hopefully my novel will get published and enjoyed.

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

Interview: Elowen

Today we’re joined by Elowen. Elowen is a phenomenal author who is currently hard at work on her first novel. She enjoys writing science fiction and fantasy. The novel she’s currently working on features an ace main character and it sounds like a fascinating story. 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.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m a fantasy and science fiction writer, albeit still unpublished. At the moment I’m working on what I hope will be my debut novel, a fantasy novel set in a bronze age-world heavily inspired by Ancient Mesopotamia (Iraq). One of the main characters is an asexual priestess, the other is a cis-het single mother who fights against the religious establishment. This story is a complete overhaul of my very first novel, combined with some elements from my third, and it has taken me several months of research and false starts, but I finally have a completed first draft that I think I can work with.

What inspires you?

Everything, really. The world around me, other people’s lives and relationships, other fantasy and sci-fi stories, my own experiences of being “the odd one out”. There’s a quote from Ursula Le Guin’s Tales from Earthsea that I have stuck on my computer: “The great and mighty go their way unchecked. All the hope left in the world is in the people of no account.” It’s this quote that inspires me to continue working on my current novel. I want to try to tell the stories of people of no account. The ordinary people who are made to suffer because of the greed of those in power.

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

When I was six, I found out what a writer was and I decided I wanted to be one. I still have my old notebooks from that time, with stories that blatantly ripped off Care Bears and My Little Pony, though I’m glad to say that later on, my stories became a bit more original ,-). Unfortunately, although I definitely have creative family members, none of them are or were professional artists, so becoming a writer wasn’t considered a proper career choice, and my writing ambitions were reduced to keeping a diary when I was a teenager. I went to university to study science instead, and later theology. It was only when I moved to a different country that I came back to wanting to be a writer. One of my “problems” is that I’m multi-passionate. I play baroque violin, I was a fanatic badminton player in my teens, and in my early twenties I got heavily into Irish dancing, for example. Only when I moved away from all these “distractions” and started afresh in a different country was I able to come to terms with the fact that I’m just interested in many different things, and reasonably successful at pursuing those interests. My love for science got me into writing science fiction, and my fascination with religion, mythology and anything magical got me into fantasy. Fantasy, to me, isn’t ‘make-believe’, it’s a modern type of mythology meant to explore fundamental ideas about the world, and about life. Together with science fiction, I think fantasy is the perfect genre to explore alternatives to reality.

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 love inventing religions and write about made-up gods. I also love writing about mentors, and I think that’s because all my life I’ve been looking for one myself. I had teachers and mentors, of course, but none of them could really help me figure out where my real talents lie. They were all specialists in their field, while I have to see ‘the big picture’ and explore many things at once.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Do what you love doing, but play the game if you have to. I.e. if you need a steady day job to support your own artistic efforts and have stability in your life, it doesn’t make you any less of an artist. Keep learning and stay curious. You’re never too old to try something new.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m grey-ace leaning towards being demisexual, and I also identify as genderfluid between cis-female and non-binary. After having been a happy single for most of my life, I’m now in happy, stable relationship with a man, so to all intents and purposes I’m a cis-het woman, but I don’t feel that way. For me, sex is a form of intimacy that I can enjoy because it brings me closer to the man I love, but I’d have no problem going without it for the rest of my life. It’s something to enjoy like a cup of coffee or a piece of chocolate, nothing more. Sex has never played an important part in my life. I am however a very touchy-feely type of person with people I trust, and that kind of non-sexual contact is much more important to me.

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

No, because so far I’m only out on Twitter, where I use an alias.

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

I think that having no interest in sex is often “infantilized”, as if being ace means you’re not developed enough yet to join in with the adults. At one point I was convinced that the only difference between YA and adult fantasy is that in adult fantasy the characters explicitly talk about sex and genitals, and have sex. I thought that my own writing was not adult fantasy because I didn’t want to write about those things.

Another thing is that I can have platonic crushes, meaning that I am attracted to certain people (or even fictional characters) for their intellectual insights or artistry or their personality. One example is the actor Alexander Siddig. I’d love to be able to have a deep conversation with him one day, but there is no way on earth I’d ever be interested in any kind of sexual contact. And yet many people confuse these things. I can also admire physical beauty in certain people, but even then there’s no sexual attraction involved, and many people find that hard to grasp. That always puzzled me, until I discovered I was ace.

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

Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Sex is overrated. There, I said it.

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

Well, there’s nothing to find yet, but you can follow me on Twitter if you like (at scriobhann_si). I love connecting with other artists!

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

Interview: Matthew Maione

Today we’re joined by Matthew Maione. Matthew is a phenomenal visual artist who also writes and creates fanart. He enjoys drawing faces and also does quite a lot of fanart. When he’s not creating visual art, Matthew enjoys writing and writes both fanfiction and original work. He’s particularly fond of historical fiction and crime suspense. It’s clear he’s an incredibly dedicated artist who loves to create as you’ll soon read. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

1. bg3

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am a virtual artist and creative writer. I enjoy drawing faces and fanart.  I like playing with colour and texture a lot. I write almost entirely fanfiction and fiction. Historical fiction and Crime Suspense novels are some of my favourite to write.

What inspires you?

Music is a huge inspiration in my life, it can get me in certain moods that are perfect for writing. My fiancé often inspires me with the little things she does, dances around the house that make me want to write romance. Nature gives me a breath of life, revitalizes me and makes me want to draw.

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

It was actually my older sister, she is a cosplay and traditional artist. She is 5 years older than me and I, being a younger sibling, was jealous and decided I needed to be better than her. Now I do it because I love it, of course.

2. korok

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 but since I lost most of my sight I’ve just been trying to re-explore what my art is. Playing with styles and shading to recreate it so I can still actually create, I used to sign my older works.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t give up! Make your weaknesses your strengths! There is no reason why you can’t pursue art if it’s what you love. Always do what makes you happiest, not what others want you to do.

3. yeet2

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as Grey-ace. I don’t really experience sexual attraction, but if I have a strong romantic connection with someone I am able to connect with them in that way as well. But it’s more of a, I do it because I love them and want to make them happy. Not to say that is the only way to do so, there are many ways to connect with your partners and sex is never a mandatory part of a relationship, but it can enhance your romantic connection. Simply put, while I don’t experience sexual attraction, for me, being intimate occasionally makes me feel emotionally closer.

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

I haven’t really in my field. It’s not something that just casually comes up in conversation but those I have told have all been very understanding. A few people I told were even comfortable enough with me after the fact that they were able to come out to me as well. In my daily life a few people have said that it’s because I hadn’t met the right person, or claimed they could fix me, very common things to run into. I mostly just ignore this and do my best to stay safe.

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

That I’ll never be able to have a permanent partner or that it’s a phase. I have a fiancé who has no problems with it, we have been together for two years. She is always very understanding if I’m having a repulsed day, because there are good and bad days. Some days I’m totally okay with the idea of sex and others I can’t stand to watch movies with implied scenes in them. But if you’re worried about finding someone who will love you, of course you will. There’s somebody for everyone.

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

Being asexual, while it is a way to identify, does not define you. If the thought of it is new or uncomfortable, it’s just another part of wat makes you, you. It’s not something to be ashamed of or hide, there are so many people out there who will accept you for exactly who you are.

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

My Tumblr is Naoki-arts, I have AO3, Ammarettu. I’m currently working on getting my first novel published so any news on that will be found there as well!

4. symcolour

Thank you, Matthew, 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.