There is a perception about artists (mostly in America) that contradicts reality: Artists are dispensable, and adaptable sources of creative energy, kinda like factory-made machinery.
This ideal of artists is not only harmful to the industry in which many artists struggle within but it’s also just plain ignorant.
When I first offered to work on a extra-curricular project for my school I wasn’t aware of all the details. I knew I might have to conform to their standards and as a recently-commissioned artist I was prepared for all of that but when I finally got more details…I didn’t realize what I was getting into. They gave me their specifications and I complied as best I could: A dream catcher in the school colors, with 5 items within the dream catcher that could change color in accordance with a specific department in the program.
First off: dream catchers are generic and have been over done. Second: the school is notorious for misappropriating Native American culture (the mascot is a warrior…a native american warrior….) and the symbolisms and religions associated with the culture which is pretty bad.
I was honest with my concerns when I came up with my initial sketch and spoke with leadership.
The way the leadership handled the situation…wow… I’m sure I’ll never work with them ever again after this.
I hoped to fix my first concern of unoriginality by parting from conventional styles of dream catchers but when I came to the leadership about it they were, for lack of a better term, rude. They responded by questioning my credibility as an artist and questioning my intentions as a human being as if my design would corrupt the very nature of society.
They challenged my design with a hateful, “I just want you to prove it. I won’t believe you until I see proof.” Of course I never claimed to be of Native American heritage but they obviously didn’t have any Native American heritage either. The fundamental idea of taking this tradition and using it for a purpose that was disrespectful and completely irrelevant to it’s original intent felt so wrong to me.
Is that what selling out is? Throwing out your personal morals for personal gain? If it is I want no part in it. I refuse to abuse an entire heritage so that my school’s shirts can be aesthetically pleasing.
For a long time to me the only answer to these questions was the Borderlands series. There’s more than a handful of characters in the collective series that are openly queer, POC, and not to mention a really awesome discussion of the ‘friendzone’ between Mr. Torgue, the big burly man character, and Springs, your guide/friend who happens to be openly queer.
I’ve been waiting for a game with ideas as open-minded as Borderlands to spread to other games which I haven’t really seen all that much but this past week I visited the SXSW gaming convention and noticed a lot of these up coming games were truly new and different. Not just in the innovative gameplay aspect but also in the diversity-in-storytelling department. I played a handful of games that featured characters that were openly queer and two of those games allowed the option to chose my pronouns!
After I played Read Only Memories (please look into the game it’s got really amazing character design among other things) I went to a second booth where I played a table-top game with my friend who is bigender. Someone came to us teaching us how to play the game and immediately misgendered us and gendered the cards we were playing with… Weird. It was such a surprising and abrupt reminder that the society around us, video games, were still slow to catch up to the progressive tide of 3rd wave feminism.
I’d say that the gaming community specifically is more progressive then society in general but honestly: that’s not saying all that much. There are still many people in the town I live in that still use the F-slur and we’re still being told to be shame people who identify as women and to shame those who openly love themselves and who they are.
But…I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t say that it’s getting better. A couple of years ago Read Only Memories probably wouldn’t be picked up by any developer let alone be able to attend as event such as SXSW. A couple of years ago I probably would never be able to come out to anyone let alone myself.
I’m lucky to live in a progressive nation and in such a progressive era but all this change is not nearly enough. Honestly, I don’t think it’ll ever be enough.
Thank you for being so wonderful everyday and supporting me and the work I’ve been doing!
As you all have undoubtedly noticed I draw characters in this blog that complete the actions I illustrate them doing like knitting or holding gigantic comedically large stacks of books, but I’ve been thinking..
Isn’t it strange that those “default” characters aren’t various depictions of me?
I could just as easily add some little wave of hair on the side or glasses and boom–done! but maybe this representation of myself that I’ve built-in all of my creative works: from space unicorn, Solis, and various other comics, transcends my actual real-life characteristics. When I started this blog and illustrating my posts I thought it would be more accessible for you, the reader, to have a race-less, gender-less, person with no characteristics of importance. I figure it would also allow you to feel able to connect with the retelling of experiences instead of being tied down or restricted by characteristics that you might not identify with.
But I’ve been done some thinking in this troubled creative blocked mind of mine: It’s been over a year and I’ve found my sort of groove in this space and with my audience so why haven’t I come out of my gender-less, race-less, characteristic-less shell of a visual persona?
I’ve come to the conclusion that it might be because of my being gender fluid… some days I do feel feminine and on other days I feel like not a gender while on other days I feel like all the genders which in turn causes me to create a form that even I can inhabit and connect with at all times even when I feel masculine/feminine/agender/pangender/etc.
My true self is one that is nothing, nothing really of substance.
To be clear that isn’t something I regret or want to change about myself because I love who I am and who I’ve grown to become but sometimes I get lost in my own convoluted thoughts
This is kinda a different kind of “Mark My Words,” in which I took a screenshot of a music video: Kill the DJ by FEMM and traced it and focused on my shading and line work! This was a really interesting process that took may more time and detail than I expected but it was an experience I’m glad I took the time to explore.
Go check out FEMM, their a really awesome and empowering band that has really influenced me creatively.
Once again, the original screen shot does not belong to me nor does the music video or the people depicted in my illustration or the song!