Interview: Lawton Braun

Today we’re joined by Lawton Braun. Lawton is a phenomenal visual artist who specializes in a unique form of self-portraiture: he works with fiber and makes fabrics. He has a degree in fabric design and uses bold colors to create self-portraits. Lawton also does quite a lot of digital illustration, which range from digital fabric repeats to text based designs and artwork. His artwork is gorgeous and he’s incredibly passionate, 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 work mainly in fiber and digital art, have graduated from the Lamar Dodd School of Art, and am currently working a full time teaching job. My art is inspired by different interpretations of what it means to experience self-portraits. I remember being in the first years of art school when we were told to draw self-portraits and I would feel so bummed because I’m not a very photorealistic type of artist, but as I started to figure out what I enjoyed and what I was interested in I came to understand that a self-portrait can be anything that you want it to be. Capturing a person’s image can be a literal picture of the person, or a stylistic work that describes them through different aesthetics.

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What inspires you?

I take a lot of time to look at the intersectionality of my race, gender, sexuality, and my privileges in many ways and how they interact with the world. I am also really into skate culture and looking at the way that I feel and experience love. I navigate towards bold colours and high contrasting situations because I’m colour blind, and bold and neons are the colours I see the best.

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

I always enjoyed art when I was growing up and I love building things. I was originally concentrating in ceramics with a focus on sculpture when I sort of got invested in cartoons and drawing funny things. I decided to branch out and see where I could put my cartoons in places other than just on pots or cups or slabs of clay. Because of this I ended up falling in love with fiber arts and how it can be both industry focused and fine art driven; it was basically the best of all the things I wanted. When I got into weaving I fell in love with the skills and having to take the time to work at mastering the process to make fabric. Then it became all about, “how do I work to make fabric unique and tell the story of who I am using materials that I find interesting.”

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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?

Not really a signature, but most people that know me and are familiar with my art recognize the colors that I use. They are bold and vibrant and not combinations that many would pick. I love neons and mixing them with neutrals along with blacks and dark tones.

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What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Just make a lot, honestly art is just a skill like anything else, it does not come down to talent, it’s just about how much time and practice and effort you put into it. If you don’t think you’re good at it, fucking welcome it and live in the fact that you’re not good at it and just find the small things that make you laugh or smile about what you are making. You can make it for a certain audience or just for yourself, just make a lot and think about what you make a lot.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as asexual and demiromantic. I am sexually active, but I only have or enjoy sex under very specific conditions. BDSM allows me to have sex within strictly defined parameters outlining what will and will not happen. This allows me to have sex in a way that lets me set the limits and feel relaxed while being able to enjoy the pleasure and fun of the session without having to get into a debate about me not feeling sexual attraction.

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

I’ve had plenty of partners and people tell me that I can’t be ace because I have had sex and do enjoy sex in the right environment. Most recently this came from a past partner breaking up with me because I refused to say that I wasn’t ace.

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

I’ve honestly heard people compare asexual people to sponges. Asexuality is a spectrum and it’s fluid for some people just like any identity.

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

Believe in yourself and just do you. Try your best to find other people to talk to, learn more, and take the time to experiment with the label that fits you best.

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

You can find my Tumblr at middleboi.tumblr.com and find me on Facebook here and my Redbubble shop for some stickers if you want HERE

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

Interview: Kat

Today we’re joined by Kat. Kat is a fantastic visual artist who specializes in book cover design. They work as a very small graphic design business and most of their clientele is indie authors. They have been in print design for 16 years and designing book covers for 10. According to Kat, “ I also do some fiber arts, and advocate strongly for the rights of the disabled, mentally ill, and indigenous peoples. I have a house full of birds and one adult human child.” It’s very apparent they really enjoy their work. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

In the past I worked with print shops and as Art Director for a publisher, but now I work with independent authors who are publishing on Amazon or other similar venues.

Usually my work involves strong hierarchy of information, image collage, client input, and clean typography.

You can see a bunch of the publisher work here http://www.anobii.com/melodicadesign/books

And some other sample stuff at http://melodicadesign.com

What inspires you?

I grew up in the 80s on a semi-rural hobby farm, so I feel the root of my work is in a nature based, or minimalistic Yankee aesthetic. Some might find it boring, but most clients choose to hire me because it’s not fancy in any way.

When working for the publisher, I often visited the blog of David Drummond and Henry Sene Yee. They influenced my covers quite a bit.

( http://daviddrummond.blogspot.com/http://henryseneyee.blogspot.com/ )

Otherwise I find inspiration in the aesthetic of Japanese illustrators like Yoko Tanji and Maruti Bitamin, Mori Girl Tumblr, nature Tumblr — and when all else fails I crack open an old W. W. Norton Publisher catalog I’ve had for ages.

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

When I was in high school I declared I wanted to be an artist, but my parents claimed there was no money in it. This was pre-internets, so really they were kinda right. Still, I took art and photography electives.

In the end, I fell in love, had a baby, got ditched, and decided to go to college for early childhood education. I wanted to be a Montessori teacher so my kid could go to a really good school ‘for free’. Then I changed my major to psychology, and then philosophy.

My daughter was diagnosed with autism in the late 90s, and I had to think more about a career that wouldn’t require more years of school. I chose graphic design, and it was actually really fulfilling. The market was booming at the time, so it seemed like the logical thing to do.

I worked at places like Kinko’s for a long time. I finally got sick of all the corporate culture creep that was happening (design work outsourced, uniforms, I was basically paid to click print, etc.), and after a few months of sweet, sweet unemployment, walked into a new place up the road that read “Revolution Booksellers” – I thought, “Oh hey! I’ve always wanted to work at a bookstore!” – turns out they were a distribution and sales company for the publisher in the same building whose sign just hadn’t been made yet. I was basically hired on the spot to design books. A year later I was Art Director. The company started to collapse after the economic crash of 2008, and was gone by 2010.

It’s a shame you can’t do that anymore. So many qualified people’s resumes just go into the digital circular file. At least back in the day, when you went into a place to give your resume, you could make an impression on the staff with dress or friendliness.

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 can’t say that I really do sneak anything in. I guess what I do sneak in is as many free images as I can from free stock sites and stuff. I download a bunch of stuff from Creative Market on their weekly free page. I’m kind of awful like that. I’m a Yankee. ):

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

The indie author marketplace is booming right now, and oddly enough Etsy has given me like 75% of my new clients– so if you have photoshop and a decent grasp of type and image hierarchy, resolution, and can follow specs, you can do this work.

This will probably offend, but in my experience… don’t work with “horse people” (authors who own horses and write about horses) — unless you enjoy micro-management, constant revisions, and flip flopping – only to be blown off for someone cheaper when the project is 90% done (you will later be contacted and asked questions about why the cheaper quality is worse than yours). I’m just sayin’… in my extensive animal book making experience.

“Dog people” are hands down the best clients to work for. They’re just like “Do whatever! I know it’ll be amazing, I trust you!” and then they’re amazed with their book about dogs, and will send you thank you cards and maybe treats.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

After looking at your newfangled spectrums I’m gonna go with panromantic grey ace. To be honest I don’t think about my orientations all that much. I think at my age you don’t put as much importance as to where you fit in a certain area of society or group. This might be the root to some young people feeling blown off by otherwise understanding parents.

What I do know is I just don’t find people ‘attractive’ – like I joined the app ‘whisper’ recently and the amount of sexual thirst in my immediate area is amazing. Sex is just not on my mind like at all, I walk into a crowd of people and I just see all kinds of people. There aren’t really any people I want to bang, there’s no one that I’m undressing with my eyes. I honestly can’t say I’ve ever even been able to undress someone with my eyes.

I’m sex positive, and obviously have had a child, so there was quite a bit of sex when I was younger, usually partner initiated. I’ve been without a partner for 10 years now, and that’s OK too.

I was raised by an abusive parent who was sex repulsed, so I’m still always surprised when ace kids say their parents are disappointed that they’re ace. Like, when I was growing up, you didn’t want your kids fucking anything anywhere. If a kid said ‘I don’t feel attracted to anyone, so I guess I’m not doing the sex thing’, parents of my childhood (boomers) would have been singing hallelujah. But times change, man — and my family was not functional.

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

Not really, but there is a certain feeling of being left out of any adult situation when you don’t feel the same urge or whatever-it-is that other adults do.

There’s either a perceived innocence, or a hyper-vigilance in social situations. You either completely miss the meaning of the sentence “Yeah I work at the local college, and man, the scenery is great.” (I replied that I love the landscaping at colleges, it’s so clean), or you have to work overtime in your head to parse what they’re really saying: “I work at a college and want to do every girl on campus, they’re all so sexy looking” – then do you concur, look at them funny, or be a drag and look repulsed?

I once described it as being at the Thanksgiving kids table forever.

Professionally… it’s sort of like, in corporate culture, even though there are laws now about sexual stuff in the work place… it’s still all very driven by sexuality and relationships between people. Like it’s the most basic drive to succeed that we don’t really acknowledge all that much. So when you don’t experience that basic drive, you might not aim as high, or you might get overlooked for someone more ‘driven’.

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

That it’s a symptom of mental illness or psychiatric drugs, or that an asexual can’t enjoy erotica or other stimulating stuff.

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

I guess I’m still struggling here and there with it. All my friends know via Facebook, and I post about it so they’re aware and can read more if they want to.

I think that as you age, you get more comfortable with who you are (hopefully), and become more and more ok with your orientation.  I’m really not in contact with family, so I can’t really give any advice on talking to relatives/family about it.

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

I’m available through Etsy http://melodicadesign.etsy.com
And my website http://melodicadesign.com
An older collection of books http://www.anobii.com/melodicadesign/books
You can reach me via email at kat@melodicadesign.com

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