Interview: Monica

Today we’re joined by Monica.  Monica is an indie illustrator from Texas who primarily works in illustration.  Her current project is The Stolen Child Tarot, which is based on the William Butler Yeats poem.  It is genderqueer and asexual.  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 mostly do objective illustration work that is heavy on symbolism and organic plant/animal imagery and most of my work is acrylic ink on paper or a combination of ink and watercolor painting. People tell me that it reminds them of older storybook type illustrations, which was definitely an influence.

My current project is working to complete the minor arcana cards for The Stolen Child Tarot, a deck I started as a major arcana deck a few years ago that was well received. It was inspired by the Yeats poem, The Stolen Child, where the fey are luring a human child into the wilderness to them.  The poem is seen as eerie or sinister to some, but in working on the deck, what jelled for me was just how done I was with the world of men, ingrained attitudes — a lot of things including internalized attitudes about gender roles and gender binary. Traditional tarot decks are pretty horrible in terms of a fixed and narrow male/female dichotomy, and apologists often try to play it off by defining those roles as a primitive way of creating a symbolic shorthand for groups of traits they want to lump together, even up to and including that sexual parturition is inevitable in a whole complete and healthy life.  I think it’s baloney. The rules in my deck are that there can be no manmade objects and all the human figures are children. So symbolically, the challenge becomes to find ways to express the archetypes and concepts in the cards without resorting to old gender stereotypes and narrow beliefs about sexuality. So this is my asexual, genderqueer/androgynous tarot.

Right now I’ve been using Patreon to continue funding work on the deck:
https://www.patreon.com/stolenchildtarot

What inspires you?

Literature and the natural world. There’s usually a book phrase or song verse that won’t get out of my head and it becomes the germ for a concept and then a finished piece. The Stolen Child Tarot is the largest thing I’ve worked on with a single poem as the jumping off point, but since it’s episodic, other lines creep in and help inspire the content for different images. For example, in exploring security versus the risk taking of asserting personal agency in the Four or Oaks card, the image came to me when a line from a Mountain Goats song kept repeating in my head, “God does not need Abraham. God can raise children from stones”.

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

I have always loved to draw and to write and loved books above all.  At a certain point — and social media is a great prover of this — I realized it was easier to get people to pay attention to images than words.

I self-published Tarot of the Dead in 1999 and then submitted and was accepted by Llewellyn with it in 2001, but my pursuit of illustration began full-time in 2010. I was the executive director of the Central Texas SPCA, which was essentially an operations and management position. Animal welfare work is emotionally and physically demanding and I was just burned out.  It had been drilled into me that you should have a ‘real job’ and do art on the side, but here I was approaching middle age, already with arthritis and a little nerve damage in my hand from a dog bite, and I just realized, “If I don’t do this now, I don’t get to do this at all.”  The world doesn’t reward you for following perceived rules, and you only get to experience the things you make happen.

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?

With the beginning of The Stolen Child Tarot, my signature became a rubric of an acorn with my initials and the year, but that was mostly a by product of doing jewelry work and continuing to work small — you need something unique looking but unobtrusive. It’s not a secret thought. In my Tarot of the Dead deck, I put a lot of secret homage stuff in there when I dressed the skeletons. There’s a John Waters skeleton and a Tom Waits one among others. I didn’t think it was necessary to point them out though.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

There’s an adage of “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.“ And I think the idea of starting smaller with what is immediately available so you can start cultivating an audience without a lot of risk is solid advice.  I totally believe that to run a business and to make things, you have to give yourself the tools to succeed, but in the US at least, where you are programed to think and spend big big big, you can get yourself into trouble throwing away money and resources on overhead if your initial idea isn’t perfect out of the gate. And in a creative business, you need the room and flexibility to self-discover and evolve. Don’t be cheap about your materials, but be resourceful and start small because there are so many lessons you’ll learn along the way and it’s better that a single misstep be a learning experience instead of completely wiping you out.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Probably demi or autochorissexual. I used to have a higher motivation and tolerance for faking perceived normal desire and relationships, or for trying to explain myself.  At this point I feel like I’ve done my time trying to educate others though.

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

Among artists, luckily I haven’t had any issues. Okay, ignorance yes, but prejudice, no. When I’ve gotten into discussions with other artists about not sexualizing my human subjects or about portraying androgyny, the most common reaction is that a mirror is held up to other artists who automatically and unconsciously depict their subjects, especially women, as sexualized eye candy.  Like it’s never been presented to them that they have internalized and are regurgitating a media bias, and it can be an interesting moment when you see the other person turn over these ideas in their head. I want to say though, I only describe what is present in my work — I don’t critique or judge others work. For one thing, I’ve done commission projects that reflected a gender binary I didn’t agree with. While I don’t think I’d ever agree to that again, it’s so hard to create much less make a living at art, I’m not going to assume I know where someone else is in their life or where they are coming from. Getting comfortable in your own skin can be a long process and I think people should go easy on each other.

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

That it means you have no libido or that you are neutered.  And also the usual assumptions — it’s not an orientation or it’s only a byproduct of abuse. My sexual assault was someone trying to ‘fix’ me, so that brings up a ‘whole chicken or the egg’ issue.

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

Find some nonjudgmental people. They don’t have to identify the same as you, but there are others who are intelligent, caring and open-minded.  And you don’t know where you’re going to find those people — it’s a hunt. My best friend from kindergarten, a gay man, was unable to talk to me about it.  He argued that it wasn’t real and even if it was, why did ‘they’ want to be represented in Pride when they couldn’t be oppressed? The conversation went nowhere. Two weeks later I had an amazing four hour discussion with an out dom/sadist and both of us were hugging on each other like old friends by the end of it. This was someone I’d seen activity of online and I just messaged him that I wanted to talk and he was down with it. You just don’t know.

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

Website:
http://monicalknighton.com

Etsy
https://www.etsy.com/shop/MonicaLKnighton

Patreon
https://www.patreon.com/stolenchildtarot

Tumblr:
http://monicalknightonillustration.tumblr.com

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

Interview: Darcie Little Badger

Today we’re joined by Darcie Little Badger.  Darcie is a wonderfully talented Apache writer who writes short fiction in the the horror and dark fantasy genres.  Her work has recently appeared in Strange Horizons, Vignettes from the End of the World, and Dark Eclipse.  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 write speculative fiction, stories from my daydreams and nightmares. Favorite genres include horror, dark fantasy, and fantasy. Though my published work is all short-form (< 10,000 words per story), I’ve been planning a humor/mystery/horror novel for several years; that project will begin in earnest after I complete my scientific dissertation. By day, I study phytoplankton genes.

What inspires you?

Besides those pesky daydreams and nightmares, my greatest inspirations are other authors. I read horror fiction nightly – haunting lullabies! When something really frightens me, my eyes sting and well up with tears. It’s an unconscious reaction, much like the tingly foot sensation some people experience on roller coasters. Anyway, teary-eye-resonant stories and the people who write them are definitely inspirational. My favorite horror is subtle, thoughtful, and beautiful. Diverse characters are a plus. Stuff containing stereotypes and/or edgy-to-be-edgy material won’t impress.

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

I’ve wanted to be a writer since the day I picked up a crayon and scrawled my first word, “love,” across a piece of construction paper. You can thank (or blame – your choice) my mother for that aspiration. Every night, when I was a toddler, she read nursery rhymes from thick, illustrated books, and when we ran out of rhymes, she invented new ones. Mom is also a Lipan Apache storyteller. During my childhood, she regaled school classes, scout troops, and library groups with the adventures of Trickster Coyote. While listening to my mother, I fell in love with language, especially its power to spread imagination.

My interest in dark fantasy/horror fiction emerged early, courtesy of two popular horror series. As a kid, I enjoyed R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, with the original illustrations by Stephen Gammell. If you haven’t seen Gammell’s work, be forewarned: it’s scary.

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?

Most of my speculative fiction occurs in the same alternate reality world, an Earth that’s similar to ours but stranger. While reading my stories, look for references to a mysterious woman named Maria …

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Here’s my advice to aspiring writers: read and write voraciously, and remember that editing is an important part of writing. Very few people can create a nearly perfect piece before revisions. Above all, don’t be discouraged by setbacks. Abide by the old saying: if at first you don’t succeed, try and try (and try and try and try times infinity) again. You’re embarking on a difficult journey, but if you love to write, the trials are well worth the triumphs.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Asexual

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

I have not experienced ace prejudice in my field. Hope I never do!

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

The “just a phase” misconception was common during my early twenties. I’ve also heard some people say that asexuality doesn’t really exist, and I’m not referring to “nothing exists” existential philosophers.

Well, my sexuality is not a phase, and I definitely exist inasmuch as anybody exists – whether or not we’re all figments of a really long dream is a discussion for another, stranger interview!

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

Polonius (from Hamlet) had a point when he said, “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

You aren’t unnatural. You aren’t broken. You are part of a wonderfully diverse spectrum of people. And most importantly, you are not alone.

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

For an updated bibliography and sporadic posts, please visit my blog at https://darcielittlebadger.wordpress.com/ I have a new stories on the horizon, so stay tuned!

I’m also on Twitter @ShiningComic

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

Interview: Rachel-Mai Keehl

Today we’re joined by Rachel-Mai Keehl.  Rachel is a wonderfully talented visual artist who works in both digital and traditional mediums.  The images she creates are stunningly beautiful (I love the last picture of the green lady, which I believe is entitled “Radioactive.”  I have a massive soft spot for characters with glowing eyes).  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’m an aspiring, student artist, who prefers to dabble in both the digital and traditional styles of art. Mostly it incorporates a type of horror or super-realist twist, as my way of trying to explore a less real type of ideology on life, even if then it becomes slightly dark. Why stick to a simple idea of just our world, when there are so many possibilities!

I also work with photography, taking photos and using them to create an atmospheric scene.

What inspires you?

Books, shows I watch, scenes I see. Sometimes, if I can, I just sit and listen to people talking, and you can get some pretty cool ideas from just that.

Mostly though, it’s my friends and family that inspire me to constantly try and improve, to never give up. It’s my mother, pointing out areas I can improve and giving me prompts to get going, allowing me to grow. I would not be where I am as a person and an artist today if I didn’t have my family.

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

Ever since I was a child, I’ve always had a pencil in my hand, a doodle on the paper. I guess I was born to be a creative person.

Although, when I first discovered anime, it was like everything became so much clearer, I fell in love with the style practically, I altered it, enjoyed it, it was so amazing and perfect to get me back into the spirit of art.

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?

Usually I put a small white “MaiKeehl” somewhere on the piece, in my own messy handwriting, which is my name almost everywhere on the internet, although I guess I also have a strangely semi-unique style where I have a very heavy or obvious line-art on my work, which is just what I prefer, but it certainly isn’t all that common in art- that I’ve seen anyway.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Never give up, try and do at least one thing every day, a small doodle on a post-it note, or a full-blown masterpiece. Always practice, and never doubt yourself, because everyone is talented in their own way- always be experimenting! You’ll be sure to find that little spark that makes you think “this is where I was meant to be” and always keep going, no matter what anyone says. You can do it!

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m a Biromantic Asexual . . . (maybe demi, I’m not 100% sure!)

I used to think identify as bisexual, before I knew you could have sexual and romantic orientations . . . it’s funny to look back on it now.

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

Um, my family isn’t the most understanding. They support me with the “Biromantic” part, but they don’t really believe that asexuality exists. I’ve tried telling them, but they always just say “one day you’ll find someone and all these silly thoughts will go away” and things like that. Mostly we just don’t talk about it anymore.

Also, with other students in my school, it’s pretty awful, so I haven’t fully “come out” as asexual or anything, just as biromantic, which didn’t go down well at first. My friends are all really supportive, though, and that’s all that matters to me.

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

Being compared to a plant or micro-organism is probably the most common I’ve heard. People ask if we multiply or get pregnant on our own, stupid things like that.

It’s kind of funny, to be honest, so mostly I laugh it off.

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

Don’t worry about it. You are you, and you are perfect just as you are. Never be ashamed of yourself for being who you are, because the truth is that every person in this world is unique and brilliant, and some day you’ll find that labels don’t matter. As long as you love yourself for who you are, other people will love you too!

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

You can find more of me on my various internet pages!

My Tumblr is http://maikeehl.tumblr.com/ where you can find out more about me and see more of my art;

Or, you could visit my twitter @maikeehl or stalk my DeviantArt megashinigamiwolf.deviantart.com/

Either way, please feel free to say hi!

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

Interview: N J Magas

Today we’re joined by N J Magas.  N J is a very talented writer who writes fantasy, sci-fi, and horror.  She’s also an amazing painter.  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’m a writer of fantasy, science fiction and horror. My themes often center around death or impermanence, and what culturally makes us who we are. Characters are very important to me, so I try to focus more on the players within the story, rather than the world around them. I prefer to work with characters who are or act outside of expectation—characters who have deep, dark secrets, hidden personalities, contradictory hobbies or unusual lifestyles. The goal is to never leave a reader in a position where they can guess what’s going to happen next.

What inspires you?

Living in Kyoto is obviously a huge inspiration for me. The history and physical beauty of the landmarks and geography tickle my creative brain almost every day. Little things tend to spark bigger inspiration, though: the sound of the cicada, egrets on the river, a row of trees in a cemetery. I also draw inspiration from past experiences, mostly from family, though I try to stay away from taking too much from real life. I don’t consider my childhood exciting enough to adapt it into a fantasy setting.

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

I haven’t always wanted to be a creative, but it’s always been with me. I drew a lot as a child, and told myself stories through pictures. I grew into a decent artist, but it’s never been a big enough passion in my life to try to make a career out of it. I really started writing in high school. That was when I first toyed with the idea of becoming a writer. It was something that came naturally to me, and the novels that I read throughout my youth obviously had a big impact on that. I liked the way a book could take you to a completely different reality or experience. What started as a desire to deeper explore the stories I read eventually evolved into creating and then telling my own. The actual decision to become a writer, however, happened much later, after I moved to Japan.

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?

A lot of the worlds in my separate stories intersect. Sometimes it’s out of convenience. Other times it’s more of a ‘hey, wouldn’t this be cool if these were connected?’ sort of thing. One of the nice things about writing fantasy is that one book focusing on one region can be expanded into an entire globe of places, people and cultures. Not all of that makes it to the page, obviously, but when the imagination hits on something, I tend to tack it on to the nebulous sub-reality that is my fiction.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

If art is what you want to do, then do it. There will be lots of people telling you that it’s a pointless pursuit, a dead-end career with little to no chance of commercial success. You may have to be the only one championing your dream, so do so loudly, over the din of everyone else.

You’ll have moments of thinking your art is pointless. It’s not. There will be times when you feel you’re no good and you’re not getting anywhere and everyone else is light years ahead of you in terms of talent and success. The reality is that art is a skill like anything else that must be practiced. Talent helps, but without the drive and the dedication to try and fail, try and fail, try and fail again and again, you’re not going to advance.

Finally, never stop trying to improve. If you feel like you’ve learned all there is to know, find someone who knows more than you. If you look at your work and you can’t find any more mistakes, find that person who will be able to red line all its flaws. Work with critiquers who know how to balance your vision with suggestions for improvement, and always look for people who are unafraid to point out your mistakes. Yes-men are useless and counter productive to an artist, no matter how much our egos may want them.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Bi-romantic asexual, I suppose, though I don’t think about it all that much.

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

Not specifically, no, though not many people know that I’m asexual. Not that I hide it, but I don’t feel the need to announce it, either. I tend to simplify my relationship to ‘lesbian’ though, to avoid having to give complicated explanations.

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

I suppose it’s the idea that a relationship can’t be healthy if it doesn’t include sex. If a relationship contains people who have a mutual understanding of what the relationship is going to mean, and where it is going in the future, if it is mutually gratifying to both (or more) parties, then it is a healthy relationship. For some people, sex is a part of this mutual gratification. For others, it’s not. Sex for me is just not something I think about. At all. It’s not what attracts me to my partner (which, for the record does not equate to not finding my partner attractive which is another misconception). It took some getting used to for both of us, but we’ve since settled into a comfortable understanding of each other, and continue to have a loving, fulfilling relationship without sex.

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

First of all, just be who you feel that you are. That goes for anyone, really. Don’t be a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. You’ll make yourself miserable trying to fit someone else’s definition of who you should be.

Secondly, the more you know, the more comfortable you’ll feel. Asexuality isn’t as out there as some other expressions of sexuality, but awareness is growing. Don’t be afraid to question and explore yourself, and search for others like you. It’s very unlikely that you’re the only one feeling as you do. You’re not alone.

Finally, don’t let anyone tell you that sex is necessary to be a healthy, well-adjusted individual. It’s not true. If you feel that sex isn’t a part of who you are, then it may not be. That’s fine. It doesn’t make you broken, or sick. It just makes you different from the people who find enjoyment and fulfillment in sex.

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

You can find my writing updates, information about new releases, book reviews and samples of visual art on my blog: https://njmagas.wordpress.com/

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

Interview: Tami Veldura

Today we’re joined by Tami Veldura.  Tami is an incredibly versatile artist who has yet to find a medium she doesn’t like.  She’s an incredibly talented artist and does a bit of everything.  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 dabble in a lot of different mediums. Painting, pencil, digital art, design, photography. I’ve created websites, played with scrapbooks, and tried my hand at wire wrapping.

I’m largely self-taught and my art doesn’t have any specific direction. I mimic styles I come across to varying degrees of success. I’m pushing myself in digital art this year. There’s more I can do and I’d like to expand my body of complete work.

My writing stands apart in this regard. I attended the University of Redlands and graduated with a BA in Writing and an emphasis in Fiction. I write queer fiction; romances, science fiction, fantasy, adventure, military stories- sometimes these genres cross each other. My pirate story Blood In The Water was nominated for two awards and my contemporary suspense Stealing Serenity was nominated for a third. No wins, sadly.

What inspires you?

Other beautiful art, movies, writing, television. I got sucked into Vikings from the History channel and now I have to write a Viking story. I’m in love with Agent Carter despite its flaws and have already dipped my toe in the fanfiction. Night Vale is epic in ways I can’t properly describe and the things coming out of fandom are constantly impressive.

I cultivate the dashboard of my twitter and Tumblr to constantly provide me with inspiration. Photographs, art, writing, jokes, drawings– it all puts me in the mood to create something myself.

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

I’ve been drawing since crayons and writing since grade school. It was never a question I’d pursue them both professionally. I only graduated with a writing degree instead of an art one because I can write to a deadline.

I’ve learned recently that I can probably do art on a deadline, too, given some direction. Finding my own path with art is much harder for me than writing. I’ve started taking occasional art classes at the local community college to help me refine that muscle.

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 don’t deliberately put any kind of symbols in my work (yet). My art is signed Tami [year] but other than that, I don’t have a universal message I’m trying to put out.

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What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Finish something. It doesn’t matter how small. Taking on huge projects is always worth the effort, but you need to practice finishing just as much as you need to practice starting. So finish something this week. Finish something next week. Practice finishing.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m demisexual, an orientation I wasn’t aware of until about a year ago. (Thanks, Tumblr)

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

Not directly. I’ve seen it second-hand, but I tend to surround myself with accepting, progressive, and impressive people. Individuals who waste their time taking people down with them are simply not worth the effort of engaging with.

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

That the orientation is fake or a joke for attention. That you ‘just haven’t found the right person.’ I encountered an asexual friend in college who constantly dealt with the assumption that she was sexual, she was just in denial. It was very damaging. Thankfully she found herself a supportive group of people and I met her recently for a mutual friend’s wedding. She’s in a very happy relationship with a girlfriend.

At the time I thought that meant she’d evolved in her sexuality but I’ve since come to position that relationships do not automatically = sex. Perhaps she more accurately defines as demisexual. Or she’s simply asexual as she’s always been and that’s fine. I’m glad she’s found someone to be happy with.

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

Rather than seeking to be like those around you who are different, seek to surround yourself with those who are like you. Change is good for a person, you evolve and grow as you age, but you can only change for yourself. Changing for others will never allow you to be comfortable.

So find people who share the same feelings as you do. Find people to admire that fall in your neighborhood on the gender/sexuality spectrum. Be yourself with them and deny anyone who looks down on you any access to your time.

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

Website (http://www.tamiveldura.com/): Writing, art, photography, books, my home-base. Everything stems from here

Tumblr (http://tamiveldura.tumblr.com/): Random, animals, fandom, space, weirdness. But also my writing, photography, and art.

Twitter (https://twitter.com/tamiveldura): Where I talk about my day and give writing updates to those who care

Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/tamiveldura): For book reviews and story randomness

DA (http://tamiveldura.deviantart.com/): Inactive, but browse through for old art

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

Interview: Susannah Cummins

Today we’re joined by Susannah Cummins.  Susannah is a wonderfully talented and productive writer who has written in almost all forms.  Poetry, novels, screenplays, this girl can do it all.  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’m a writer. I write a mix of (mostly) fantasy with a little bit of history and there’s been one instance of steampunk so far. I experiment in most things – I’ve written novels, shorts, prose poetry, poetry, screenplays…

What inspires you?

I listen to a lot of music when I’m writing, and that tends to help a lot with some things. But for the beginning ideas? It varies. Two have been based on comments by my aunt. One was based on a drive home from a restaurant. One is because of a gift a friend got me for my birthday. They come from anywhere, really.

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

More or less? When I was younger I was more about wanting to be a vet, but with all the reading that was going on around me, I picked up on that. Animal Ark by Lucy Daniels was the first series I properly read, and that was kinda where I started on both things. My first stories were little short things (Those six page books you can make out of an A4 sheet) about a superdog.

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?

Oh… there’s always something about freedom. Freedom of choice, of life… I’m big on the freedom thing. There also tends to be a lot of the colour blue and probably feathers as well.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t give up just ‘cause you don’t think you’re not as good as the others around you. They’re something to aspire to, not to match. Don’t be afraid to try something new, even if you don’t think it’ll work.

And find someone to talk to about your art. Talking about it with people who are interested is one of the best things ever, and it helped me so much.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Asexual aromantic for the most part (sometimes I think I’m verging on panromantic, but I can’t tell if that’s just ‘cause I don’t particularly want to live completely alone or if I genuinely want a romantic-style relationship)

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

It’s mostly just that the people I work with (who tend to be over sixty at least) are very much of the mindset that I should be settling down with someone in the near future to have a family. I’ve given up trying to explain it to them.

I like to imagine that I would correct people, but I’m more likely to jump in and defend someone else rather than anything relating to me. Mostly – because people don’t know how I identify – it never comes up. Even my granny’s stopped asking if there are any boys I’m interested in.

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

The one very confused marine biologist I went to Uni with who brought it up at dinner one night (which was maybe the first time I’d ever heard it spoken about?) who thought it was a thing only relating to asexual reproduction. Someone else corrected him before I got in.

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

Don’t sweat it. The labels aren’t necessary – I went for… three or four years before finding out about it? It’s not a big deal, even if knowing can be nice. There are more important things to worry about than where you are on the spectrum

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

Most of my things are at The-ShadowMaster.deviantart.com, and I’ve also got a recently started writing blog where I mostly ramble about all my processes and such at timeenoughforamasterpiece.tumblr.com

Thank you so much, Susannah, for taking the time to participate in this interview and this project.  It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Elyssa Tappero

Today we’re joined by Elyssa Tappero.  Elyssa was one of the first followers of the Asexual Artists WordPress site and she’s a very talented and prolific writer.  She writes a bit of everything:  poetry, flash fiction, haiku, and many other writing styles.  My thanks to her for taking time out of her schedule to participate in this interview.

Et with cat

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

By day I have a 9-5 desk job that really isn’t worth describing. By night (and sometimes during the 9-5 desk job . . .) I write. And write. And write. Flash fiction, haiku, free form poetry, spiritual offerings to Bast, the odd non-fiction or persuasive piece . . . whatever sparks my inspiration. I’m not interested in being published, which is good news for the folks who like my writing – everything I write I post on my WordPress blog, which I update every other day. I can’t say it’s all good writing, but there’s always something new!

Since this is an ace-themed interview, I’ll also note that all of my characters (okay I only have like three of them) are somewhere on the ace spectrum. I’m also working on a story about a succubus who falls in love with an asexual girl, but that’s still in the preliminary “how cool would this be” stage.

What inspires you?

I hate to say “everything” so I’ll hit the big themes; relationships, sexuality, myth and fantasy, nature, religion, and more recently mental illness. The main focus in my writing is my two characters, Tanim and Daren, through whom I explore varied relationship types and structures, the power of our past to shape and haunt us, and the sometimes blurry line between love and obsession. Which sounds dramatic, I know – I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m inspired by characters who are human, as flawed and diverse and complicated as that means.

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

Honestly, I’ve always been a writer. When I was about six I wrote my first “book” – it was about how to train your cat, and when my girlfriend read it out-loud some twenty years later I laughed so hard I cried uncontrollably. I literally ended the book with a picture of myself and the line “Thank you for reading. I’m done now. Bye.” Suffice it to say my writing has improved a bit over the years, but I owe it all to that poorly colored book . . .

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?

My characters die. Often. And repeatedly. That’s not really a signature or feature or anything, but it’s probably worth warning new readers. No one’s safe. Sorry in advance.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t get rid of anything you create. I know a lot of people feel ashamed of their old work, especially when it’s old fanart or otherwise linked to the stuff you may have been obsessed with as a kid. But I promise you, you’ll want to look back on that work to see how far you’ve come – and to see how long you’ve been devoted to your craft. Never be ashamed of your old work; we all had to start somewhere, and it’s the fact that you started at all, and continued from there, that counts. So go back, look at old drawings or read old writing, and don’t wince. Let yourself smile and remember how proud you were when you created that piece.

(And laugh until you cry, if you need. That’s okay too.)

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as a queer asexual. To me, the word “queer” serves as an umbrella term for those aspects of gender and sexual/romantic orientation that don’t have a specific term already, or simply can’t be labeled. So when I call myself a queer asexual, I call myself that because while my sexual orientation is definitely asexual, my other orientations and relationships aren’t so easy to define. Queer seems the best way to show other people that the aspects of me that may seem defined or clear-cut are much more complicated below the surface.

And, to be honest, there are so many people who are adamantly opposed to allowing asexuals into queer spaces that it makes me want to cling to this label that feels “right” to me even more. I hate identity policing, and I try to speak out against it whenever I can. I don’t think people realize just how hurtful and damaging their words can be when they try to silence or shove out queer asexuals.

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

When it comes to writing, I usually get questions about how I can write realistic relationships when I’m asexual and only have very limited experience with romantic relationships and sex. Depending on the person (and how crazy I do or do not want to sound) I’ll either say that a good writer should be able to write about any experience (true), or I’ll say that I let the characters tell me what to say (truer). It doesn’t matter if I haven’t experienced something myself; if my character has, they can let me experience that memory through them.

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

Honestly? That we don’t face discrimination or oppression. I get that from straight and queer people alike, and it’s very disheartening. Aces face much of the same oppression as others in gender, sexual, and romantic orientation minorities, yet it can be a battle to convince people that our experiences are valid.

I also hear a lot about how romantic relationships between allosexuals and asexuals can’t work. Well, my girlfriend and I just celebrated 20 months together and we’re doing wonderfully. So if anyone out there has questions about mixed orientation relationships, or wants advice for their own, or just wants someone to talk to, I’m here. I know how hard they can be, and how beautiful and rewarding, and I want to help anyone who’s in the same boat as me.

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

Two things. First, you don’t need to pick a label right away – and when/if you do pick one, you don’t have to identify with it forever. Take your time, test different ones out, and see if any fit. If one does, great! If not, also great! It’s okay to not have a label. It’s okay to switch labels. It’s okay to be uncertain or questioning. Just because others might try to fit you into certain boxes doesn’t mean YOU have to put yourself in those boxes. You are the only person who gets to decide how you identify. No one else can determine what you can or can’t identify as.

Second, asexuality isn’t an exile sentence. If you’re someone who is asexual and still interested in a romantic relationship, please don’t feel like you’ll never find someone who will love you for who you are. Despite our sexually-focused society, there are a lot of people out there who will be willing to forgo sex for you, if that’s what you want. And just because you’re asexual doesn’t mean you can’t have sex if you’re comfortable doing so with your partner. Nothing you do will make your asexuality less valid.

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

All of my writing is posted to my WordPress, which can be found at http://onlyfragments.com/

You can also follow me on Tumblr at http://only-fragments.tumblr.com/, where I usually reblog pictures that remind me of my characters, asexuality-related posts, and other such things. I love new friends!

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

Interview: Charlotte Bird-Weber

*Warning:  a few images might be NSFW

Today we’re joined by Charlotte Bird-Weber.  Charlotte is an amazingly talented and passionate artist.  She specializes mostly in digital illustration and her enthusiasm is awesome.  My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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lamb

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

Well, it’s pretty gross a lot of the time.. I’m interested in drawing stuff in a way that doesn’t look smooth and pretty. Someone told me my style was very honest and I really liked that!

Mostly I draw things that I like though, fan art and dogs and stuff, with bright colours and weird aesthetics, sometimes religious iconography and body horror are fun things to explore through art too!

kart

What inspires you?

Music and photographs inspire a lot of my drawings, but mostly seeing the work of other artists inspires me! Nothing makes me want to draw and improve more than seeing great art. It’s part competitiveness, part admiration.

andres

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

I’ve always sort of been an artist? I’ve been drawing since I could grip a crayon, but I got angry when people told me I should be an artist because I didn’t like them telling me what to do, I wanted to be a mechanic and an archeologist and a geologist and a psychologist and a chef… eventually I realised as hard as I fought it I’d be happiest making art!

doe

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?

My name at the moment. I’m thinking of designing something cool to stamp my art with though, thanks for reminding me B^)

angel

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Draw all the time everywhere on everything . . . carry a little notebook to scribble and write notes in . . . draw for yourself. If you want to draw a million sparkly, neon fursonas, do it… drawing what you like and drawing it all the time is the way to live!

celecactus

krilla

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m fully fledged ace for everyone except Alan Rickman.  If anyone can get in contact with him, send me a message B^)

In all seriousness though, I could probably tolerate sex with mild boredom for someone I knew well and trusted, but it’s not something I’d want otherwise, the thought kinda makes me nauseous to be honest  B^(

sunbeamboogaloo

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

In the field of art less so, mainly because I haven’t had much experience with the professional industry. In the field of life however… like, yikes man. People aren’t educated or even really introduced to it naturally, I only found out because of Tumblr, I would have spent my life feeling broken and confused otherwise. It’s so difficult to explain, and even within the LGBT+ community, people sometimes don’t consider our identities valid. Dating allosexual people can be a nightmare if they aren’t aware or accepting of asexuality, society teaches us that sex and romance must go hand in hand, that it’s the biggest and most important intimacy, and sex between people who are dating is always a given. It’s exhausting and makes it hard to accept your own identity sometimes.

sona

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

The most common one I’ve seen is that ace people are always also aromantic. Ace people can want romance, and aro people can want sex, they can be but aren’t always paired. Take me for example, I don’t find anyone (besides Alan . . .) sexually attractive, but I fall in love literally every minute with everyone B^)

There’s a bunch almost tied for first place though; the that ace people don’t have sex drives, that ace people don’t sometimes have sex for reasons besides sexual attraction, that asexuality = virginity… like there’s so little education about us that misconceptions are everywhere, even in people who consider themselves aware.

somethingangstyforsummer

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

We’re mystical beings friend… your aceness gives you power…

And you’re not alone at all, there’s like, literal millions of us, and a lot of us are struggling to figure ourselves out too. It helps to talk to other ace peeps B”^)

lurbuk

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

You can head to my blog at sunguts.tumblr.com! I sometimes do requests and trades and commissions, and I’m always open to talk! I guess you could email me or Skype me too if you were really desperate to listen to me prattle on some more?

email: queen_doberman@hotmail.com
Skype: crispixkid

snep

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

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.

HannaPiritaLehkonen

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.

iamanartwork

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.

kummitus04

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.

kaurhannnttol

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

kummitus13

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

Interview: Nikki Wicks

Today we’re joined by Nikki Wicks, a.k.a. Candlewix.  Nikki is a remarkably talented illustrator who has also dabbled in writing.  Her illustrations are quite beautiful as you’ll see.  My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

MermaidGirl

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

By trade, I’m probably best known as an Illustrator. I’m actually in my 3rd year studying at Columbia College Chicago as an illustrator. I hope, in the future, to deal with concept art and character designs for an animation house like Dreamworks or Pixar.

What inspires you?

I kind of let everything around me inspire me- so it’s hard to pinpoint specifics. I’m heavily inspired by other illustrators around me in my program at Columbia, including but not limited to my roommate. I’m also heavily inspired by mythology and fairy tales; the works of different animation studios like Disney and Laika; and music. I suppose what really inspires me depends on what I’m working on at the time.

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

This is probably a pretty standard/boring answer, but I really have always wanted to be an artist. When I was a kid, I used to spend a lot of time drawing people or drawing characters from my favorite cartoons like Sailor Moon and The Powerpuff Girls. Whether or not I wanted to be an artist was never much of a question for me- it was just always the perfect fit.

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’ve yet to start hiding any kinds of Easter Eggs in any of my artwork. However, my artistry name could be considered a pun based on my last name, Wicks. A wick in plain English is the part of the candle you light- the part that burns- and thus came about my studio name, Candlewix.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

I’m going to give some advice that young artists are probably pretty sick of hearing: never give up, and aggressively practice without apology. Art is made up of TONS of work- and you can definitely get where you need to go if you just keep on trying!

My other advice would be to surround yourself with other artists so you can learn and grow. Maybe they’ll finally help you solve some artistic question with the way they do a certain thing in their style. However, beware- never compare yourself to others. Every artist has something unique to offer and works differently- don’t mark your success by how ‘like them’ you can be. Mark your success on how like you you can be, and bringing yourself and how you work to the point of success you feel happy with.

Twitter

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify primarily as a demisexual and panromantic, so the more ‘gray-a’ area of asexuality.

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

Within my field as an illustrator, I don’t think I’ve encountered much prejudice, but some ignorance– though never anything harmful. Most people don’t know much about what being ace is and will ask me questions in the most respectful way they can- and I am more than happy to answer their questions so that they feel they can better understand it.

As a student however, I have experienced what I could call a sort of moment of prejudice- I had encountered someone who had feelings for me and was convinced my ‘lack of attraction’ was somehow intentional. This person was convinced that, and would tell me, that one day my ‘sexual appetite would catch up with me’ and that I would go about sleeping around with anything that moved at that point- and that ‘they would be waiting when that happened’ or ‘would be glad to show me now’. I handled this by explaining simply that it really wasn’t how it worked, and if they really thought this way and didn’t want to recognize me as I was- then they had no business being in my life. I simply affirmed my identity, and let them know I wasn’t going to compromise it.

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

I think the most common misconception I encounter is the idea that because I fall on the asexual spectrum, that I don’t experience any kind of physical attraction to people or aesthetic attraction. Though sometimes it is the case for some asexuals in the community, it is hard to explain to people sometimes that my asexuality doesn’t mean I A.) don’t want to engage in some physical acts with partners such as holding hands/kissing/cuddling or B.) am unable to find people attractive on an aesthetic level.

The best way I found to have worded it in the past is “Aseuxal for me doesn’t mean I don’t like suckin’ face, it means I don’t like suckin’ dick” and “I’m asexual, not blind.”

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

You have all the time in the world to figure out who you are. You are allowed to explore this part of yourself in any way you feel is appropriate and is within legal parameters- and you 100% reserve the right to change your mind. You could be pansexual yesterday and asexual today and move on to being heterosexual tomorrow and gray-a before lunchtime and it is still a completely valid experience. Don’t let anyone define it for you, and don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t allowed to feel around the territory. And when you find that place? Don’t let anyone take it from you. Other people have struggled the way you are, and we are here for you. You are part of a community- and you matter.

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

My work is available on just about any platform- Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter — I’m basically looking to take over the web. My two biggest haunts are however candlewix.tumblr.com and facebook.com/candlewixillustration.  Feel free to totally say ‘Sup?’ at either place or anywhere you might find me- I would LOVE to hear from you and talk.

WhiteRabbitChalk

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