Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday Spotlight on artist Dante Saunders! Dante will be at our store THIS SUNDAY from 2:00 – 4:00 PM with Michael Takeda as part of our Pride Month events to talk about Brave Boy World: A Transman Anthology.
Thank you so much for joining us, Dante! Can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your art? How would you like us to introduce you?
My name is Dante (yes, like the inferno). I’m a 23 year old professional nerdy artist currently residing in the New England area. I specialize mainly in graphic novels/webcomics, however I remain entirely open to trying new styles and expanding my art experience. I have a strong and unwavering passion for creating characters, stories and environments that are original and inclusive to the many diverse people and animals we share our planet with… Especially dinosaurs.
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe your art style? What can you tell us about Brave Boy World?
Overall, I try not to limit my style to any set standard. If the feeling of a piece or project leans more realistic than cartoony (or the other way around), I’m going to take that instinct and run with it. Sometimes it’s beneficial to try something entirely new than generate more of the same for the sake of being consistent.
My most recent project was working on the cover/wraparound for Brave Boy World and creating that sort of “lost but found” feeling to the imagery. Seeing as it was a science fiction transman anthology, I had a lot of fun going over ideas and concepts with the editor on a personal level. The anthology is great and houses a lot of interesting and different stories. I’m really honored and proud to have been a part of it.
What was your inspiration for the cover of Brave Boy World? How did you work the themes and feel into the final piece?
Inspirations for the cover ranged from basic color palettes (the oranges and greys) to the pose being just right while also incorporating a storyline. Working them in collectively was tricky, but in the final piece, I think, every transman can sort of relate to… that noble and stoic beast standing bravely against the waste and explosion of conflict. Overcoming it and remaining unchanged.
How do you use your art to represent and start discussion over transgender issues?
Inclusion is key, in my opinion. In my various art projects, providing a realistic and common approach to the everyday lives of transgender individuals is important to me. Even in fantasy or science fiction, seeing transgender people simply existing as they do is extremely helpful in giving examples on exactly how alike we all are as fellow humans.
Has any of your experiences transitioning worked into your art? What can you share about those stories? (And the art, if you’re willing!)
My experiences have definitely worked into my art. Or, perhaps I should say, my art helped me work it out within myself. Finding that place of belonging in my own characters and stories helped me understand exactly what my soul was pulled toward while learning about myself and who I truly am. Providing something similar to other people has been a goal of mine for years!
What’s your favorite medium as an artist? Do you vary between projects or pieces? How do you choose the best medium?
Digital devices of any kind! They open so many doors to allow creativity to flow freely! The ability to edit and design using digital mediums is ground breaking and my overall recommendation.
Variation used to be something I fell victim to, believing it “made me a better artist.” Now I have found a method that works for me and I let the creative energies flow!
Choosing whatever feels the most comfortable to you is the only way to make that choice. Forget what anyone says about needing to “remain traditional” or “keep up with the digital times.” Create for yourself and your way, that will make your art quality a hundred times better than if you forced using a method you don’t enjoy!
If you illustrate and write, what comes first to you: the pictures or the words? How do the two influence each other?
It depends on the project itself. Sometimes the words cannot come without that visual… But in the case of long-winded projects, writing down scripts or words to better understand a set up or bigger picture is extremely useful.
What is your favorite part of being an artist / illustrator? Of the whole creative process? What do you think has been your greatest lesson in the journey thus far?
My favorite part of being an artist is the ability to express my thoughts and ideas visually for others to understand and enjoy. The prospect of those thoughts helping someone else through their situation or inspiring them is part of what fuels me to continue!
Greatest lesson is that no matter how it feels in the moment, we all improve and expand on our own time. Give yourself a break and a chance to grow and be reasonable in your expectations of yourself and your talent.
What question do you wish interviewers would ask you, and what would the answer be?
What’s your favorite dinosaur? And my answer would be every single one of them… But mostly Tyrannosaurus Rex.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
Cool webcomics about dinosaurs.
What is one thing that most people don’t realize about you?
I have extreme social anxiety. When most people meet me they tag me with the “social butterfly” label but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I care very much for people, but that doesn’t stop the anxieties from challenging me.
While you’re working, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!
Music, music, music! Doesn’t always matter what kind but something that helps capture the mood and move you through that moment in time and space… That’s something I require while working.
Writers and artists very often have furry or feathered or otherwise non-human companions to “help” them through their work. Do you? What do you have? How do they “help” (or, “not-help”) with your writing?
I have a fur-child dog named McCoy. He’s a Boston Terrier and has been the source of a lot of inspiration for me, especially with my latest project Legends of Avalon: Adamantine. When he’s not reminding me to take a break from my work and get outside for a walk, he’s inspiring stories and character’s personality traits with his very outgoing self.
What do you consider the most challenging part of the artistic process? And how do you overcome that?
Being too hard on myself. While I have made my art a profession, that doesn’t mean it has to be my 24/7. Just like we leave a job we really love (or don’t) for the day and go home, we have to remember that taking time away, or spending that time doing something else, is SO important and completely necessary. No one can run on 100% all the time.
Overcoming that urge is still an everyday challenge, but once I took my first real successful vacation/hiatus from my art I realized, “hey, I made it!” That helped encourage my next ventures in the future and made me work harder when I returned.
Where can people find your work? (Books, galleries, online sales?) (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)
My work can be located on numerous websites including : Tumblr, deviantART, and my redbubble store! I’ve also created promotional art for the show: NBC Hannibal, as well as covers for various novels such as, The Kelpie (by T. J. Wooldridge) and Ben Fox: Zombie Squirrel Specialist at Your Service (by Daisy Whitney), and of course, Brave Boy World (edited by Michael Takeda)
How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
The absolute best places are through my
tumblr blog – the-artist-dantesaunders.tumblr.com
where I respond to messages or asks within (at least) 24 hours or sooner!
My twitter – @slakesama
or Facebook – Dante Saunders
Thank you again for joining us, Dante!! We look forward to seeing you and Michael THIS SUNDAY from 2:00 – 4:00 PM for a discussion about transgender issues and Brave Boy World: A Transman Anthology.