Sunday, May 15, 2016

Women with Initiative: Emily Griggs

This month's Woman with Initiative is Emily Griggs, an artist, writer, and geek creator! Emily was kind enough to let me look over her work and ask her a few questions. One of the things that intrigued me most about Emily's projects is her geeky cards - She has wall art and cards with geeky and often gaming-related designs and I love that kind of thing. Her various shops have plenty of cool products to check out!

Emily has a cute and fun style that really strikes me. There is a prevalence of artists in gaming and geek circles, and I love many of them! Emily's art stands out to me because of the color palettes that appeal to me and the stylized looks that I think capture her characters really well.

Her webcomic, Heartless, is a Victorian action/adventure comic, featuring an LGBTQIA+ cast, which is really exciting! Even moreso, her main character, Clara, is asexual. The comic is currently funded through Patreon, and had a successful Kickstarter last year to produce print editions. Also, I love that on her website, there's a button to take you straight to the beginning of the comic - it's weirdly rare. I asked her a few questions about her work and current projects, and I'm happy to share her answers below!

What importance do you place on having your main character in Heartless an asexual character?

Clara being ace kinda plays double duty, in that it's important both for the story and for me as an author. The idea for the Heartless setting predates Clara, but while I had lots of cool ideas for the world and the supporting cast and how my vampires' "Allure" power would work, I needed a protagonist. She needed to be a young vampire, so the audience could learn about the world through her eyes, but she also needed to be special in some way so I could justify the plot revolving around her actions. I remember vividly walking home one autumn afternoon, thinking about the story, when the solution hit me: she's immune to the Allure, because she's asexual! The rest of the story fell into place around that one twist, including the name.

Besides all that, when I started writing Heartless I had several ace friends, but I was resisting the idea that the label might apply to me. I had all sorts of exciting internalized fear and anxiety about it, and came up with every excuse in the book to try and ignore all the obvious signs. Developing Heartless and Clara as its protagonist helped me get over that, and by the time the comic launched I was quite happily identifying as a part of the ace community.

That whole experience was part of why I decided to turn Heartless into a webcomic, rather than seeking traditional publication: I wanted to make the story available to as wide an audience as possible. It makes my day every time a younger reader finds me at a convention and tells me how happy they are to see someone like them as a main character, and I hope I'm helping some of them feel as positive about being asexual as I feel now.

While looking for inspiration - for your cards and comic - where do you go, and how do you decide what "fits" for you?

Strangely enough, my approaches to cards and comics are almost the exact opposite. For Heartless I do piles of research: history books and articles, historical fashion resources, landscape and architecture studies, etc. I'm not married to historical accuracy, but I try and stay relatively true to the setting of the comic, and the Victorian era has plenty of wonderful, awful stuff to draw inspiration from. Figuring out dialogue, background, and costumes usually involves a lot of bouncing back and forth between references, taking what I can from them before filling in the rest with my own style.

For new card designs, I just sit down with a pencil and paper and doodle until something makes me laugh. I'm kind of my own target audience, in that a lot of the designs are things that I'd either love to receive, or to give to specific friends. I try to listen to customer requests and design things that other people will love too, but in the end the Sweet Ingenuity card line is always going to be pretty heavily influenced by my own nerdy obsessions: creepy-cute girly things and a whole lot of tabletop RPG references.

What are you looking forward to in your work and in Heartless over the next few months?

Heartless chapter 4 is almost complete (it should be 29 pages once it's all done) so I'm starting to gear up to crowdfund the next printed volume. I can't say I'm exactly looking forward to the Kickstarter campaign (so much paperwork D: ) but I am really excited to see how everyone reacts to the completed volume, and to get to hold it in my hands. There's also a bit of a twist at the end of the chapter, so I'm holding my breath waiting to see how people will take it.

For my Etsy store, I'm taking the next few months to focus on creating more big illustrations. I'll keep adding cards as new ideas spring to mind, but expect to see some new posters over the next few months. Most of my large illustrations lately have been commissions, so taking the time to get back to big fully-rendered original pieces has been a lot of fun, and I'm excited to show off the results!

Thanks to Emily for the interview and for sharing her creations with me! I'm excited to share this with everyone, and look forward to next month's Women with Initiative post as well! 

Emily Griggs (sweetingenuity) Contact:

Heartless Comic
Heartless Patreon

(Note: While I am mostly focusing on women working in game design, I also want to promote other women doing design work and who are creators in geek arenas, so having Emily as one of the interviewees was just sensible!)

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