Interview: NW

Today we’re joined by NW. NW is a phenomenal visual artist who specializes in fanart. She does mostly digital art, though she does occasionally dabbles in traditional media. NW does a lot of costume and character design. She enjoys doing mostly fanart, but will occasionally do original art. It’s clear she’s a passionate and dedicated artist who loves what she does, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about
your art.

So, a lot of my work right now is done digitally — that is
to say I don’t have an aversion to traditional media, it’s just more accessible
to me at the moment — and usually it’s of people. Ranging from character or
costume design, fan art, and a lot of my original artwork I don’t get to post.
I love drawing portraits and faces, so right now, I guess the majority (that I
post, anyway) is of that. I’m mostly self-taught; I’ve learned through
practicing, studying classical paintings, and even watching Bob Ross as a
little girl. I’ve had the traditional drawing courses (you know, still lives of
apples or shapes) in addition to a lot of experimentation software like Paint
Tool SAI, Adobe Photoshop, and Procreate.

I don’t particularly stick to one “style”; I don’t really
like doing line art, I find it too time-consuming and I have issues with
tremor, no thanks to my medication I take. So my style is very “paintery”, if you
like. What I’ve learned in painting courses (and, again, Bob Ross) and I paint
over my mistakes. When I do traditional media, I usually go back to the pencil
or watercolors. I’m a visual person and I love coloring and colors. My favorite
thing about creating art is eventually coloring it.

What inspires you?

A lot of things inspire me.

Art has been a therapeutic thing for me and I’ve gone back
and added my own feelings in them. I’m very guilty of day-dreaming and since I
was a kid, those day dreams inspire art. I think of stories and they become my
pieces. Things I see in real life, whether it be color combinations, fashion,
or images I pass, I try to hold onto that visual memory and bring it back.  Nowadays, I carry my iPad and stop to at
least get it out before it goes. Movies definitely do—I hadn’t realized how
much movies affected my stories and images until I got older.

Other artists most definitely do, which is why I’m Tumblr a
lot. Most of the blogs I follow are other artists. There are also a few blogs
that post traditional and classical artwork that I love. And, really, the music
I listen to also is a huge influence on me and I always listen to certain bands
and artists to try and captivate a mood in my pieces. My usernames
“ofborrowedlight” and “rainbowillness” actually come from one band that I
listen to a lot when I do artwork, Wolves in the Throne Room. They’re titles to
two songs, “Rainbow Illness” and “Queen of the Borrowed Light”. For my personal
“project”, I listen to them quite a bit.

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

Well, I’ve been holding a pencil since I had an
Etch-a-Sketch and I cannot recall the rest. And I keep bringing up Bob Ross for
a reason—I watched him religiously as a little girl. I’d say that he was
actually the first influence that wanted me to get into the field. By the age
of five, my mind was made up: I wanted to be an artist. I struggled with
dyslexia and bullying and art was my constant companion for me. Having that man
on television taught me so much about color and composition at an early age and
his attitude of “there are no accidents, only happy mistakes” is such a
positive thing to have and he’s really still pushing me, to this day, with that
attitude. If you ask me now, yeah, I still want to draw and create for a
living. It hasn’t been easy working full-time and trying to earn money, though,
but I have not given up. I still try to draw every day; unfortunately, I get
really shy posting stuff online or I’m spending more time on it than I wanted
to.

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 in particularly? At least I don’t think so; maybe my
coloring?

Maybe the closest to it if anyone notices that I incorporate
a wave or a flow around my figures, sometimes. That comes from how Gustav
Kilmt, Alphonse Mucha, and some traditional Japanese paintings that seem to
have a special way to draw smoke and water. I can’t really write it, but anyone
can find it in my sketches. But flat out, there’s no real unique symbolism,
usually. If there is, it’s with my original stuff with little hints, but no one
is going to know context, it’s just me, because I haven’t really presented the
world with that story yet. It’s an inside joke with me, I guess.

What advice would you
give young aspiring artists?

Keep drawing, draw as much as you can, and don’t be afraid
to expand your style. I was like a lot of artists out here on Tumblr; I’d print
Sailor Moon illustrations and copied them. It’s good to do that to get up on
your feet, but don’t allow that to be a dependency. Don’t be afraid to get
books for the sake of illustrations—I still do. And don’t feel bad about your
level of technique doesn’t match your friends or other artists out there. Art
is all about your interpretation. While I can go on hours how stupid still
lives and contour drawing is, they are essential to getting better. Take
classic courses; if they’re not accessible to you, check out Udemy or Coursea.

With digital art, it’s a lot of practice. You just need to
play around with features in software and you’ll find some really cool effects
to enhance your coloring. Transitioning from a sketchbook to a drawing tablet
is weird and don’t feel bad about not getting it; it took me years to get it
and I’m still trying to play around with it. You’ll find a favorite program
that you love! And even then, I would encourage you to have more than one
digital art program. I hop around Paint Tool SAI, Photoshop, and Procreate all
the time.

And really, I can’t stress it enough: don’t give up. You’re
in an age where more of these things are accessible to you and it wasn’t when I
was a kid. Keep drawing, draw more, and draw whatever you want.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum
do you identify?

Heteromantic asexual but more often gray-sexual. I think men
are handsome, that’s about it. I’m not bothered by it and I really don’t care
about relationships. Finding a man attractive is the furthest I’ll go; I don’t
want much interaction after that.

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

The closest I’ve experienced any sort of misconception have
been at concerts, anime, or comic conventions (surprise, I draw there too) and
having to really push back men that have approached me for a date or my number.
If they really can’t take the hint or accept “no” for an answer, I’ll get up
and leave. A few times I’ve had men at just concerts or gatherings telling me
they can “fix” me or change my mind. Then I’ll just tell them to fuck right the
hell off, literally.

However, the most prejudice and ignorance I experience is
outside of art and I experience it more with my family. It’s an odd mix of
Irish and Mexican Catholicism where most of the women in my family married
young (we’re talking 17-19) and they think there’s something wrong with me
because I have no kids and I’m not married. No matter how many times I tell
them “I don’t care, I don’t find anyone attractive” or “sex doesn’t interest
me”, it doesn’t seem to sink in. Even when I told them there’s a community of
other asexuals, one said “well, they must all be very depressed”. I make jokes
about things like “this is why I don’t date” and use it to reiterate I don’t
care about relationships.

So I’d say the run of the mill crap—“you haven’t found the
right man”, “you’ll change your mind someday”, or “you must be very lonely”. I
just shrug it off because I’ve had this conversation so many times with my
family.

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

I’m not sure if this is common, but my father believed it
was the same as bisexuality—I’m just glad he recognizes that even if I’m not!

One thing I’ve seen is people assume its celibacy and then I
have to explain there is a huge difference between the two. It does get tiring
having to explain it’s a lack of physical attraction and a desire for it and
no, I am not going to change, I’m not worried about not being married, and I’m
well over 20 years old and it’s not likely I’m having second thoughts. I am,
myself, sex-repulsed, but other asexual people are not and that’s usually one
assumption that people go with. Having other people chime in and say they
aren’t hleps.

Unfortunately, I will say that because I struggle with PTSD from
abuse, therapists assume that the asexuality may be a cause of it. I’m sure
it’s a contribution, but more along the lines I just find general touch
revolting, though I’m confident that it’s not the ultimate reason why I’m
asexual. I feel like psychology needs to learn more about it because I am tired
of that assumption is because its due to trauma. I don’t think it’s asking too
much that therapists and psychiatrists learn about asexuality. We’re not all
like this, not every asexual person is like that due to trauma. And this
thinking let me believe that I was really, really destroyed for years when I
was not.

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

If you also had a past of trauma like me, I’d say check out
Aven and other communities geared towards asexuality so that you will know
you’re not broken. I feel like this isn’t really talked about that much and
it’s a shame. This isn’t part of PTSD or other forms of mental illness; you are
not mentally ill if you’re asexual. When I first heard asexual at 18, I didn’t
know about these things and I’m so happy other people have this access. Even
now, at Pridefest here in Denver, there are asexuals and I haven’t seen them
not even five years ago. My present employer, Ikea, even had “asexuality”
listed on their diversity and inclusion talks—that’s really awesome.

There’s a lot of research and groups, there’s a whole world
out there. But if you get the same spiel as I do, I think at this point, all we
can do is just poke fun at it. Nothing makes me feel better than mocking these
conceptions with other aces, it’s a nice reassurance. And if you’re in the same
boat with me and family, yeah, post a link on Facebook or just print it off and
be like “read this”. I don’t feel like we have the same level of resistance to
people that are gay, lesbian, bi, and trans, so we need to also understand
that. Watching a family member bullied out of the closet was horrific; I still
couldn’t draw comparisons to their situation. Ours seems like a lot of people
just can’t comprehend a life without physical attraction, I think. I just hope
people remember that, especially.

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

Most of my stuff is posted on Rainbowillness.com, which is hooked up to
Tumblr. If you’re in the American McGee’s Alice fandom, you know me, I’m sure
you’ve seen my stuff. I’m also on Instagram under “ofborrowedlight”;
sometimes I will post WIPs (works in progress) on my personal Tumblr, “ofborrowedlight”, but I urge
everyone just go on my site and follow me there.

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