EDITOR: Every month, EFNIKS features a new artist in the title art of each section of the website. In addition to featuring their work, EFNIKS wants our readers to get to know the queer and trans creatives whose work you see. Below, a chat with this month's artist, Olivia Stephens.
EFNIKS: Hello, and welcome, Olivia! How is your week, how is life, what’s happening on social media that is catching your eye? Talk to us.
OLIVIA STEPHENS: Life is good! I’m super busy. Drawing a few comics at once will do that. Right now I’m sitting on a lot of exciting professional developments, so I’ve been learning to have a lot of patience. When I’m not working, I’ve just been checking up on the news and immediately needing a nap afterwards.
EFNIKS: How do you identify: race, ethnicity, gender, pronouns, sexuality…?
OS: I am a biracial, cis bisexual Black lady.
EFNIKS: What is your background with respect to art and various artistic media? Any formal training or education?
OS: I took some art classes in high school, but I got my formal education in comics and illustration from attending the Rhode Island School of Design. I just graduated in June 2017 with a BFA in Illustration, actually.
EFNIKS: Is there anything about you, your experiences, your values that informs your art and how you present your style?
OS: I make comics, so I obviously work a lot with narrative. After years of feeling pressured to cater my narratives to folks who aren’t me, I realized: fuck that. Why on earth would I waste my life trying to make things for other people who see themselves every day? No. Nah. So now, every story I come up with is explicitly and unapologetically for me and those like me. I make my characters and casts as black and queer and vulnerable and soft and flawed as I please. That informs every narrative and stylistic choice in my work. I work to depict the relationships and adventures that we are rarely allowed to see in other media.
EFNIKS: Do you feel any expectations or pigeonholing about how people approach you, given your race/ethnicity, gender presentation, and sexuality? Do people place limits (even if subtle and suggestively) on what you can do?
OS: I used to feel nervous about folks possibly placing limits on my range and versatility. But now I like being able to surprise people and disprove their assumptions. At the end of the day, I can’t keep other people from reducing my complexity for their own comfort. All I can really control is the creation of work and the constant improvement of my craft. People can either get with it, or miss out.
EFNIKS: Tell us about the pieces featured on EFNIKS.com for the NERD Cover Story?
OS: Most of the pieces are from various comic stories that I’ve developed the last few years, ranging from adult/romance, to quiet fantasy, to supernatural adventures for kids! The main thread that probably ties all of these comics together, regardless of genre, is the predominantly Black/queer main characters. I also have a piece that I completed for a Guardian op-ed once the verdict on Darren Wilson was revealed in late 2014.
EFNIKS: Art is important to EFNIKS, and we want to continue to push art and artivism (art + activism) as regular and recurring parts of our mission--what would you tell up-and-coming artists about finding spaces where they can flourish and shine?
OS: You are your best promoter. You have to make/take up the space that you want. You have to come to the opportunities because nine times out of ten they are NOT gonna come to you. And NEVER feel any obligation to tolerate bullshit, even from those within your own communities.
EFNIKS: Anything you want our folks to know, any words of wisdom you want to drop on the children and younger folks in our community?
OS: You don’t owe an explanation or justification for who you are, to anyone. Ever.
EFNIKS: Where can we find you on social media? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, got a SoundCloud? Personal website?
EFNIKS: Thank you for your time, Olivia. You’re a dope human.
OS: Thanks for featuring me!
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