Today we’re joined by Noel Arthur Heimpel. Noel is a phenomenal visual artist who specializes in illustration and comics. They have a couple webcomics out, one of which is completed and the other is currently being posted. Both sound like fascinating stories and have multiple ace and ace-spec characters. When they’re not working on webcomics, Noel also works on Tarot and Oracle decks. The guidebook for their Tarot Deck (the Numinous Tarot) has ace inclusive interpretations. It’s clear they’re a dedicated and passionate artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I’m a cartoonist and illustrator—in particular, I do webcomics and illustrate Tarot and Oracle decks, although I also do book covers and such once in a while. All of my work is done traditionally in watercolor and ink; the process is just so absorbing and fun. I absolutely love vibrant colors and so my art ends up being very rainbow-y no matter what I’m making.
I currently have one finished webcomic, Ignition Zero, and a new one that just launched recently called The Thread That Binds. Both are stories about trying to understand yourself, your emotions, your relationships to others, and how to heal the hurts we all carry. And magic, of course! Ignition Zero has faeries and The Thread That Binds has magical bookbinding and a giant magic library. Both stories have ace- and aro-spec main characters who are comfortable with themselves and get to be happy and have happy relationships.
My Tarot deck, the Numinous Tarot, came out earlier this year. It’s a very personal take on the Tarot made to be a tool for healing & for marginalized people to see themselves in—I tried my best to include as many gender expressions, orientations, races, body types, ability levels, etc. as I could. The card titles and guidebook all use gender neutral language to make it as accessible as possible, and the interpretations are ace-inclusive as well, of course!
What inspires you?
My own life experiences and those of my friends inspire me the most. I want to tell stories that I haven’t seen before, or don’t see enough of, so that people like me and my friends can find ourselves in them. Stories are such an important way we figure ourselves out, whether we’re the creator or the reader. I’m also very inspired by nature, especially flowers, and all the magical things I do and experience as a witch. I like to think a lot about the nature of the universe/reality and put that curiosity into my work.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
Pretty much! I come from an artistic family, so I’ve been making art since I was very little, and my interest only grew from there. I wanted ways to put all the stories in my head onto paper. At first that meant writing and drawing separately, but eventually I combined them into making comics. I started reading Tarot when I was 13, and being an artist, of course I knew I wanted to draw my own deck one day. The deep and complex symbolism of Tarot is very much like storytelling to me, so it also falls under that desire to share my stories and imagination with people. Stories have always been important to me, especially growing up in a difficult home I needed escape from (and hope for the future), and I want to give that back to others.
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?
There are certain themes that almost always appear in my work, the biggest one being healing from trauma and loss. I’ve been through a lot of that myself and my art is one way I’ve worked through it—by sharing it, I hope it can help others as well. I also use flowers symbolically in my work on a regular basis, deciding which ones to draw based on the Victorian flower language or common magical associations that go with the story/piece.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Just keep going! Follow your passion and make what you want to make. A lot of times we second-guess ourselves and say “I’m not good enough to make this great idea yet, so I’ll wait,” but a) the best way to get better is through experience, and b) you’ll have more amazing ideas later, I promise, even if it doesn’t seem like it. Also, as much as we all want to improve our skills, try to focus on having fun and enjoying it! There will always be times when we’re frustrated or doubting ourselves, but if you don’t like making art most of the time, why are you doing it? The enjoyment of the process is a reward all on its own.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I identify as demisexual, although it has taken me a long time to figure that out and find the label I feel suits me best! I’m also grey-aromantic and agender.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
Not any more than I’ve encountered everywhere else. I feel lucky that when I marketed Ignition Zero specifically on having ace characters and an ace romance that the response was overwhelmingly positive. Otherwise it’s usually just that people don’t know anything about asexuality and need it explained to them, which I typically do as patiently as possible. I know I’m not obligated to be an educator, but currently I feel comfortable doing that in most cases. Or just ignoring it if it’s not worth my time!
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
Probably the one where asexuality gets conflated with aromanticism. I myself knew the word asexual since I was 17, but I didn’t use it for myself until I was 20 because I didn’t know about the split attraction model and assumed the romantic attraction I experienced meant I wasn’t ace. I see this misconception around a lot still, years later, although it’s getting better. I also often struggle to get people to understand demisexuality—the response is often “that doesn’t exist because that’s just how everyone feels and it doesn’t need a label.” It can be difficult to explain to people how my experience of attraction is different in a way they understand…or maybe there are way more demi people out there who just don’t realize that the label could fit them!
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
Find like-minded people who you can talk to. Meeting other ace people was how I began to question and understand myself. When they shared their experiences, I found stories, feelings, and words I could relate to that I didn’t even know I was missing. Being part of a community made me feel less alone and more empowered and certain in my identity. Also, sometimes this exploration can take a long time. I started identifying as ace when I was 20 and over the last eight years I’ve readjusted which label on the spectrum I use several times. And that’s ok! Sometimes it doesn’t feel great to be constantly wondering and changing, but every time I’m glad I went through the process.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
You can see all of my work on my website, noelheimpel.com! I’m also very active on Twitter and Instagram, where I post my art and the occasional ramble. I have a Patreon with tons of fun content, and the Numinous Tarot is currently on Kickstarter to fund a second print run. Lots going on!
Ignition Zero: http://ignitionzero.com
Numinous Tarot: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/noelarthurian/the-numinous-tarot-2nd-printing
Thank you, Noel, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.