Interview: Naomi Clements Gettman

Today we’re joined by Naomi Clements Gettman. Naomi is a phenomenal visual artist and writer. The visual art is digital and mostly for fun. She does fanart, collages, and sometimes collaborates with her sister. When she’s not creating visual art, Naomi also writes a lot of poetry. It’s clear she’s a passionate artist who loves to create, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

1. tns


Please, tell us about your art.

My art encompasses a few things. I dabble in Photoshop and making digital collaborations with my sister. Most of the time this means I will create a reference for her, she will draw line work, and then I will scan and color. Other times I make simple collages, fan-art for bands I love, or illustrate random jokes.

I also enjoy writing and have written lots of poetry, although none of it is published anywhere. I am currently in the process of collecting it all and will probably self-publish sometime soon, just to have a physical collection to share with whoever would like to read it. I am also in the process of writing a book, which is from an idea I developed in several of my screenwriting classes.

What inspires you?

I think for my graphic design things, there are certain things I create regularly, and other things I only create occasionally. For instance, I may decide I need a new Twitter or Facebook banner and I whip together a themed collage of things/characters I like. These are easy to do, and I don’t spend much time thinking about it. Other times a band may host a fan-art contest, or I may feel inspired by a line in a song, and I create a single piece I am proud of after a few weeks of mulling it over. Once I am finished with a bigger project like this, it takes a while to create something again.

For my poetry, I am inspired by the sound of things as much as the meaning. I enjoy rhyme and often write a whole poem around a single phrase that I think sounds good. Sometimes my poems are fictional stories, sometimes they are about self-doubt, sometimes they are about growing up. There really is no uniting theme, which is why I find it so hard to determine what is good and what is trash.

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

To say “field” is probably a bit of a misdirection. I am currently in the awkward techinically-last-semester-but-done-with-credits-and-looking-for-anyone-who-will-hire-me phase of life. My chosen field of study is in film/media, and I have a few different experiences under my belt; from film digitization to advertising. However, whether it is in the form of an essay, a video, a PowerPoint, or whatever else, I love being creative and even enjoy working on a team to research and complete a project. I have never wanted to be an artist in any traditional sense of the word (like being an illustrator or a musician), but I do believe that creativity and fun can be a part of almost everything you do.

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?

Nope! I suppose I should start signing things, but I haven’t yet.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

My advice would be to just have fun with whatever you are doing. Lots of ‘serious’ jobs require creativity, and lots of ‘creative’ jobs require business skills like budgeting or scheduling. Your best bet is to approach whatever it is with a good attitude, and even if you don’t love the whole job or the assignment or whatever, you can at least find an aspect of it to enjoy.

2. collage


Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I have happily identified as aro/ace for about 5 years now (since I was 17). The aro part of my identity came a little later, but so far everything fits. I am fulfilled with the close friendships I’ve managed to maintain, although I think I would like a QPR.

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

I have never encountered any type of prejudice in my workplace, but mostly I think that has to do with the fact that I have no idea how to be out at work. I never actively hide my aro/ace identity, but also it never actually comes up. Do people think I’m straight?? Maybe. Although it’s more likely they think I’m gay since I talk about going to pride and what not. However, whenever I do mention it, there is never any push-back from the person. Sure, there’s the usual “what is that?” if they don’t already know, but there is a never a follow-up “don’t worry, you’ll meet the right person.”

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

I have been very lucky to have an accepting family and friend group. My whole “coming out” experience is not typical, I think.  I never tried to be anything I wasn’t or even realized there was something different about me.  Even within the first years of knowing my sexuality I was on an NPR segment talking about my experience. (Check it out if you’d like, but be warned it is a few years old now

However, one thing that breaks my heart (even though it isn’t a misconception per se) is when I tell someone I am aro/ace, and they say they have never met anyone else like me. It happens quite a lot, and it feels horribly isolating.

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

I wish I had novel advice that could be applicable to any type of person. Sometimes the “love yourself” mantra is easier said than done, especially when you battle with anxieties and insecurities that others do not. But I’m afraid I am not that person, and the only advice I can offer is to find the connections that allow you to love yourself. Put all your energy into cultivating a small network of love, and support will be there when you need it.

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

If you would like to see my work or check out my socials, please go to

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

Interview: Jennifer F.

Today we’re joined by Jennifer F. Jennifer is a phenomenal visual artist, who specializes in collages. While she’s done a bit of everything, Jennifer is truly passionate about creating collages. Her work shows an amazing eye, making incredible use of colors and lines. The images are so beautiful and they draw you right in, as you’ll soon see. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

1. Asexual


Please, tell us about your art.

So recently I’ve started creating collages, though my past art has ranged from fifteen years of dancing to writing to drawing (which I am actually awful at? But it’s fun and I like to doodle)

2. pride

What inspires you?

Lately, it’s been pride flags because there’s so many colors and it makes so many people happy to see themselves recognized in some sort of media that I love it. However, I also love nature. Flowers, elements, rock formations, space… They’re amazing and probably my other big inspiration.

Politics is the other big one just because I’m a political science/pre-law major. Especially with all the stuff going on in the news.

And sometimes Disney.

Honestly, life. Life is probably a more accurate answer.

3. friendship

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

I took a two dimensional art class over a year ago and I LOVED it. It was an accident, but it was such great stress relief that I honestly fell in love. Then I quit one of my jobs and had a bunch of time on my hands… That was when I really started to pick up the fact that I love collages. I created over 20 pieces in the span of three months.

Yes, actually! I just expected to be a dancer, not a collage maker. So, kinda?

4. Scanned from a Xerox Multifunction Printer(6)-1 - Copy

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 don’t know if it’s unique symbol or anything, but I love working with blue and it’s always my favorite part of a piece is the blue section. It is always is the easiest for me, so I consider my blue sections part of my signature just because they’re my favorite?

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t be afraid to try your own art style. Do what makes you happy. (That’s generic, right?) But really. Everyone paints and draws, but your style in it is about you. Choose something that you think looks neat instead of choosing what you think others want. If you enjoy it, someone else will too.

Also, take your time and let your art change. You aren’t going to stay the same, and neither should your art. So explore! It’s fun. Do something stupid or out of your comfort zone. You’ll get there.

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Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Ace, all the way. The rest of my identity is kind of in the air. That’s the only part I’ve felt the need to figure out. I’m just me otherwise.

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

Thankfully, not so far. My first work to gain popularity was an Ace flag, so that was great! In political science, we don’t really discuss it. My sexuality hasn’t come up, thankfully.

6. EPSON007-1

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

That I’m also aromantic. Explaining that the two can be separate, though aren’t necessarily, has been the most often issue I’ve had. Usually, it turns into a giant lesson on sexuality, romantic attraction, and gender.

7. people cropped

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

Breathe before you do anything else. Then figure out your feelings. Terms can come last, though it’s nice to have a community. Your feelings are more important than anything else. You don’t have to label yourself, and you don’t have to come out. Sometimes just a term can make you feel better.

And don’t worry. There’s a community waiting for you wherever you go!

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


8. Scanned from a Xerox Multifunction Printer(5)-1

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

Interview: Ema

Today we’re joined by Ema. Ema is a wonderful young artist who is currently studying graphic design. They love to draw and also enjoy working with unusual materials. They’re incredibly passionate, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.



Please, tell us about your art.

Right now I’m an art student studying graphic design. I also like to use unordinary materials. For example I collect candy wrappers and stuff like that to make collages. I also make bracelets and will incorporate my beading materials into my art

What inspires you?

Right now my inspiration is mostly nature and the different cartoons I watch. Cartoons inspire me because of the colors and the different art styles and watching the cartoons just gets me in the mood of creating my own artwork

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

I’ve loved drawing since I was a little. Most presents I got as a kid were art sets. As a kid I always saw art as being a hobby that I would have for my whole life. But then as it came to picking out a major for college I couldn’t really think of anything else I would be happy doing for the rest of my life. The reason I chose graphic design is it seemed like the most practical field to go into.


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?

No but I do usually add a heart at the end of my signature

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

I know most people don’t give actual art advice for this but this is always the advice I give.  Take a step back from your work. Put your work up on the wall and look at it from ten feet away. This really helps see any issues with piece that you overlook from close up. Also your darks can almost never be dark enough.



Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as asexual sex repulsed.

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

No but I also have really done anything in my field considering I’m still in school.

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

That being ace makes me automatically not want sex instead of just not finding people sexually attractive. That and finding the right guy will fix that for me.

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

Your feelings are completely normal. And your orientation can change. You don’t need labels, but it’s normal to label yourself if you want to.

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

The only place I have is my Instagram at Emabaes_art.


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

Interview: cxxxxxxxx

Today we’re joined by cxxxxxxxx. cxxxxxxxx is an incredibly versatile artist who has dabbled in almost everything but has most recently focused on zines. She has a great love for art and it’s very apparent this love has transferred into making zines, which are fascinating. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.



Please, tell us about your art.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with a lot of stuff it feels like—poetry, fiction stories, nonfiction and more personal writing, drawing and painting with different kinds of pens and paints and pastels, making collages—but this summer I got into making and putting together zines and I can put all those things inside of a zine on a given topic, so I’ve been having a lot of fun writing and drawing for zines on dancing, creativity, my gender identity, romance stuff. I get stuck a lot when it comes to my art and writing but I’ve made a lot of things this year especially that I like to look back at now.

What inspires you?

I don’t follow a lot of artists but this semester I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries about Dada and the Beat Generation and learning about those movements and reading their writings/looking at their art/collages and I feel really inspired by these artists and writers that look at a given society and create art to oppose it and express their own views. I like to put on films about stuff like that or just political movements in general and spend the whole time sitting at my desk painting and drawing. Watching Stranger Things really inspired me to draw some cooler stuff, too.


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

I’ve been writing since I was a kid and started drawing my first year of high school because a lot of my friends were into it and I really kind of idolized them. I’ve always felt like I had a lot to say but I’m abysmal at talking to people, so I’ve always liked being able to express myself and my thoughts in writing; there’s something special about it, I think.

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, to be honest. I’ve never been really consistent with that sort of thing.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

I spent years drawing not because I enjoyed it but largely out of a desire to improve so that I could enjoy, and I don’t think that’s the right way to go about creating things. Make what you like, and if it doesn’t turn out how you wanted it to, find things about it that you like anyway. Draw because you like to draw, not for the sake of other people. Something like that.



Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as aromantic and asexual, although technically slightly gray-asexual is probably most accurate.

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

Not really? In everyday life a majority of people I knew up until college didn’t even know it existed (me being one of them for a long time, too). I’ve seen people make prejudiced comments online and expressed some of my anger about such comments in poems I’ve written about being ace.


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

Mainly the one that I can’t be happy in the future without a partner, but I don’t think that’s true. I experience depression and anxiety frequently but dating someone/etc. wouldn’t change that, and I do feel happy and excited about enough things (poetry, history, playing guitar) that I don’t feel I’ll be missing something when I’m older. There are a lot of things I want to do someday and I don’t need another person to do them or in order to feel happy and fulfilled, I think.

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

I have a tendency to over-think things of that nature and make myself anxious wondering how I’m supposed to look and be and identify, but my best friend advised me to try not to worry like that and just accept myself even without labels and I think she was right about that. For me, anyway, it’s easy to get caught up in anxiety when I don’t identify with any known labels for gender identity or sexual/romantic orientation, but lately I’ve just been trying to be the person I like being and feel comfortable being and I think maybe that’s helping. So I think I’d recommend trying that, just going with the flow of things and how you might feel.


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

My zines are online to read here.


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

Interview: Megan Christopher

Today we’re joined by Megan Christopher. Megan is a phenomenal and versatile artist. She does both writing and visual art. She currently has a web cartoon entitled I, Geek. Megan has also recently worked on a webcomic loosely based on her experience as a romantic asexual, which she hopes to continue writing. Megan has a really great eye for detail and it shows in her work. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.



Please, tell us about your art.

When I’m not writing, I draw, make comics, and do some graphic design. In the past I’ve also made copper-based jewelry, collages, needlepoint, and a myriad of other crafts.


What inspires you?

My geeky fandoms have been an enormous influence on my life and my art. Even before I started drawing, I made fan art. It probably all goes back to Harry Potter.


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

I consider myself a writer first and foremost, but for most of my life, I wished I could draw – I just told myself I was no good. Then I started working in a comic shop, and my exposure to and appreciation of art definitely increased. I decided to start practicing, and got a lot of positive feedback. One of the things I love about modern comics is how many different styles there are, and cartooning allows me to combine my creative outlets: art, writing, and humor.


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 yet, but now I want to! Like a Hidden Mickey…


What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Keep at it. It’s the most obvious, and the hardest advice to follow. I want to give up at least once a week. I’ve tried what feels like a billion different forms of art and have yet to ‘make it.’ It’s pretty frustrating, if not downright depressing, and the older I get, the more dire it feels. But the truth is, I couldn’t stop making art, even if I wanted to, and the only way to get better is to make more. You absolutely never know what will catch on. I’d also say, be open to criticism. Another tough one – practically no one is born with the thick skin needed to succeed as an artist. It’s something you develop, and the more you expose yourself to critique, the easier it’ll get.



Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m a hetero-romantic asexual.


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

I grew up in Hollywood, California – when it comes to a lack of sexual attraction, ignorance is everywhere. At first I just kept to myself, staying quiet whenever the topic came up. These days, I’m open about being asexual, and invite people to ask questions when the subject arises. I tend to treat any ace-prejudice the way I treat misogyny – with disdain and a dead-eyed stare.

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

Probably that it’s “not a thing,” or that it’s a phase. I think most people who hear the word ‘asexual’ treat it with skepticism. It’s so foreign to them as to be impossible. The irony is real, yo.


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

Embrace the community you can find. If that’s online, so be it. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where asexuality isn’t such a radical concept, reach out to others. Having people in your life in whom you can confide is crucial. Also, whatever orientation suits you right now doesn’t have to determine the rest of your life. Sexuality is fluid enough that something might change down the road, and it might not. But even if it does, that doesn’t invalidate how you feel at any given time. People aren’t as easily labeled as we’d like them to be.


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

My art is on Instagram ( and Tumblr (, and my web comic, I, Geek – including ‘Ace Adventures’ strips – can be found at Follow me on Twitter megdchristopher.


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

Interview: Sophia Gardiner

Today we’re joined by Sophia Gardiner. Sophia is a versatile and fascinating artist. She’s a multi-disciplinary artist who works in a variety of media and is most fond of sculpture and installation. She’s a dedicated activist who fights for a number of causes, all incredibly admirable. Hell yeah! Her art is fascinating and varied, as one would expect, but it’s obviously created with a fiery enthusiasm. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

After Porajmos


Please, tell us about your art.

I’m multi-disciplinary, I try all different kinds of styles and try different things. Sometimes the idea will direct what medium I use, and sometimes I might just want to do something with some goldleaf paint I found in a shed, or make a sculpture out of a piece of a broken guitar I find at Castlefield docks, or make a collage with lots of saints clipped out of an Orthodox calendar I find in an abandoned mental hospital in Romania.

Although there are some mediums are I prefer over others, like I’m particularly fond of sculpture and installation, I try to explore and experiment as much as I can because you can sometimes surprise yourself.

I’m also a human rights activist, I’ve worked a lot with refugees, asylum seekers and migrant rights groups so naturally, a lot of that comes through in my work. When you work with these kinds of groups, it’s not just about immigration and anti-racism, there’s so many issues underneath that. If you work with refugees, you’re also dealing with anti-war issues, women’s rights, fighting domestic abuse, FGM, LGBT+ persecution, exploitation in the workplace. You’re helping people who are fleeing natural disasters, dictatorships, poverty, it’s all a part of it.


Most of the work that I’ve done around the subject of asylum and immigration, I created it with intent to educate and inform people who are more ignorant of what is going on for asylum-seekers, and also primarily, to annoy bigots. It can really annoy racists when you use art to share stories that humanize their scapegoats.

Other times, it’s just about having fun, putting stuff together because it seems right that way, and celebrating something you found, a place you’ve been, a dream you had, visuals you just conjured- things like that which are not charged politically or socially in any way.

I’ve exhibited internationally, and I’m taking part in an exhibition this March for International Woman’s Day in London from the 7th March called STOPJECTIFY that’s being curated by Jess De Wahls.

Alone Here Like This

What inspires you?

Stories I hear, news articles, people I meet, places I go, weather patterns, it’s all there. You might see something just lying in the street and think, ‘oh, that looks like something, I’ll take it with me and make it into a thing’.

Music helps too with the stuff I produce, generally because I find I work so much better if I have music on, but also because it can help you imagine more and it gives you the energy to keep working at something.

Body Language

Sometimes it’s just all about playing and sometimes art is more serious and can be an important way of helping us share a better understanding of what’s going on… Or just to simply find new and interesting ways to complain about what’s happening.

I find that my best work is often the stuff I do in anger. I read about something that happened or is happening or someone says something that upsets people, so I produce something in response to that. I find it can be quite therapeutic. I can diffuse a lot of anger or feel a lot less depressed if I answer back to what is happening creatively.


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

I’m from a Northern working class background, born in a town where people seemed to have a very one dimensional perception of art and what art is or can be, and that artists were very much a historical thing. Unless you’re L.S. Lowry, or a children’s illustrator, artists didn’t really exist in that way for them.

All my family as far as I know worked in factories, but my dad is a painter, so in our house growing up, there were tins of acrylics and pastels everywhere, and my dad would mostly do pictures of Manchester United players and sell them around the pubs near Old Trafford- in fact we got excited recently when one of his paintings appeared in a shot of this documentary called ‘Class of ’92’. But my dad also collected a lot of art books as well, so unlike most kids around my area, I had a much wider knowledge about artists and the art world much earlier on.

Drapetomania Mabo

But I would by no means say I’m a good painter, my dad is a much better painter than I am and it always frustrated me how I was never as good at drawing as he was. But I always loved making sculptures, I would build little houses out of sticks in the garden and I was taught to sew by my nan, so I would always make my own stuff from old fabric. I could make my own toys no problem and her friend gave me a sewing machine and taught me how to use it so I became pretty good at that too.

I did always want to be an artist, despite general opposition, just because I really enjoyed creating things. I was never academically gifted like my sister, so when I made things, people were really astonished and amazed by how a child could make that. I can remember showing my dad- I’d made like this whole weird outfit for a doll out of an old cardigan, and he just stared at it and looked up at my mam and said ‘We’ve gotta do something about this! We can’t let this go!’ So when affirmed that I wanted to go to art school, he really backed me up. Everyone was saying I would never get a job out of it, maybe I should get a ‘proper degree’, but I didn’t want to do anything else.

Manchester School of Art. I can remember after one particularly bad tutorial where my tutor was very critical about all my work, I can remember all my fellow students were really sympathetic and everything, but I’d had an epiphany, and realised that I’m by no means a great artist. I’d been one of the best so far in my schools, in my college and so on, but here, of course I wasn’t the best! Here were artists from all around the world, and I was nothing compared to them. All that time I’d thought that I wanted to do art because I was ‘good’ at it, and because I was successful with it. I learnt then that I wasn’t as good as I’d always thought, and probably wasn’t going to be as successful as we’d all want to be, but it didn’t matter, because that wasn’t what made me want to be an artist. It was because I was happy doing art, even if my tutors weren’t very impressed with what I did and probably the wider world didn’t, I still felt happy. So totally worth getting into all that debt for.

That was how I finally knew that this was right. I never won any awards or prizes like so many of the others did, I didn’t get the top marks and I haven’t been as successful as some of my former colleagues have since then, but I’m still happy so long as I can keep doing art.

Drapetomania Three Friends

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?

No, in fact I often feel annoyed with myself that I don’t seem to even have a particular ‘style’ or one method that belongs to me. My projects are all so different you can’t really tell they’re by the same person and I feel like none of my paintings are the same in the way that you could look at them and know it was me who did them both, they could be from anyone.

I think the only thing that applies to maybe, is what I call my ‘amateur cartography’, which are maps I make, but they’re not actually effective maps, I’m terrible at reading or drawing maps myself, but I love looking at them and my cartography is just, in a way, celebrating all the styles and aspects of what a map has, and aren’t supposed to be taken seriously.

I usually (but not always) include this big, obnoxious looking red ‘X’ on them, sometimes for no apparent reason. I usually use red cable tape for that.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Unless you come from a successfully creative background to start with, people are probably not going to take you seriously. You will pressured to demote your art to a hobby and get a ‘proper’ job, or a more financially stable career. Especially if you’re from a poor background, you will struggle. You will be fishing for scraps of tracing paper out of the bins in the printing room, you will be stealing glue sticks from work, you will nearly lacerate your hand on a faulty sewing machine from the seventies, you will have a war with scrap-collectors for the rusted gate dumped at the end of the street, you will have no more room in your house to hold your sculptures, so you will have to bury them in the garden like murder weapons or burn them like sacrifices at Islington Mill’s ‘Art Burn’ event.

You will have to empty your bank account just to be able to take part in an exhibition, you will be unable to enter SO many perfect residencies, shows and other brilliant opportunities because there’s no way you can afford that entry fee. You won’t ever be able to afford that studio space, and if you can, you have no time to use it because you’re working in a job you hate to get the money in the first place. You will fight with your family, you will fall out with relatives who think you’re looking down on them because you don’t want to work in a call centre forever, you may have to go for some days without eating, you will constantly have to battle for recognition and validation.

In the face of these overwhelming odds against artists, I advise you this: keep going. Despite all opposition, please don’t give it up. Anything you can do in a day that’s creative keeps the embers glowing. Also, it helps to have other creative allies who can help keep up the morale. I’m so lucky that some of my best friends are also artists, and despite what they told some of us at university, we are NOT in competition, we are a community, so we share what we know, we share our thoughts, our struggles and we are open about everything we are going through, we share and read each other’s applications, if one of us gets picked for a show and the other doesn’t, it doesn’t matter because we’re all struggling so you’re still happy, and we all know how it feels to be on either end of the scenario because we’re honest about how we feel.

But I promise you all, even though it’s really hard to live like this, it’s totally worth it, if you see where the alternative gets you. I’ve met so many older people who tell me that they started out wanting to be an artist, actor, writer, but just lost themselves to a ‘proper job’ and a ‘real career’, and stayed stuck like that for thirty years. You do not want to end up like that, because it doesn’t matter how ‘stable’ their lives are, they’ve lost themselves to the system and the world has lost another artist.

And speaking as someone who was raised as the child of a struggling artist, I promise you, if you find yourself with a child and feel like you now have to get that proper job and give up on art all together to provide for them, that’s a wonderful sacrifice. But I myself couldn’t help but feel guilty that someone would have to surrender to that forever for my own sake. Kids want to see their parents happy too, and if my dad didn’t keep painting, I probably wouldn’t be an artist now, answering these questions. Struggling artists with kids are well mighty, I can tell you.

One more thing I would say is you have to be stubborn and persistent. Being successful and being in loads of exhibitions and selling lots of pieces isn’t what makes you an artist, making ART is what makes you an artist. If you get recognised and people buy your stuff and someday, make a living out of it, great! But it’s harder for some of us and it doesn’t mean you’re not on the right path just because the system thinks that most artists are worthless.

If you feel happy as you make that piece, write that fanzine, sing that song, then this is where you belong. Even if you’ve never been in an exhibit, still tell people ‘I’m an artist’ if that’s what you feel. It’s just like saying ‘I’m asexual’, the more you say it, the stronger you’ll feel about being yourself.

Draupadi Consent Modesty


Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Aromantic Asexual because I’ve never been interested in having a relationship, I’ve never tried having one. I’ve always just been happy with my friends, and have some of the most amazing friends.

Map of this Life

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

I think in artistic communities, where things like sex and relationships are much less of a taboo subject, it might take people by surprise, and that you’re expected to be a bit more savvy and open about sexuality.

When I studied art at university, I remember encountering a lot of bafflement and doubt from my colleagues, but I think asexuality was still a bit new to the world I guess, so it was probably a bit fresh in people’s minds and I used to get a lot of questions. Although I didn’t feel like I had much to say on the subject, and I didn’t want my own experience to dominate what they perceived asexuality to be about, so I don’t know if I did such a great job of it.

Dreamscape Big House Swamp

I get the feeling that these days that universities and arts groups are more aware about spectrums and I noticed as well that there’s a lot more awareness of Transgender rights and lot less uncertainty, probably because of what’s happened in the world since then, and people are coming a lot more aware of who we all are and how we express that and generally becoming a lot more visible.

The best way to handle any ignorance is just to keep sharing the knowledge, keep telling each other’s stories- I always say stories are a very powerful method of sharing information, and just to keep listening to each other.

And also I would say, humour definitely helps. If someone asks you a really ignorant question or says something that you find a bit offensive, disarm them with humour. They hate that.


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

One misconception that sometimes troubles me is the belief that you have to try sex to know if you’re asexual or not. This worries me because I wonder how many asexuals may feel pressured to try it on that basis to validate their identity and may end up in what could be very traumatic scenarios where their consent is compromised. I’ve never had sex in my life, and I feel absolutely fine as I am, but I’m lucky to have friends who are very open to understanding my own experience and my own feelings, and growing up, I didn’t have peer pressure or anything as a teenager or at school because I was a social outcast anyway, but I know that this is only my experience that not every asexual shares, so they might encounter more problems like this.

I have found that the line- the one where if someone asks how you know if you’ve never tried it, and you just ask ‘have you ever done it with another man?’ (if they’re a man) proves to be mostly successful. I’ve found it doesn’t always work on women though. So many women appear to have gone through what they call a ‘lesbian phase’, I’m told it’s considered more acceptable in this heteronormative society while gay men’s relationships are considered more of an affront to ones masculinity for some reason. Although one day, when I was discussing the notion of lodging with a Portuguese professor friend, he asked me ‘You would be a good roommate, yes? No wild parties, no boys staying over?’ I assured him that on the latter point, he had nothing to fear for I am asexual. He’d never heard of it and asked how I knew without trying it and I asked him ‘How do you know you’re not gay unless you’ve had it off with another bloke?’ and he just replied ‘well you know… I’ve had my moments’ (we had two young asylum seekers in the room with us at the moment who were quite astonished by all this talk coming from one of their mentors and an academic professional).

Globe Borsec

Other misconceptions… I had a hard time with my mam for a while. She literally thought there was something wrong with me. She seems to be a lot more understanding about it now, but I know she still wants me to have a boyfriend and be ‘normal’. It upsets me though, if I ever mention a man at all who I might have met in my daily life, she’s instantly like ‘ooh! How old are they? What do they do? Where do you know them from? What do they look like? Do you think they love ya? I’m just askin’! They might do!’

I’ve also had to deal with a few communities for whom anything outside straight or gay is as yet unheard of. There is a family for example who kind of adopted me into their clan some years ago, and, they have a fairly traditional outlook on life, they obviously have grown up without knowing much about the spectrum of human sexuality. I love them dearly, but all my attempts to explain asexuality to them haven’t been successful.

One of the ‘mătușile’ is just adamant that I must be a lesbian and when she sees me just yells ‘Ah! Sofia Bulanjika este aici!’ But as I’m getting older, some of them are a bit concerned that if I don’t get married soon, I will end up an old maid and no one will want me and who will look after me when I’m old? They tell the young girls, if you don’t get married before you’re nineteen, you’ll end up all alone like Sofia! They’re wonderful though, they’re so good to me. You just have to let some people get used to the idea I think. I always tell them stories about my gay friends, pan friends, bi friends, and they do ask questions and although they might get a bit confused, they’re never hostile.

Places of Worship

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

Well, I’m still struggling with my orientation and I’m nearly 25, but I’m much better at giving advice than taking it. I don’t talk about my orientation a lot, and I know that we’re all very different people so I wouldn’t want my experience to colour the rest of us, but I can only tell you what I know from my own perspective.

I’m sure you’ve all heard about how you’re not broken, you are who you are and don’t be ashamed and so on. So, I think what I want to tell asexuals is- and remember this is just my experience, so it probably doesn’t resonate with everyone, but if it helps… One of the hard things about being asexual that I’m only recently coming to terms with, is those important friendships that you will lose because you don’t want to engage in ‘physical intimacy’.

Now this may seem really stupid, and it is probably. On the surface you’d think, well, if someone only wants to be my friend to have sex with me that’s their problem, why should I feel bad about it? Forget them! But I’m only just learning that things aren’t always that simple.

Strangeways (ink)

You could meet people, wonderful people. They talk to you about art, music, football and everything you love. They listen to you, and you are fascinated by what they tell you, you’re excited every time they open their mouths, you feel incredibly flattered that this person would talk to you of all people! This person thinks that anything you have to say is interesting?! You feel a little lighter every time they walk in the room, and you feel so honoured when they introduce you to everyone as their friend. If they hold your hand or sit with their arm around you, you might not think that’s a big deal because you do that with your friends all the time. If they hug you hello, they hug you goodbye, nothing wrong with that, you’d do the same with your close friends as well. You might stay over at their house, maybe even in their room, okay, what’s the big deal? You’ve shared one mattress with a family of five before now, so what’s weird about that? You’ll get really pissed off when people ask if you’re going out, for god’s sake! Why can’t we just be friends?! Why do you people always assume that just because you’re hanging out all the time that there’s something going on?!

Then, one day, maybe that person makes a move on you. Maybe out of the blue, they suddenly try to kiss you in the corner of the pub, or start trying to touch you as you’re stood watching the opening act or just turn around as you’re on your way to grab some falafel and admit that they’ve liked you all along. Or maybe they’ve been making more subtle passes and calling you various epithets… or not so subtle passes even, but you ignored it or made a joke out of it in the hope that you could change the course of where this is going before they got any more ideas, but now you can’t even pretend it’s not obvious till finally all your tricks and diversions are exhausted and you have to tell them that you were serious before when you said you were happy being single and you don’t want to have sex ever, really, you’re asexual… yes, you’re sure. And inevitably, they’ll probably turn away and desert your whole friendship.

People will side with that person if you tell them. They’ll say, ‘awww, they must be so confused, why did you do that to them? Why did you lead them on like that?!’ These people will not understand because heteronormativity has really undervalued the power of friendships. I’d like to tell you that you will see that people like this are not worth your time and they’re not worth troubling yourself about if they consider sex more important than being your friend, and although that truth stands, you probably won’t feel like that is the case at the time, (but I really hope you do).

Instead you will probably feel completely worthless. One minute you felt flattered that you were worth spending so much time with, especially from the opinion of someone you admire and adore, and just because you can’t have sex with them, now you feel like nothing. You may wish you were ‘normal’, you may, as I have, find yourself crying on a hotel roof in Pisa as you accept that they probably hate you now and will likely never speak to you again, and if they do, they probably won’t want to hang out with you as you did. And you too, will not be so free and open with them as you were, lest it again be mistaken for a romantic objective.

Logically, you know you should feel insulted and angry with that person, and you know that they are in the wrong, not you, but feelings don’t work the way they’re supposed to. You will probably end up feeling more angry with yourself for not being born ‘normal’, or for being born female and thus cursed to walk the earth being seen only as a potential romantic subplot for everywhere you walk into. Maybe you will forgive them because you also want to be forgiven for not being ‘normal’, and because you didn’t make it more obvious that you didn’t like them in that way, perhaps, so maybe it is your fault after all (but like I say, I hope you don’t feel like that).

If this is the case, it will help to have the support of your friends who accept you, and even if you don’t really talk about these kinds of things with your friends, some of them can surprise you in a good way. I’m so lucky to have friends who are willing to understand my own feelings instead of projecting how they would feel onto my experience, (and you do the same for others when for whatever reason they are feeling broken- even heteros have problems just like this remember). If you don’t have these friends in your own life, I’m sure you can reach out to other people on the wide world of web. I myself have never met another asexual in person- it’d be cool if I did and one day I hope to, but in the meantime we can share these experiences and give each other support in the virtual.

Then, hopefully, your feelings will finally catch up with logic and you will feel lighter again, and know that OK, people have severe lapses of judgement sometimes and fall for people they shouldn’t, but true friendships will come out the other side still intact.

Also, I’ll say, if you want to try sex, you try sex, it doesn’t invalidate you. Just listen to your feelings and if you’re scared, then don’t. Even if everyone says ‘yeh, don’t worry, everyone’s nervous at first!’ if you’re scared, don’t let anyone make you do anything you don’t want to do. If they care about you, they won’t want to make you feel uncomfortable or do anything to hurt you, don’t let anyone give you that whole ‘if you love me you’ll do it’ crap.

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

You can find out about everything at

Trees (charcoal)

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

Interview: EJ Oakley

Today we’re joined by EJ Oakley.  EJ is another remarkably talented and remarkably versatile artist.  They do just about everything, from painting and drawing to music to filmmaking.  My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.



Please, tell us about your art.

I dabble in a lot of different types of visual art. I used to solely draw manga but I branched out from that and changed my style a lot when I started taking Visual Arts as a serious school subject. Now I do anything and everything from painting canvases to digital art, and I still find time for the occasional sketch or two.

Personally I love making glitch art and collages. I’m probably going to sound really pretentious but I really like how you can make something beautiful out of an error, or out of fragmented pieces of things that could come from many different places. I also like drawing with charcoal because I was born messy.

I also make short films documenting the times when I go out and do interesting things, which is not very often because I’m quite boring. I like filming things that people normally just pass by or don’t really appreciate, because it’s “trash” or it’s something that they’re so used to passing through every day, like a bus stop or tube station.

On the side; I’m the bassist and co-frontman in a band called Drop Bear. We don’t have anything up yet but I’m really excited for when we start recording.

What inspires you?

Other people. We have life drawing classes at school and I always get really excited whenever I find out we’re going to have a session because the human figure really fascinates me. It’s really interesting to see the body as how we all know it and then capture it and represent it on paper as something else, something different.


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

I did sort of always want to do something related to art. I used to really want to be a comic book artist. That was my burning desire throughout my childhood until I was about fifteen when I then realised I probably wasn’t good enough. Now I want to be a graphic designer, which is probably as much of a long shot, but hey, kids can dream…

In terms of my current “field” (if one could call it that) I guess I really got interested in it when I realised that people could actually make money doing what they liked, and I always liked the idea of representing thoughts and concepts in a visual, graphical way. Whether it involves drawing it out or chopping up a couple of pictures and pasting them together on Photoshop. In my current school and the school I was previously at I was (and am) head layout designer for several magazines in circulation around the school, and it’s a fantastic job.

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?

I work with a lot of classical figures and busts. The sculpture sections at the British Museum and the V&A are two of my favourite places; you’ll probably find me there most weekends I’m free actually. I like contrasting these really pure, smooth images of human beings against glitches and errors and static, because that’s what life is really like; nobody’s that perfect in real life.


What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t do what I do, which is basically look down at your work and think, “Oh, great, that’s shit, I’m never making art again.” (I have to stop myself from doing this and give myself the following pep talk on regular occasions.) Art is a process and a journey, not a fixed thing. Make art regularly and don’t worry about consistency, you could produce a couple of sketches or a massive painting, as long as you’re keeping yourself moving down the path and on this journey.

You’ll constantly be improving all the time as you practice. Your style may change. You may change as a person and start to draw different things, or get better and worse at different mediums. It doesn’t matter. People change. Just keep going and keep moving and you’ll be all the better for it.



Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am biromantic; I (sometimes) experience sexual attraction towards those who identify as male but only experience romantic attraction towards those who identify as female. I’m not even sure if I’m describing this right.

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

A lot of people I’m friends with just do not know what asexuality is. Either they’re unaware it exists or they think it’s something other than it actually is. (I once heard someone say that they thought asexuals hated children. Although I do dislike small, loud children; I’m very sure this is not true of all asexuals.) If I try and explain it to them things generally work out, though. I’ve never been bullied or been the butt of discrimination because of my sexuality, thankfully.


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

Whenever I mention asexuality to someone, a response I get a lot is, “what, like plants?” Several people have also asked me if asexual people reproduce by splitting themselves into two. This is a real thing.

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

If you’re unsure why you feel a certain way, don’t worry. You unconsciously know what you want and what’s best for yourself, even if you can’t or won’t consciously admit it. Go with what you feel, and don’t try to change yourself, because that will make you feel even worse. And if you don’t know where you fit on the spectrum, it’s okay. You don’t even have to try and label yourself, or feel uncomfortable if you don’t fully fit under one umbrella or another. You won’t ever be asked to sit down and describe your sexuality in three words or less. That doesn’t happen. Really, it doesn’t.

Mind Mischief

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

My work is scattered all over the Internet:

My “official” art portfolio (for bidniss only aaiiight?) is at

My art/personal Instagram (for sketches and small stuff, this is updated more often than the portfolio) is at

My Instagram for photography is at

I have a YouTube account for films at

And I also have a YouTube account for covers of songs I like at

I have a Bandcamp for the previous band I was in (which is now broken up but you’re still welcome to enjoy the tunes) which is at

And I have a mostly abandoned Wattpad account (which I might revive soon, but if you’d like to read the half-finished story on there that would be brill) at

If you want to follow my main (music-oriented and sometimes personally-oriented too) blog you can find me at


Thank you so much, EJ, for taking the time to participate in this interview and this project.  It’s very much appreciated.