A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the fantastic Flame Con – taking myself all the way from The Bronx, to Brooklyn. (I drove…it wasn’t that serious of a trip). Never before having attended, I was elated with the vibe, the energy, and the beautiful people. I have never attended a con in which everyone said excuse me when they bumped into you. What?! No one ever has time for politeness at Cons! Well, they do at Flame Con. I was super excited about the panels, the exhibitors and the artists, even sparking up a conversation with Tee “Vixen” Franklin!
As I was exploring this con for the first time, I was drawn to the variety of artists and styles exhibited on the show floor. I could not take my eyes off of the illustrations of beautiful brown bodies. I knew I wanted to talk more with the queer artists of color that caught my eye. I pulled up my iPad and interviewed a few artists who I felt particularly drawn to.
Yesenia Moises & Shauna J Grant
First are two women whose artwork gave me shiny anime eyes walking by.
Yesenia Moises and Shanuna J Grant, the best part is – they are both from my town, The BX!
Yesenia (left) is a freelance toy designer and illustrator – who loves to draw cute girl characters! Shauna (right) an illustrator and comic creator known for her web comic “Princess Love Pon.” I stopped at table L122 to chat with these two lovely ladies.
Black Nerd Problems: What inspires your artistic style?
Shauna J. Grant: Well my reason to live is magical girls, because Sailor Moon was the first anime I saw, it is what really got me into wanting to create stories and do art. So my art style is very heavily focused on anime meeting western cartooniness. Because I just love animation in general and I just want an endless emersion of perfectly blending those two together with lots of pastels and pink because they give me life.
Yesenia Moises: What inspires me is a mix of things, I also started out watching Sailor Moon and that’s how I started drawing, so it’s a lot of anime inspiration, but these days I’m inspired by graphic design too. I don’t know how to explain it, I draw shapes and it works out.
BNP: What is the most important thing for you as artists of color?
YM: Just do it, just do it… just do it, cuz a lot of times people get discouraged. Especially these days with social media, seeing people posting amazing art every single day, or every other day you feel like, “oh my god I need to be on that level but I’m not”, it keeps you from doing stuff, when you should just create.
SJG: Also staying true to yourself is really important, it’s very easy to be influenced by other things you see. You don’t see a lot of people of color in media, it’s really easy to get stuck drawing characters that don’t look like you. And I say that from experience, I was in my 20s before I was like oh, let me draw characters that actually look Black. So do what makes you feel happy and put yourself into it.
You can find both Yesenia (left image) and Shauna (right image) exhibiting at Anime NYC coming this November! Check Shauna’s work at shaunadraws.com and @shaunadrawscute on social media. You can get more of Yesenia’s work at yeseniamoises.com and @elixiadraws on social media.
Next stop I headed to a booth that was giving me all the feels, Lucky Sanford.
Lucky describes himself as a “homoerotic artist.” Residing in NYC, Lucky draws the sexy superheros we all can love.
Black Nerd Problems: Tell us a little about yourself.
Lucky Sanford: I got my start with my work when I went to an erotic drawing studio and kind of combined that with my love of comic books and pop culture. Comics have women with exaggerated proportions, then the men are just [flat], so I went the opposite. So my whole thing is the big bulge boy – the anatomy is not ignored, so it’s a fun take on all that stuff.
BNP: What brings you to Flame Con?
LS: Well, I’m a big nerd and I love to draw, I’ve been drawing all my life. I love comic book culture so, I want to be a part of it.
BNP: What inspires your art?
LS: Fashion mostly, a lot of the guys I draw, I design what they are wearing. My background is in fashion first, then with my love of comics, I try to combine the two.
BNP: What do you hope your viewers take away from your art?
LS: That you can have fun, not everything has to be so serious. All of my work has an element of humor, bright colors, and happiness, I will serve you with just the right amount of wrong.
BNP: What is the most important thing for you as an artist of color?
LS: As a person of color I feel it’s important to represent not only people that look like myself, but other nationalities as well. Because I feel like there’s a huge lack of black and brown faces as a whole. I like to make sure my art has asian representation, latino representation not just black. I like to have a diverse set of work that includes everyone.
Lucky’s work gives me exactly what he is hoping to dish out, humourous, sexy, fun art. I truly resonate with his point of view, taking male character anatomy and exaggerating it as a twist on the female illustrations we see often in comic book culture, and doing it creatively and lightheartedly. I suggest checking out his pokemon collection, it’s a revelation lol!
Look out for Lucky’s calendar coming out soon and follow his work on instagram @luckysanford. Keep an eye out for Lucky’s upcoming Harry Potter houses collection and more pop culture art soon!
Lastly, I could not resist the booth of Jenny Q, (Jennifer Cunningham) and Sam Kirk and their company Provoke Culture. The unique style and mesmerizing brown figures of women kept bringing me back. I was delighted to spend some time with this power couple.
Jenny Q. is the creator and artist of Quirklyn illustrating her life adventures and characters as a quirky girl from Brooklyn. Sam Kirk defines herself as a muralist working in large public pieces, while also illustrating on a smaller scale in galleries and museums around the country, drawing characters that represent her identity and lived experience. Together the couple represents the company Provoke Culture
Black Nerd Problems: What brings you to Flame Con?
Jenny Q: It goes along with representation, when you think about the comic book world, you know growing up, Storm…and Storm comes to mind. So when there’s an opportunity to go and do cosplay, or to just provide materials or creations that present a wider spectrum, we had to be here. We showed up last year and realized how many more people were also creating that representation. Now it’s a mission, now we have to be here. It goes beyond the days of giving greeting cards to friends and family and coloring the individuals in, now we’re creating our own things.
Sam Kirk: Yea, when we started our greeting card line and coloring book, we showed it to some of our friends and they got so excited about it. To have somewhere where they can go and buy things for their friends and not have to alter it or it wasn’t a super generic image. –
JQ: – Or wasn’t super hetero and you have to cross out the male reference or female reference.
SK: This is only the second time I have participated in a comic convention and for me, I was really surprised at how few vendors there are of color. You know there’s not a lot of vendors of color and us being here, seeing what we have, a lot of people really appreciate it, and we have to make sure that we’re here.
BNP: What inspires your art?
SK: Your imagination is your talent. I see a lot of things in lines, so where you would do shadow or shading, I do lines. And then with the colors, a lot of times in my work you will see people that have different skin tones, there will be a range of browns, that’s because I am multicultural. A lot of times you will have people be like, “what are you?” My mom is a darker complexion than I and they’ll be like, “that’s not your mom” – it’s kind of my way of showing the spectrum of what multi-racial people feel like.
JQ: I’m anything but simplistic, but I have very simple drawings. Two dots for eyes and a simple line for a mouth. I love doing a style that does not have too much distraction because it basically contains in a smaller capsule people’s expressions. I love looking at people and the slightest smirk can be done in a way with just a flick of a wrist with the pencil, that sort of stuff fascinates me. We’re all multi faceted and I love studying human nature and the things that make us complex beings. Even though the characters are simple what they are saying is bigger and bold.
BNP: What do you hope people take away from your art?
SK: On the street side of my work, I want to make sure artists of color are represented, specifically women of color. On the fine art side, I want to show that you do not have follow the traditional path. As artists of color, we are not given that easy entry anyway, we have to go through a lot of other steps to get into that space. I want to show you don’t have to go get your masters in art, or do all of those typical things they tell you to do to get in.
JQ: I wanted to create characters that are giving themselves the permission to give a range of emotion without apology. Because many times when you are passionate about something as a women of color, you are describe as being angry or aggressive and I want to just show that there’s so much more depth and complexity in all of that, and that it’s just not true, we are just as passionate as the next person. That you can be all these things, you can be erudite, or listen to trap music while writing your thesis. I want my characters to represent that, and tons of Black joy, and tons of joy for people of color of different shades. There’s a lot to be upset and angry about and that needs to be worked through and talked about and also to remember there is so much joy.
I am inspired and flattered by this couple’s work. I see myself in their drawings and feel represented in what they are about and how they present their artistry. Not only do they create beautifully, they support each other beautifully. Traveling between Chicago and New York to continue their great work. And I had to cop the shirt!!
You can find Jenny Q’s zine and graphic novel coming out in the next year, check out her greeting cards, coloring books and t-shirts online at quirklyn.com Follow her @quirklyn
Sam Kirk’s work will be on exhibit at the Dusable Museum of African American History in Chicago in October and a series of public murals in downtown Chicago. Follow Sam @iamsamkirk on social media and peruse her work at iamsamkirk.com
Check out a collaborative piece by the couple at the new Brooklyn Pride Center coming in November! And visit Provoke Culture at provokeculture.com
Growing up I was surrounded by all types of people, those who existed in the hyphens of normative culture. A place that raised me to see my multi-cultural heritage and see and understand all the ways we can exist in this world. It made me own my Afro-Latinxness, raised me in a queer normative culture, in a nature loving world and way of being it made me the ally I am proud to be. Thank you Flame Con, and the queer artists who represent. It feels like home.