Female Creators Project

Female Creators Project: Arborwin “Arby” of Grayling

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My name is Arby (@callanerial), I am 33 years old. I reside in Phoenix, Arizona and I’m a webcomic creator! My webcomic is called Grayling.

What do you do? (Write, draw, edit, publish, promote etc.)
How did you get started doing that?
I write and I draw! I have been drawing since I was little, mostly comics about my cats and various fantasy worlds I made up, and when I was in my late teens (circa 2002) I started producing my own webcomic, Grayling. I just waded in without knowing anything and got started because doing is my preferred way of learning anything. That was a “first draft” to me, and now I’m working on the 2nd and final version of Grayling. (hopefully). I wish I had time to work on more comics and other projects, but I’m a spoonie and I work full time, so I have to settle for focusing on just my big, longtime project for now.

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Any current or upcoming projects we can find you on?
My friend A Ward (author of Untitled: The Good Life) and I are thinking up plans for a visual novel/dating sim type game, and I’m honestly really excited about it! I really want to expand into games because I think they’ll make use of all my skills as a webcomic creator and I think we can really bring something unique to that genre.

Favorite inspiration, collaborators, other professionals you’ve worked with if any?
I’m inspired by my webcomics friends, like A Ward of Untitled: The Good Life, who is probably the only artist I’ve ever encountered that I can really relate with! We have such a similar approach to drawing, we use similar tools, and I love her sense of humor and her style. When we get started talking shop we can keep going for hours! Her comic is brilliant and I admire her page layouts. Our styles mesh together really well and I can’t say how valuable that is when you’re kind of an outlier and don’t have much in common with what most other people are doing.

Anyone you’d like to collaborate with some day? Why?
I’d love to collaborate with another one of my friends, Chu [read her spotlight interview here!], who creates the webcomic Slightly Damned. I’m really interested in collaborative projects because I just think it would be challenging and fun to write or draw something that another person then finishes. I really like the effect of combining two known artists’ styles into a new and exciting project.

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Favorite genre to read? To work in? Are there any you won’t work in?
My favorite genre is probably horror and it’s the same one I like to work in as well. Horror is probably the only genre that has consistently delivered the kinds of things I want in a story since forever. I used to think I wasn’t that much of a horror fan because I’ll enjoy a variety of other genres, but in the end I get most excited about monsters and deep, murky psychological stuff. Horror is the only genre that really delves into the weirdness I’m interested in, and it’s funny because I’m a bit of a scaredy cat! I jump at loud noises and I’m still a bit afraid of the dark, but that makes horror all the more inspiring and empowering for me. Of course, my comic is more like an epic fantasy or whatever you’d like to call it, but I fold in horror elements and those are my favorite parts to do. Monsters all day every day!

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Have you ever faced adversity/discouragement for being a woman in your field? How did you overcome it?
I tend to be really cloistered about my artwork because I received many negative reactions when I was younger. The internet is the only place I’m really comfortable showing my stuff. I’m not really an aspirational story – I mostly just sidestepped it and showed it on the internet! It can be uncomfortable producing mostly creepy and strange artwork because people don’t know how to relate to it immediately, and they don’t expect stuff like that from someone with my mannerisms, appearance, and gender. I tended to find that folks would tend to judge my work inaccurately if they came to it with a preconception of what kind of person I am. This is why I love the internet – you can really present your work the way it’s intended from the very start, and not have to deal with that kind of baggage.

Coolest moment you’ve had as a creator? 
This isn’t something specific, but it’s happened a few times and I always love it! I attend a con with my friends and just walk around distributing free books and zines promoting my comic, not expecting to see any fans because I’m not really a big deal, but then a fan actually shows up and gets all of my books! That’s always so surprising, gratifying and encouraging, and they’re always such kind people.

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How do you think the current comics industry is toward women? What can we do to improve it further and create a safe space?
I think pretty much everything is still really atrocious towards women and comics in particular is one of those fields where I feel like people assume it’s going to be okay because most of us aren’t “normos” and that everyone involved “knows better,” when in fact it is absolutely the opposite. I think we’re well on the way towards changing things for the better simply because there are so many of us participating and producing stellar content, and we should continue forging ahead. Simply by being women and consuming and creating comics I think we’ll be able to improve the industry. If you create something worth fighting and struggling for, it will seem less and less reasonable to give up and throw in the towel.

by5nquaiaaars_g(Buy Grayling here.)

What do comics mean to you?
Comics mean almost limitless expression! Comics are so good at expressing a wide array of narratives and giving voice to topics that otherwise get no airtime. One of the things I love about webcomics is that there is any chance to find comics that completely disregard TRENDS. I feel most publishers limit themselves to certain topics and just do the same things over and over because they have an industry concept of what “sells.” Not to say there isn’t a lot of sameness in webcomics as well, but it’s easier to come across unusual things a lot more quickly, and to hear from people who otherwise have no voice!

Advice to other female creators in the field?
Creative industries of all kinds (I’m looking at you, syndicated television) think that women aren’t a “viable market” and this attitude seeps into the general way people think about the world. It ends up feeling like there are only 4-5 “acceptable” stories and all the rest are simply too different to be worth the time. Don’t let anyone tell you that your interests and feelings aren’t relevant to anyone but yourself. There is someone out there who will be able to relate to the content you create, and you could make a world of difference to them. Please persevere!

cbdwkjvumaacx98What are you currently reading?
I just finished up reading the Moomin collection put out by Drawn & Quarterly. It bears repeating – that comic is brilliant! I’ve been reading a webcomic called Poppy Opossum as well and of course I can’t recommend the comics of my friends highly enough – Slightly Damned and Untitled: The Good Life.

Want to join the project yourself? Email ab188302@reddies.hsu.edu or hit me on twitter @Beebidon!

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