Today we’re joined by Hale. Hale is a phenomenal artist who does both visual art and fanart in the form of cosplay. She has degrees in graphic design and fine art. Hale is also a great cosplayer who has an admirable love for bringing characters to life. She’s an incredibly dedicated artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
Right out of high school I started as a graphic designer. I got my Associate of Science in Graphic Design, so a lot of my art from back then is focused on design principles. During the rest of my undergrad (Art History Bachelor’s with a minor in Fine Art) I took other fine art classes, but I still stuck with shapes and forms that were more simple or geometric – meant to advertise an idea or be a backdrop rather than a focus. Now that I’m going for my Master’s in Business Design and Arts Leadership, I make a lot of presentation graphics. A lot of the projects I work on take lengthy case studies or papers and turn them into design works that are understandable or fit a brand image.
Outside of school, I also cross stitch, take photos, and I cosplay. The cross stitches I make are usually based on old 8-bit graphics from video games. I tend to cosplay as video game characters, as well, though I enjoy anime cosplay, too. I’m currently interning at a photography business, so I’m learning to take portraits of family and weddings. This is informed by cosplay photography, but it’s also something that I just enjoy as a hobby. I took several photography classes at school, but they were more fine art focused rather than portrait focused. I like going down different avenues of thinking or going through different art worlds for my work, so it varies a lot.
What inspires you?
When it comes to the art I make as a student, I get a lot of my ideas from Pinterest. I don’t directly copy from them, of course, but I first get an idea of the brand that currently exists (or if I’m working on rebranding, the brand that I want to exist) and then search for images on Pinterest that fit that idea. For example, I might type “plants” into Pinterest to get an idea for a logo for a farming agency that hasn’t already been done. Or if I’m working on a case study write up about Etsy, I might type “orange” into Pinterest, since one of Etsy’s brand colors is orange. Making mood boards helps me get into the right mindset of the project I’m working on and sends me down different avenues I might not have thought of if I just had a sketchbook in front of me (sort of like the 2-D art version of the Youtube wormhole)
I find that RPG video games inspire me the most in both cross stitching and cosplay. For example: Pokemon, Dragon Age, and Ace Attorney are all games that I’ve used in my work. Usually when I cosplay from an anime, it’s because I’m doing it as a group or because it’s meaningful to a certain point in my life. I don’t usually just pick from an anime because I enjoy a certain character like I do with video games.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
When I first got into all three of my degrees, I didn’t really know what I was getting in for. I just kind of went for it. I never really considered myself an “artist” because I am not as good at drawing or painting as some of my artist friends. I enjoy art and always wanted to do something related to art, but even now I feel some hesitation to call myself an artist. With all three of my degrees, I sort of took a baby step into the field first and then just jumped in without considering all of the consequences. For example, I started college as a PSEO student, meaning I took college classes as a high schooler for credit. I took Graphic Design as an elective, and then after graduating high school, decided that would be my career path. The same thing happened with Art History where I took an art history class as part of my Associate’s and decided to jump into it as my Bachelor’s. I took a year off in between my Bachelor’s and my Master’s where I tried to decide what I wanted to do. I still didn’t think I was an artist, but I had an art degree (kind of). I didn’t want to work on commission, and I had a vague idea of working in a museum, but didn’t really know how to get there. I went for my BDAL Master’s with the idea that it could get me headed in the direction of a nonprofit organization without needing to pick a certain area (Museum Development or Museum Studies seemed too specific)
I guess I was always destined to be involved in art in some capacity. I’ve always surrounded myself with other artists as friends and peers. I feel like artists get better critiques and feedback from their friends, especially if those friends are also artists. Friends got me interested in video games, in anime, in design; I wouldn’t have become an “artist” (in the loosest sense of the word) without my support. That being said, I don’t think the traditional categories of painter, writer, sketch artist, etc. necessarily make sense anymore in today’s digital world. Art doesn’t have to fit into one category to be art, so although my friends may fit into those categories better than me (and for a long time I didn’t consider myself an artist because of it) that doesn’t mean that what I do isn’t good art. It just means the ways in which my art gets critiqued needs to be different. I have always wanted to do what I do, I just didn’t always consider what I do to be “art.”
Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?
Not so much in the art I’m making now, but I focused on stars quite a bit when I was starting out professionally. I said earlier that I use a lot of geometric shapes, and a star is more visually interesting than a simple circle, but I’m come to appreciate simplicity a little more than when I began. Otherwise, my signature is more literal. Especially in designing case studies, you get credited for “visual layout” or for creating charts that better convey the information. So my unique signature in my more recent art is literally my signature. I don’t do anything like that for the art that I consider to be more of a hobby (cosplay, cross stitching, etc.) and I use the basic metadata info for my photos and digital art.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Try lots of different areas of art. Even if you’re a painter, and you’re always going to be a painter, there are lots of unexpected avenues you can find by trying something new. I never considered myself a sculptor, but my school required me to take a 3D class and some of what I consider to be my most unique art (if not my best) was 3D. It was hard, and not something I particularly enjoyed, but it broadened my horizons.
I would also say, study art history (and especially non-western art history). There’s no better way to learn about your own art than to immerse yourself in art. If you can’t immerse yourself physically by making something, learning about the ways that ancient people (or contemporary people) made art is just as informative. A lot of contemporary artists make works to continue conversations that artists of the past were having. We speak of art like it’s a visual narrative of an individual’s life, but it can be a conversation with another artist or political movement. It’s easy to get inspired by other artists around you, so it should be just as easy to get inspired by artists who made works long ago.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
Grey-asexual and Grey-aromantic. I can’t picture myself having sex or dating anyone in particular, but I can imagine myself having sex / dating in general. I don’t find anyone (or I haven’t found anyone) that I’ve met sexually or romantically attractive, but I can still picture myself doing the action in a more general sense.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
I’ve found that most artists are fairly accepting of asexuality. Ignorance is vastly more common than prejudice, in my experience. I know that there are many female artists that define their work as feminist art and engage in feminist conversation by either pointing out gender roles as necessarily sexual or making art that is intentionally sexual and thus provoking. There are also artists that focus on sexuality and gender as a social construct and assume that the conversations they want to convey apply to all people within their audience. I’ve run into the conversation in critiques where the artist will explain sexuality as a “universal experience” while they, in the same breath, explain that gender roles are not universal. I usually just question their beliefs further and try to understand why they came to that conclusion or how they justify their ignorance. In terms of prejudice, I find it much more common to experience prejudice against asexual individuals from home, or when I was in college, at the dorm, rather than directly at work in my field.
There have been a few experiences in cosplay where I have been hit on or flirted with because I was in costume (despite the ‘cosplay is not consent’ banners everywhere), but I tend to view those as one off experiences that I ignore rather than something that I personally need to address. I handle them the same way that I would handle someone flirting with me were I not in cosplay, which is usually to find a group of friends and avoid contact with the person flirting. I haven’t found any of the flirters to be particularly aggressive once I’ve left, though ignoring the problem is obviously not addressing the deeper issue, it works in those one off situations.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
I get the misconception that there must be something wrong with me quite often. I was in a pretty dangerously sexual situation as a child that many people who know about the situation think informed my ‘decision’ to be asexual, but honestly I have never experienced attraction, so I don’t think it has anything to do with that– or there being anything wrong with me. I’ve been lucky that most people have been pretty accepting, although there have been a few of those “oh you just haven’t found the right person yet” replies that get under my skin. Still, the biggest misconception tends to be ignorance more than anything else. The fact that people in my area just don’t know what asexuality is or refuse to believe that a person may not experience attraction is the most prevalent conversation that I’ve run across.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
I would just recommend doing your research. If a label makes you happy, use it. Don’t feel like you have to keep it forever. I’ve gone back and forth between ace and grey-ace forever in my head and just decided that in the end, it makes no difference to anyone but me. If you’re comfortable with labelling your orientation as something now, then label it. If later you decide that it doesn’t really fit, you can change the label. I know that when I first researched asexuality, I was thinking that it might fit me, but I was hesitant to agree because what if it didn’t fit me sometime in the future? What matters is your comfort now and finding supportive people might start with a label, but it might not. You should find people that support you no matter what your orientation is. That might mean seeking out a support group or forum for asexuals, or it might mean just finding a group of people that don’t care what your orientation is. It’s more important to reflect on yourself and to know your boundaries and morals when it comes to sex and romance than it is to find a label that perfectly fits you. It’s just as important to find a group of people that will help you to keep those boundaries rather than pressure you into something you’re uncomfortable with– whether that’s because you’re ace or just uncomfortable with the situation. It feels cheesy just to say “don’t worry about your orientation, the label will come when you’re ready” but the best way to find supportive people and figure yourself out is to do your research.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
The three social media areas I update on a regular basis are-
My online portfolio: behance.net/halebi
My cosplay Facebook: facebook.com/puppyrock32
and My Society6: society6.com/puppyrock3
My personal Tumblr is: puppyrock3.tumblr.com
It has my art, process images, cosplay, etc. but also just things I enjoy, so it can be a lot to sift through. I only link it here because you can send me an ask on Tumblr as a form of contact, and I can link you to other social media pages that I update less frequently or to process images on certain pieces of interest.
Thank you, Hale, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.