Artist Olivia Stephens is responsible for the FIYAH #10 cover art. We asked her a bit about her process and the work she’s excited about.
1: What inspired you to originally want to be an artist?
It’s a common answer these days, but: anime and manga. I’ve always drawn a bit, but once I was introduced to shonen manga (Bleach was my first serious experience in fandom) in middle school, I really wanted to learn to draw well. That was the time I started to take drawing and the actual practicing of it seriously.
2: What advice would you have for people looking to become an artist as a career?
The most important thing you need to build a career is time and space to create, which means you need to secure some kind of funding or stability to keep you afloat when you start. This can take the form of a relative letting you stay with them at a low cost, saving money from a day job to keep you comfortable for a year of art-making, or applying for fellowships and other forms of patronage. I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am without being able to live with my parents, at a low rent, for that first year and a half out of school. And I definitely wouldn’t be able to continue working at my pace without securing a Tulsa Artist Fellowship for 2019. Economic privilege is often what makes or breaks a career in the arts, so finding a way to secure time and space to focus on your craft is key. It’s not pretty advice, but it’s real advice.
3: What are your own personal goals for your art? Where would you like it to be in five years?
In five years, I want to be in a stable place where I can be fully committed to my storytelling vision. I want to craft stories full of hope, tenderness and a dash of the supernatural, with characters that reflect myself, my family and my friends. As a queer Black woman, I want to portray all of my communities as the complex, multi-faceted and interesting beings that we are. If I can still be doing that in five years, I will be happy.
4: Who are some of your favorite artists currently?
Lately, I’ve been really excited by the work of Xia Gordon, Amara Sherm, Mikhaila Leid, Em Allen, and Rowan MacColl.
5: What thought process did you take into your FIYAH cover? Did you have a specific artistic goal in mind?
As soon as I received the theme, I wanted to draw androids with braids. Braids are so beautifully organic and structural at the same time, so for me, they fit in perfectly with the idea of human and machine working as one entity. My only goals were to have fun and draw something that folks might not have expected from me, and I think I achieved that.
6: If you could instantly work on any established property, what would it be and why?
I would drop everything to work on a comic adaptation of N.K. Jemisin’s work. I’m putting that out into the universe. Like, call me.
7: What projects do you have coming down the pipeline? Anything you particularly excited about?
I’ve been working on my debut graphic novel, Artie, for Lerner Graphic Universe. Artie is about a 12-year-old Black girl who accidentally discovers that she comes from a family of werewolves. It’s a journey of self-discovery, found family, and supernatural hijinks. It’s my pride and joy, and I’m so so excited for people to read it! The book is scheduled for release in early 2021 or so.
8: Tell us where we can find you. Social media, website etc.?
You can find me on Twitter and Instagram!: @oliveoilcorp
And my website is olivia-stephens.com
Thanks, Olivia, for being a part of FIYAH.