Interview: Jojo

Today we’re joined by Jojo. Jojo is a phenomenal versatile writer and visual artist who describes herself as “a figure skating writer and artist who dabbles in cosplay props.” For writing and visual art, Jojo specializes in scifi and fantasy. She does both traditional and digital art and has a degree in animation. When she’s not writing, drawing, or animating, Jojo enjoys making various props for cosplays and even has a blog dedicated to cosplaying on a budget. She’s clearly a dedicated and passionate artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

ArcReactor
Arc Reactor

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m a sci-fi and fantasy enthusiast, and most of my art is themed around that. I do a lot of digital art and pencil drawing in an actual physical sketchbook, but have a degree in animation and like to play in Flash when I have time (RIP Flash). Most of the time though everything I draw stays in sketch form. Drawing helps me work out ideas and logistics, which translates into writing very elaborate Sci-Fi worlds. I have one that I’ve been writing for a literal decade that I’m finally only just starting to amass into something like a novel. So far it has a tone I didn’t expect but I’m actually liking it. Fingers crossed.

I’m also a hobby prop maker, I make small manageable props and things that won’t weigh too much for cosplay using items from the dollar store.  I’ve done a Squall cosplay, an arc reactor, the purgatory blade and Samulet from Supernatural, Mad Max: Fury Road’s Bloodbag equipment, fake skulls, phasers, and Wonder Woman Armor from the new movie!

What inspires you?

I love ice skating, space, human goodness, animals, the sky, large swaths of nature, dungeons & dragons, stars, anime, food, Star Trek, multiverse theories and FOOD.

I adore food, it’s one of those things everyone can agree is amazing, and it’s something that comes in so many forms and says so much about each culture. If I didn’t enjoy eating it more than making it I might be a chef instead of a writer today!

Star Trek and anime started me on a very interesting path when I was very young. Star Trek is about a positive future, and anime is all about a protagonist finding out what makes them tick and then using it to do a thing. In my case I spent more time trying to figure out the ‘whys’ of my life than the ‘hows’ but luckily the two seem to go hand-in-hand so I believe even more in the power of being the protagonist of my own story.

FuryRoadFanzine_Final
Fury Road Fanzine

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

Well, Starship Captain isn’t a viable career path (yet) so I settled for doing what I love. I always knew I’d be an artist, my father is an artist, both grandmas on both sides of the family are artists, and my grandfather is a former NASA engineer. I had a lot of people saying ‘if this is what you want, do it’ my whole childhood, it never occurred to me to try and pursue anything else. If space became a viable option I’d go there, but honestly I’d never stop creating 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?

Goodness, I actually don’t think so. The only thing I can say for sure is I try to make really stylistic varied body types, but I don’t think that’s a symbol, just a preference. Every main character I’ve ever had (once I got out of my ‘every character is from CLAMP’ phase- and shut up, you know we all had that!) has had a different body type that affects how they do things. I do it for fun and also because it adds different lifestyle choices they have to make.

Inktober_Ikali
Inktober Ikali

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

My advice is always Go for whatever that thing you want is. Seriously, go for it. The world out there isn’t made for doing the bare minimum to get by and then dying. If you can do something to get yourself ready to do That Thing you want, then do it. Work that retail job, but put all that money (as much as you can) away so you can eventually tell the customer they’re wrong and try what you want to do. If you have something you love to do, there’s probably a way to live off it if you want. And if you don’t want your art to be your job be sure of this: Don’t live to work. Work to live. Your art, your passions are worth pursuing even if you’re the only one passionate about it now. Your art doesn’t have to ‘contribute.’ Support your friends, but if they don’t support you back get new friends. Be loyal to yourself.

But seriously; be who you are, even if society isn’t a fan. Because screw them, society elected Trump, what the hell do they know? You’re you and you’re stuck being you forever, so try to get along with yourself. Artists are often eccentric, and I know that’s hard, but listen up, bb artists, you’ll be alright. Everyone’s actually really weird, some just hide it better than others. There are weirdos just like you who want to be friends, but are too nervous to fly their own personal flag. Put yours up, they’ll come. It’ll be hard, but you’ll find your people because they’re out there, they’re just hiding.

To those of you not hiding: Kick ass, take names and don’t let anyone tell you that eccentric = bad. Do no harm, but take no shit. XOXO

Mugiwara_Puppies
Mugiwara Puppies

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m a sex neutral aromantic asexual and it annoys me! “Nothing, nope not even that” is a hard orientation to be and massively inconvenient to explain. Especially when “maybe your first experience with sex was bad?’ doesn’t apply to me. Sex was … fine. I would have rather gone for ice cream, but eh, okay, we had fun together and I loved the guy so okay. So there. Tell your parents THAT. I actually tried it! It’s fine! Not the best but whatever who cares.

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

Strap in folks, you ain’t gonna BELIEVE this one! I’ve been holding onto this story for a special occasion and I guess this is it:

I used to work at a big corporate company, and our department took us out for a Christmas Dinner every year. Nice! This particular year I get sat between two men I know, across from a woman I don’t and she’s MILITANTLY lesbian. I’m talking about the type who won’t go five minutes without being like “So because I’m a lesbian” and we’re all sitting there like “we get that you’re a lesbian, Carol, go on…”

So Carol (she’s Carol now) is drinking because it’s a Christmas Dinner/Party and we’re all happy and buzzed and chilling and ALL OF A SUDDEN out of nowhere she says “I’m a lesbian so you won’t get it-‘ a pause then she turns to me and says ‘you’re not a lesbian right?” FINALLY. Thanks for finally asking, Carol! But no, I’m not a lesbian and I say so. “I’m Ace,’ I say, assuming her militant sense means she’s active in the LGBTQA+ space and she’ll know what I’m talking about. I was young and foolish.

She has no clue what I’m talking about. I now have to explain to her and my two straight male friend/coworkers what being asexual means. I do so, because why the hell not, I’m already in deep. Straight male friends go ‘oh okay, so you’re not attracted to anyone’ and go on with their meal. GOOD JOB STRAIGHT MALE FRIENDS YOU’RE ACTUALLY THE HEROES FOR ONCE!

Carol says “Oh. So… what happened to you? To make you like that?”

A pause. A horrified pause. A horrified pause where my two straight male friends and everyone within hearing radius at the table realizes Carol just asked if I was assaulted or molested or abused to make me asexual. I see straight male friends glance at me in horror.

But I am two drinks in, and I am transcendent. Instead of getting embarrassed and answering honestly straight out, I ask, as loudly as I want because FUCK YOU CAROL “Did you just ask me at the company Christmas dinner if I was sexually assaulted?” A horrified silence falls. I stare at her as she realizes she has come to the WRONG HOUSE. She starts stammering and backpedaling but OH NO, not today, Carol. “Not that it’s your business,’ I say loudly, ‘but I was born this way.”

She correctly decides to excuse herself to powder her nose. Run Carol, run.

This is when straight male friends, and actually the entire department, show some goddamn solidarity, kids. The boss (who I don’t actually think heard the convo) has already paid the bill, and as one, while Carol is in the bathroom, the whole department decides dinner is over. Everyone is talking and acting like it’s normal, but the whole table- myself included- gets up and leaves while Carol is in the bathroom at this restaurant.

It was ignorant, and it could have been very embarrassing, but I was able to realize I wasn’t the one who should be embarrassed, and if you can remember that next time someone tries to shame your asexuality, you can ditch Carol at a restaurant on Christmas too. The End.

Phaser_original
Phaser

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

People seem to think three very incorrect things. They think something had to happen to make you asexual. Like it’s their damn business to know if it did. Two: that their opinion on you being ace matters (pro tip: hell no) and three: that being ace means you don’t care about being cute and flirty. You get to be as damn cute and flirty as you want, cuz it’s fun! They still ain’t gettin’ none of this, so they better step off.

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

I am struggling too. I get you. It’s hard to be ‘nothing’ when you’re conditioned to think everyone gets ‘something’. Some people don’t and that’s okay. Again, society is dumb, so find something that works for you, whether it’s a Poly tribe, a best friend, a cat, two best friends and a cat, or an online community of people who get you better than the physical ones. Whatever works for you is the right orientation for you. If you wake up tomorrow super attracted to someone, fair enough. You’re a changing person and regardless of how you wake up tomorrow, today you’re ace and that’s your choice to identify- or not! Ace is just a better word for ‘nah nothing really works for me’ and gives you a bunch of other people who get it. Aro’s also a hard one, because you have been told your whole life you want something, but then when you have it, it’s… fine. I had a great relationship for a while, but I felt like we were friends who slept in the same bed. I was later informed that’s not how most people feel (?) Doesn’t de-legitimize my relationship, just means what I’m looking for and what others are looking for might be different. Which is fair, and valid. Labels exist for you, not for the world. You do you, as the saying goes. That’s my advice. I won’t tell you it’s not hard, it is, but it’s also worth fighting for yourself and what you want, not what society or parents or friends want for you.

ALSO ADVICE: Find a doctor who’s cool with you not having sex. My doctor doesn’t care, doesn’t ask why I don’t have sex, doesn’t ask why I laugh if he asks if I’m in danger of becoming pregnant. He just nods and says ‘okay’ and moves on. Find one of those. You not having sex is not a problem and if your doctor says it is: time for a new doctor.

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

My main blog is http://starshipcaptainjojo.tumblr.com/
Art is posted to http://hipster-safari.tumblr.com/ (though also to my main blog most of the time)
And my cosplay/craft blog is http://dollarstorecosplay.tumblr.com/.

Siano_Debut
Siano Debut

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

Interview: CJ

Today we’re joined by CJ. CJ is a wonderful artist who does a lot of work relating to the Hawkeye Initiative, which encourages artists to draw male characters in the ridiculous poses women are often in on the covers of comics. When they’re not drawing, CJ is also brushing up on their writing skills and hopes to be published one day. Their work is pretty amazing and really creative, as you’ll soon see. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

My art? It’s low-quality garbage I produce in my free time.

The first art, writing, is a skill at which I am no means a master, though I am truly attempting to learn and improve.  I have several 200-page manuscripts that (thank God) will never see the light of day, but I am currently working on one that I think shows a little promise and a little improvement in my skills.  Someday I hope to publish and establish myself as an author.  For the moment, there is schoolwork in my way.

I guess I can include a sample of my writing for reference?

———–

“When did you find out?”  I ask.  I thought I’d hidden it so well.  I covered my tracks, deleted my emails and texts, and came up with clever excuses for every one of my absences—but now here she is, telling me she already knows.

“July, more or less.  And yes, I know you thought you hid the truth from me.  But you disappear for a day or two multiple times a month, you come back with a bunch of minor injuries and dirty laundry, and you’re wearing the necklace with the symbol of your bounty-hunting gang.  It’s not hard to figure out.”

Oh, Lord, be with me.  She knows.  She already knows too much.

I hang my head as if ashamed.  “I’m sorry.  I’ve been lying to you for so long, and that was wrong of me.  Can you forgive me?”

“Of course.  I wouldn’t want anyone to know either, if I was you.”

I try to make eye contact.  “Do you think you can…could you ever understand why I am like this?  Who I am? What I do and why I do it?”

She takes a deep breath, but she finally nods. “Yes.  I can understand what drives you to this.  And I want you to know that I still care about you, I still want to be friends, and yes, I do forgive you for everything I know you’ve done.”

The condolence is a nice thought, but it won’t stand.  I know her, and I know what she’s like.  It’s a miracle she’s managed to keep it quiet for this amount of time; I know no binding pledge could hold her.  Eventually the weight of the secret would crack her, and I would be ruined.

No.  She must fall, for I cannot.

I draw my pistol from the back of my belt and set the barrel on her forehead.  “Then I hope you can forgive me for this as well.”

———–

The other art I do is drawings for the Hawkeye Initiative.  If you haven’t heard before, it’s a project where authors take the ridiculous costumes and poses in which female characters are placed and swap them onto the male characters.  The point is to prove that sexualizing female characters isn’t empowering them but is instead demeaning them and removing their agency.

I do all my drawing pen/pencil and paper, as I have neither the programs nor the budget to do digital art yet.  Someday I will, but until then I’ll continue with traditional methods.

Below is one of my preliminary sketches, a drawing of Captain America in a Danger Girl pose.

And next is one of my finished pieces, a DC “Bombshells” cover where the girls are swapped with Iron Man, Captain America, and Hawkeye.

As you can see, I have a lot to learn about, including drawing backgrounds, drawing swishy fabrics, and shading.  I decided to go with more basic colorblocking for this one rather than accidentally ruin it by failing the shading.  Someday I’ll redo this and it will be better.

At one point, though, I did have PhotoShop access, and I came up with an asexual Captain America shield.

3

The love that Tumblr aces found for this image was a beautiful thing.

What inspires you?

The impact I have on other people is really what keeps me going.  I believe the Hawkeye Initiative has been really eye-opening for a lot of people, especially guy nerds.  We’re so used to seeing all the ladies being sexualized that we barely think of it, until all of a sudden there’s Hawkeye or Wolverine or Thor or Hulk or Iron Man in that same costume and we realize that there’s a huge difference between a usable superhero suit and the glorified underwear the ladies have been crammed into.  We’re so used to the binary gender standards in our society that we don’t even notice it anymore, and we have no thought for how harmful it must be to all the girls out there who are watching these same movies and reading these comics.  We’re teaching the little boys that it’s okay to see women as a piece of sex in spandex, and we’re teaching little girls that their value comes from how sexy they are.  Both of those teachings need to be demolished and spat on.

Of course, it’s not good to sexualize anybody.  I understand that my art walks that fine moral edge.  But I also believe that the absurdity of seeing these guys in bikinis points out the fact that this is how we’ve treated women for years.  Women are amazing human beings who have so much more to them than their body parts. It’s high time we started treating them as equals.

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

My dreams and ambitions are all over the place—in fact, I still don’t know what I want to be. The artistry thing has never been a dream—I just came across the Hawkeye Initiative and went, hey, this is a good thing that needs doing.

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 almost always someone or something in the appropriate ace colors in every piece of art I do.  My pride is hidden, but it’s there.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t ever let anyone rain on your parade.  Don’t let anyone tell you you’re inferior, that your work is worthless, or that you’ll never succeed.  Don’t let anyone mistreat you like that.  And that “anyone” refers to you yourself, too.  You are your own worst critic.  While the other people are going “holy COW that is beautiful and I love the lines and the style,” you’re going “oh ew that color is wrong and I didn’t want that to look that way and the eyes are uneven ugh this is awful.”  That’s not accurate.  You’re not an accurate judge of your own skill.  You are almost always better than you think you are.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I just go by asexual.  I feel no need to break down my personal attraction any farther, because I simply swing in no particular direction and that is that.  I’m not straight, I’m not gay, I’m not bi, pan, skolio, or anything else. I’m ace.

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

The Tumblr “Ace Discourse” is a terrible thing that should never have started, ever. I’ll admit I didn’t handle it well at first—I picked fights, yelled, and was suicidal for a while.  Now I ignore it.  Like any hateful ideology, eventually it must collapse under the weight of the pain it causes.  There are other people who can fight it; I can’t sacrifice myself like that right now.

I also face prejudice from my church—they’ve openly told me they’d rather I be gay, anything but ace, because then I’d at least be having sex and obeying the Lord’s commands.  And my family at large would happily disown me if they knew I was anything but straight. They wouldn’t care even if I was a “cishet ace”—any deviation from “marry straight and procreate” and any ties to the queer community, and out I’d go.  Running this blog is dangerous for me, which is why I go by initials and can’t out myself.

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

Most common? I’m not sure.  There’s a lot.  I’m not so much bothered by the plant jokes and asexual reproduction puns—I’m bothered by the stuff that’s there to legitimately harm, scare, and hurt asexuals.

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

You are fine exactly the way you are.  Exactly. The way.  You are.

You’re not broken, confused, a fake, a poser, an attention whore, or whatever else you’ve been called.

And whatever labels seem to fit you now, use them.  You can change them.  They’re not set in concrete.  I’m not judging you for however you change now or in the future.  It is fine to change and fine to stay the same.

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

I run a Hawkeye Initiative sideblog at cj-does-art, where I post preliminary sketches and pieces of work as I inch toward completion.  I also have a main blog at hi-def-doritos, where I post garbage and entertain myself.  I have no particular writing blog, as I don’t want my writing stolen.  If you’d like to get in touch with me, feel free to drop a line!  I’d love to talk and I promise I don’t bite.

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