Today we’re joined by Fawndolyn Valentine. Fawndolyn is a phenomenal versatile artist who has tried her hand at just about everything. She’s most dedicated to illustration and dabbles in steampunk jewelry. When she’s not doing that, she also does makeup. It’s very apparent that Fawndolyn is an incredibly dedicated and passionate artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I’m kind of a jack-of-all, master-of-none, but I chiefly work on illustrations, and frequently dabble in making steampunk jewelry, and practical/special FX makeup. In my illustrations, I mostly work in watercolours and Copic markers, but it’s Inktober now, so I’ve been concentrating on my ink work this month.
And when I say jack-of-many, I mean give me something interesting to do, and I’ll damn-well give it a shot! I’ve made hobbies of cake-designing, woodworking, costuming, violin, making comics, translating French, urban exploration, making comics, writing, bookbinding, prop-making, acting, web design, painting, medical experimentation, and a cornucopia of other things.
What inspires you?
Other artists. I’ve never been one to say, “I’ll never be that good” when looking at better artists’ work, but I tend to say, “I can draw that! Let me try to draw that.” That’s how I practice. I learn techniques and styles from other artists so I can better understand how to develop my own style (even though I’m still trying to settle).
I’m also inspired by faces. I do a lot of portraits, so an interesting pose with well-defined features are particularly inspiring to me. If we’re friends and I have a picture of you in a striking pose or making a goofy face, you’d better believe I’m going to try to draw it.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I’ve been drawing since I was four years old. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t draw – except a few years back, for a few years during a severe depression.
I haven’t always wanted to be an artist. Sort of. I was kinda forced into it – my mom and grandfather were artists, so their legacy needed to continue. Most of my time spent in college was skating around other majors, trying to be anything but an artist. I felt like I was pre-destined to it. Not to mention, my family always ragged on me about not making money with my talents, which really spoiled it for me.
It wasn’t until I was about to run out of financial aid that I finally decided “FINE! I’LL DO IT.” And of course, that turned out to be my saving grace. Highest marks all around.
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?
When I was young, I watched a great documentary on Al Hirschfeld, and I loved how he would hide his daughter Nina’s name in his work. I tried to sneak something into my drawings, but my type of work didn’t really allow for it. Not enough detail. In the age of internet art theft, I’ve reconsidered sneaking my name into my work, but I haven’t really been able to figure out how just yet.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Keep drawing. If you suck, pick one of the things you suck at and find out how to get better at it. Keep going down the list of things you suck at until you don’t suck anymore (or you could go the way I go and just avoid drawing the thing you suck at). I highly recommend taking a life-drawing class. They’ll start you with the basics (drawing your own hand) in a number of different ways, but you’ll learn how to draw what you see.
Reference photos are amazing. Many artists use them. If an artist says they don’t ever use references, they’re lying – every artist has referenced something in their lives, even if they don’t use references anymore. Not using references is possible, but why torture yourself while you’re starting out.
And for ultra-beginners, here’s how I really got going: When I was in 7th grade, I would draw by holding paper against a paused TV screen and trace the blurry shapes of Ren and Stimpy and Sailor Moon, or whatever show I liked, just to get the feeling of drawing those lines. Man, that helped. Tracing to copying to referencing to working from imagination… it’s all about leveling up. I still pause movies if I can’t find a good reference photo.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I identify as graysexual (I know it’s gray asexual, but it just rolls off the tongue better the other way). Panromantic. But I just say I’m asexual and allow for gentle prodding, if questions occur.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
The first person I came out to was a friend who I had a fling with in the past. His follow-up questions were so abrasive that I felt attacked, and it took me two years getting over the fear to come out to my own boyfriend (when I did finally come out to him, his reaction was, “well obviously!” And he was completely okay and understanding about it).
My asexuality and the aforementioned terrible coming-out experience came up in casual conversation with an acquaintance and he said, “I can understand why someone would get mad about it, if they like-liked you.” Can you believe that crap? Like sex is the only thing I’m good for? Like already having a goddamn boyfriend isn’t your bigger obstacle?! Piss off!
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
That we can’t have or enjoy sex. And that we’re a challenge to be fixed.
Trigger warning. Before I ever even heard of asexuality, before I realized I wasn’t broken, I dated a piece of shit who treated sex like part of the girlfriend package. Like I owed him. Having sex was fine, but he poured on the guilt whenever I didn’t want to. My circumstances of being homeless at the time, plus the guilt trip, made me feel like I did owe him. He thought I would enjoy it when he got it in. And I always faced away to hide my tears. I was young and didn’t know I didn’t deserve that.
(end Trigger Warning)
Despite that, I have, after that relationship, still enjoyed sex. I don’t have it anymore; haven’t for a few years now, and I don’t intend to. My boyfriend is okay with this. I also still masturbate. That’s part of the “can’t enjoy sex” misconception, though I don’t do it for fun (I mean, I sometimes try to have fun with it). I do it to silence the baby-making hormones that rear their annoying heads every month (my boyfriend was shocked when I told him I only take care of myself once or twice a month. I guess that’s a low amount).
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
Take as much time and experience as you need to figure out who you are, who you like, and what you want. It took me til I was 32 years old to realize I’m asexual. In high school, I didn’t understand why everyone (even the nerdiest of nerds) were having sex. I felt embarrassed and a little attacked for having feelings for someone and then my friends teasing me that I’m “a big ol’ horn-dog” who wants to bone everyone. I couldn’t understand why having a crush meant wanting to have sex to everyone but me. When I grew up, I had a lot of enjoyable sex, but it never felt like anything but a hormonal satisfaction (not connected to romance). Mostly, I had sex because I thought I was supposed to. When I discovered that asexuality is a thing I could finally identify with, I felt like a huge chip came off my shoulders.
I feel like, nowadays, we live in a world of sexual autonomy, and more people understand that they have the right to say NO or YES whenever they need to. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you owe them. I still feel weird for being ace, and I think it’ll make any future dating I do pretty difficult, but I think that comes with the territory in a sex-driven society. But listen. We are not weird. Okay, some of us might be a little weird, but it’s not because of our (a)sexual preference.
And if you’re stuck somewhere in your self-discovery, ask for help. Find like-minded people online. Ask questions to google or to forums. We’re out there.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
Instagram (this month is mostly inktober and SFX): https://www.instagram.com/fawndolyn/
Steampunk jewelry: https://www.facebook.com/honeyinmygears/
And just in case anyone wants to read the boring details of my life, I still use LiveJournal: https://diello.livejournal.com/
Thank you, Fawndolyn, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.