Growing up I always felt a little strange and out of sync with everyone else my age when it came to relationships. I knew there was something a little different but wasn’t sure what it was. It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I actually figured out that I might be queer. But even then I didn’t have the language to express that. I’d grown up in the Catholic education system where gay an lesbian relationships weren’t discussed never-mind any other sexualities. Fortunately my parents are incredibly supportive and have always reassured my sister and I of their love regardless of our sexualities. We’re incredibly lucky to have such accepting parents, especially in a very small town and with very limited LGBTQ+ representation. The only snag was that they also hadn’t been exposed to many LGBTQ+ folks growing up , the most well known in our house would probably have been Paul O’Grady or Eddie Izzard.
Bisexual didn’t fit, Lesbian didn’t fit, Asexual didn’t fit, and Heterosexual certainly didn’t. Pansexual felt closer but not quite. And while labels aren’t everything, I’ve found that they do help you to connect to and get support from your community. When I discovered the Queer community I felt immediate connection and finally felt like I understood myself a little better.
It did take some time for me to allow myself to take up space within the LGBTQ+ community, after being a lifelong ally, I felt some strange guilt at claiming a label for my own; internalised homophobia really does a number on you. But I’m working on this everyday and find myself more and more settled in myself.
Of course I’d be remiss not to acknowledge that the word “Queer” does come with a history of negative connotations. After being used as a slur towards LGBTQ+ folks for decades, it was finally reclaimed by the community in the early 2000’s and has gained a lot of traction since as an umbrella term for those who fall outside of the gender binary, heteronormative attraction etc. It’s a very open identity and means many things to many different people. Personally, it allowed me to accept my sexuality and understand myself better.
But aye, back to the art stuff.
If you’d told me a few years ago that I’d be drawing in anything other than black and white, I’d have laughed. But I fell in love with full colour in my final year of uni and haven’t looked back since. Colour palette inspiration can be hard to find at times. Your Pinterest boards run dry, reams of Lactose/Meat/Gluten/Egg/Nut-Free Breakfast Recipes for Your 2 Year Old taking over your feed and destroying your soul. It’s bleak. This time round though, finding a colour actually proved relatively easy.
I decided for this piece, since it was pride related, that it be cool if I utilised the Queer flag. The flag began appearing around 2015 as the term “Queer” became more generally accepted. According to QueerInTheWorld.Com, the colours represent the following;
- Shades of pink next to each other and shades of blue next to each other symbolise same-gender attraction.
Orange and green are for non-binary individuals.
Black and white are for asexual, aromantic, and agender spectrum individual
Whenever I use traditional media my go to choice would be gouache paint. I just love the coverage and texture of it, I also find it really good for layering. For this piece though, I kind of wanted to branch out a bit and try to mimic the warm, almost grainy texture of paint; but using digital media in order to get a much brighter image. Gouache can have fantastic saturation, but if overworked it can look muddy or and if underworked, a little flat. Because I wanted this illustration to be extra vibrant I chose to go the digital route, it also gave me the chance to stretch those muscles and work on improving my ability to translate my painting skills into digital art, and in the future to work out a smoother way of combining the two practices.
I was really happy with how the final piece turned out, the aim was to create an image of unravelling identity and breaking from tradition, hence the unravelling wool of the rag doll. As well as being able to explore my identity through this illustration, I submitted and was accepted to exhibit at Usfolk’s Big Queer Art Show on the 22nd of July.
It was an incredible night featuring so many amazingly talented artists. It was honestly an honour to be involved. It also didn’t hurt that my parents came to surprise me at my first LGBTQ+ event.
Yes I may or may not have cried a little bit.