The Mary Sue Interview: Kiva Bay On The Feminist Deck Kickstarter
By now you’ve probably noticed that a lot of prominent feminists on Twitter have new hand-drawn avatars on their accounts. It’s no accident that they all have a similar style. All the art has been created by the hand of one talented artist: Kiva Bay. The Mary Sue recently had a chance to chat with her to talk about where she gets her inspiration and what she plans to do with the art in the future.
Jessica Lachenal (TMS): Mind sharing a few details about Feminist Deck?
Kiva Bay: Originally, #feministdeck was going to be a game, but a few people brought up concerns that it would trivialize something traumatic. I thought about it, and agreed with them, and my friends @inurashii and @dearsarah helped me come up with the idea to instead make them into trading cards that can act to showcase both my art and their accomplishments.
I just wanted to draw some women I admired, and the card game idea just sorta took off and got a life of its own. But especially after some of the recent articles highlighting the online abuse, it’s just way too serious to be a game.
TMS: Exactly how long have you been working on this project?
Bay: I drew Katherine Cross about two months ago. Just sort of took off from there. But she wasn’t the first feminist I drew. I did some Isometric Show fan art before her, especially of Brianna Wu, who has been wonderfully kind to me, helping hook me up with people to answer questions about card printing and stuff. I love how supportive everyone has been.
TMS: Yeah, the reception has been fantastic from what I can tell. I’ve admired a lot of your work, especially the comics and the stories you share about some really hard topics.
Bay: Yeah, it’s weird because a lot of people, especially the women, tell me that I draw them much prettier than they are. I think that when we look at our faces we see our flaws, but when someone else does, they see our beauty.
TMS: It’s like when you’re staring at something you’ve been working on forever and all you can see are flaws, but everyone else sees everything right with it.
Bay: When you think about it, a beauty mark may have once been considered a flaw. To some it’s just a mole, to others it’s something special.
TMS: How long do you spend on each portrait?
Bay I draw really fast, but then I color really slow. I can usually knock out lines in about a half an hour, tops, though usually less for portraits. The full-body action shots take a lot longer because they’re more complicated. Then, coloring can take me anywhere from an hour to two hours.
TMS: That’s a lot of time. Do you do your own coloring?
Bay: I do, and I try my hands at backgrounds, and do my own shading most of the time. I love working with other artists, though. It’s my favorite part of creating stuff, so [Shut Up and Take My Money] comic was just a really fun way to work with a friend. [Sam Slater, @MrMentalism] painted a couple gorgeous backgrounds for me, but the rest will be my art, though I would love to showcase more artists in future projects.
TMS: So could you tell me more about the Kickstarter?
Bay: Well, the Kickstarter is under review right now, and if it passes muster, I’ll launch tomorrow afternoon. I’ve been working on it for a while. I do that thing where I sit on something and then go ‘Okay, NOW.’ My friend Sam (@MrMentalism), who did the shading and backgrounds for Shut Up And Take My Money, has done a couple of really beautiful backgrounds for some of the action shots. I’m coloring a lot of the black and whites and touching up colors on a lot of pics I put out already. It’s that thing where I look back and I’m like “I do hair better now… so let’s redo the hair.” Should be good.
TMS: Have you talked with all of the people you’ve drawn? What do they think about the project?
Bay: I haven’t gotten any negative feedback yet. Put out a massive call to all of them earlier, heard back from a ton of them, waiting on more tomorrow. It’s weird that so many of them don’t want money. Most have asked to donate to FemFreq or OAPI.
TMS: Interesting. They want donations in lieu of payment, that’s really fantastic.
Bay: Yeah, there’s been quite a few, but some of the others are also maybe a little more pragmatic, like I am. I wouldn’t mind donating my fee (which is pretty small considering there’s going to be a lot of hand-drawn rewards), but I gotta keep a roof over my head.
TMS: Totally get it. Nature of the beast, so to speak. Have to take care of yourself.
Bay: Yeah. I’m not used to being an artist, so I’m not really used to asking for money yet, but I’ve gotten really good advice from a lot of smart women on knowing my worth and taking care of myself, so I’m going to try.
TMS: Is there anything else after this project?
Bay: I’d like to do more projects in the future. I’m making a visual novel life-sim about homelessness with someone, and hopefully doing more team-up comics to appear in more publications. I’m new to it all, but I really like sharing my work out there. It makes me feel like I’m in like-minded company.
Also, collaborative work has always upped my output, made me draw tons every day. Feminist Deck felt collaborative to me because I draw these amazing people after they inspire me, and my art picks them up and helps them feel good about themselves, so they go inspire me more.
I like the idea of working in a community via a positive feedback loop.
TMS: Kind of like symbiosis. You’re getting positivity while giving positivity. There’s nothing more rewarding.
Bay: Exactly. I kept trying to find a way for the [trading card] game to mimic their support structure, and then I realized it would be better to actually pay these women and celebrate their work rather than trivializing it in any way.
I’m still really fascinated with doing cooperative gameplay mechanics, just not using the likenesses of real people who have suffered serious online abuse to explore those mechanics. That was a mistake on my part that it just took me a minute to get.
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