Today we’re joined by NW. NW is a phenomenal visual artist who specializes in fanart. She does mostly digital art, though she does occasionally dabbles in traditional media. NW does a lot of costume and character design. She enjoys doing mostly fanart, but will occasionally do original art. It’s clear she’s a passionate and dedicated artist who loves what she does, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
So, a lot of my work right now is done digitally — that is to say I don’t have an aversion to traditional media, it’s just more accessible to me at the moment — and usually it’s of people. Ranging from character or costume design, fan art, and a lot of my original artwork I don’t get to post. I love drawing portraits and faces, so right now, I guess the majority (that I post, anyway) is of that. I’m mostly self-taught; I’ve learned through practicing, studying classical paintings, and even watching Bob Ross as a little girl. I’ve had the traditional drawing courses (you know, still lives of apples or shapes) in addition to a lot of experimentation software like Paint Tool SAI, Adobe Photoshop, and Procreate.
I don’t particularly stick to one “style”; I don’t really like doing line art, I find it too time-consuming and I have issues with tremor, no thanks to my medication I take. So my style is very “paintery”, if you like. What I’ve learned in painting courses (and, again, Bob Ross) and I paint over my mistakes. When I do traditional media, I usually go back to the pencil or watercolors. I’m a visual person and I love coloring and colors. My favorite thing about creating art is eventually coloring it.
What inspires you?
A lot of things inspire me.
Art has been a therapeutic thing for me and I’ve gone back and added my own feelings in them. I’m very guilty of day-dreaming and since I was a kid, those day dreams inspire art. I think of stories and they become my pieces. Things I see in real life, whether it be color combinations, fashion, or images I pass, I try to hold onto that visual memory and bring it back. Nowadays, I carry my iPad and stop to at least get it out before it goes. Movies definitely do—I hadn’t realized how much movies affected my stories and images until I got older.
Other artists most definitely do, which is why I’m Tumblr a lot. Most of the blogs I follow are other artists. There are also a few blogs that post traditional and classical artwork that I love. And, really, the music I listen to also is a huge influence on me and I always listen to certain bands and artists to try and captivate a mood in my pieces. My usernames “ofborrowedlight” and “rainbowillness” actually come from one band that I listen to a lot when I do artwork, Wolves in the Throne Room. They’re titles to two songs, “Rainbow Illness” and “Queen of the Borrowed Light”. For my personal “project”, I listen to them quite a bit.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
Well, I’ve been holding a pencil since I had an Etch-a-Sketch and I cannot recall the rest. And I keep bringing up Bob Ross for a reason—I watched him religiously as a little girl. I’d say that he was actually the first influence that wanted me to get into the field. By the age of five, my mind was made up: I wanted to be an artist. I struggled with dyslexia and bullying and art was my constant companion for me. Having that man on television taught me so much about color and composition at an early age and his attitude of “there are no accidents, only happy mistakes” is such a positive thing to have and he’s really still pushing me, to this day, with that attitude. If you ask me now, yeah, I still want to draw and create for a living. It hasn’t been easy working full-time and trying to earn money, though, but I have not given up. I still try to draw every day; unfortunately, I get really shy posting stuff online or I’m spending more time on it than I wanted to.
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 in particularly? At least I don’t think so; maybe my coloring?
Maybe the closest to it if anyone notices that I incorporate a wave or a flow around my figures, sometimes. That comes from how Gustav Kilmt, Alphonse Mucha, and some traditional Japanese paintings that seem to have a special way to draw smoke and water. I can’t really write it, but anyone can find it in my sketches. But flat out, there’s no real unique symbolism, usually. If there is, it’s with my original stuff with little hints, but no one is going to know context, it’s just me, because I haven’t really presented the world with that story yet. It’s an inside joke with me, I guess.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Keep drawing, draw as much as you can, and don’t be afraid to expand your style. I was like a lot of artists out here on Tumblr; I’d print Sailor Moon illustrations and copied them. It’s good to do that to get up on your feet, but don’t allow that to be a dependency. Don’t be afraid to get books for the sake of illustrations—I still do. And don’t feel bad about your level of technique doesn’t match your friends or other artists out there. Art is all about your interpretation. While I can go on hours how stupid still lives and contour drawing is, they are essential to getting better. Take classic courses; if they’re not accessible to you, check out Udemy or Coursea.
With digital art, it’s a lot of practice. You just need to play around with features in software and you’ll find some really cool effects to enhance your coloring. Transitioning from a sketchbook to a drawing tablet is weird and don’t feel bad about not getting it; it took me years to get it and I’m still trying to play around with it. You’ll find a favorite program that you love! And even then, I would encourage you to have more than one digital art program. I hop around Paint Tool SAI, Photoshop, and Procreate all the time.
And really, I can’t stress it enough: don’t give up. You’re in an age where more of these things are accessible to you and it wasn’t when I was a kid. Keep drawing, draw more, and draw whatever you want.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
Heteromantic asexual but more often gray-sexual. I think men are handsome, that’s about it. I’m not bothered by it and I really don’t care about relationships. Finding a man attractive is the furthest I’ll go; I don’t want much interaction after that.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
The closest I’ve experienced any sort of misconception have been at concerts, anime, or comic conventions (surprise, I draw there too) and having to really push back men that have approached me for a date or my number. If they really can’t take the hint or accept “no” for an answer, I’ll get up and leave. A few times I’ve had men at just concerts or gatherings telling me they can “fix” me or change my mind. Then I’ll just tell them to fuck right the hell off, literally.
However, the most prejudice and ignorance I experience is outside of art and I experience it more with my family. It’s an odd mix of Irish and Mexican Catholicism where most of the women in my family married young (we’re talking 17-19) and they think there’s something wrong with me because I have no kids and I’m not married. No matter how many times I tell them “I don’t care, I don’t find anyone attractive” or “sex doesn’t interest me”, it doesn’t seem to sink in. Even when I told them there’s a community of other asexuals, one said “well, they must all be very depressed”. I make jokes about things like “this is why I don’t date” and use it to reiterate I don’t care about relationships.
So I’d say the run of the mill crap—“you haven’t found the right man”, “you’ll change your mind someday”, or “you must be very lonely”. I just shrug it off because I’ve had this conversation so many times with my family.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
I’m not sure if this is common, but my father believed it was the same as bisexuality—I’m just glad he recognizes that even if I’m not!
One thing I’ve seen is people assume its celibacy and then I have to explain there is a huge difference between the two. It does get tiring having to explain it’s a lack of physical attraction and a desire for it and no, I am not going to change, I’m not worried about not being married, and I’m well over 20 years old and it’s not likely I’m having second thoughts. I am, myself, sex-repulsed, but other asexual people are not and that’s usually one assumption that people go with. Having other people chime in and say they aren’t hleps.
Unfortunately, I will say that because I struggle with PTSD from abuse, therapists assume that the asexuality may be a cause of it. I’m sure it’s a contribution, but more along the lines I just find general touch revolting, though I’m confident that it’s not the ultimate reason why I’m asexual. I feel like psychology needs to learn more about it because I am tired of that assumption is because its due to trauma. I don’t think it’s asking too much that therapists and psychiatrists learn about asexuality. We’re not all like this, not every asexual person is like that due to trauma. And this thinking let me believe that I was really, really destroyed for years when I was not.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
If you also had a past of trauma like me, I’d say check out Aven and other communities geared towards asexuality so that you will know you’re not broken. I feel like this isn’t really talked about that much and it’s a shame. This isn’t part of PTSD or other forms of mental illness; you are not mentally ill if you’re asexual. When I first heard asexual at 18, I didn’t know about these things and I’m so happy other people have this access. Even now, at Pridefest here in Denver, there are asexuals and I haven’t seen them not even five years ago. My present employer, Ikea, even had “asexuality” listed on their diversity and inclusion talks—that’s really awesome.
There’s a lot of research and groups, there’s a whole world out there. But if you get the same spiel as I do, I think at this point, all we can do is just poke fun at it. Nothing makes me feel better than mocking these conceptions with other aces, it’s a nice reassurance. And if you’re in the same boat with me and family, yeah, post a link on Facebook or just print it off and be like “read this”. I don’t feel like we have the same level of resistance to people that are gay, lesbian, bi, and trans, so we need to also understand that. Watching a family member bullied out of the closet was horrific; I still couldn’t draw comparisons to their situation. Ours seems like a lot of people just can’t comprehend a life without physical attraction, I think. I just hope people remember that, especially.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
Most of my stuff is posted on Rainbowillness.com, which is hooked up to Tumblr. If you’re in the American McGee’s Alice fandom, you know me, I’m sure you’ve seen my stuff. I’m also on Instagram under “ofborrowedlight”; sometimes I will post WIPs (works in progress) on my personal Tumblr, “ofborrowedlight”, but I urge everyone just go on my site and follow me there.
Thank you, NW, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.