Greetings everyone and welcome to a brand-new way to find out about up-and-coming queer artists online! I present to you the extension of my Twitter #FeatureFriday tag: the Meet A Queer Artist Interview series!
I will be featuring artists that are my friends and colleagues to let y’all get to know them better. You will also be able to find out how to appreciate and support their work in one biweekly Friday Feature! This might branch out later to artists I am not as close to, but I want to feature my friends first and foremost.
Now, this week we have one of my oldest friends from back in the oekaki days being featured.
Without further ado let’s get started on this first of many interviews to come!!!
- Introduce yourself as an artist and as a queer person.
I am Chelsea Rhi (she/her)! I’m an American digital artist who specializes in character concept design. I tell people I am a “queer trashfire” because I can’t answer the question simply. Without writing an essay that’s ten pages long, I would call myself a pan-lesbian. I am very attracted to feminine features and traits, but that doesn’t always specifically mean “women.” And this “rule” for myself is also not set in stone. I see my sexuality as something that fluctuates the same way I do. Being set in stone with, well anything, is absolutely terrible in my book.
- What made you take up art?
There wasn’t really an inciting incident. No grand awakening or anything like that, it was just something I had always done. My mother has stories about me drawing as soon as I was able to hold onto a tube of lipstick. I can however say that I began to view myself as an artist around the time I got into Pokemon. I would draw my favorite Pokemon, and soon I was drawing stuff from The Legend of Zelda. Then I started making my own characters and stories.
Once I got online, I started finding art communities that were chock full of artists like me: young, weird, and huge nerds. Before I had any software I could use, my new online friends and I were using Oekakis. These were forum-like boards that had a java-based paint program in-browser. Looking back on them, the software was absolutely garbage. But this was probably the first building block to some of the cooler programs we have now.
And as with any hobby, it just escalated. I had moved on from a dollar store sketchbook and printer paper to my first Wacom tablet. It was small and the cord came out all the time. My dad would constantly have to soldier it back together.
- What are your favorite mediums to work with and why?
I am a digital artist primarily. I’m actually not a huge fan of painting and other wet/dry media. I don’t like the feeling of -stuff- on my hands and I am terrible about cleaning my brushes and palettes afterwards. With digital art, it’s one investment that lasts for a few years.
My hardware currently is my Samsung Tab S7. It’s an Android tablet that runs Clip Studio. I don’t have a computer that can currently handle digital art, but it’s currently one of my goals! This also allows me to take my work on the go, so it’s become a digital sketchbook of sorts. A lot of other artists like me use iPads with Procreate, but unfortunately, I’m an Android person. Now you even have younger artists breaking into digital art on their phones. I previously used IbisPainterX, which has a lot of great features, but you can’t beat Clip Studio’s resource community.
I still use IbisPainterX on my phone to scribble out an idea, then the app has a feature that allows me to send it directly to my Clip Studio cloud.
- How does your queerness intersect with your art? What do you like about that?
The biggest intersection is that I just draw a lot of queer people in general. If you look at my rolodex of characters that I’ve made myself, none of them are straight. Side characters relating to main characters, maybe. But being queer myself, it’s much easier for me to write from a queer perspective.
I like to think that this shows in some of my concepts since I don’t pay attention to any binaries. In my overall concepts, gender identity is usually further down the list of questions asked. Sometimes I don’t even assign a gender identity until well after I’ve named and drawn them 50 times.
But I think that’s kind of the queer experience in a way. We take what life throws at us and we make it ours. In a dramatic sense, we control our own destinies since we have to take life by the reins from day one. There’s no predetermined sign that we’re one thing or another.
When coming up with an idea, I just scribble out a form until its something that starts to remotely look like a person.
- What is a project you are most proud of currently?
I don’t do a whole lot of project work, but one thing in general I am proud of is the small niche of art friends and twitter mutuals I’ve made. Growing up I’ve always had a hard time meshing with other people, even other artists. So, when you’re able to go online and just find your herd, it’s pretty great.
With this I’ve gained quite a few repeat customers. Most of my commissioners have hired me more than once. They’re also just some pretty great people.
- What is your typical creative process like?
Most of the time, I start out scribbling. A 5px hard brush at 66% opacity and just go to town. It’s messy, it’s ugly, and half the time it doesn’t even make any sense. Then crank down the layer opacity to half, make a new layer, pick a new, darker color.) and repeat this process until it starts to gain form.
Once the form is more fleshed out and I can actually see the roadmap of what I’m doing, that’s usually when I start gathering references. One flaw I have is I am terrible at the standard color picker wheel. My process tends to be, load up a palette or image that I want to use as a palette, and simply pick colors there.
Another process that I’ve been employing more of lately is simply drawing in grayscale. I will set my foreground and background colors to black and white on a 50% gray background and carve out my scene. From there I can either add color using layer magic, or I can use gradient mapping
For more complex scenes, I’ll employ the ENDLESS resources from Clip Studio. They have posable 3D models that you can adjust the body shape of and an entire online community of people who share the poses and bodies they make. This makes the process of getting a basic sketch down, along with being able to adjust perspective and camera views, much easier and time efficient.
This process with Clip Studio’s poseable resources and camera views also feels like its adding to my artist muscle memory. After doing a complex scene where I used the models and perspective effects, I found it easier for myself to just draw this stuff freehand when warming up or doodling later.
- And how can we support you as a queer artist?
Honestly, just follow me on twitter. In general, when it comes to your favorite online artists, interaction is the best thing you can do. Commissions are great because we need money to survive, but interactions on social media is what ensures commissions in the future. Since Twitter is an algorithm-based feed, it wants to boost posts that are already being interacted with, which can be tough if you’re starting from nothing. It can be kind of a hard barrier to bust through for beginner artists. Especially queer artists. Follow your favorite artists, like, retweet, or even comment a thumbs up emoji. Just something that says “Hey, I see you.”
You don’t have to buy commissions to support queer artists. The best form of advertisement is word-of-mouth. Or in this case it would be word-of-Tweet? Word-of-keyboard.
You get it.
Follow me at @Chelsea_rhi
You can also support Chelsea by visiting her Redbubble Shop with all kinds of cool stickers and other designs!!!