Artist of the Month: Zombijana Bones

zombijana-bones

 

 

There is no way around it – Zombijana Bones is a household name. Especially if you’re from Serbia, Croatia or Bosnia and Herzegovina. Her art isn’t just excellent in terms of talent – it is also bold.

The first time I ever encountered her was over a year ago, when I saw her series – “Neke đevojke” or, translated from Serbian, “Some Girls”. It was a “I don’t give a fuck” kind of series, where Zombijana reminded all of us that it’s okay – it’s okay if you love dressing up, and if you don’t care for make up, it’s alright to be a girl who drinks beer or a girl who doesn’t drink at all, and most importantly – it’s okay to be a girl, whichever way you want to be.

What followed was a string of other brilliant pieces of art, including series like “Some Guys“, “12 Signs that Your Cat Listens to Metal“, “Opinion” and so many more – including sketches of Twenty One Pilots songs and just rants about the everyday, to which all of us can relate.

In her art, Zombijana combines the everyday and the cool, the ranty and the deep, and that’s what makes it so relatable. No matter if she draws comics in Serbian, since she is from the capital of Serbia – Belgrade, or in English – she and her art kick ass, plain and simple.

And luckily, I got her to talk to me for this November’s “Artist of the Month” feature. So check it out!

 

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Loud and Alive: Tell us a little about yourself. Who is Zombijana? What makes her tick?

Zombijana: Zombijana is straight edge vegan piece of shit (if I can swear).

If I must avoid swearing – Zombijana is straight edge vegan piece of pie, that likes cats, knives, foxes and pastel colors. She hates so many things, but mostly people.

I’m really motivated when I see how far I’ve come… and when I see cats and think about how precious they are and how we don’t deserve them.

 

Loud and Alive:  How does your personal life influence your art? When you are bothered by something, is your first impulse to draw – rather than talk – about it?

Zombijana: Oh it really does. Yes – I’d rather draw before speaking about something that is bothering me and make a sarcastic comment on that, but also I love to draw my favorite conversations with my favorite people. And I love to draw music.

 

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Loud and Alive: How/when did you start drawing?

Zombijana: I was drawing as a kid a lot, but never realized that I can make good money out of it (what a stupid kid). But then I grew up and everything changed. Now I do this job because I need to. These fast cars and big houses I have are not gonna maintain themselves.

 

Some girls like beer; Some girls like peach juice - And that's okay Some girls like guys; Some girls like girls - And that's all okay

Translation: First row –Some girls like beer; Some girls like peach juice – And that’s ok
Second row – Some girls like guys; Some girls like girls – And that’s all ok

The only thing that is not ok is to be a piece of shit

note: redacted for length

 

 

Loud and Alive: Your series “Neke đevojke“/”Some girls” was very well accepted; I see it popping up everywhere and I’m really happy you decided to do it. What motivated you to draw it?

Zombijana: Breathing. When you exist as a girl, you will always have people to tell you what’s right for a girl, and what’s not. You just need to ignore that and be your beautiful self. The same goes for the guys, that’s why I have similar post for them.

 

Loud and Alive: Who are your influences, when it comes to art?

Zombijana: My favorite bands.

 

 

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Loud and Alive: You draw comics both in Serbian and English. How do you decide which language you’ll use for a comic?

Zombijana: That’s a great question! Some of the jokes are very local, and if I drew them in English, people that are not locals wouldn’t understand them and they would be less funny. Also, there is no word in English for ‘poyyy’.

 

 

 

 

Loud and Alive: You often go from commentary on annoying behavior to positive life advice, which makes for a unique style. For example, I loved your “Mišljenje“/”Opinion” where you made people reconsider giving their unsolicited opinion, and then you posted “How to go to shows alone“. How do people respond to that?

Zombijana: On opinions post we had two sides: side that got the message and other side that thinks this post is very very dark, because I told them the real truth. People need somebody to constantly remind them how special they are to be alive, and that post is the complete opposite.

How to go to shows alone is my favorite fanzine I’ve ever read and I decided to illustrate it. Unfortunately I’ve never found out who wrote it, but that is some really important literature for a young asocial lady / gentleman living alone.

 

Loud and Alive: What are the most challenging things when creating art, in your opinion?

Zombijana: The most challenging thing is to draw every day. It’s easy to stop, and if you stop, it’s hard to get back on track. Especially if you are lazy.

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Loud and Alive: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

Zombijana: Show your work. Use social media while it’s still free, and show your work. Get to know your audience and be friends with them. But the main thing – show your work and work every day.

 

Loud and Alive: Thank you so much, Zombijana! Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Zombijana: Booze is for losers!

 


You can check out more of Zombijana’s art on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. She also has a shop so if you want a drawing of hers on a t-shirt or a mug, contact her at zombijana@gmail.com.

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Thanks to Fandoms, We Are Creative People

Fandoms are said to be breeding grounds of many things, from obscure kinks to self-insert fanfiction. The media regards them as something to be ashamed of and people who participate in them (unless it’s going to Comic Cons, which have now attained the reputation of respectable) often encounter harmful stereotypes.

But here’s the catch: fandoms are turning us into more creative people, too.

No matter whether we speak of fanfiction writers (who do it for no money at all – just for the sheer pleasure of writing about their favorite characters), artists (who take commissions and participate with their incredible works) or just fans (who relate to characters in different ways and come up with headcanons), creativity is a big part of being in a fandom.

What is fandom? According to Wikipedia, “fandom is a term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of empathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest.”

This definition is pretty accurate, but it forgets one important thing – the impulse to create. Somewhere along the way, a lot of creative people lose their motivation and this is where fandoms jump in. They provide a relaxed way to create without the necessity to come up with original characters and/or plots – whether for art or writing.

In short: creating for fandoms is creating freely.  

 

Let’s Talk Fic

 

Just look at Archive of Our Own, a non-profit organization that collects fanworks which they perceive to be transformative and valuable. The site is mostly dominated by fanfiction where stereotypes are turned up on their heads. If we view characters from our favorite TV shows/animes/movies/books as rough drafts, that is where every individual’s imagination comes into play. People recreate characters they have loved and turn them more relatable. Characters that have previously been straight now become bisexual or homosexual. Characters that have previously resided in a post-apocalyptic universe now reside in modern settings (most popular are so-called “coffee shop AUs”, in which AU stands for alternate universe). Characters to which we could have previously related only in some aspects, we now can relate to fully.

That is why fandom creations are perceived to be transformative.

Unless you perceive them to be weird, but in that case – good luck. Because art, above all else, should be free and it should keep developing. We know that some authors, such as Anne Rice, have openly expressed their disapproval of fan works (in particular: fan fiction), while others have embraced it (J. K. Rowling), which has caused the need for disclaimers to arise (the most popular one being “I do not own any of the characters, nor do I intend to profit from writing about them”) but it has not stopped people from recreating characters and plots.

I can see you asking – why is it so important for people to be able to relate to already existing characters even more?

Representation.

I have already written about why it is important for girls to be able to relate to female characters, Mel has emphasized the need to see everyday girls kick ass on our TV screens, and so when we cannot find that representation in mainstream media – we turn to subversive ways of getting it ourselves.

Creating for fandom is creating freely, no rules that you must respect, no one to tell you that no, they will not be publishing your novel because something is missing – all you need is internet connection. You are not burdened by the rules of writing and overthinking plots and characters. You create because you want to, and you publish because you are not afraid of bad reviews. Sure, there might be one in a million, but what connects you to your readers is the shared love of characters and stories you are thinking through again.

There is depth to be found in fanfiction, as well. When so many people rethink characters, their motivations, plots and the possible consequences – a creative, unlimited space must be created. Characters become more fleshed-out, plots become more significant, the world of what used to be a book with a single plot and a handful of characters becomes a whole new universe.

If you believe that art is a monologue, a writer shouting their words at the world, then yes – you probably do not like the idea of fanfiction.

But if you believe that art is a dialogue that profits from constant reexamination, replying to it (either in form of reviews, fanfiction, art or anything else), and expanding the universe you, as a writer, have come up with – then you probably support fanfiction, too.

And even if we stray off the often talked about path of representation of minority groups and the endless cycle of creativity, we are left with the fact that a writer can only write so much. Writers don’t have time for headcanons that don’t make it into the book. What you read is what you get. But, as a fan – you have the ability to explore more. You get to constantly relive the book(s) you’ve read and enrich your reading experience. If we talk about the most popular example – Harry Potter is no longer just a wizard in faraway Scotland. Now he’s a coffee shop owner and a law enforcement officer and a child whose parents were killed off by the mafia.

Also, he hooks up with Draco Malfoy a whole lot.

The term “book hangover” is there for a reason. Sometimes, stories affect us so deeply that we aren’t ready to let go of them and leave them just on the pages of a book. Sometimes, they make us want to create more, relate more, live through them more. It’s a universal human longing – to read to know that we are not alone.

Yes, none of us are wizards in a magical castle. Yes, none of us are a pair of brothers hunting supernatural entities across America. We aren’t a bunch of kids trying to survive in a dystopian YA universe.

But these characters exist and live on very human motivations. They want to belong, they want to fight for what they believe in, they get their hearts broken and they – ultimately – live. Even if their blood is just ink.

And we can relate to that.

Finally, writing fanfiction is a test of quality. Do a character’s motivations still stand in an alternate universe? Do their characteristics make sense? Is the story we have read and wanted to expand on a plot-driven story, in which characters are subdued to the story’s purpose, or is it character-driven, where characters are the ones running the show?

Can we make it bigger, can we make it better, can we turn it into every possible universe and still be able to fall in love with these characters anew? Did the writer do well, or can we only be entertained for those few days that it takes us to finish the book?

As someone who hopes to publish a novel someday, I’m terrified of what the potential fanfiction might to do my works. But I’m not terrified because they will ship characters I have not thought of as shippable – I’m terrified because it will be a test of quality, a test of reality, relatability. Will I be a good writer or will I flop?

But as much as I’m afraid, I’m excited, too. It will be one hell of a ride.

 

So You Think You Can Art

 

There is something very beautiful about seeing a character reimagined, drawn and left to punch the breath out of your lungs. And when you realize that people are doing it out of sheer love for the characters and the story – it’s even better.

The thing is – art is easier to consume, but that does not mean that it’s not just as transformative as fanfiction. We must not forget the trend during which artists reimagined Harry Potter characters as people of color – an example that left a very obvious impression, and even inspired Hermione Granger casting for The Cursed Child, in which the beloved character was played by a Swaziland-born actress Noma Dumezweni.

The decision was met with both positive and negative reactions, which J.K. Rowling settled by posting a tweet in which she said that color of Hermione’s skin was never specified:

 

Boom! Representation!

And it doesn’t stop there. Fanartists drew Harry and James Potter as characters of Indian origin, too. When a white actor was cast as Newt Scamander in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, there was a wide outrage – everyone had been previously “fancasting” him as Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and/or Suraj Sharma.

Simply, to exist in a fandom means to have your horizons constantly broadened by new and unique takes on characters and stories you have previously loved. There are no limits and there are no rules. You are free to do as you please, as long as you don’t plagiarize.

After all, many of the artists we have interviewed for our Inktober Spotlight have started out and still are fanartists. Why?

Well, to put it simply – they love doing it and it makes them connect to characters in new and unique ways, or, in Rita’s words: “Fanart is fantastic; bringing characters “to life” is such an amazing thing to do and it really makes you feel more “connected” to the book/movie etc. Your fanart is about it in a way that it’s hard to explain. You just feel like these book/bands/TV shows are a part of you and now you get to express that love for them by doing something you love, like drawing.”

At the end of the day, it’s all about the love. Why else would so many brilliant artists spend their time drawing characters that already exist? There is something very human in relating to people, even if they are fictional, and wanting to expand that love, share it with a whole group of others who love them, too.

Where you once had to be academically excellent artist to be able to have exhibitions of your works in galleries, now you just need internet connection and a group of people who love what you love. It makes art more approachable, no longer a luxury good unavailable to people who do not have the funds to attend exhibitions.

Plus, it is amazing to see the characters you love reimagined and plopped on your screen in a way you couldn’t have previously imagined.

As well as that, fanart is also a very good starting point for gaining more exposure. It can take its toll and it may shift the focus from art based on your original characters, but it still helps you build a community of like-minded people.

In short – fanart is the easiest way to examine the creativity that arises out of fandoms. The support, the encouragement to keep creating – and all without having to sit in front of a board of professors at the end of the day. There are no rules to which you must comply. You can, if you wish to do so, but you can be as abstract as you’d like. Fandom is not restricted by academic requirements, and as such, a beautiful breeding ground for artists to figure out their styles by themselves in a petri dish of encouragement and freedom.

Perhaps the best example of this is a project I have recently found out about – the Percy Jackson and the Olympians Coloring Book.

 

 

PJO Coloring Book Project

 

Led by two amazing people I have had the pleasure of talking to, Bruna and Mary, Percy Jackson Coloring Book is a proactive fanart project that assembled fanartists from all around the world to create one joint coloring book, with the fans’ favorite characters. The coloring book, now all finished and containing a total of 215 pages, can be downloaded herefor free.

In Bruna’s words, they were talking to a friend on Instagram and the friend said how much they would like for the fanartists to create official art for the series. In case you are not familiar with Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, it is a child-friendly rendition of Greek mythology, beloved by many children and young adults all across the world. Fanart for it is created every day, even with the series being done, and Bruna had an amazing idea.

They created a blog and asked artists in the fandom to help out in any way they can. As Mary told me, they recruited artists in different ways – some volunteered, others were nominated, and ultimately, they contacted all of them.

“We had an overwhelming positive reaction from artists willing to donate their time and creations to our project, which is probably shown by the vast number of drawings we managed to get in the end,” Mary said, adding that most of the artists were enthusiastic about the project.

The whole project took about three months to complete, and during those three months – fans joined their forces to create art for other fans.

The Percy Jackson Coloring Book now has over two thousand downloads and it is to be expected that the number will only grow from here.

When asked about the importance of books and what might have ultimately led to the whole project being executed, Bruna said – “The books teach us friendship, love and how to pass through hard times. But us, the fandom, we are the ones to learn, spread those messages of love. That is what we are doing. Spreading that love.”

And what else, really, could they be doing? In a world where so many value money over enjoyment, these people have decided to volunteer their free time to create something that would enrich others’ experience in the fandom, others’ experience of the books.

They are keeping that fictional universe alive and ultimately, that is the most beautiful thing about fandom. No matter the various talks about its weird practices, at the end of the day people want to show their love for stories they have read or seen. They want to keep them going and keep them alive for much longer than they might have lasted had it not been for the fandom.

And finally, it poses a question – why does a series matter so much?

In Bruna’s words – “Not many books made me feel so represented in my life.”

And that is just it – the difference that makes or breaks a work when it comes to the question of whether it will be expanded on. Can we relate to it?

In a world as tumultuous and lonely as ours can be, books and other forms of media can provide comfort and understanding. Four of the seven main characters are people of color. Every single character is dyslexic (Riordan’s own son is dyslexic). In Heroes of Olympus, Nico DiAngelo comes out as gay. And out of all those reasons, and so many more, the Percy Jackson series provides so much ground to relate to. The characters struggle with things a lot of us struggle with and as such, it does not matter that they are descendants of ancient Greek gods – what truly matters is that they are human.

Through and through.

 

Where Do We Go from Here?

 

A friend of mine once told me that I should stop writing fanfiction because it will only impede my ability to come up with original characters and plots in the future. It’s a closed circle, he said, explaining that I am just adding onto an already created universe and as such, it cannot give me the ability to create something of my own.

Fortunately, he was wrong and where you once could have asked me to talk about my original characters – only for me to say there is nothing to talk about, now I’m able to explain exactly why these characters demand to exist and why I’m in love with them.

And I’m not the only one.

So many authors I have only heard of through fandom have sprung up in the media years later with their own novels and series. Rainbow Rowell, after all, admitted to reading and writing Harry Potter fanfiction. In the end, she published a whole novel – “Fangirl” – whose main character is a girl who writes fanfiction. Personally, I disagree with her portrayal of the fanfiction writer as a recluse who has a rich life online because she falls short at creating it in her immediate surroundings, but she let the cat out of the bag.

It turns out that fanfiction writers can write original stories, as well. Whether they show them through self-publishing or traditional publishing, they are still here. We are still here because sometimes, the only acceptable motivation to start writing again is to write a story based on characters you already love. No one was born with knowing how to write quality, and fanfiction is just a step in the process.

Recently, I talked to one of very popular fic writers for a TV show fandom, who said that she had stopped writing altogether and writing fanfiction reminded her of why she loved writing so much.

In the end, it’s all about creativity.

Artists who started by creating fanart realized that they want to pursue art in as a career, got enrolled into art schools. They developed their own ideas and their own rules.

Fanfiction writers who started by barely being able to string two sentences together for a pair of characters they particularly love now churn out novels about their own characters because they have tried and failed and cross-examined every character they have ever loved.

Fandoms have helped us learn how to think critically and how to create beautifully. And from the Percy Jackson Coloring Book project that brought people together, over black Hermione who went from being a headcanon to actual canon, to fanfiction published on the daily – fandoms are changing the world.

And I, for one, can’t wait to see where that creativity takes us.

 


Bruna and Mary are hoping that Rick Riordan will see the coloring book and they are planning to publish it in a physical edition. You can follow news and updates about the project on the PJO Coloring Book Project blog.

Artist of the Month – October: Ainhoa

We here at Loud and Alive love art – any kind of art. And after we celebrated Inktober by talking to various artists, we decided to continue the celebration by featuring an up and coming artist every month.

This month, it’s Ainhoa, whose art you might have seen in our first edition of The Loud and Alive Monthly Newsletter (to which you can sign up here). Ainhoa is from Barcelona, she hopes to become a concept artist and the most important piece of advice she gave us is – have patience.

So let’s hear what she had to say!

 

Loud and Alive: Tell us a little about yourself.

Ainhoa: My name is Ainhoa Argente, I’m from Spain, raised and born in Barcelona and I’m currently 22 years old. I have studied 3D animation and videogames and I hope one day to be a Concept Artist, but at this moment I’m studying Illustration.

You can find me in the interwebz under the usernames Ainhochu or AinhoaADCM.

Loud and Alive: Does your personal life influence your art?

Ainhoa: I do think so, mostly in the amount of art I produce and in the mood, I try to keep a very light heart and happy style but my art can become a little bit darker if I’m feeling down.

 

 

Loud and Alive: How/when did you start drawing?

Ainhoa: I started a little bit later than most artists. In fact, when I was little I despised drawing, but when I was 16 and had discovered DeviantArt I started finding some amazing artists like Lauren Bergholm (Ibergholm) and Brigid Vaughn (Burdge) and seeing their drawings made me want to draw fanart, too and I started.

Loud and Alive: Who are your influences, when it comes to art?

Ainhoa: Most of my influences are internet artists rather than traditional artists. As mentioned before, I started drawing trying to imitate Lauren and Brigid, who are still great influences to me but my most referenced artists are Dinora Nurtdinova (Dinoralp), Annalise Jensen (May12324), Judyta Anna Murawska (Fukari) and Laia López (Itslopezz), as well as my friends and supporters – Gabriela Bosco (Gabssart) and Sarah Gray (Completely_lost). I have learnt so much from this people, and I could mention a million names, like ribkadory, drawingwiffwaffles, drakonarinka, any Disney artist… And I would never end. I take inspiration from any place and any artist I meet.

 

 

Loud and Alive: What are the most challenging things when creating art, in your opinion?

Ainhoa: The whole process! My weakest point has always been inking but as I grow as an artist I find it more and more complex to create art, getting a good idea, trying to make everything make sense in the picture, anatomy has to be correct, the color has to make sense in the environment… And even if the art I submit on the internet took way less work than the pieces I have to hand to school for example, I find the whole process harder and harder as time goes by.

Loud and Alive: We saw that you create fanart, as well. How do you know when there’s a book/show/movie that you want to create fanart of, as opposed to those that you’re not interested in turning into art?

Ainhoa: The main reason is that I create art from my ultimate favorite fandoms and characters. For example, I may like shows like Jane the Virgin but I like Legends of Tomorrow more and if there is an episode that I have missed in both shows I will choose LoT before JtV. The same happens with fanart; if I have to choose between drawing a picture of both shows I will choose the one I like the most.

Also I will mostly draw things that I find attractive or appealing, like I want to draw this character because I like their hair or because I like the clothes they wear, even if I don’t like the character itself. And also I try to avoid things that may push me out of my comfort zone, at least when It comes to art I do for myself.

And also I may or may not have fallen into the trap of “I’m going to draw this because is popular” but most of the time it hasn’t worked and people seem to like more the fanart I draw because I like the books/show/whatever.

 

 

 

Loud and Alive: Is there a big difference between creating fanart and works based on original characters?

Ainhoa: When it comes to OCs you have a lot of flexibility and nobody is going to tell you the way you draw that character is “wrong” (like too thin or too pale) and I find it really fun to draw my own characters, but it’s true that you will hardly gain a lot of followers, unless your art is really really good. And even if sometimes you can get really harsh responses to some fanart it’s an easier way to get feedback and to meet people who likes the same stuff as you do.

Loud and Alive: What are your other interests and do you ever feel them showing in your art, like with fanart?

Ainhoa: My main interests are reading, watching tv shows and movies and a little bit of gaming, which are the main themes of my fanart. I also like to write, sometimes about my OCs, and I enjoy working out, which I think is the only thing that doesn’t show in my art.

Loud and Alive: We are a feminist site and I have to ask – what do you think is the biggest challenge in feminism today?

Ainhoa: The biggest challenge is to be taken seriously and to show that we only want to make the world a better place. When I say I’m a feminist I see how the other person goes from “Oh! Such a nice lady!” to “OMG! She is probably a man-hating feminazi who is going to criticize everything I do!” And I’m there like ”… No like really, I just want everybody to live their lives as they want (as long as they aren’t harming others) instead of people being like I can’t do this because I’m a boy/girl or I have to do this because I’m a “boy/girl”.

 

 

Loud and Alive: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

Ainhoa: Draw what you want and have patience. I’m the first one who gets super frustrated with “this person draws way better than I do”, “these 12 year old’s drawings leave me speechless and I’m 22 and my drawings look like potatoes” or “ugh my drawings don’t get likes, it must mean my drawing is awful” but you have to learn to love your art and to get better for yourself, not so others can like your art.

Loud and Alive: Thank you, Ainhoa! Is there anything else you would like to say?

Ainhoa: Mostly that I’m completely open to befriending anyone who has read this interview (you get an extra cookie just for that!).

And of course, thank you for this great opportunity to get featured in such great blog!

 


You can find more of Ainhoa’s art on her Tumblr and Instagram, and you can buy her a coffee right here!

Inktober Spotlight: Megan

Every October, artists all over the world take on the InkTober drawing challenge by doing one ink drawing a day the entire month. And this October, Loud and Alive brings you their stories.

 

Art is therapeutic. Yes, I know you and your mother know that already. But do you really?

When we talk about art being used by people who have suffered, we usually have an image of a privileged white writer like Ernest Hemingway, who has decided that he shouldn’t try and help with his works – instead, it is enough to mope about all the difficulties life has presented him with. We think about writing hard and clear about what hurts.

But have you considered drawing about it?

Megan has, and it is such a pleasure to have her here with us today. You might know about her by her username, @littlekiwifrog. Well, Megan talked to us about being an art therapy student, the freedom fanart gives you, and never comparing yourself with others. So check it out!

 

Lana: Tell us a little about yourself, Megan.

Megan: My name is Megan, I’m 22, an artist/writer, and am studying to be an art therapist!

Lana: How do you feel your personal life impacted your art?

Megan: I come from a family of artists that encouraged me throughout my childhood to create and keep improving. I also fell in with a great group of friends that were all artists when I was young—we used to have sleepovers where we would do nothing but lie around and draw all night while we talked. I’m still friends with most of them even though we’ve all gone our separate ways in college.

Other than that, I draw a lot of inspiration from my own life experiences, both good and bad. I’ve struggled with both depression and an anxiety disorder, and I use art and storytelling as a way to make sense of my own feelings. If I can visualize or verbalize the way I’m feeling and what I think its source is, it becomes a lot less overwhelming and easy to accept. This is a large part of why I’m going into art therapy.

 

 

Lana: How did you start drawing?

Megan: My mother gave me a big paper Marshall Fields bag and some crayons and let me have at it! The result was a big ridiculous scribble, as you’d expect. My mom told me to show my dad and tell him it was an “anomaly”. That story still gets told pretty often at family parties.

Lana: Who are your influences, when it comes to art?

Megan: So many! I think one of my first inspirations was Noelle Stevenson, who has this adorable, noodly style and uses it for everything from silly fan art to beautiful storytelling (check out her comic Nimona if you haven’t, it’s amazing) to very personal vent art. I think seeing how sort of informal her style was, but seeing how much she was able to do with it really helped me realize that you don’t have to make things hyper-realistic and serious for it to be good art.

Other than that, Lois Van Baarle and Viet-my Bui taught me a lot about color use and visual characterization. And Emmy Cicierega taught me that you’re allowed to draw for yourself and doodle silly stuff and play around with your style as much as you want.

Lana: What are some challenges you face when creating art?

Megan: It’s rare that I have a day where all of my artistic skills are ‘on’. Some days I’ll have a thousand ideas for drawing subjects or concepts, but can’t figure out an interesting composition for the life of me. Other days I’ll have ideas for color pallets or poses but I can’t think of anything to draw! I combat this by writing lists of ideas when I get them, and marking what stage my pieces are in my WIP file. That way, if I get a day where I can only get color to work, I can look into my WIP file and pick something that’s marked “XYZ_linework.psd”.

 

 

Lana: You’re a big fan of Fallout, as far as I could tell. What is it in that game that makes you feel so drawn to it?

Megan: Fallout takes place in a post-post-apocalyptic world that’s in the process of recovering after ~200 years of being a super irradiated, unlivable wasteland. This lends itself to a lot of stories of people that are just trying to survive, often times while also trying to help others. There’s a lot of dark and depressing content in it for sure, but that makes the hopeful parts of it that much more appealing. My favorite characters in the Fallout franchise are always those that have found a way to help people around them, even if they themselves are struggling with mental illness or trauma or guilt.

That, and Fallout’s aesthetic is a post-apocalyptic version of 50s retro-futurism, and that’s kind of awesome.

Lana: Is there a big difference between creating fanart and works based on original characters?

Megan: Personally, I find it’s a very similar process. In both situations, I want to visualize the character in a way that’s going to show their personality and help tell their story. I think the only difference is having to worry about characterizing someone that a lot of people already know and have perceptions of versus a character that only I know and can characterize however I want.

 

 

 

Lana: You play a lot with your style; how do these changes come to be?

Megan: Because I’m an art student, a lot of the times I’m expected to make these beautiful, finished pieces that only allow so much space for experimentation. A lot of the times I have to sacrifice trying out new techniques and styles for doing what I already know works so I can get a good grade. Tumblr lets me have this creative freedom where I can mess around with styles while drawing non-original characters that already have established designs/personalities/stories, something I don’t get to do much for class work.

Lana: What are your other interests and do you ever feel them showing in your art, like with Fallout?

Megan: My interest in psychology and love of writing leads me to play around with character stories and relationships, which is what I like to focus on the most in my doodles/silly comics. Making art is my chance to focus on the happy, positive stuff when it comes to characters that are usually pretty tragic.

 

 

Lana: We are a feminist site and I have to ask – what do you think is the biggest challenge in feminism today?

Megan: I personally find that there’s still a lot of social stigma around even the term feminism. I’ve gotten groans as a response to referring to myself as feminist more than once, especially when it relates to me pointing out how patriarchal concepts make things sucky for men too. Because there’s so much of this sort of eye-rolling, repulsed mentality, it makes it discussing things that affect everyone—like virginity being a social construct, toxic masculinity, or any number of sexist tropes and why they’re harmful in the media we all consume—very difficult because feminism as whole gets shrugged off so often.

Lana: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

Megan: The only person you should compare yourself to is your past self! Don’t worry about everyone else, just worry about trying your best to be a little bit better than you were yesterday, and don’t beat yourself up over it if you don’t feel like you are—that means you’re seeing problems, and identifying problems is the first step to finding a solution for them.

Lana: Thank you so much, Megan! Is there anything else you would like to say?

Megan: I had a lot of fun answering these, thank you for interviewing me!

 


You can find Megan on Tumblr.

Inktober Spotlight: Rita

Every October, artists all over the world take on the InkTober drawing challenge by doing one ink drawing a day the entire month. And this October, Loud and Alive brings you their stories.

 

In today’s Inktober Spotlight interview, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing a very special artist.

Rita is a Portuguese student of veterinary medicine who you might know by her username – ritta1310, and in today’s interview, we’ve had the chance to talk about the importance of female representation on TV and in books, and how time for art doesn’t come on its own – you have to make it.

But not only is she a talented artist – she is also the one responsible for the Loud and Alive header. What started out as “Hi, Rita, do you want to help us, because we’ve got this project going on and we really want it to be diametrically opposite of White Girl Feminism TM “ turned into Rita creating an amazing work of art that we are so honored to have on Loud and Alive.

But enough about our site, let’s talk about the talented artist we’re featuring today!

 

Lana: Tell us a little about yourself. What do you do when you’re not “arting”?

Rita: Well, I study veterinary medicine at college so I spend a lot of my time studying but I also enjoy cooking, I love watching TV shows and, of course, reading.

Lana: How do you make time for art, being a student of veterinary medicine?

Rita: I’m not going to lie, it’s been tough. My major requires a lot of work and I barely have any time at all. In fact, I do this really terrible thing that none of you kids should do – I draw in class. It helps me focus and it kind of recharges my batteries when all the scientific terms and animal anatomy makes me feel as if my brain is about to explode.

But aside from that terrible habit of mine, I think the key is to prioritize and organize. My priority will always be college but I try hard to clear an hour or two for drawing.

Lana: How do you feel your personal life impacted your art?

Rita: In general I think it has helped me improve it. I’m always looking for inspiration, of course, and being with my friends and having new experiences are always an amazing source for that. My mood also influences my art. If I’m in a good mood I’ll probably do a much better job than when I’m feeling stressed or sad.

So I’d say that my personal art and my life go hand in hand but even during the worst times, I could never give up drawing.

Lana: How did you start drawing?

Rita: To be honest, I don’t really remember. I’ve been drawing ever since I learned how to stick my hand in a can of paint, but my mom said that when I was little, I saw her drawing a lot so I started wanting to do it myself and I haven’t stopped ever since.

Lana: Who are your influences, when it comes to art?

Rita: My influences are mostly fanartist such as myself. There are so many that I love that I would have to make a 10 page list just to name them all. Seeing all their different styles and amazing art makes me want to be better and I think influences my art style as well.

 

 

Lana: Activities related to fandoms get bad rap these days, but they can be both enjoyable and profitable. In fact, the first time I heard about you was when I saw your Harry Potter fanart. Do you think that it helped you get more exposure, creating fan art?

Rita: Absolutely. This is both a good and a bad thing. I love to do fanart. I’m a huge fangirl, I love my fictional characters and I adore drawing them but sometimes it’s due to that exposure that was based solely on fanart that, when the fanartist does original work, it’s not very well received or, at least, receives a lot less attention then the fanart they created. This can be a real let down, especially when you spend a lot time and work hard on that original art only to see it not getting recognized at all.

So yes, fanart does help with exposure but artists don’t do fanart for exposure. Fanart is fantastic; bringing characters “to life” is such an amazing thing to do and it really makes you feel more “connected” to the book/movie etc, your fanart is about it in a way that it’s hard to explain. You just feel like these book/bands/tv shows are a part of you and now you get to express that love for them by doing something you love, like drawing.

 

 

Lana: You also have your original characters. I write, so I know how that process goes. But what is it like for you, creating your own characters?

Rita: I think the processes are fairly similar. I try to create relatable and real characters that fit my imagination. I just get this idea and start developing the story around it. I think the main difference from writers to artists when making OCs is maybe the way you develop them. I, for example, started sketching Sam and Ivy (my OCs) as soon as I got the idea for them. I didn’t even have a clear idea of their personality or how they would look but I started to do various sketches, went though some pictures, got inspired by some people I met in real life until that final design arrived. And as I sketched and sketched, their personalities just kinda naturally came up. It was really an amazing experience.

 

 

Lana: What are some challenges you face when creating art?

Rita: Too many to tell. As a self-taught artist, I find anatomy and coloring technics a bit of a challenge. Also, I really struggle to find time between working and personal life to create my art. But I really try to make it work and, as for the technicalities I struggle with when drawing, I usually try to use references and watch tutorials in order to work around them.

 

 

Katniss Everdeen for #inktober #thehungergames #fanart #inktober2015 #katniss #artistsoninstagram #art

A post shared by Rita Pereira (@ritta1310) on

 

Lana: You draw a lot of female characters from books and shows. Do you think you would have the same interest in drawing, if there weren’t as many female characters? How important do you think having representation is?

Rita: Probably not. Aside from representation, I find women really fun to draw. They come in so many beautiful shapes and forms and I love giving them different personalities. Also, I really identify more with female characters than male. Maybe it’s because they are the same gender as me, so I always feel more inclined to draw them.

And when it comes to representation, I think it is extremely important to create different and relatable female characters.

Let’s be real, the world is filled with different people and at least half of them are women. I want a realistic story and, for it to be realistic, it needs all sort of badass ladies beacuse the real world is, too, filled with badass ladies.

Besides, it was because of amazing female characters that filled my childhood that I became the person I am today.

I wanted to study hard like Hermione and be brave like Ginny, and without representation, I would have no idea who my role models would have been. It’s important that other little girls experience this as well, not just when it comes to gender but also in race, religion and sexuality.

 

 

Lana: What are some other things you enjoy doing? Do you ever feel them influencing your art?

Rita:  I love to bake and cook, also enjoy writing, reading and I sing a little bit. And yes, I often see that happening. Books, besides influencing me to do fanart, help me be more creative and that is always good. When it comes to baking and writing I feel like it’s more of the other way around. I got good at cake decorating and describing characters and situations thanks to my artistic side. Even at school, art is always around me. I found that even when doing reports and presenting works, my artistic skills always come in handy and even help me get a better grade! So it’s just like I said before, my art and personal life go hand in hand, they influence one another.

 

 

Lana: What are some challenges you think are present in today’s feminism?

Rita: I think it varies a lot from place to place and we need to be conscious of that. The challenges in Portugal are, for instance, very different from the ones in the USA and in Arabic countries. I find that, thankfully, my country is in a pretty good shape when it comes to equal rights between sexes. Women have high ranking positions, pretty much half of our parliament is female, STEM fields have pretty much the same amount of men and women.

The bigger challenges here are in issues such as abortion and surrogates etc. But in countries like the USA I think the biggest challenge is changing the way little girls are raised. I have never heard of anyone in my country whose parents told them they should be nurses instead of doctors, or that they couldn’t play with cars or dinosaurs because those were “Boy toys”, and I think that those little things establish a terrible conduct of life for women. So in summary, I think the biggest challenge lies in changing the misogynist way of educating that some parents adopt because, honestly, they don’t know any better.

Feminism needs to change the system in order to make both women’s and men’s lives better.

Lana: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

Rita: Yes, never stop drawing! If you like to draw and want to improve or even if you’ve just started thinking of becoming an artist of any sort, don’t give up! Everything can be achieved through hard work and internal strength. Even when you feel as if nothing is working or like your art sucks, IT DOESN’T!

All art is amazing, especially yours, because YOU made it! Life is too short and too unpredictable to give up on the things that make you happy. So practice lots, stay positive and appreciate yourself, because you are amazing.

Lana: Thank you so much, Rita! Is there anything else you would like to say?

Rita: I’d like to say that I very much enjoy this website. I love that it gives voice to women around the world and helps us make a stand. Also, thank you so much for this interview, I had a lot of fun.

 


You can find Rita’s art on Tumblr and Instagram, and you can even wear it, so check out her Society6 and Redbubble shops! 

Inktober Spotlight: Hayley

Every October, artists all over the world take on the InkTober drawing challenge by doing one ink drawing a day the entire month. And this October, Loud and Alive brings you their stories.

 

Some of you may already know that this month isn’t just October – it’s Inktober, as well. It’s a month dedicated to artists creating and sharing their art, raising awareness to just how important it is, with a very important twist – the drawings have to be in ink.

You know the setting – you’re scrolling down your Facebook feed and you’ll have seen at least two different comics and three illustrations by the time you switch your phone off. The truth is, we are taking it for granted. We accept the artists’ works for our own pleasure, no matter how short-lived, we take it as a chance to escape what would certainly be blank walls of our minds, but what do we know about people behind them?

This is why we, at Loud and Alive, decided to shed some light on the true masterminds – the incredible artists. And one of the first people I knew I wanted to contact for an interview was Hayley, whose primary means of sharing her art is Instagram, @hayleylyn17.

I first saw her works while scrolling down a female empowerment tag, which I didn’t know even existed on Instagram. And I have been following her ever since because not only is she a great artist, but she uses her art to raise awareness about (intersectional) feminism, disability, Black Lives Matter movement and yeah, sometimes even Lara Croft.

Hayley is amazing not just for her talent, but for how she utilizes her art. She uses it to talk about important things, empower people who may not have been empowered by mainstream media, and she truly represents this new way of communication Millennials use.

While you’re talking about how social media is ruining today’s youth, are you talking about how it makes art more available? Whereas you once had to pay tickets for exhibitions (and, in case you are an artist, find a way to get an exhibition of your own) – now you can admire art for free, and support artists directly. No middle men in forms of gallery owners who take their percentage. Less fear that, despite being a good artist, you will not get recognized.

Now you can do it on your own.

Because of that, and many more things, Hayley is the person I was so, so glad to interview and while pitching the idea to her, I was keeping my fingers crossed that she agrees. We talked about the importance of feminism, Lara Croft and how art is therapeutic, but empowering as well.

So check it out!

 

Lana: Tell us a little about yourself, Hayley.

Hayley: I grew up in a small suburban town in Hertfordshire with my two sisters. I now spend far too much time annoying my older sister’s house guinea pigs by listening to alternative rock and drawing rather than feeding them as much as they’d want me to.

Lana: How do you feel your personal life impacted your art?

Hayley: I think it caused me to focus on art much more. I’ve had health issues, which always makes things a little more difficult or, at least, different from the way I’d hoped them to be but I’ve used my struggles to fuel something.

My family have been a big impact on my art. I’ve grown up surrounded by strong women who faced difficult situations and wanted to create images that reflected a part of the reality that I saw around me.

Lana: I’m a writer but I experienced the same thing – challenging my difficulties into creating really helps, and I find it to be very  empowering. How do you feel about your process of turning a hardship into art? Do you feel that your art would have the same quality/importance if you hadn’t experienced what you had?

Hayley: I think the difficulties I’ve faced have definitely made me more aware of certain things and shaped the kinds of art that I’m interested in. I hope that it’s made me into a more compassionate person. I think that it’s lead me to want to create more empowering art – though I hope that even without facing the issues I have it would’ve been possible to still be understanding. I guess actually having some first-hand experience certainly focuses your attention on the impact people have in each other’s lives.

 

#illustration #feministartist #feminist #stellayoung #disability #equality

A post shared by Hayley (@hayleylyn17) on

 

#illustration #feministartist #caxmee #mamacax

A post shared by Hayley (@hayleylyn17) on

 

#feministartist #feminist #bodypositive

A post shared by Hayley (@hayleylyn17) on

 

Lana: How did you start drawing?

Hayley: Art has always been a way to process things. I remember covering floors in pens since I was tiny but it was probably my grandmother and my mum that really encouraged me.

Things that are said to you when you’re very young shape how you view yourself and, for me it’s memories of teachers and female relatives praising my art – no matter how scribbled. It was something I could be good at.

Lana: Who are your influences, when it comes to art?

Hayley: I love a lot of feminist artists and illustrators. There are just so many inspiring people out there with infinitely different styles.

Studying art history has opened my eyes to artists like Betty Tompkins and Louise Bourgeois but equally I’m drawn to Instagram accounts like @Joannathangiah and @AMBIVALENTLYYOURS. The IG body positive community has been a huge influence on my art. Seeing people prepared to stand up for who they are is such a huge inspiration.

Lana: Ten years ago, you had to start with exhibitions and promoting your art in a very hands-on type of way, whereas today, you can get exposure by posting on social media. Did that make the “job” part of your art easier, getting instant feedback and maybe even motivation?

Hayley:  I love the ability to share ideas with people from all over the world, it’s definitely very motivating. Being able to get feedback so quickly on something you’re working on, from someone you’ll probably never meet is such an amazing thing. So many artists are able to have a voice now in a way that was completely unimaginable in the past. You can create your own little corner of the internet without having to rely on outside help or the money it would take to put on exhibitions.

#doodle #inktober #jump #laracroft

A post shared by Hayley (@hayleylyn17) on

#starwarsday

A post shared by Hayley (@hayleylyn17) on

Lana: I saw that you like Lara Croft and female action heroes; how does the influx of female action heroes make you feel?

Hayley: Playing video games and watching action hero movies was strange; I was often made to feel pushed out. Female characters were caricatures, a distorted view of femininity. It was undermining to see an odd representation so often. Which makes the fairly recent change refreshing and long overdue.

Lara Croft is such a good example. Her transformation makes her a fully formed character – a flawed but capable human. It’s as though certain companies have only just woken up to the fact that they aren’t only selling to an dated idea of heterosexual male. I just hope that things continue to improve, the way they are within even things like Disney movies, so that generations continue to learn gender fluidity and respect.

Lana: LC went a long way from exaggerated breasts and pandering to the straight male audience to the character she is today in Tomb Raider, fully fleshed-out, and people are calling for Disney to give Elsa a girlfriend. Can it be that we are turning into a more open-minded society, and does that make you look forward to the future?

Hayley:  I think, despite the obvious political figures that are around right now, when it comes down to it people are ready for more realistic representations. I really hope that that means companies like Disney create characters, including princess and princes, with varied sexualities, because why not. Why can’t there be a transgender princess or a bi prince? Though I also think that disabilities and disfigurement should be shown in a positive light.

There should be stories and images that are a positive reflection of the world we live in – representations of people that children can look to as role models and allow their aspirations to be more than some really odd idea of perfection.

Lana: What are some challenges you face when creating art?

Hayley: I think self-censoring can be an issue for me, both in the actual content of my drawings and whether I feel they’re shareable. I don’t want to be offensive but at the same time I want to be as honest as I can.

Sometimes a messy sketch can express my ideas better than something I’ve spent a long time on but I still get that voice of doubt. I guess if I wasn’t always trying to improve it wouldn’t be as fun or challenging.

 

#illustration #feministartist #girlscandoanything #disability #ableism #girlscan

A post shared by Hayley (@hayleylyn17) on

#loveislove #illustration #feministartist #orlando #pride

A post shared by Hayley (@hayleylyn17) on

#blacklivesmatter #feministartist #illustration

A post shared by Hayley (@hayleylyn17) on

 

Lana: A lot of your art focuses on female empowerment, diversity and social justice. Do you feel as if it helps, both you – personally, and in general?

Hayley: I believe it’s important to try to put images into the world that work against unhealthy concepts. I’m one of those people that repeatedly gets angry at the news, and adverts, things where the media seem focused on promoting different forms of hate and self-loathing.

We’re all a part of the culture we live in so I get caught up in negative thoughts of my own body the same as anyone else. I use drawing as a means to help me rethink things. I guess I want to try and unpick those lessons society teaches us about how we should look or behave.

Lana: Art has always seemed to serve an educative purpose as well, but do you think that this part of it is even more emphasized today?

Hayley:  I think right now a lot of work does seem to have a statement behind it, some kind of point that the artist is fighting for. I guess it’s coming from the political world we’re living in and the way we’re exposed to information. It’s so fast paced that creating bite-sized images, like comic strips, can be a useful tool in grabbing attention and starting a conversation about some really diverse subjects.

I suppose it’s the attention span argument – not being able to pay attention to things for longer than eight seconds – though I don’t think that’s entirely true. There’s just so much information available that everyone can get a bit lost in procrastinating scrolling, so why not put some important points into art.

Lana: What are some other things you enjoy doing? Do you ever feel them seeping into your art, like with your Lara Croft drawings?

Hayley: I love practicing guitar and watching horror movies, or slightly sci-fi TV shows – indulging in my continual obsessions with things like The X-Files, The Walking Dead, Orphan Black and Supernatural. There is definitely an overlap with my interests and my art. The music I adore listening to and all the TV shows and vlogs I watch impact how I view things, as much as the books I read.

It’s important to me to be honest and express my ideas, wherever they might have come from. My taste is a part of who I am as a person and hopefully a way of making myself a little more understandable.

#illustration #feministartist #feminist #riotgrrl #beachbody #beachbodyready

A post shared by Hayley (@hayleylyn17) on

 

Lana: Seeing as we are a feminist site, I’ve got to ask – what are some challenges you think are present in today’s feminism?

Hayley: I think we face the same challenges that come back again and again when fighting gender equality. The horrid air of ignorance, that it’s better to maintain the status quo than be seen as an irritant or risk being attacked for speaking up.

But with social media there is an added pressure. We’re constantly bombarded with information and images that affect us so quickly. We’re  connected in a way that is beyond anything previous generations imagined. It also means that it’s possible to see more than one side to an argument in an instant, which I think is slowly making a real change.

You’re not so much preaching to the choir on a global platform. Things can’t be hidden the way they were in the past.

Lana: Nowadays, it’s very hard to keep anything out of the public eye and very often, once a celebrity has said something problematic, they are instantly written off, with no hope of changing their ways, which brings me back to a very important question – should we try to educate even the most ignorant people or do we just give up?

Hayley: I do feel it’s important to put a counter argument out into the world that people can see both sides of an issue – that the truth of a situation is represented. Mostly so people going through it feel supported and not silenced. But when it comes to educating the ignorant I think it’s dependant on the individual.

If a person just doesn’t know something they have the resources and responsibility to educate themselves – it’s their lack of knowledge after all, they should take responsibility for their own actions. It shouldn’t be up to the persecuted, whether feminist or minority group, to spend all their energy constantly trying to teach someone, they aren’t the one who has the problem that needs fixing. But that doesn’t mean you can’t loudly discuss whatever issue might be affecting you.

Lana: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

Hayley: My advice would be quite simple – just keep drawing, keep creating. There are going to be times when people tell you you’re wrong or not good enough, and times when that person is you but don’t give up. It’s perfectly acceptable to do something else that lifts your mood and come back to it.

Just remember that the best thing about art is there’s no wrong answer. If you love painting then that’s a good enough reason to paint.

Also, don’t be afraid to connect with people. Get online, find like-minded people at school or college, if you can. They’ll really inspire you.

Lana: Thank you so much, Hayley! Is there anything else you would like to say?

Hayley: Just thank you! ❤

 


You can find Hayley’s art on Instagram and Tumblr! And if you want to wear her art and have it make you feel kickass every morning, she also has a Redbubble shop.

Monday Good News: How Cards Against Humanity Support Women in STEM

This week, we learned that help can come from the most unlikely places when Cards Against Humanity announced that they would be giving scholarships to women in STEM – again.

Bet you didn’t expect that one, huh?

In fact, Cards Against Humanity’s creators have been doing this for two years in a row now. The scholarship trust (which is now $950,000 and means paying for the full ride) is funded by sales of Cards Against Humanity’s Science Pack.

Why?

In the company’s community director, Jenn Bane’s, words – a lot of people there have background in science and technology. “Ask a kid to draw a scientist, they’ll draw a man in a lab coat, because science and math are historically male-dominated fields. Cards Against Humanity has a large audience, so with the Science Ambassador Scholarship we hope to help change the public perception of what a scientist looks like.”

The same people who have changed our perceptions of how moral people we actually are, are now looking to change the perception of scientists. It’s no secret that women in STEM receive less opportunities, and young girls aren’t even encouraged to pursue science like their male counterparts.

Therefore, to see a company like this one – catering to the millennials’ sense of entertainment (which includes social justice in a staggering, albeit positive, amount) – actually doing something to make this world a better place for women in STEM, well – it’s a breath of fresh air.

So, how can you apply for Science Ambassador Scholarship?

You have to be either a college or a high school student, and you should submit a three minute video explaining the scientific topic you are most passionate about.

Last year’s winner, Sona Dadhania (a sophomore at University of Pennsylvania studying Materials Science and Engineering), submitted a video explaining nanotechnology and she was shocked to find out that she won but she hopes that “as Science Ambassador, I can inspire a passion and love for science in someone else.”

Well, Cards Against Humanity are sure doing their part.

To all the women in STEM – the deadline is December 11th 2016, so get your videos ready and unleash that enthusiasm! Good luck!


 

You can find out more about Lana Rafaela on her author page.

And you can follow Loud and Alive on Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter!

The Importance of Female Representation During Childhood

 

art by Erika Schnellert 

 

The first thing I can clearly remember wanting to be when I was a kid was Indiana Jones.

I wanted the whole nine yards – the hat, the whip, amazing beige outfit combos and the constant sense of adventure prickling at my fingertips. I was a little explorer and the only character I could ever relate to, in terms of life goals, was the professor of archeology who collected artifacts in his spare time.

Now I know that he is very problematic as a character, I know that he was not a good role model, but the six year old me didn’t know that. No, six year old Lana jumped around the house and hung off doorways and wore her mom’s hats.

But here’s the catch – no matter what I did, whenever I’d plop down in front of the screen, I would only see men doing cool stuff. I would see Indiana Jones and I had no problem relating to him, but then I would see female characters who were there only to be killed off, seduced or used as a plot device that could easily be traded for a lamp (see: Sexy Lamp test).

Their sole purpose in movies was to be eye-candy or work into the image of Indiana Jones being a dashing explorer, kissing his way around the world.

When I was six, I had no problem relating to him despite all that. I didn’t see the difference between genders and I didn’t feel gender roles as strongly as I have gotten to later on. I’ve grown up in a household that allowed me to develop in whichever way I wanted, and nothing much bothered me until I started school.

That is when the separation started, that is when I watched action movies and saw girls stand by the sidelines while guys took all the credit and all the fame. I was annoyed by damsels in distress, I wanted to be different than them, foolishly playing into the way of thinking that can be so toxic – I won’t be like other girls.

Because other girls always seemed so boring, so willing to pass out on all the fun, yield their sense of adventure to “better” male characters. Little did I know that those girls might have been better explorers and action heroes than the guys ever could be. But no one ever gave them the chance.

I still wanted to be Indiana Jones, but with time I learned to add “female” to the verbal expressions of my ambitions. “I want to be a female Indiana Jones.” Not just Indiana. No, a female one. Because I knew I would have to defy some stereotypes along the way to achieving my goal. And even then, it was as if somehow my dream became lesser just because I was a girl.  

And then came Lara Croft.

I would honestly like to thank the Universe for allowing those movies to happen because after Lara Croft, nothing was the same.

She swooped in, dangling from her ceiling in her pajamas, punching sharks (disclaimer: I have nothing against sharks, I love sharks) and kicking ass back and forth. And she was a woman.

It mattered to me when I was ten, it still matters to me now. It’s never going to stop mattering because in a world full of Indiana Jones’ and John McClanes, I now don’t have to come up with ways to turn myself into one of them and shape them to my need of relating to characters, despite the fact that they are men.

Now I can just say: “Hell yeah, I want to be like Lara Croft”.

That’s the true importance of seeing female representation on TV when you are a kid – to know that your dream is possible, that you are valid. Yes, those characters are fictional, but we can relate to their struggles, we can see bits of ourselves in them. And that makes all the difference in the world.

After Lara Croft, there was Leeloo from The Fifth Element, Charlie’s Angels, Kim Possible and Xena. My small world was stretching as far as it could, since Croatian TV companies didn’t think it was lucrative to invest in series with female characters. I did what I could, I went to my local video store at least three times a week, I fell in love with these amazing girls and I really, really wanted to become one of them.

But for every woman that kicked ass, there would be at least ten men. I couldn’t find proper representation because Lara Croft was gorgeous, Xena lived in an alternate universe, Leeloo was an alien. It’s very hard to find representation that speaks to you when there are very little examples to choose from, which is something Mel wrote about in great detail when reviewing Ghostbusters.

In fact, if you google the words “A list of female action heroes”, you will get one Wikipedia page with 171 entries – many of which overlap. And if you google “A list of male action heroes” – you will get so much more Wikipedia lists, branched out into action heroes in movies, in TV shows, in games.

So when we compare the two, it becomes pretty obvious that there is something rotten in the state of media.

Thankfully, today, in 2016, I am bombarded with strong female characters who are not a stereotype. No, they are their own people. And I only say “bombarded” because I am not used to this. I don’t think any of us are, not if you have been born before 2000. I used to revel when watching a movie that had at least two different female side-characters in it, and now – now I see Ghostbusters, I see Rey, and I see Furiosa.

I see all of these female characters and I feel inexplicably happy. I bounced with excitement when exiting the cinema after seeing Ghostbusters, I took photos next to cardboard cutouts. And I remember messaging Mel, asking her: “Is this how guys feel after watching a movie?”

Because the feeling is amazing.

The feeling is like no other in the world; suddenly, you know that you can make it. You are powerful. If Dr. Jillian Holtzmann can kick ass in slime-covered overalls, without slow-motion sexy sequences – just a slow-motion fight sequence – then so can you. You might not be fighting ghosts, but you are fighting for that good grade and you. can. do. it!

Lara Croft was a great role model but everything about her was pandering to the male gaze. Even Xena wore skimpy costumes. Charlie’s Angels were all about leather jumpsuits. Leeloo pranced around in something reminiscing a bathing suit. They all had to be sexy, as if that was a valid requirement for being awesome.

Jillian Holtzmann wears leather jackets and goggles, Furiosa is covered in dirty rags and armor, Rey doesn’t show her cleavage and what all of that actually means is –

You don’t have to be beautiful to be valid. You don’t have to flirt your way to success. You just have to be you, and it doesn’t matter if you wear stilettos or combat boots. That’s it. That’s all it takes.

For such a long time, I’ve watched Lara and Charlie’s Angels and the numerous gorgeous blonde nuclear physicists (see: James Bond etc.) – these beautiful women who used it to their advantage – wondering what happens if I don’t turn out hot. Can I succeed without having a cleavage to push my agenda with?

And now I see Jessica Jones, whose PTSD is acknowledged, I see numerous amazing characters from Orphan Black, who are different but not stereotyped (as it often happens when there are multiple prominent female characters), and I see a world in which I could fit in. In which I could be me, do great things, and not worry about whether my hair is perfectly styled.

Finally, I see Leslie Jones’ Patty Tolan, the unsung hero of Ghostbusters, who doesn’t have superpowers or extensive scientific knowledge, she’s just smart in a way that life teaches you to be. I see Patty Tolan and I know that I will be okay, even if I’m not a brilliant scientist.

 

 

This is what I am thankful for. I am thankful for this girl looking at Kristen Wiig and having bigger dreams. I am thankful for this new generation of girls that will grow up with Star Wars’ Rey and Mad Max’s Furiosa and Marvel’s new character Lunella Lafayette, incredible characters that will allow them to see themselves in a better light.

Because the only light I could have seen myself in because of the prevalent way of thinking in media was one of a sexy lamp, the main hero’s girlfriend, or a hot nuclear physicist who would help the hero save the world. She wouldn’t save it herself, no. Those kind of tasks are best yielded to men.

I am not saying that we don’t still have a long way to go. In fact, while compiling a list of important female characters for this article, I couldn’t think of more than three women of color.

The whole situation reminded me of Their Own League, a Saturday Night Live spoof of “A League of Their Own”, where white women form a baseball league and when two black women, played by Taraji P. Henson and Leslie Jones, ask if they can join, this is what they are told:

“Yeah, come on, you know the plan. Like, first white women are allowed to play baseball, then black men are allowed to play, then all women are allowed to play underhand, with a big softball, like a child.”

And we cannot let ourselves think like this. We can’t do the same thing that has been done to us with prevalence of male characters. If anything, we should learn from it. We should be better because yes, there could be fifty white female action heroes in a year, but if there’s not a single one that is a woman of color, then what am I doing? What are we all doing, if I have to write this article saying that there should at least be one character?

Screw that. There should be equality. I wasn’t able to find myself in one white female action hero in a year, so how the hell are women of color gonna find themselves? Does the debate stop with white kickass girls?

Hell no.

And if you think it should, please reconsider your priorities and your worldview. Because this is a nice planet to live on but if we, as a species, are good at anything, then it is warping true values.

Thank you for Furiosa, thank you for Rey, thank you for Lara Croft, but also – give us more Lunellas and Pattys and Elektras and Melinda Mays. Give us Filipinx action heroes. And where are kickass girls from India? Kenya? What’s going on? Has everyone suddenly gone forgetful and didn’t think of a huge percentage of the world’s population?

You can’t buy our love with half-assed representation so don’t even try.

To talk about the importance of seeing female representation in media when you are a child is to talk about self-esteem and ways to shape young minds.

If you think that it doesn’t matter in practice, just in theory, I would like to remind you of Millie Bobby Brown, which you might remember if you’ve seen Netflix’s Stranger Things. She plays the girl with psychokinetic gifts, Eleven, and you might have heard that she only got the courage to shave her head after being reminded of Imperatrix Furiosa.

In her own words to IndieWire, “We did this sort of split-screen of her and me, and the resemblance was amazing! I thought, ‘Wow, that’s such an amazing way to put it, you know?’ It was the best decision I’ve ever, ever made.”

Let’s take it a step further and look at Erika Schnellert’s beautiful comic showing Eleven (Brown’s character) wondering whether she is still pretty (a reference to the show) and Furiosa telling her that she is.




 

Seeing this comic on my Tumblr dashboard made tears well in my eyes and I’m not trying to be sappy; I am simply saying that I was overcome with relief and joy that this is a thing that happens now. This is a Thing with capital t, people. Women empowering women and girls finding strength in female characters they see on their screens.

Because, to talk about how much it means to see someone sharing your sex characteristics (in a world that cares too much about it) succeeding is to talk about new generations skipping over the obstacles we’ve had to get over with heaving breaths.

Being a girl in 2016 means to talk about Furiosa, whose anger isn’t pretty and shows us that ours shouldn’t be either. It is to talk about Rey, who stands tall in face of adversity without having to block her emotions. It is to talk about Lunella Lafayette, who is the smartest person in the Marvel universe and a black girl. It is to talk about female characters and it is to allow girls all over the world to believe in themselves. It is to break the stereotypes and glass ceilings and everything that stood in my path, when in 2004 being a girl meant being either Cady Heron or Regina George.

And the true importance of seeing female characters in media while you are still growing up and shaping your thoughts lay in the fact that you will never perceive your femininity as an obstacle.

Instead, you will know that you are a girl but you will never, ever feel burdened by it.

 


You can find out more about Lana Rafaela on her author page.

And you can find Loud and Alive on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook!

Monday Good News: Science Making Change

I know, there’s nothing revolutionary about saying that science is making a change in the world. We, as a species, have come up with vaccines, cures and helped make the world a better place.

But that’s on a global scale.

In this week’s Monday Good News, we are all about showing how science can change our lives. A pharmacist coming up with a cheaper EpiPen alternative hasn’t developed a cure for cancer, but he did change the lives of people who are struggling to get the most necessary medicine. A paralyzed man regaining use of his limbs after an experimental stem cell treatment has seemed like a science fiction scenario until it happened in USC Neurorestoration Center. And a kid 3D printed a mechanic hand for his teacher.

Not only are these cases precedents, but they also give us hope we really, really need. So let’s see what has happened in the past week that can make us go and say – damn, I’m lucky I get to live amongst these kind people.

 

Blacksburg pharmacists comes up with a $20 EpiPen Alternative

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After Mylan, EpiPen maker, raised the price more than 600%, it became clear that not everyone who needs EpiPen will be able to pay as much as $600 dollars for it.

So a Blacksburg pharmacy owner, Jeremy Counts, found a way to bypass that entirely and offer EpiPen at a much more affordable price.

“I buy the epinephrine in bulk and I get a good price and then I take the syringes and I pre-load them with 2 doses for people, and after I pre-load them, they’re ready to go,” Counts told WSET.

He sells a pair for $20, as opposed to Mylan’s $614 and the only difference is in product packaging and shelf-life (Mylan’s can last up to a year, while Counts’ is good for about three months). Counts’ medicine is no different from what the people are used to and need, but it’s cheaper.

You can learn more about Main Street Pharmacy in Blacksburg here and Counts pointed out that, as long as their insurance covers it, people should have no problem getting it.   

 

Experimental stem cell therapy helps a paralyzed main regain use of his arms and hands

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When Kristopher Boesen suffered a traumatic injury to his spine in a car accident back in March, he was told that it was probable he would stay paralyzed from the neck down.

However, 90 days after he had received treatment made from stem cells and other cells as a part of USC’s neurorestoration study, Boesen has gained significant improvement in his motor function, meaning that he can now use his cellphone, take care of himself and hug his family members.

“With this study, we are testing a procedure that may improve neurological function, which could mean the difference between being permanently paralyzed and being able to use one’s arms and hands. Restoring that level of function could significantly improve the daily lives of patients with severe spinal injuries,” Charles Liu, MD, PhD, director of the USC Neurorestoration Center told Kurzweil.

The study is still in progress, but it shows great potential that could change the lives of millions of people worldwide.

 

A boy prints a mechanical hand for his teacher

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Calramon Mabalot is not your regular kid wreaking havoc on the neighborhood. At 9 years old, he and his brother Calexis (12 years old) have clients all over the world and the largest 3D printing hub in Escondido.

Their teacher, Nick Sissakis, took them to library and the innovation lab where the librarians usually collaborate on scientific projects with the members of the community. Sissakis, born without his right hand, asked them if they could 3D-print a prosthetic hand and over the last few months, the answer became positive.

Using 3D scanners, the brothers and lab staff fitted Sissakis’s arm and over the next few months, they managed to devise a working prototype. When he tried on the hand, he was able to grab a bottle of water and today, Sissakis can hold his daughter with both hands and carry groceries.

“Every couple hours, I’m finding a new way to use it” Sissakis told NBC San Diego.

The main reason why he didn’t have a prosthetic hand was the cost of it. By working with the library, Mabalot brothers have managed to create it for a much more affordable price and they have no intention of stopping their work now. They are looking to make the hand even better, to allow Sissakis to use his cell phone or a tablet.

The Mabalot brothers have a website where they sell their 3D-printed inventions and if these two kids with a huge passion to learn and improve the world we live in right now aren’t an inspiration, then I don’t know who is.

 

Here is to people who work tirelessly to help the world! May we all follow their example!

 

Monday Good News: Pop Culture, Punks & Paletas

After a tumultuous last week, let’s start this one on the right note! In this week’s instalment of Monday Good News, Loud and Alive is bringing you your dose of good news: a camel was named Alexander Camelton in Lincoln Park Zoo, $110,000 has been raised for a 90-year-old popsicle salesman in Chicago and Myanmar’s rebels help the homeless in Yangon!

 

Alexander Camelton

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This little guy is not throwing away his shot!

Recently, a baby Bactrian camel was born in Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. When it came to naming it, abc7chicago reports that the possibilities were Angela the Camel, Humpty Dumpty, Caramel and John, but one of the zoo’s keepers got the idea to name the baby camel Alexander Camelton, after a Broadway musical everyone and their mothers know about.

It was only a matter of time before we progress to Hamilton puns in our daily lives and I, for one, couldn’t be happier!

 

More than $110,00 raised for a 90 year old popsicle salesman

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When Joel Cervantes Macias, a Chicagoan, came across Fidencio Sanchez, an elderly paletero (a street seller of popsicles), his first thought was that he can do something about it.

We wrote about Colin Ross, who helped save a small fish and chip shop in Canada, just because he thought the owner could use some help, and the story of Macias and Sanchez isn’t any different.

After retiring and losing his daughter, Fidencio Sanchez had to go back to selling paletas in the streets of Chicago. He has been selling paletas for decades, typically earning somewhere between $50 – $60 a day, reports dnainfo.com. Since that is not nearly enough for him to live well and be able to retire, Macias decided to start a GoFundMe campaign.

His original intent was to raise $3,000 dollars but 5,607 people have raised over $116,000 in just one day!

“He knows, and he’s taking it with a lot of love,” Gutierrez said.

However, Mr. Sanchez doesn’t want to stop working, despite his age, but the community of Little Village is trying to do as much as possible to help him out.

The campaign is ongoing and you can pitch in on gofundme.com.

 

Rebels caring for Yangon’s homeless

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In an uncaring world, maybe the real punk is caring.

At least, that seems to be the premise under which the members of punk subculture in Myanmar help the homeless every day. The leader of the movement and the punk group Rebel Riot, Kyaw Kyaw, asked himself and his friends what could they do to help the homeless.

And now, every Monday, a bunch of punks (who are definitely welcome on our lawn) give out food to Yangon’s homeless.  “We explained our ideas — we are anti-war, anti-capitalism — but they didn’t really understand. They know only one thing: they are hungry. That’s all,” Kyaw Kyaw told ABC News.

Not only does Kyaw Kyaw give out food with his friends, but they formed the Myanmar chapter of Food Not Bombs, a global network dedicated to peaceful social change. From a group of five, they now have 20 regular volunteers, feeding between 50 and 100 people every week.

They have also decided to start a program called Books Not Bombs, providing government schools with reading material. Seeing as Myanmar is undergoing major political shifts, a lot of people cannot afford housing anymore. This is where Kyaw Kyaw and his band of do-gooders come into play. They are doing everything they can do raise awareness and help, but the one thing he points out is:

“Emotional stuff, kindness and compassion is more important than physical stuff. Lots of people don’t understand this. They give food, and they post it on Facebook. They’re not really feeding the people, they’re feeding their ego.”

Punk subculture has bad reputation but why? These young adults are trying to bring about actual change in the world, unlike many who would criticize them upon sight. Yes, they have mohawks. Yes, their jeans are ripped. Yes, they have piercings and studs on every item of clothing.

But are they helping make this world a better place? Yes.

And perhaps that is what we should all aspire to.