Interview: AJ Drake

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

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

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

What inspires you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

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

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

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview: Hampermarketplace

Today we’re joined by Hampermarketplace, who also goes by Sophie. Sophie is a phenomenal visual artist and fanartist. For visual art, they mostly do digital illustration, both original work and fanart, They also do some photography as a hobby. Aside from that, Sophie also cosplays and writes fanfiction. It’s clear they’re a 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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Homestuck Collage

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

Sure thing! I’m mostly a digital artist, though I don’t know if “drawing” or “painting” describes best what I do, but in any case, I have a lot of fun doing it. I draw a lot of Homestuck, (I’m unfortunately rather obsessed with it—and it’s easy to share online), but I also do original work, when the inspiration strikes. Since, when it comes to hobbies, I’m very much a jack of all trades, I’ve done writing (I once wrote a 40k fanfic, several one-shots, and began some original stories I’m probably never going to finish, I’ve got a word doc somewhere full of cringy poetry), cosplay (once again Homestuck—so basically, I’m just really good at putting on grey facepaint), and photography (I take my iPhone and try to take pretty pictures I then post on Instagram so it’s not just all filled with selfies).

Basically, I just like to create stuff, no matter the medium.

What inspires you?

You mean, apart from Homestuck? I’d say my life. Ok, I know that’s vague, but I haven’t quite got a more specific muse. There is a lot to show and tell about the subtleties of everyday life, the things I see, hear, or feel. I’m ADHD, so perhaps trying to put my constant zoning out to good use is my main inspiration after all. I think sunsets are good, too. They’ve got lots of pretty colors, there’s nothing like a rainy autumn sunset to get a good photoshoot full of pinks. The city inspires me, too. The sort of aesthetics born of the layered lives of so many people, written in the concrete and the weed peeking through it, the graffiti’s, the decaying factories and the shiny skyscrapers. In painting, I draw people a lot, too. I think it’s because the figure is so evocative. I like the humanity, the feelings, the fleeting joys and pains of life, and so I try to capture them whenever I’m bored enough. It’s cheesy, but it’s true.

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

Oh boy. Well, I’ve always hung around people who drew, and the envy that I felt at their cool talents pushed me to try my hand at it. Around maybe 11 or 12, I got into manga and anime, and the thing with those, is that they make the human figure very appealing, and yet very simple-looking to draw, for someone who is just starting out. I’ve been a casual artist ever since my early teens, and recently, when I graduated high school and all my friends entered art programs, I started to realize just how much I didn’t know about art, and that’s really what helped me get much better really fast. Just a year ago, I didn’t draw half as well as I do now, because now I draw almost every day, pay attention to the world and put a lot more effort in studying the theory of art than I ever did in any of my school classes, ever.

I’m still in college, and I’m not planning on making a career out of my art, but I’ve still got some ambitions to reach a point where I can paint and draw at a professional level, for myself.

Maybe one day I’ll write an actual book or make money from my art—I’ve been offered to be an assistant photographer once, when I showed my Instagram feed to the woman whom we had hired to take our family portraits, but it didn’t work out. In the end, I take opportunities as they go. Art is just one of the things for which I have potential and interest, it’s a refuge, and I don’t want to ruin that by forcing it into a business perspective.

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, I’m known on most platforms (Instagram, deviantart, tumblr—although only for Homestuck in the last one) as hampermarketplace, and I sign my digital paintings (some of them—I often forget) as HMP. By now, it’s how I sign pretty much all of my artwork. Often, I won’t put it in the lower corner, but try to include it within the drawing, if there is writing somewhere, graffiti or posters in the background. It’s my thing.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

You’re going to feel bad sometimes, like you can’t quite illustrate what you want, or like everyone is better than you. It’s important to learn to use that dissatisfaction as motivation, not as a deterrent. The process of improving is an adventure, to be taken one step at a time, so awaken your inner Moana or whatever, and sing about wanting to know how far you’ll go. When you’re stalling, and nothing works, push through by going back to your basics, and putting less pressure on yourself. Take a chill pill. Go watch some Bob Ross. It’s ok to just doodle for 15 minutes sometimes, you’ve got to make art time a time to meditate, to enjoy yourself. If you do it right, it won’t feel like a chore (too much—I can’t make any promises if you decide to make a living out of it). One day you’ll look back and be amazed by how far you’ve come.

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Montage

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m asexual, low libido but not sex repulsed per se, and somewhere in the grey areas of romance, probably demi, although I still think of myself as a lesbian because I’ve always had a strong aesthetic attraction to women, and if I were to fall in love, I feel like it would be with a woman, or someone woman-aligned. I identify *mostly* as a woman, although I won’t deny to some gender fluidity as well.

Usually, the womanlier I feel, the gayer I get, then on some days I’m just what is gender and what is love, I want to blog about cats. My main on Tumblr is like 75% cats, 20% beautiful women and 5% ace positivity. I think that sums it up pretty well.

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

The most kind of ace prejudice or ignorance I’ve personally encountered is from myself. I’m usually quite down-low about it, I’ve come out a couple of times, but not to everyone, and I’m pretty sure most people going through my art aren’t even aware of my sexuality—I come off quite gay in real life. Since I don’t do commercial work, I can easily surround myself with people who are OK with my orientation, and anyway, I live in some of the most progressive places, where no one would openly challenge you on stuff like that, even if they disagreed with it. I’m lucky in that regard. I’m always afraid that people will still hold subconscious prejudice towards me, though, I don’t think I’m paranoid, but I need to get over it if I want to be myself, and work towards deconstructing those prejudices. When I’ve actually come out, I’ve been met mostly with love and acceptance—just once a bit of confusion. Also, once I came out to a sex-loving vegan by saying “I don’t like sex, but I do like ice cream” and she just told me “You go girl! Live your best life!” and anyway, she gets it.

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

I think this one is not an explicit, but an implicit misconception that even well-meaning people will hold, and that is this idea that aces don’t like to talk about sex, or be exposed to sexuality, and that the goal of asexual activism is to make a world where it’s possible to ignore the fact that sex and romance exists. I mean, some aces may be uncomfortable with discussions about sex, or don’t want to be exposed to explicit sexual content, but truly, anyone may have these holdups regardless of sexuality. The basics principles of consent, human decency and content warnings should be plenty to cover that. In my experience, most aces I’ve met are more than eager to talk about sex and the different types of attractions, so long as they are allowed to openly share their experiences without feeling like outcasts or weirdos. Unless they tell you otherwise, it should be perfectly fine to share your latest thirst with your friend who came out to you as ace. You don’t have to stop being yourself, and most asexuals don’t want to be treated like little kids with bleeding hearts that can’t handle the sexiness, neither do they want you to stop being yourself: they just want to be allowed to be themselves as well.

This is pretty abstract, I’m not sure if I’m making sense, but I feel like this needs to be said more. Asexuality doesn’t exist within queerness as a form of “Don’t force sex on me”, because, honestly, sex shouldn’t be forced on anyone, but rather as a force of “It’s OK to live in accordance to how you feel, regardless of social norms or whether or not it aligns with the majority around you,” because that represents much better the aroace community as I’ve known it: diverse, open, with a wide range of worldviews and experiences, just wanting to live their truth.

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

It’s not easy to find out who you are. Being asexual is challenging, because it’s probably even only one part of the identities you’re going to have to cope with—asexuality doesn’t mean you won’t have to deal with the prejudice of being gay, bi or trans—but it’s also challenging in and of itself. You’re going to have to deal with conflicting cultural ideals about chastity, lust, marriage and family, with a world that you’ll never quite understand despite your best efforts to do so, and which probably won’t even try to understand you. You’ll fidget in your psychology or sexuality class, not quite capable of explaining how you know for a fact the textbook is wrong without sounding like you’ve spent way too much time on Tumblr. You’ll smile, glad, at queer representation in the media, not quite daring to ask for some yourself—afraid it’ll take away some gay or trans kid’s chance to see themselves on screen. You’ll feel like you don’t exist, like there are no historical figures or public personalities who can bear your flag in your name, you’ll doubt yourself.

Don’t. There is nothing to doubt about it, there is nothing to be ashamed about. You’re on the frontline of progress, of our growing understanding of love and sexuality, as a society. Asexual people have always been there—the world just didn’t have a box to place them in until recently. Before that, we erred like bohemians among dandies and spinsters, bisexuals, pilgrims and nuns. But today, there are words for it, for asexuality, for aromanticism, for all the maybes and in-betweens. We are many, more than you would think, and we are solidary—to one another, and to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people, and to all other minorities, and it is our strength. Through sharing our experiences, through creating new words to define how we feel, we help people from all walks of life define themselves. So maybe, really, we’re something like great.

You can be proud.

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

My main blog on Tumblr is chaoticintellectual, though, like mentioned previously, it’s mostly  filled with cats and pretty women.

I have a Homestuck blog where I post art frequently, called Hampermarketplace, for all the filthy Homestucks out there

I write on AO3 under the name miki_and_company

Hampermarketplace is also my DeviantArt, though I don’t post much on there, but I do show my original art there more,

And finally, my Instagram, still hampermarketplace, where I post a lot of my photography.

My inboxes are open to talk, I’m quite friendly and impishly verbose, however I’ll be gone and inactive for most of the summer, sadly, but I’ll be back without question next fall.

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

Interview: Tori

Today we’re joined by Tori. Tori is a phenomenal artist who does a little bit of everything. She acts, writes, plays music, and is even a photographer. For music, she plays a number of instruments (clarinet, piano, bass clarinet, and contra-alto clarinet). Tori has even dabbled in cosplay and animation. It’s clear she’s a dedicated and passionate artist, 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.

I am an artist, a photographer, a writer, an actress, and I play piano, clarinet, bass clarinet, and contra-alto clarinet. I’ve also done a few cosplays and animations/edits.

What inspires you?

It could really be anything. I’ll take pictures of anything I think is pretty. I’ll draw whatever comes to my head. I’ll write about anything I think has a story to tell. I think that almost everything has beauty in it, and I love trying to capture it. I also deal with anxiety and depression, so I like to personify different feelings using drawings, because I feel like it makes them easier to deal with.

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

Ever since I was a kid, I loved drawing, singing, telling stories, and performing. I don’t think I ever thought I would be as into it as I am now, but the passion was always there.

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 really. I try to make everything I do look different. Everything should have its own style.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

I mean, I am an aspiring young artist. I’m only 14. But I’d say, just do what you love to do. It doesn’t matter what field it’s in, if you take pride in what you’re doing, you will improve.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I currently identify as asexual biromantic.

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

Not really. I try to surround myself with supportive people, and if people don’t support me, they shouldn’t be around me at all. I do understand ignorance, though. There’s a difference between being ignorant and not knowing everything about a particular topic, and being prejudiced and unaccepting.

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

A lot of people seem to think that because I’m ace, I don’t want to have a relationship with anyone. That’s not true at all. Currently though, I just don’t know anyone that would be worth taking time out of my schedule to go on a date with them.

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

Just know that labels can change. Sexuality, especially asexuality, can be difficult to define. Don’t worry about the specifics of a label. Just be you.

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

If I think that my art is good enough, which I usually don’t, I’ll post it on my Tumblr blog (torieltears-art.tumblr.com), but other than that, I’m usually pretty secretive with my work.

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

Interview: Orlagh

Today we’re joined by Orlagh. Orlagh is a phenomenal young photographer who specializes in nature photography. Though young, Orlagh plans to continue pursuing art. His work captures the beauty of nature, filled with vivid colors and capturing plants and animals native to Wales. It’s clear he’s a dedicated and passionate artist with a bright future ahead of him, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I have been taking photos for around 4-5 years, and have been drawing for much longer than that. Mainly my photos are of plants and animals native to my area, and my other works are of anything and everything! Currently I am pursuing a GCSE qualification in art, and am working on my theme of highlands.

What inspires you?

I have grown up in a house with a big garden, quite overgrown and sprawling with wildlife. I have found a lot of comfort in spending time there because of the privacy it provides, and that has given me a real appreciation of nature. I also have family living in a rural area, and the frequent visits throughout my childhood involved a lot of hiking!

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

My dad has a subscription to National Geographic magazine, which is filled with detailed photographs. I never read the articles, but would look through the images accompanying them. It was always quite clear in my mind that I wanted to go somewhere with my art, be it the drawings or the photos, but I have never been certain what that would 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?

Sometimes I wish I did! I can admire someone who puts so much time into making their work unique in such a subtle way.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

I would say that, no matter how unhappy you are with something you have made or done, you will have finished a better artist than before you started.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Asexual, plain and simple!

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

I have not had any significant experiences, but there are always uneducated people in my classes who will pick on any minority. I have found a group of LGBT+ people who I can spend time with in these classes, and I think being in a group helps a lot.

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

I think, because I’m quite introverted, people assumed my identity is caused by a lack of interaction with other people – which is very frustrating.

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

You are allowed to be uncomfortable with any references to or sexual actions, especially in TV shows or books. It is not a problem that you don’t enjoy watching the things other people do. Try to find more representation online of asexual people instead, for example the webcomic Under the Aegis by vimeddiee.

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

I have sparsely filled a National Geographic’s Your Shot account: Orlagh Williams. Other than that I don’t have anything…

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

Interview: S.R. Hunt

Today we’re joined by S.R. Hunt. S.R. is a phenomenal fanartist who creates art for a variety of fandoms. She specializes in hand-drawn sketches and animatics, which I highly recommend visiting her blog to check out because they’re really cool (some examples: Guns and Ships, Farmer Refuted, Coco animatic, Coco animatic 2, It’s Quiet Uptown). Her work is brimming with color and an extraordinary amount of detail. It’s clear she’s a passionate and talented artist, 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.

I’m a fan artist, mostly. I create hand-drawn sketches, comics, animatics, and occasionally I dabble in photography and cosplay. I strive to improve my craft every time I get inspired by a different piece of medium, often times stepping outside my comfort zone just to get better (I mean, how can you get better if you don’t step outside your safe, artist bubble?).

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What inspires you?

Tons of things! Most recently, I’ve created fan art for Pixar’s Coco, Hamilton, DuckTales, Darkwing Duck, and the occasional Pokemon drawing. But if I had to pinpoint a specific inspiration, I’d have to say the animated works of Disney and Pixar. I grew up with those movies, I was born a hop, skip, and a jump away from Disneyland, and Finding Nemo was the first movie I saw in theaters. When I was 15, I sent a letter to Pixar, telling them that I wanted to work there when I grew up, and they actually replied back! They sent me a letter telling me to become an intern when I reached college, and they included an autographed photo of Finding Nemo signed by the film’s director, Andrew Stanton, and the film’s producer, John Lasseter! I carried that letter with me every day for the rest of my high school career as a reminder of what I want to do with my life; create something that moves people. So, I draw, I create storyboards and comics, and I try to improve so that one day I can walk into that building and create something that’ll inspire and move millions of people.

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

I started drawing in elementary school. Just simple comics drawn on notebook paper starring Pokemon and Neopets. I was never much of a writer (I’m still not), but it gave me something to do when no one wanted to talk to me. My doodling habit continued all throughout  junior high and high school, and even though I wasn’t as good as the other young artists in my class, I just kept chugging along. When I decided I wanted to join the animation field, I didn’t really have a specific job in mind. I wanted to animate, but I lack the nifty wacom tablets and photoshop tools that every other animator on YouTube has. I’m also not very detailed when it comes to my drawings (I’ve described my drawing style as “glorified stick figures”). That’s when it hit me; storyboarding, the blueprint for animation. So, with a pencil and sketchbook in hand, I began making animatics. I began by making animatics set to songs from Hamilton, then silly little gags with the cast of Coco. They aren’t as polished as other animatics, but they get the job done.

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

Oh…that’s a toughie…I’ve never really thought about it…I guess it’s that my drawings are very round. There aren’t many sharp edges. Even my signature is very round.

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What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Draw what you want. Don’t let people tell you what to draw. If they request something you don’t feel comfortable with, it’s your right as an artist to say “no”. Don’t worry about the number of likes, comments, notes, reblogs or whatever. If people like what you do and it gets popular, great! Just don’t let that be the driving force for your art. When I create, the thought of “will this be popular?” or “gotta keep the fans happy!” never crosses my mind. I make it for me, and I make what I want to see. And finally, work with what you got. I wanted to create animatics, but instead of sighing and saying “I don’t have the technology to do such a thing…” I worked with what I had. And what I had was a pencil, a sketchbook, an iPhone with a free movie editor app, and an idea in my brain. Don’t let your financial situation hold you back.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m not sure what the technical terms are (my apologies), but I’m interested in having a partner with no sexual interaction. Kissing is fine, but no…ya know. I’ve never had a boyfriend or girlfriend in order to learn my boundaries, so that’s where I stand at the moment.

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

I haven’t, actually, because it never really comes up. I can only think of one moment where I brought up that I was asexual to a classmate in high school, and he was very supportive. He said that he never met someone like me, and that he was interested that such people exist. I’ll show my support for my LGBTQ friends and fellow artists who are open about their sexual orientation, but I don’t bring up my asexuality that often.

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

Probably that I’m not interested in a romantic relationship. Like, I’m not interested in dating or getting married. That’s not really the case. I would like to date, and I’d like to get married, but only with the right guy (or gal, ya never know). I’m just not comfortable with…ahem “getting it on”. There’s sort of a reason behind that, but I’ll spare you the details.

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

Don’t listen to the people who tell you being single sucks or that being a virgin is dumb. It’s your body, and your life, and it’s okay if you aren’t interested in a sexual relationship.

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

I have a Tumblr (judgechaos), a DeviantArt (JudgeChaos), an Instagram (s.r._hunt), and a YouTube channel (S.R. Hunt). Those are the main places I post my art and animatics, so feel free to say “hi!”

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

Interview: Sierra Sonora

Today we’re joined by Sierra Sonora. Sierra is a wonderful visual artist and fanartist. She specializes in nature photography, taking pictures of local flora and fauna, showing the beauty of life in vivid color and detail. When she’s not taking picture, Sierra dabbles in fanfiction and fanart. She’s also currently endeavoring to write a novel. It’s clear she’s a passionate artist with a bright future ahead of her, 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.

My art consists of a variety of mediums. One includes the photography of natural landscapes as well as nature, such as local Flora/Fauna. It also includes writing of both original work and Fanfiction. I also draw in what can be considered an Anime/Cartoon style of me, my friends, pets, and Fanart on mostly regular sketchbook paper with pencil/pen and colored pencils, or I will digitally upload my art and work on it with a paint program. I thoroughly enjoy singing, and write poetry, but have yet to compose any original songs-although I have written at least 3 parodies that revolve around different favorite pairings of characters from TV shows I watch.

What inspires you?

The need to create and channel my emotions inspire me to do all of the above. I often struggle with verbally expressing my emotions, but through art I can slow down and think things through-especially when I draw. The joy of others also inspires me, as I find happiness in making other people happy with my art. I find that when I share my art, whatever the medium, I feel a meaningful and spiritual connection with the ones I am sharing with and that connectivity is vital to me.

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

Ever since I was little, I enjoyed watching cartoons, reading books, and drawing. It’s hard for me to say that I’ve always wanted to be an artist, because what I do doesn’t really feel like “art” to me; I see it as a coping mechanism and a way to make others feel happy. Put simply, I view my art as a tool, and that prevents me from seeing it as what I feel “art” actually is.

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 do have one thing in my art that I include; it’s a simple necklace of mine that I’ve had for about 8 years now; a simple black nylon string with a silver eagle talon pendant holding within its three claws a white marble. This necklace is a special possession I hold, and I like to include it when I draw myself or a main character from one of my original works.

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What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

As cliché as it sounds, I am going to say it anyway because it’s true: Don’t give up. Don’t give up on your art, whether it is photography, mixed medium, paintings, writings, drawings, fandom related, etc. Don’t give up. You, as a unique individual with your own perspective on life, your own unseen and secret views, have so much to offer to the art world. Whatever it is, it may not turn out quite the way you want it to the first time-this is only reasonable; you are new at things, and with novelty comes practice.

It may even take a long time to feel comfortable where you are on your journey in creation. I still have 10-year-old art lying around that makes me cringe every time I see them, but I keep them to remind myself of the journey it took to get where I am, and to propel me to work hard and push myself further. I highly recommend you do the same-keep your art, every scrap. You’ll be glad you did so later on down the road.

Another piece of advice that is repeated over and over again for good reason is this: Don’t compare yourself to other artists if it is only going to result in self-loathing or any form of negativity. It’s not worth it, and it won’t help you become better at your passion. Trust me, I know. I’ve done it, and it only made me want to quit art altogether and it would make me feel inferior/jealous. How terrible is that- to want to give up on something that brings you joy because you feel you are not adequate? To feel negative, nasty feelings towards others because I was not secure enough in who I was as an artist? It’s terrible, and unfair to yourself and the other person.

So I say this: don’t compare. Just create. If you must compare, try to do so with humility- recognize that you aren’t where you want to be yet and have patience with yourself.

My last piece of advice is this: Be kind to yourself and be kind to others; you’re not the only one struggling. Reach out to one another with love, offer emotional support when possible, and practice constructive criticism on yourself and others. You, as an honorary member of the art world, are here to uplift, inspire, create, and comfort through your works-whatever they may be. We need you, and you belong here. My sincerest hope is that this advice has been useful/helpful and uplifting to those who read it.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as an Aromantic Asexual. Personally, I find that when I am in a relationship, I can adapt to the other person and provide physical intimacy such as hand-holding, kissing, cuddling, even if I don’t necessarily feel a desire to do so, and when/if I marry, I am willing to provide them with the sexual intimacy that I know my partner will deserve if they are not Asexual themselves.

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

I’ve encountered, blessedly, a little amount of ace prejudice/ignorance. Generally, it was from people asking me how I could not want sex, and I generally would deal with it as such; I’d tell them I just didn’t find sex interesting, or I’d tell them I found things to enjoy out of life that was more fitting for gaining pleasure than sex, such as books, or video games, or eating. I was never called a freak, or anything of that nature, which is a blessing and I hope my experience helps others. Mostly the people who I have talked to were rather open-minded and just curious, but I know this isn’t the case for everyone. For those of you who have experienced ace prejudice, my heart goes out to you.

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

The most common misconception about asexuality that I’ve encountered is the notion that Asexuals just don’t want sex. Which isn’t true as we know- our orientation is about sexual attraction, not the actual desire for sex. Like other orientations, it varies for everyone. Personally, I don’t want it, but that doesn’t make me any more Asexual than someone who does.

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

You’re not broken. That is the most heartfelt advice I can give. You are not broken, and you’re not alone. The love songs will say you’re incomplete without that “special person”. It’s a lie. If you can find someone who is whole and spend the rest of your life happily with them, then wonderful. But you are not broken and you are not incomplete. You are you, and you are not alone- we’re here with you, flying under the same purple, grey, white, and black flag and we’re proud to stand with you.

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

You can find out more about my work through my Tumblr account, my username is “Willchild”. I don’t post much art or works there, to be honest, but I think after this interview I will if it can help bring joy to other artists and help them feel more secure about posting their own art. Please feel free to tag me in your art, I would be ecstatic to see it; or message me/ask me, from one artistic Ace to another.

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

Interview: Janice Worthen

Today we’re joined by Janice Worthen. Janice is a phenomenal poet and writer from Idaho. They’ve been published by The Rectangle, on a shirt for Backwords Press, and had a poem included in bags of coffee for Nomadic Grounds. Janice also edits Night Music Journal and is always looking to publish work by asexual writers (if any of you out there are interested). When they’re not writing or editing, Janice also does photography. They’re clearly a very dedicated artist. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

Author Photo

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

My work is a way to share my internal world, my thinking through the internal and external, in a format that is more comfortable to me than speech. It’s my way of communing, of sharing things that move me, shatter me, anger me, transform me. It’s me extending a hand—a vulnerable act, a gesture of trust. I spend a lot of time with my head in the clouds—thinking about systems, webs of connection, history and its repercussions, the future, the present, the joy and agony of the moment as it’s passing, and myself in relation to all these things—and my work is my way of grounding those thoughts. With each poem, each photo, each sketch, I think I’m really just asking, “Are you there?” I think my work is waiting for an echo. I guess I’m twanging a thread, waiting for the vibration of return.

What inspires you?

Hands down, the underdog. Anyone (or anything) who looks into the face of their own destruction and doesn’t give in. Anyone who, even in defeat, holds on to who or what they are, their joy, their right to be. It’s so easy to give in to fear, to sell out, to back down. But it’s so beautiful when someone stands their ground, turns the tide, shakes the foundation of the powerful. I hope that, in the face of all I fear, I rise.

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

I’ve always wanted to be a writer because writing made me feel real, feel valid. I was a shy, quiet, fat kid who spent most of their time in the library. A kid who clearly didn’t fit the gender binary. I think because of these things it was easy for others to dismiss me, and because difference is so often seen as threatening, to bully and try to break me. But when my voice was a whisper and easy to ignore or speak over, I found my writing was harder to dismiss. My self was harder to ignore and deny. My writing forced others to see me as human. Through my writing, I existed.

But writing was also a way for me to have a conversation, to become a part of all those books that gave me comfort, that fueled my imagination. It sounds weird, but writing felt like a way to give back, to say I hear you. I hear you.

Only recently have I focused more time on photography. I wouldn’t call myself a photographer. I don’t have any fancy equipment. My degrees are in writing, not photography. But capturing a moment and sharing that moment with those I care about is something that gives me great joy.

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’ve noticed that mirrors pop up often in my work.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Sometimes the work that you get the most pushback on will make the most difference. Seek out and listen to feedback but always ask yourself what the motivation behind that feedback is. Sometimes people will criticize/dismiss/mock your work when they really want to criticize/dismiss/mock you. And sometimes the work you feel like throwing away will be treasured by someone else who might live in the same moment, the same thought, and the same place as you, even if they come after you. You can be a friend, ally, or even hero to that person. Be open, but also be assertive and bold and confident in your work, your experience, your perspective. Even when it’s hard, keep making your art.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m an aromantic asexual.

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

Oh, yes. I’m an asexual in a very sexual field. I’m constantly aware of this. I’m constantly reminded of this. Many in my field consider sex or desire as essential to art, liberation, and even revolution. They simply can’t comprehend and are sometimes hostile towards someone who doesn’t feel or think the same way they do about something they’ve put at the center of their art.

As an asexual, I often feel like I exist outside my own field. Since I’m not willing to participate in the secret handshake, I’m not allowed in the club, a club that is often abuzz and fueled by gossip surrounding sex and desire. Because I’m an asexual, I feel like I’m not allowed to have an opinion on work or artists in my field, and any opinion I voice is invalid. Not only that, but anything I say that goes against the dominant narrative of sex and desire is seen as an attack, not only on the writers and work that value sex and desire, but an attack against liberal or progressive values or even the sexual liberation movement itself. I find this odd because I’ve been accused of being too progressive and consider myself more progressive than many of the liberal people I know. And I see the growing acceptance of asexuality as a victory of sexual liberation, not something at odds with it.

My orientation is virtually invisible in my field. I was once excited to come across a published poem about asexuality for only the second time in my life only to learn the writer is not asexual but felt at liberty to write with authority about my orientation. The 2016 VIDA Count found that The Times Literary Supplement was “one of the few publications to publish asexual people this year.”

Prejudice and ignorance are often expressed through microaggressions, which are common and remind me how invisible my orientation is. A poet I know once said that a way to express disapproval of certain voters is for “us” to stop sleeping with them, as if “we” as writers are sexual gatekeepers, a single unified sexual force that rewards or punishes behavior with our shared sexual prowess, the primary implication being that everyone is allosexual. With each casual comment like this I become unwelcome, not part of the community, invisible.

I came out because I realized it was important to counter the all-too-common assumption that people like me don’t exist in my field. After I came out, it felt like I’d actually been erased (no pun intended) completely. Perhaps this is just perception, perhaps it’s a reflection of my work, but it seemed like people suddenly weren’t interested in reading anything by me, published or not, or having discussions with me about others’ work, etc. I had placed myself on the outside. I could observe but not participate. I often feel like I’m throwing my work at a wall now, but I don’t regret my decision to come out. Others will find me, and I will find others, and we’ll make new, more inclusive communities. That’s how I handle all this: reaching out, standing up, speaking out.

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

Phew, the most common. I guess in my field, among members of my community, the misconception I most encounter about asexuality is that all asexuals are hostile towards, afraid of, or somehow consider themselves above sex or allosexuals. I myself am sex positive. Sex is great for other people who want and get fulfillment from it, and I think sexual freedom is vital. Sex just doesn’t interest me in the slightest, and I wish others felt as positive toward my orientation as I do toward theirs. It’s funny because many of the people who are afraid I’m judging their orientations and lifestyles don’t realize they’re actually the ones judging and afraid of mine.

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

Find or plug in to your community. Even if you’re an introvert like me, it helps to see other asexuals being their asexy selves and to know you aren’t alone. Join asexual groups and follow asexual artists on social media. Read and watch anything by and about asexual people. Don’t be afraid to find a support system and to cut toxic people out of your life that break you down instead of build you up. Embrace the struggle. You don’t have to have all the answers right now. You don’t have to be certain of anything right now. Don’t be afraid of the present or the future. Just by existing, you are shaping that future. Don’t be afraid of you. This might be easier said than done, but repeat it like a mantra: I am not alone, I am part of a community, I am valid, my experience is valid, my voice is important, I matter, my art matters, I am paving the way for others like me.

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

I’m on Instagram (at impossibleblossom). I’m also on Tumblr (janiceworthen.tumblr.com), and you can find links to some of my poetry there. I’m also the editor of Night Music Journal (nightmusicjournal.com), and I’m always accepting submissions of poetry, essays, and hybrid work. I really encourage fellow asexuals to send me work and pass along the invite to your LGBTQIA friends!

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