Wednesday, July 26, 2023

On a panel at Avcon + met Hiroshi Nagahama!

So Avcon 2023 was super awesome for a few reasons! One of the guests was Hiroshi Nagahama, known for being the director of Mushishi. Just the mention of Mushishi takes me back to days spent in my room as a teen absorbing every anime I could get my hands on, always through early 2000s YouTube.

Its Saturday around 1:30pm. Nagahama-san is doing his first talk, creating a live drawing of Spiderman versus Venom and is aided by an interpreter. He obviously has ample respect for Western comics and culture, evidenced by his praise for American cartoons. I found it hard to relax and enjoy the moment, for I was scheduled to be on the panel directly after this legend!

We were instructed to be next to the stage 15 minutes beforehand for our "Women in Gaming" panel at 2:30. Before walking up on stage, the nerves hadn't really began to take effect of me just yet. A man in a blue Avcon volunteers tee then approached us. 

"Mics are on, you can go up there now."  

I teeter out as the second in line and took my seat. When the time came around to say my name into my mic, my hands began to shake despite my best attempts to stop them.

"Hi...I'm Vela."

The entire time, I found it hard to lift my head up and look at the audience, as honestly I was very awkward but hey......that ties into what I said on the panel.

(Photo credit: Rhomenka Vallance, Team Avcon)

The only things I felt like I was proud of mumbling was; my hopes that the industry can begin to accept the stories of people on the autism spectrum and/or with mental health conditions. Stories of neurodivergent people matter as they are usually quite vulnerable, and I'd love to see more characters and stories based directly off of these lived experiences. Basically, fresh outta' the mouths of people who've actually lived such things.

Also, I got a mention of Touhou Project in, which was fun to say. I'm certain I was zoning out staring at an Alley stall in the distance as I said everything in my strange American accent which seems to disarm everyone. After I stepped down from the platform, my friend hugs me.

"You we're amazing!"

I'm certain he was just being nice, as he always is. We scurried away and tried not to loiter, out of my sheer awkwardness. I was thrilled but also extremely anxious I might have said something wrong or held the mic the wrong way. When I get home that Saturday my dad immediately asks me:

"What? You need to get the anime director guys signature! Give him your business card!"
"There's a guest signing tomorrow afternoon! I don't think I should be handing him my business card..."

That night, I didn't sleep a wink. Over and over in my mind I thought, oh my god, I mentioned that company that flopped and maybe someone in the audience thinks I'm being a bitch. I didn't make eye contact when that girl in the audience who asked what our fave games were! Oh my god! I can't go an hour without being doofy and wrong!

Its 3pm Sunday the next day at the "Friends of Avcon" booth and Hiroshi Nagahama is there half an hour early. There is a non-existent line to get a signature from him, I can't believe it! I wait for the two people in front of me to get a custom drawing, the longest 10 minutes ever. He explains to the four or so people in line that one Sharpie was gifted to him by the late Stan Lee, so it is a precious Sharpie he must bring with him to conventions, or something along those lines. I prepared by muttering to myself the formal Japanese introduction I was told to say. Now its my turn, I swiftly bow and say:


He mimics me but looks confused, maybe I said or timed it wrong. He readies his pen and gestures to the paper in front of him. I confess, I had just Googled the characters name, since it must have been decades since I first watched it. 
"Eehto...Ginko onegaishimasu.(Um, Ginko please)"
My friend nudges me to open my sketchbook so I do quickly. I brace myself and take the plunge.
"Watashi wa, sutoriboodo aetisuto desu.(Im a storyboard artist)"
He says so in typical exaggerated Japanese fashion. I flip through the pages of my drawings.
"What? It me?"
The other interpreter calls the Japanese interpreter over and they point to the lady in my sketches.
"Look it's you Hanako!*"
*I don't remember what the interpreter's name is but I'm 55% sure I overheard something similar. 
He turns back to me.
"Donna Sutoribodo desuka? (What sort of storyboards?)"
"Eeto...nettofurikkus (Um, Netflix)" 
"Honto!!!? Sugoi.(Really, awesome!)"
He then asked me what stuff on Netflix. I said in English: How to Train Your Dragon since I worked on a spinoff in series. The other guest, Lisle Wilkerson, who is bilingual, translated for him. His reaction was as expected, the equivalent of 'holy shit' in Japanese. I let them hold my sketchbook, of course. He points at the gesture I did of the crouching photographer.
"Umai desune...(Super good)"
He buckles down and starts drawing Ginko from Mushishi. The voice actress Lisle Wilkerson is sitting nearly right next to him so I show her the silly caricatured drawing I did of her. I wasn't expecting I'd ever be showing it to her!
"Sorry, sometimes I can't get peoples' faces right the first time."
She smiles coyly. 
"No problem, I'm a woman of a hundred faces."
She also seems to have a wealth of expertise so I ask her...
"What do you recommend for someone studying Japanese, other than just living there?"
"Hm. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Lots of Japanese people are really afraid, that's why they rarely leave Japan. You gotta' goof up a bit to learn!"
Nagahama now has finished the drawing by now, and signs it in English. 
"Sutori-aitisto ni Storiboardo-teki na e wo kaita. (For the story artist, I've drawn a storyboard-like picture"."
"Subarashi tomoimasu. arigatougozaimasu.(I think it's wonderful, thanks so much.)" 
"(Don't mention it)."

I leave the convention right after getting the drawing, since I had a family dinner that night. With my mind whirling and an original Sharpie drawing in my little clear bag, I slouch down into my well deserved train seat.

Don't be afraid to make mistakes, that is what that confident bilingual voice actress said, huh. Whether its through speaking Japanese to one man, or speaking English to an entire convention hall, I feel like I've started to conquer my fear of goofing up. What an awesome Avcon. Over and out~

Thursday, July 13, 2023

female autism and conformity

I am reflecting on how autism has shaped me over my youth, yeah more rumination. I just feel like it. Autism hasn't been all sunshine and cartoon drawings, it's had it's fair bit of challenges. They told me at my diagnosis session that I aligned perfectly with being autistic, that my childhood was happy and free but adulthood is where many girls suffer.

I read some blog posts lately that often talk about the erosion of self that comes when autistic girls attempt to conform in teenage years and beyond. I don't want to admit that I've masked and conformed, but I've been hurt by a pressure to be a different person than who I really am. As I might have mentioned in a post last year, I endured an autistic man telling me I was 'masking with everything I was saying'. Well, I would be downright rude to his face if I wasn't. Not only that, but a man with BPD in the ward in 2021 reprimanded me for having a 'personality that shapeshifts depending on who I was around'. Of course, both these men are very unwell in their own ways, but it got me thinking. 

I want to be my true self. Somedays I'm stronger than others. I choose clothes that make me feel comfortable rather than pretty often, I smile subtly at myself in the mirror. I let myself peer down into the trauma of decades past, but not dive too deep. I accept that life hurts and that I'm still undergoing an agony due to psychosis damage, but I am proud of my life journey. That's what it comes down to, a pride in yourself. 

This pride for me is in accepting I am what others may consider a 'late bloomer', but that isn't something I let define me. I take pride in my individuality and love of solitude, of inner imaginative worlds where I never have feel alone. Art is not only a calming 'stimming' activity, but an intense special interest which I've honed and polished and been able to make my career! That's awesome, I reckon! That's where 'autism' can be considered a superpower. It's just important to know it hasn't all been a walk in the park.

People tend to undermine female autism especially. 
Oh, everyone has some degree of autism, I get drained around people.
Oh, you can make eye contact and hold down a job.
Oh, you aren't flailing your hands and hitting people.
Oh, you aren't suffering that much right? 
Oh, you can't be that autistic.
No. It has a sadness and a darkness which I won't dive into right now.
Autism isn't just getting drained around people. I feel like my fear of judgement has made me seem like a worried, cold and unpleasant woman. I am those traits sometimes in little ways, but its not representative of me really. I am actually warm, loving and fun, but hide away from many people because the challenge of getting to know them often has too many hurdles. So when people aren't open in return, I give up. Why bother when people put up big barriers and play mind games? Well, I can't stand that sort of behaviour, but I'm afraid because many people these days engage with agendas. Whether its in the fact a man may only befriend me because of the possibility of dating, or in how girls especially make assessments based on whether they think you're worthy hanging around them, like a pretty accessory, I find the agendas too much.

My agenda is I want connections. I want to feel deeply and whether its friendship or more, that's my agenda.
So in short, I need to manage autism like I manage bipolar.
Autism doesn't require heaps of meds and blood tests to check your lithium levels, it requires self insight to realise you are ruminating and thinking in black and white. The monochromatic thinking is probably my biggest weakness and proof of the severity of my autism, besides the medical certificate.
I struggle to reel it in and see the good sketches I do...
To see the stories I write aren't half bad.
To see the games I've made, and how I've learnt what a switch statement is.
To see that I'm not ugly, inside and out.
To see that I have the capacity to form friendships and love. 
Yeah, this melodrama makes me who I am too. I may be a bit of an emotional whirlwind even on good days, but I know I have a strength that can forge an easier future. It's already happening. :) Cya. 

Saturday, July 08, 2023

bitter nostalgia of decades past


I see people going to my site make a beeline for my old blog posts, it makes me feel disrespected. There are nothing but decade old dead and dusted 'followers' on blogger yet, I don't care. I's honestly damn cool to keep the blogger spirit alive, seeing as I abandoned my Tumblr, don't think I deleted it, just made it private like I had for this one. For that reason, chunks of my art-life (and life) are private online, lost to the scrolling abyss of Facebook, or in the hundreds of raunchy art and bile-filled Tweets deleted. 

Twitter I can deal with losing, it was (is still) a toxic environment for me. A place as intimately aspirational as this one however, I can't bear to part with. I'm somewhat interested in the thought of my work being an internet relic, like how much I damn wish they preserved the charm of Neopets, back before Viacom bought it and leeched all the life from the art.
I have been reminiscing about my Calfarts days, which I often do. This time however, a bit more actively, as I've decided to write a travel piece about my time in Los Angeles. It may have been a long time ago, as time continues to escape me, but it is a time of my life that continues to haunt me. I think since I've faced the darkness of being rejected as a 'good' artist post psychosis, I've had to face that the Calarts dream of fame and fortune I thought I needed to obtain is truly a sickening pursuit not meant for someone like me. I've had to face that there are limits to how hard a wounded brain can push itself and limitations on the soul of cruelly not being 'good enough'.

No. I am 'good' enough. 
It doesn't matter if people only click on my 'pre psychosis' blog.
It doesn't matter if others don't value my life 'post psychosis'.
I am alive and kicking. That's what really matters.
Someday I will die, but maybe this blog will still be around. Thanks to Google's policies?
Honestly, truly, just being real....Calarts reminds me of days of budding love and sexuality, the latter being something I didn't feel so strongly when I was a bit younger. Unfortunately, college was full of distressing moments, a feeling of not being adequate romantically, which has ended up tormenting me for a very long time. As I leave my 20s behind me, I hope I can say I'm approaching an era of my life which I can fully heal, from the bitter experiences of that barely 19 year old girl. The trauma of my mid-to-late twenties has really thrown me for a loop, and made it harder to untangle the earlier youthful pain from the 'psychotic blackout traumer'. Then again, there I go being intimate online. In a public place where morons can go and message me on Facebook saying: "I see you've had a hard time for a long time.." etc. as nosy losers have done. 

I cried while drawing the below picture. For I felt a great healing and love surge through me by drawing that bright eyed gaze. A look without judgement, pity or anything bad It is simply pure love.
Still what I have taken from the Calarts dream isn't all negative. I worked harder than ever, pushed myself past the brink of madness with drawing, seeking, playing and experiencing. I lived for art, but then again, didn't I always? It's evidenced by the free willed and vivacious sketches I did during my time in high school at damn Pembroke. 

It's all here, on this blog. I had a spirit before Calarts and I'll carry a spirit onwards. I thought I should say, no offense to Calartians, really, but it was a vulnerable time and place for a few people I knew. I'm not alone. I think shoving a bunch of intense dreamers of various personality types in a confined college setting, it going to be a recipe for disaster. I regret not being stronger, mature and more 'with it' sort of person but still, I do not regret my reasons for ultimately dropping out. There was something wrong with the experience for me. 

I only felt like people felt my art with reaching success with Disconnected on YouTube. Anyways, I've rambled way too long and fallen down the bittersweet nostalgia rabbit hole. I regretfully admit however, this crunchy carrot is very bitter.