Today we’re joined by Jasmine M.M. Jasmine is a fantastically talented artist who works in a variety of mediums. She combines storytelling and multimedia art. She has recently been studying fashion design and illustration, but continues to be a very versatile artist. The images she sent along are absolutely striking, as you’ll soon see. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Warning: a few images included in this interview are adult in nature (there’s no nudity, but there are figures in skimpy risque attire)
Please, tell us about your art.
I combine story telling with multimedia art. My work ranges anywhere from illustration to fashion and or costume designs people and dolls that a lot of which is based on surrealistic stories I’ve been developing for several years. I’ve recently been in school studying Fashion Design and Illustration but I tend to straddle so many different fields that no matter what I do, it’ll be centered around the stories which I’ll be releasing as comic series. The stories themselves border sci-fi and psychological thrillers with a huge focus on the imagery. In other words, these stories are meant to be fully developed plots, told through multimedia where symbolism the imagery helps foreshadow what’s going on.
What inspires you?
I love everything from the grit of vintage films to the stylings and colors of the 70s and 80s believe it or not. I have a very eclectic taste so I love researching all genres and fields. I love the twisted nature of films like “Eraser Head” where you can watch it over and over again and each time brings up more and more questions. Some of my favorite movies are movies like “Cool World” and “Metropolis”. I’m also really inspired by music, as I can always image certain songs relating to my works or just visualizing different sounds as images. “Parliament Funkadelic” is one of my all-time favorite groups and a lot of the retro influence came from growing up on 70s groups like them. There’s a ton of other inspirations for me from comics to literature. A lot of my stories and work play off of the afrofuturism movement and in my illustrations I take a lot of influence from vintage pinup art and old lithographs (I have a big collection vintage lithographs).
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I picked up drawing when I was very little. I started with realism, but then I got into comics and manga pretty young and that started me on my journey to developing my own art style. At the same time, I picked up on doing costume fabrications and sewing for my dolls. Originally I wanted to become a sequential artist only and release my main story series that I first came up with about ten years ago as comics, but as I got older, I faced a lot of discouragement and even bullying to where I gave up on drawing for a while. I went back and forth with different interests until I realized that I didn’t necessarily need to stick to just one field. Instead I started finding ways to incorporate my stories into other fields I was interested it. I found a way to connect the dots between designing and storytelling. A lot of it still needs work but somehow I found a way. It’s something I bring into my daily life as well. My everyday outfits pull heavily from the styling of my stories and art, it became something that helped me overcome extreme insecurities and even accommodated for some of my visible skin problems due to physical health issues.
Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in our work that you’d be willing to reveal?
The stories use metaphorical imagery almost like children’s find it books. I love the idea of creating things that people can pick apart and analyze because that seems to be what helps people stay interested, if they can theorize and ask questions. The stories can get pretty heavy in the underlined meanings as much of this I started writing during some of the most difficult times in my life. They’re explicit by nature, because they were one of the only ways I could express myself and not be judged for it. In my first comic series which I plan to start releasing as a web comic by December/Janurary, called “Burning Down Dollhouses” will be a good example of the metaphorical imagery I use. The story tells of a real life situation but twists it into a surreal toy land like world that foreshadows the proceeding story “All Smiles”. The characters you meet in “Burning Down Dollhouses” represent two childhood sweethearts growing up and trying to cope with their mutual experiences of childhood trauma. In the toy world you’re introduced to, I used familiar items such as crayons to represent cigarettes and baby bottles to represent alcohol. The baby bottles are something that’s not exclusive to this story as I do use them often. They represent the alcohol addiction of one of the main characters in BDD, but it also serves as a metaphor for a growing sadness, depression and addictive behavior. Another symbol I can go ahead and expose is the smile that you’ll see on characters like Marilyn Madjaw from “All Smiles” it references the reoccurring theme of deception and masking the negative which is something I’ve had to do my whole life, pretend to smile to please other people and push my pain to the side, or at least try to. The smile came about because I imagined what it would be like, if someone were to constantly pull at the sides of my face and force my mouth into a permanent smile. So that way, no one would ever no what’s going on behind my teeth.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Don’t just stop at one thing, yes it’s the safe thing to do, but don’t be afraid to take risks.
Do your research, look back at those you admire and those who came before you and find what the significant qualities in achieving their goals were and go for it. You have to learn to stand up for yourself and your work because there will always be some backlash and rejection, especially if you are going for something that may seem unconventional to many. Don’t give into limitations and standards of creativity simply because that’s what you see being widely accepted around you. Use whatever gives you heartache in life to your advantage, turn it into something you can look back and be proud of one day.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I am asexual and aromantic.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
It’s not really limited to field, but one of the biggest examples of ignorance I’ve faced regarding my work is that much of my work can get explicit to some extent. I use a lot of euphemisms which in the context of certain characters, can be sexual. I’ve had people doubt my identity and or judge me because of that. The nature of the stories and characters don’t exactly have to do with what I identify as and who I am as a person. Most of it, like I said, I relate to in terms of the stories being an emotional crutch for myself, but I’m good at separating myself from the stories in that sense. It can get frustrating when someone will assume I’m a certain way because of the work, I understand the reasons why but that’s not to say that it doesn’t get tiresome. In specific fields, with me being interested in fashion design and costumes design, there’s always that air of being told to look or dress ‘sexy’ which is not something I’m interested in.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
That to be asexual, you have to fit within the ways many will stereotype asexuals. For some reason the term asexual, to some people, means looking, acting or living a certain way when that excludes the fact that asexuality is so diverse, just like everything else. I do think my experience as an asexual of color is a little different as well. Being a mixed person, there’s already a good portion of society that wants to sexualize everything relating to black people and people of color, there’s not as broad of an understanding of asexuality in terms of that I don’t think.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
It’s probably the most common bit of advice, but don’t convince yourself that there’s something wrong with you for experiencing little to no sexual attraction. You have to get yourself to a point where you understand who you are, it’s not a matter of coming out, if you are in a situation where for whatever reason it may be, you don’t feel as if you can come out to your family and peers with who you are, you’re not required to do so. You don’t always owe others an explanation for who you are, it’s a matter of whether or not you find it in yourself to accept that this is who you are, and look at yourself in a positive light.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
I’m under MadjawDolls for most of my social media. My main blog on tumblr is called MadjawDolls and I post anything from in progress doll designs and full designs to illustration progress and some rambles. I plan to release “Burning Down Dollhouses” around the end of this year and next year which I will announce on my blog. My Instagram is MadjawDolls and my main site is currently under construction.
Thank you, Jasmine, for participating in this interview and in this project. It’s very much appreciated.