“Finding Dee” Comic of a Transgender Woman. Interview by Alexandra Hill
You’ve described your “Finding Dee” comics as semi-autobiographical tales of your life as a transgender woman. Why have you chosen to share your experience through comics?
"Finding Dee" actually began a little over a year ago as nothing more than a blog. Just an online diary where I posted what I was thinking and feeling as I was still just beginning my transition and had just come out to my friends and family. After a few months, though, I had decided to step away as the posts were becoming nothing more then my keeping track of every negative experience, no matter how small. I found that the act of writing about these negative feelings was having the opposite effect of what I had hoped for. It wasn't cathartic at ALL. It just made me spiral into depression that much quicker over every ugly little comment or side eye.
So, as I was coming up on the one-year anniversary of coming out, I began having ideas for little jokes or gags about my experiences. Just fun observations that I realized would make for a fun comic strip. The most obvious observation being that SO many friends were telling me that I should make a comic about every little thing that happened to me. So after a little thinking on the subject, I transitioned (pun intended) my blog into what it is now, a semi-autobiographical web comic found at www.findingdee.com.
When did you start creating comics?
The earliest comic that I still have is a comic strip called "Dandy" that I created and drew when I was 8 years old in 1982. Interestingly enough, here it is 35 years later and I'm STILL drawing that same comic strip, now called "Dandy & Company" which has been running online sine 2001 at www.dandyandcompany.com.
What are your favorite materials to use?
I love working on paper more so than digital. I've drawn digitally for years, but for my own projects, I prefer my Pentel Stylo drawing pen, my Pentel Pocket Brush and a non-repro blue pencil on Bristol Board.
How would you describe your artistic style?
I don't know that I have one artistic style, per se. “Dandy & Company” is very broad and cartoony, like a Warner Bros. cartoon. “Finding Dee” is about a half step to the right out of Toon Town. Whereas my fantasy/adventure comic, “The Wellkeeper” is MUCH more realistically rendered and styled, but still with a foot firmly in my experience and training in animation.
Do you explore other art forms outside of comics?
Not as often as I would like. I am currently working on 3 regular comics, and that doesn't leave MUCH room to explore painting or sculpting, although I would like to take some time to learn more about those at some point.
Describe your creative process.
My process is pretty loose, really. I like to be able to work almost anywhere I am. I carry a small sketchbook in my purse for any ideas that pop into my head, and that's were I lay out my books and new strips.
When I'm WRITING, I need it to be fairly quiet. If I ever have any music going, it's movie scores thematically linked to whatever I'm working on. If I'm writing for “The Wellkeeper”, for example, I might have some John Williams or Hans Zimmer scores in the background. If I'm working on “Dandy & Company” or “Finding Dee”, then the music is probably lighter or looser. Vince Guaraldi's "Peanuts" scores are a good go-to for that style of work.
99% of the time, when I'm drawing the pages I'm sitting in the living room with a lapboard and the TV on in the background. Something funny that I've seen a zillion times but can just listen to is my favorite. Old episodes of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” or “Psych” are regular favorites.
Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?
Writer's block is a pain. Sometimes, you need to switch up projects. If no gags are flowing for "Finding Dee", I hop to "The Wellkeeper" or "Dandy & Company". Sometimes there's nothing you really CAN do except step away from the table and distract yourself for a while. When you ARE getting the ideas, write them all down and bank them for if you are under a deadline and NEED to get something done.
Describe your experience as a transgender woman in the art world.
It is, so far, not all that different from my experience prior to coming out. In some cases, I've had to hear second hand accounts of people talking behind my back about how I'm living my life as trans for publicity, and that's extremely irritating. Plus, there's the 15 plus year history of self-publishing and working where I was credited with a different first name that is tricky to navigate around.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of being a full-time artist?
Doing what I like to do it fantastic. Setting my own hours more often than not is great. Not knowing when to expect a paycheck... not so great.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
Never stop learning. Never stop trying to get better. Again, I've been drawing the same cartoon dog for 35 years. Persistence can pay off sometimes.
What are your goals for your comics?
Having them pay off. LOL. Right now, I'm still working as a freelance graphic designer to pay the bills. I hope that one day enough people will discover my comics to where that can become my full time job.
In the mean time, my comics can all be found and ordered online through www.artofdeefish.com