Vancouver’s Comic Arts Festival 2016 was held last month providing a wonderful opportunity to connect with over a hundred artists, writers, and publishers from the comic industry. I attended an insightful event by members of Creators of Color. Creators of Color is an organisation promoting diversity in the fields of art. The “Write On! Creators of Color” event taught the audience about members’ experiences supporting diversity in different forms of art and goals they would like to see the arts industry achieve in the future.
Here are the speakers who entertained the audience:
Joamette Gil | http://joamettegil.tumblr.com
Joamette Gil is an Afro-Cuban artist who not only shows diversity through illustrating individuals of color, but also through queer characters who are at the forefronts of promoting justice and equality. One of the reasons why Gil loves being a member of Creators of Color is that they have greater autonomy to make the change they want to see in the arts industry. For example if one was working with Marvel or DC, they would have to overcome hurdles with sexism and racism. However, being an independent artist allows one to understand the needs and wants of audience interpersonally and inspire others and themselves with new ideas. Gil stated that in the future, the changes in the industry she would like to see is a greater representations of the queer community.
Arthur Ikuta | http://artikuta.com
Arthur Ikuta is a Japanese Canadian who has read Japanese manga as a child to learn the language, but he was also inspired by the artworks. This eventually led him to pursue his career as an illustrator. His illustrations are insightful and unique because they incorporate ideas from both Western comic and Japanese manga styles. In appearance, his works look Western because the shadings of the human faces and bodies are detailed than what is generally seen in manga. He noted that a manga named Slam Dunk inspired him the most, which includes scenes that have no text, only images. The images themselves are well detailed in expression and create a certain mood without the need for text.
Pearl Low | https://www.instagram.com/fumichun/?hl=en
Pearl Low is a half Jamaican half Chinese storyboard artist who currently resides in Vancouver. Her inspiration for the cause of diversity in the arts industry comes from her questioning the mainstream manga representation of mostly light-coloured individuals. As a half Jamaican half Chinese individual, her identity and experience living in China drove her to create illustrations that includes Black individuals into the mainstream comic industry. She noted that the importance of being self-conscious of one’s identity and feeling included, treating people equally, and appreciating other’s identity as well because that is possibly where we could gain wider perceptions of the world we live in. Her artworks empower individuals to feel confident in their identity and connect with others for further self-development.
Josué Menjivar | http://www.freshbrewedillustration.com
Jose Menjivar is a current instructor at Langara College in Vancouver with 20 years of experience in the arts industry as an illustrator, comic book artist and an author. He has his own business named Fresh Brewed Illustration serving clients from all over the world. Menjivar himself has been living in several states throughout his life from which has allowed him to be influenced from artworks of various cultures. He has seen changes in representation of diversity in the arts industries since 1960s. Seeing as representations of gay communities were underground in the 1960s until now, he sees the modern world opening its doors for even more changes. Menjivar advised artists to always challenge themselves with new techniques, representations and styles in their drawings. He also said that ideas do not always come from other artists, like his own experiences of learning how to draw someone tying their shoe laces from a 10 year old kid.
James F. Wright | http://www.jamesfwrites.com
James F. Wright is one of the members producing a comic series named Nutmeg. In a team with the artist Jackie Crofts, Wright authors the plot about the lives of two white girls trying to take down a another girl who had insulted them, through baking. Wright informed the audience that a person does not have to feel obligated to always write or draw about their own heritage. To quote, he stated “what makes a story telling is who’s telling it”. As a black author, Wright has been on the search for genres with less representation of diversity, whether it is within the story or among the authors. He noted that it is often tricky to balance the feeling of needing to write about his own heritage and about others. So the ultimate goal of the arts industry he would like to see achieved is to see enough diversity where everyone feels free to write about anyone.
Hearing all these advices, the event taught me that art is a way of creating connection with others who are not one’s own ethnicity. It is also a realm that does not fear changes in order to inspire as many people with ideas of diversity. It reminded me of a quote from a book I enjoyed reading called, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, in which the protagonist (the author) states, “I draw cartoons […] because I want to talk to the world”. It is easier to picture diversity in reality through illustrations and authors that write or draw about other cultures than having to explain it in words. Thus, I admire the Creators of Color for being the pioneers to that represent diversity in modern art.