Interview: Graham Allen

Today we’re joined by Graham Allen. Graham is an extraordinary visual artist who does amazing things in a very minimalist style. He specializes in drawing landscapes and spaceships. There’s an incredible amount of detail in his work, reflecting the simple beauty of nature. He’s an amazingly talented and passionate artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

butte
Butte

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

Lately, I’ve been drawing in black pen in a moleskine notebook that I got when I moved across the country. Some drawings are just pen and paper, while others include a neutral gray copic marker for shading or other tones.

What I choose to draw varies based on the day, but the majority of it lately can be classified into landscapes or spaceships, sometimes both. When I’m drawing, I find that I will keep adding detail until I run up against the lower limits of the details my pen can distinguish. Because of this, I try not to draw large pictures, for fear of how long it would take to fill up the page. This has led me to do a series of what I call “Tiny Landscapes” which are generally around 6 square inches in size.

When I draw landscapes or spaceships, it’s usually without any reference. References are extremely helpful and can teach you a lot about a whole manner of things, but I personally find it most rewarding when I am able to draw something that I enjoy without using any references.

What inspires you?

Personally, my friends are a constant source of inspiration for me, and I try to let them know that as often as it naturally fits into our conversations. They make me want to be a better person, a better artist, and a better friend every day.

Artistically, I find inspiration in many places. To name a few: my immediate surroundings, art from people I follow online, and art I imagine as I’m reading, watching, or otherwise consuming fiction. I live in a city, and it’s easy to spend every bus ride staring at Twitter and listening to a podcast on my phone. When I first starting using Twitter, I followed a bunch of artists whose work I liked and gradually have added more and more thanks to various promotional hashtags. Between fanart, concept art, and sketches, my timeline is full of really inspiring work that I am constantly learning from. That said, I sometimes make the conscious effort to keep social media in my pocket and just zone out during my commute. As I stare out the bus window at the distant skyline, I often find inspiration in observing the ways that the silhouettes of the buildings overlap. My city isn’t built on a perfect grid, and the buildings themselves aren’t always rectangular, so the perspective lines can sometimes become really interesting in places. Finally, I am someone who imagines storyboards unfolding as I listen to podcasts or read books. When I find a new favorite storyteller, the act of enjoying their work — even on the second or third time through — inspires me to the point where I want to pick up a pen.

fly-over
Fly Over

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

I’ve been drawing since as long as I can remember.

In first grade, my art teacher taught us a formula for making branching trees: extend each outside part of a given branch outward like a Y and then in between the two outer edges, draw a V for the inner edges of the branches. In doing so, you’ll go from having one big branch to two smaller branches. I must have followed that formula as many times as I could until the branches were too small to draw anymore, at which point I boxed them off because I didn’t know what else to do. This following the rule got my artwork featured in our elementary school art show, and ever since, my family and friends have been supporting me and telling me that I’m an artist.

Later in elementary school, when prompted to explain what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would regularly answer, “A video game art designer.” To this day, my family doesn’t know where that answer came from. Sure, I played video games as a kid and I was told I was an artist, but I didn’t know or know of any art designers, and Google didn’t exist back then, so it’s still a bit of a mystery as to how I found out that that job title even existed.

In middle school, I discovered flash animation on Newgrounds. I joined the Brackenwood forums, hosted by Adam Phillips, and was in awe of some aspiring artists and animators there. People like Rubberninja and Egoraptor before they became the Game Grumps, among others in the community were hugely supportive of everyone, regardless of skill level. It made me believe for a brief number of years that I wanted to do digital art and animation. Having never done animation before, I did not understand just how difficult and time consuming it was until I had access to flash animation later in middle school. I spent hours trying to animate stick figures and sandbags, but eventually gave up on the whole thing because “art takes too long and I don’t like how it comes out.”

In high-school, I took a couple elective drawing classes because I had artistic friends and the courses sounded fun and interesting. Around the same time, I began doodling in non-art classes as a way to keep myself focused. Usually, the drawings would be of dumb puns or misinterpretations of what the teacher had said during class.

This sort of cartoon doodling kept up throughout college, and then I moved out West for a software engineering job after graduating. Having unpacked and built my bed — the only piece of furniture in the apartment — and having no internet for the week following that, my first purchase with my own money in the new city was a moleskine notebook to draw in as a way to pass the time.

These days, I draw when I have free time and want to relax. I find the act of drawing to be a deeply meditative one, and I find that I like the drawings that I do while in a meditative flow state a lot more than the alternative.

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?

None at the moment

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Draw often, and be willing to accept feedback from teachers, mentors, artists, etc. Learn about how your ability to draw and your ability to critique work oscillate and how that affects the lens through which you view your work. There are so many free resources online that can help, and so many artists that want you to succeed and have compiled these into helpful threads or lists on social media. Also, draw often. Even a five-minutes-a-day prompt every day for a month can make a huge improvement because it trains you to make time to make art, which is often where I personally fall short as an artist.

hillside cave
Hillside Cave

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

On the asexuality spectrum, I identify as demi-ace.

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

I’m extremely privileged as a creator. I went to a pretty well-off suburban public school that had enough money to fund multiple art elective classes each year. I went to a private liberal arts college that had art studios whose opportunities I squandered. Now I live in one of the most progressive cities in the US and have more queer friends than straight friends, especially among friends who also do art. I have been straight-passing all my life and didn’t even consider introspecting queer parts of my identity until after college. Because of all of this, almost everyone who I have come out to is extraordinarily supportive and inclusive of my identity, and I can’t say that I’ve experienced any prejudice or ignorance in my field.

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

In my experience, the most common misconception people make is when they think asexual means “against sex” or “zero sex”. It’s ok to identify as asexual and enjoy sex, have sexual thoughts, and like sexy things. As with many other parts of identity expression, asexuality is an umbrella term, and there’s no one way to define every asexual person in terms of their asexual identity. In addition to the spectra for “is not interested in sex” to “is very interested in sex” and “is not interested in romance” to “is very interested in romance”, asexuality can define the speed and manner in which you progress through stages of sexual relationships, and I’m constantly learning, so I’m sure there’s more than just what I’ve said, too.

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

It’s OK not to know how you identify, and it’s OK for your identity to change over time. You’re constantly growing and changing and learning and adapting. There are other people out there that are asexual, and there are other people out there that aren’t. You’re valid, no matter how you identify. There’s no right or wrong way to be asexual. It’s a word that people use to express an idea about part of their identity.

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

You can follow me on Twitter at iamgrahamallen or on behance at https://behance.net/iamgrahamallen.

new growth
New Growth

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

Interview: Claire Greenhalgh

Today we’re joined by Claire Greenhalgh. Claire is a wonderful visual artist who is a freelance artist and university student. She does a bit of everything: digital art, fanart, and original work. Claire is versatile when it comes to style but she tends to favor cartoon/comic visuals and digital painting. She’s very enthusiastic, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

citywalkwm

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’ve been a traditional artist, favoring pens and wet ink, for most of my life, but once I started using my graphics tablet in earnest for a university module in 2015, I’ve been completely hooked on digital work. I still love to draw on pen and paper, but working digitally has a lot of advantages and is much more cost effective in the long run.

I’ve been told I have either a talent or a curse for managing to make almost everything I draw cute, even when it probably shouldn’t be, which I’ve embraced (though I’m still trying to get better at drawing less friendly looking monsters)

What inspires you?

My inspirations change over the years, but the things that seem to have stuck in my head most in the past 5 years or so are sea creatures (specifically octopi) and magical girls. I draw a lot of inspiration from the video games I play and the anime I watch, and since I like to have music on whilst I draw, I’ve got numerous playlists of music to suit different themes, characters and overall feelings that help me feel inspired as I work.

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

I’ve been drawing for longer than I can remember, but I know when I was very young, we’re talking about 5 here, I wanted to be a vet or a zookeeper, something that involved working with animals. This was before I understood what allergies were, or why I always seemed to get sick near furry things.

My first inspiration for my art, my interest and eventual study in video games, that all gets traced back to Pokémon. I watched the anime so much as a child, the whole concept of a world with magical sentient animals was enthralling to me, and my art started developing properly with me copying the style of the show and expanding on that. Learning that there were Pokémon games too is what got me into video games, and that turned out to be a form of media I was never going to fall out of love with. Now I’m a few months away from having a degree in Graphics For Games.

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?

Well aside from my watermark, my work often includes a lot of glowing sparkly things. The ability to draw things which are emitting light so much more easily is one of the things which solidified my working with digital art more frequently than traditional. It’s one of the reasons why I set so many of my compositions, and the bulk of my current project’s story, at night, to make the glowing parts stand out more.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Experiment and persevere. Observational drawing is good groundwork to build your skills and understanding of the basics, and there’s not much better practice for drawing people than life drawing. But try using as many different forms of media as you can, paint, ink, pencils, sculpture, various digital methods. Try out every technique you can, see what gels well with you and feels right, and don’t give up, if it feels like your work isn’t getting better, you’re probably just getting better at analyzing artwork and your skill at drawing itself will catch up soon. You’re not going to improve if you don’t keep trying.

THB falling1

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m demisexual and biromantic.

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

Ignorance certainly. My field currently consists mainly of the other games, animation and visual effects students at my university, most of whom aren’t unpleasant people, but they don’t seem to know much about any orientations other than straight and gay and the occasions I’ve mentioned that aro and ace spectrum identities exist it was met with confusion and dismissal. Hence why I’m only half out to most of my peers, I don’t really feel like having some guy from class interrogate me or try and convince me my orientation doesn’t exist, or should be ‘fixed’ by now because I’m not single.

I’ve tried coming out about my demisexuality to my parents but they just laughed at me and told me I was confused and that ‘every woman waits before she sleeps with someone’. That at 17 I was too young to know, which is an argument I will never understand. They didn’t want to listen to me when I tried to explain that it’s not a matter of choosing it’s a matter of feeling nothing at all before a bond is formed, so I’ve avoided talking to them about my orientation since.

Hence why as far as I’m aware they don’t know I’m also bi. Unless they’re reading this. They’re not homophobic people I just get the impression a lot of the time that I keep disappointing them by being myself and I’m not sure whether that’d extend to my not just liking dudes, so I’ve avoided having that particular conversation with them.

Most of the outright prejudice I’ve faced has been online. I’ve gotten death threats and some very unpleasant anonymous messages to the effect of ‘you’re lying, asexuality is a fake orientation so that fat ugly cows like you don’t feel so bad about never being loved.’

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

Well there’s the plant thing as you might imagine. Personally I’ve had people ask me repeatedly how I can be ace and still have a boyfriend, seeming to be confused as to how he hadn’t ‘fixed’ or ‘cured’ me. Thankfully, my boyfriend himself is a very understanding person who doesn’t exhibit these misconceptions and prejudices.

There’s the assumption that asexuality is a sickness, or tied to mental illness, which whilst yes, for some of us there is a connection, but as a neurodivergent woman myself, I don’t like people to assume that that’s the case for absolutely all of us, or that asexuality is any kind of illness or disorder in and of itself.

That and the idea that someone under the age of 18 can’t know they’re ace, or that ace and aro spectrum identities are somehow inappropriate for children and teenagers to know about or identify as. My childhood and teens would have been much less miserable if I’d known I wasn’t sick or broken before all my classmates suddenly started taking an interest in sexual things and started ostracizing me for not being able to relate to them, rather than about 4 years after that started.

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

Particularly with young aces struggling to feel at home with their peers, it’s tough, there’s no denying that, and people won’t always be accepting of who you are, but your orientation doesn’t make you any less worthwhile as a person. You don’t ever need to feel like you have to ‘try’ anything to be sure that it’s not what you want, you can live a happy and fulfilling life without ever feeling sexual attraction, or wanting sexual contact with anybody. Sex repulsion is a real chore, I’m lucky that I only experience it periodically rather than all the time, repulsion can be frightening and deeply unpleasant to go through, but you’re not sick and you’re not broken, you’re you, and you don’t need to conform to what others want you to be to be a good person.

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

My art blog, where you can find my recent work, my commission information, and where you can submit drawing suggestions, can be found at: http://cgreenhalghart.tumblr.com/

I also have a Redbubble, which I also take suggestions for, you can send those to my art blog’s inbox as well should you wish: https://www.redbubble.com/people/Mewsa/shop?asc=u

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

Interview: Gwyneth Ochsner

Today we’re joined by Gwyneth Ochsner. Gwyneth is a phenomenal artist who is incredibly versatile. They haven’t met a field they don’t like: writing, visual art, and music. Gwyneth is an artist who does it all. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

My_Face

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

Most of my work is in illustration, and I do original and fan art. I prefer to work traditionally, with paper and pen, but I sometimes draw digitally in MS Paint. I’m also a writer, and have already finished writing one book, and am working on publishing it. I do write fan fiction, but I tend to write more original fiction stories. I hope to work professionally as an actor, with a focus on voice work. I also write music and sing, and have performed several times for my schools in the past.

What inspires you?

In terms of illustration, I am inspired a lot by comic book artists like Kris Anka and the like, as well as various artists online. However, I do often draw inspiration from filmmakers and animators, like Wes Anderson and Tim Burton, especially in regards to staging and colour schemes.

For my writing, I think two of my biggest influences are Douglas Addams and Laurie Halse Anderson, the former for his humour, the latter for her realistic and inclusive writing style.

My main inspiration for wanting to be a voice actor, if I’m being honest, is to be the voice of some child’s favourite character. I enjoy doing impressions, and nothing makes me happier than the absolute joy on a kid’s face when I do the voice of, say, a Disney character.

As for music, I draw my inspiration from various places, but an embarrassingly obvious influence on my original work is definitely the jazz music my dad always listened to while I was growing up.

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

I’ve always been interested in illustration, ever since I could hold a pencil, but I didn’t really start focusing on it until a friend introduced me to anime in third grade. I’ve been drawing like a maniac ever since.

Like illustration, I’ve always been interested in writing, but my interest in it has been pretty consistent, mostly spurred by my mother and Oma, my mother being a poet and screenwriter, and my Oma having been a librarian. Not to mention my whole family are bookworms.

I’ve always been a theatre kid, but what really made me want to be a voice actor was seeing an interview with Rob Paulsen, one of my favourite voice actors.

Also with music, I’ve always been interested, my whole family having been musically talented growing up, and my mother has a degree in music history and used to write songs for me and my brother when we were children.

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 particularly. In all aspects of my art, I still tend to experiment with my style.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Whatever it is that inspires you, whatever it is you want to do, you hold on to that, never forget where your love of art comes from. There is so much you can do with your craft, and if more people put their all into what they care about and makes them happy, the world, I think, would be a much nicer place to be.

A_Rose_By_Any_Other_Name
A Rose by any Other Name

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am Aromantic Asexual.

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

Not much in voice acting, but plenty in illustration, and especially writing and music.

There are very few ace characters within visual art, and we seem to be non-existent in major comic books. It’s a similar case with fiction and music. There are next to no ace characters in popular fiction, and you would be hard pressed to find an openly-ace, popular musician, or any songs written about asexuality. Not to mention the overwhelming amount of romance heavy novels and compulsory heterosexuality, and forget about ace songs, it’s nearly impossible to find a song that doesn’t include sex or romance.

The biggest prejudice I’ve found in all of these is in the fan community. Fan art and fan fiction are very much driven by shipping culture, and a lot of fans refuse to accept any ace or aro headcanons lest they interfere with their ships. It’s really disheartening.

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

Well, the one that I’ve personally had directed towards me is the idea that I’m too young to know, that I haven’t met the right person, that I’ll change my mind someday. Basically that I’m wrong, that asexuality is a type of immaturity or that it’s just plain not real.

Although, while I’m on the subject of reactions to telling someone I’m ace: Don’t ask ace people if they masturbate! Seriously, I’ve been asked this, it’s just rude. If you wouldn’t ask a gay person that, why would you ask an ace person? Honestly!

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

I’ll tell them what I wish someone had told me before I went through years of discomfort and confusion: Asexuality means not experiencing sexual attraction. Aromanticism means not experiencing romantic attraction. Asexuality is a completely valid orientation. Aromanticism is a completely valid orientation. We exist. I exist. You exist. You are not broken, weird, or inhuman for not wanting to have sex, not finding anyone attractive, not wanting to date anyone, no matter what your classmates might say, no matter what your family might say. You are real. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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

The best place to look would be my Tumblr: zeddpool. Other places are DeviantArt: 6ForgettheCookies9, AO3: zeddpool, Fanfiction: Gnoff, and my YouTube: Gwyneth Ochsner.

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