Before the AHAW seminar, I would have described myself as Sarah, a dedicated hobbyist and fanartist, committed to depicting human connections and building on the stories of recognizable cultural icons. It’s a cocksure mouthful of words that I loyally embodied, even before my introduction to digital art. I’ve made many comics and full-blown pieces of relationships blooming and persevering, all of them derivatives of older, larger works: in my junior high classes, I doodled and passed Elibarra comics to my seatmates. In last year’s summer, I contributed to multiple LGBT fandom zines, the main contenders being Fire Emblem and Pokémon. My friends and the invisible, vast online audience seemed to enjoy it, and I enjoyed how my art resonated with them, so I was convinced of my creative direction.
Now, after the seminar, I’m not so sure. AHAW cemented that I’m consistent with my workflow, artistic style, and creative motivation. However, I realized my consistency had transitioned to stagnancy with the subject matter and visual language of my works. Yes, the narrative in my works is easily parsed! But the gay, repressed nerds illustrated with blushing cheeks and tender embraces did not tackle any sociopolitical issues past, perhaps, breaking gender norms and the gender binary itself. Although I effectively studied and incorporated Asian aesthetics and ethnic groups into my pieces, I erased their real-life experiences of discrimination as minorities. Neither did my work hold much personal meaning for me. I looked back at my portfolio, and saw that its marketability relied on its simplicity: my works tended towards the easily conceptualized and consumed, and I felt I didn’t challenge my skills or sense of self, or my peers’ understanding of any particular topic, with it.
I’m grateful for Sir Tokwa, my fellows, and the entire panelist board for challenging the initial and sole purpose of my art; that is, to be displayed to an audience. I can do more with my pieces than post it online, watch it be consumed and discarded in the matter of a day, and attempt to predict the next ‘viral’ piece. There are individual artists (and to my unironic shock, myself as well) that ponder and even admire the journey behind a piece. Thanks to them, I’m learning to engage with and find intrinsic motivation to power my creative process, and trust in the merit of my fledgling artistic themes as I move from fanart to original pieces.
The AHAW seminar knocked me from my old path. I find my recent works uncertain, their meanings not fully known even to me; they lack the magnetic fantasy of couple portraits and the relatability of satirical comics. In the middle of uploading the best of them, though, I realized I actually enjoyed that! To me, my directionlessness represents my newfound potential as an artist. I found that I’m now willing to extend my commentary on and contribution to subjects and issues past the limiting framework of my old fanworks. With the support of fellow artists and teachers, I can explore my own connection with my new pieces and discover more about myself, creating a foundation for the works to come.