Interview: Hanna-Pirita Lehkonen

Today we’re joined by Hanna-Pirita Lehkonen.  Hanna-Pirita is an amazingly talented comics writer from Finland.  She’s part of a small comics group called Team Pärvelö.  They make queer comics, which include asexual characters, as well as some about the anime scene in Finland.  Hanna-Pirita also works for anthologies around the world.  She’s working on a horror piece for “Hellcat Press Dark Lady” anthology.  And, oh yeah, Hanna-Pirita is a badass feminist!  I highly recommend looking up her work because it’s really quite remarkable.  My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I make comics. I am a comic artist and I make comics and illustrations for living. My comics are mostly educational and political, but sometimes I also make comics that are just pure fun. But even if I make comics just for fun, I incorporate minorities in the characters. My work is also very feminist in many ways.

What inspires you?

Everyday things that happen to me and discussions that I have with my friends. The sentence “What if…” is my favourite and most of my comic ideas come from that one idea “What if…”.

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

When I was young, I wanted to become a fashion designer. I also wanted to be an artist, but my parents told me it’s not a real profession and I can’t live with being an artist. Well parents, look at me now! It took me a long time to become and artist, because I didn’t believe in myself when I was younger and I tried to get a “normal” job instead. Because of that, I have studied youth leading and I still use my knowledge about that in my comics.

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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?

Well normally I just write my name in there. My name is Hanna-Pirita and the name is very uncommon and there used to be only one Hanna-Pirita in whole Finland. Recently I found out that someone changed their name to Hanna-Pirita! I’m happy someone thought it’s such a beautiful name that they wanted to be Hanna-Pirita too!

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Draw every day. Some people say you need to draw fast sketches and some people say you need to spend many hours in one piece. I think it’s more important to do as many different techniques as possible. If you train just one aspect of art, you’ll end up knowing how to make one thing, but when you have to do something else, you will struggle a lot. That’s why it’s important to do as many things as you can and do them every day.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Just plain asexual, nothing more than that. But, I’m definitely not aromantic. I think I’m polyromantic, even though I tend to like feminine people the most.

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

Most of the ignorance I’ve encountered is because I’m a feminist and I get a lot of hate because of that. I have even gotten rape and death threats just because I am a feminist and I have made feminist comics journalism. Even though I’m openly asexual, people who aren’t my friends don’t really know about it, so mainly everyone’s been really nice to me. Seems that I happen to have amazing friends!

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

That my partner must be really unhappy and suffering a lot because there’s no sex. My partner tends to say that sex is not a human right. It’s a privilege and he can live without it.

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

I have seen that many people think they’re not really asexual, that they’re just broken or something, because they don’t fit the asexual stereotype. For example, this one person I met was really worried about themselves because they masturbated but they didn’t want sex with another person. We talked and I told them I know many asexuals who masturbate and it doesn’t make them any less asexual. It’s a spectrum, like everything else in sexuality. It helped that person a lot.

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

I have a comic blog that has most of the stuff in there translated in English too and the comics are also readable with a screen reader: http://hannapirita.sarjakuvablogit.com/

I also have a Tumblr sketch blog: http://hannapirita.tumblr.com/

And I belong to a comics group called Team Pärvelö and our website is here: http://www.teamparvelo.com/etusivu-en

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

Interview: Echo

Today we’re joined by Echo, a.k.a. The Literary Mortician.  She’s currently studying for a degree in English and is a horror fiction writer.  My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.


 

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am a horror fiction writer, and general fiction writer, in college.  I’m also a creature designer, though I do not study this in college.  I draw for fun on my spare time for my stories.

What inspires you?

Several different things; I draw inspiration from just about anything.  I usually get my inspiration from thinking up ideas when I let my imagination wander.  I get inspiration from so many random things, it’s had to just pick one thing.  Photos can inspire me, music can inspire me, my own emotions can do it, events, etc.

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

Writing started out as a form of communication for me in elementary school.  I was born with Aspergers Autism, so social skills and verbal communication did not come easy.  I showed a great talent for writing, so I began to communicate what I couldn’t speak through writing.  As for my art, my old friend Logan in elementary school introduced me to drawing.  I enjoyed it, so I kept practicing and getting better as the years went by.

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?

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I’m not sure where this symbol came from, but I’ve written it under my name for years, every since I was in the fifth grade.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Do what you enjoy, and what makes you happy.  Not everyone is going to be a huge fan of what you do, but there will be fans out there somewhere.  Do it for your enjoyment, because it can suck the enjoyment out of what you love when you begin doing it for other people.  Find your niche, and create things for people to enjoy.  Don’t work for them.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Aromantic Asexual, I believe.

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

Living in the Bible Belt in southern Mississippi gets you judged for just about anything.  I get judged for my orientation not only in my field, but I get it in my daily life.  My family gets and understands my sexuality (to a degree), but everyone else ignores it, or just says I’m making it up for attention.  I handle it by just ignoring them in return.  I know I’m accepted on Tumblr, and understood, so I let that give me comfort and forget about the nay-sayers.

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

Again, because of the ignorance in Mississippi, any sexuality other than heterosexual gets mistaken for homosexuality.  Usually, after I explain what aromantic and asexual mean, they just think something’s wrong with me, or say “The right one will come along one day.”

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

Find someone that shares your sexuality, or someone non-judgmental, and talk to them about it.  Sometimes, just talking with someone or surrounding yourself with kindred spirits is the best form of comfort and strength.

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

I don’t upload much of my horror fiction, and true work, online.  I keep it withheld for my classes.  I plan to upload it to my Tumblr one day.


 

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

Signal Boost: “Heartless”

As I mentioned in one of my many, many updates, I’m willing to do signal boosts for asexual artists who have projects they would like attention drawn to (time permitting).  Normally, this is something I would post on the weekend, but since I’m going to be out of town this weekend, I figured I’d make an exception and post it tonight.

Note:  This is only for asexual-identifying artists.  If I start receiving a lot of requests from non-ace artists who want to take advantage of this (I don’t care if you have a single ace character in your work. You’re still enjoying a privilege aces don’t have), I’m going to stop doing it.

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Today I received an email from Emily Griggs.  Emily is interested in being interviewed for the site, but wants to hold off until she has a few more publications under her belt.  In the mean time, she has requested I signal boost her webcomic Heartless:

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“I run a webcomic called Heartless, it’s fairly new but updates every Monday, and chapter 1 will be wrapping up in just a few weeks. You can find it online at http://heartless-comic.com .To quote from my own summary:

Heartless is an action/adventure comic set in early Victorian London. It’s about vampires, self-discovery, more vampires, the struggle against oppression, and very pretty dresses. The entire main cast is LGBTQIA+, with an explicitly asexual protagonist.

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Interview: K. M. Claude

Today we’re joined by K.M. Claude.  It’s actually wonderful timing:  February is Women in Horror Month and K.M. Claude is working on an erotic horror comic for their undergrad thesis.  Their artwork is darkly beautiful as you will see.  My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I think someone once described my art as erotic Southern Gothic. Or maybe that was me hoping someone would. But my art does tend toward the gothic and horrific — sometimes outright horror with monsters and demons, sometimes mundane horror where all the demons are internal — often mixed with the erotic, both at once sensual and horrific. Also priests, I tend to draw a lot of priests. Heck, the comic I’m working on at the moment for school, Ninety-Nine Righteous Men, is all about priests. Bit of an obsession, really. Regarding boring technical stuff, my art is mainly digital and draws a lot from manga and anime. I am shackled to my beloved MangaStudio.

What inspires you?

In terms of media, Disney movies from the 90’s, particularly The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and earlier Tim Burton films like Beetlejuice or Edward Scissorhands are constant background inspiration, as are Asian horror films, particularly Ju-On and Ringu. Outside of films, there’s comics — especially manga like Yami no Matsuei or Hellsing and webcomics like Starfighter or Yu+Me — and most recently musical theatre, notably productions by Takarazuka Kagekidan (there’s a lot of fanart of Takarazuka’s Elisabeth on my blog, fair warning.)

In terms of the mundane, I’m mostly inspired by Roman Catholicism, which I grew up in, Roman myth, and my hometown, New Orleans, as well as some of the surrounding towns in southeastern Louisiana.

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

Outside of watching my mother who does art, probably Disney films, to start. I wanted to be an animator until I found out you had to draw 24 frames per second of animation — that scared little seven year old me. So I kinda gave up on that dream and just drew as a hobby, getting into comics and watching cartoons and spending many an allowance on trashy yaoi manga during high school, but I always wanted to do art, which is why I’m now majoring in English and creating a graphic novel for my undergrad thesis. I tried to escape and it caught right back up with me! I guess I’ve always sort of taken the roundabout way to being an artist.

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 used to change signatures so much! For a long time, I’d sign things KT (for my first name) and then a scribbly rendition of my surname. Now I sign things with my initials: KMCR. But I occasionally sign things with 貞 as a nod to my old, longer fandom handle (a handle which I still use for personal blogging and the deviantART account that I don’t bother switching over, haha!)

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Just do it — whatever it is you want to do, however daunting it seems, do it. You learn by doing. So keep doing; keep making art. And don’t feel pressured that you have to go a “safe” route in school, like academic excellence or whatever, if you know you want to do art and are able to do so — don’t live with regrets and what ifs because that’s gonna take valuable energy away from making art. (And for anyone who, like me, for whatever reason, be they personal, financial, etc., took the “safe” route: don’t worry, it’s not too late. You’ll have your own struggles but it doesn’t make you or your art any less because you didn’t major in art or didn’t take classes or didn’t go to art school or whatever. You don’t have to have made a masterpiece by the time you turn 21. Just make art.)

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as aromantic asexual.

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

Eh, the only real ignorance I’ve ever dealt with was tangentially related to my field. I work on the school paper as the resident cartoonist and when I wrote an opinion piece and did a cartoon for the paper about asexuality, there was some (allegedly — I never had it said to my face) grumbling about, you know, who cares, what does it matter, etc. But it never was directly to me so I did not have to handle it myself and my friend who did encounter stood up for me in absentia. So I guess I handled it by having a supportive friend group, ha! I definitely got backlash on the paper’s website though. But hey, what can you do? I did my part trying to educate, let haters work themselves into a frenzy. I’ve stopped trying to control what others’ think; all I can do is try to explain.

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

Usually, for me, I get a sort of double take because I draw a lot of erotica and my works deal with sex and sexuality so people tend to go “wait, but if you’re asexual, then how come you can draw smut?” As if my lack of attraction or my lack of activity somehow dictates what I can and cannot draw. I’ve actually been insulted to my face by a rather ignorant friend who said “oh but you draw the yaois so well, you’ve got to be a little bit … you know … I just don’t believe you’re like totally asexual or whatever” which was mind boggling, honestly, since there is so much wrong with that statement, starting with some basic biology that I regrettably don’t have. But yes, that’s come up a lot for me, personally The other is the common “oh that’s just a phase, everyone goes through not wanting to get married or have kids, you’ll grow out of it” which is frustrating to say the least.

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

First, you’re fine. You might not be normal in the sense of the average or the majority and that might cause difficulties and struggles depending on your situation, but you’re fine as you are — don’t feel that you have to change who you are or do anything that might compromise what you know is true about yourself. Additionally, I know with the internet, tumblr especially, it can be very overwhelming and sometimes, if you’re still questioning if you’re ace or straight or gay, you may feel like you have to figure out exactly where you are right now and use the most correct and up-to-date terminology and God help you if you don’t (and I say this as both an asexual and as someone whose gender is still up in the air and who is still having a hell of a time trying to fit the pieces together). If you find something and it works, great, more power to you, but don’t ever feel like you need to have your orientation all figured out and exact and to the point right now this very second. Sexuality is difficult and different for everyone. Psychology’s still figuring out how human sexuality works and that involves researchers with degrees and years of study! So, you know, don’t feel bad if you haven’t got everything figured out either.

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

I can be found on tumblr where all my art both finished, sketchy, and in progress go at katiemarieclaude.tumblr.com or on wysp where I occasionally post finished pieces at www.wysp.ws/katiemarieclaude

Thank you so much, K.M., for participating in this interview and this project.  It is very much appreciated.