Aut-Ish: Episode 10 – Art (Special Guest – Margaux Wosk)

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Accessibility notice and Intro Music – 00:00-00:25
For more accessibility, feel free to read the transcript as you listen. Available at: https://autish.wordpress.com

Onikage
Hello, and welcome to the Aut-Ish Podcast. My name is Onikage, and this autism podcast, like my blog provides various autistic content. I am autistic myself, and I want to promote acceptance and to explore various stories and personalities for the autistic community. This podcast will feature guests that are involved in the autistic community in some way.
Today, we’ll be discussing Art. A lot of autistics like to create artistic projects. Some mediums include, photography, painting, drawing, maybe even music. Some autistics like the term autistic artist, to bridge the gap between neurotypical and autistic people.
Today’s guest is Margaux Wosk also known as Retrophiliac a non binary, autistic artist, and advocate and blogger.
Margaux uses different mediums for their art. wherever it’s advocacy videos via Youtube, or various artworks that are available to purchase on Etsy. Would you like to introduce yourself?

Margaux
Sure, I’m Margaux. I am Canadian. I recently came out as non binary so I use they and them. I am an autistic artist, and I love cats and thrifting and 1960s and 70s pop culture. I have my website navigatingjourney.com where I blog about being autistic and art, and whatever basically gets me pissed off or whatever. If I need to get something out it’s going to end up on my blog. I also have my Etsy Store, Retrophiliac, which is also my artists pseudonym. So yeah, I’ve been really busy and it’s been great.

Onikage

It’s good that you have plenty of things to do, and various of mediums. Not just art, like your blog for instance. Explain what kind of art you like to create?

Margoux
Sure, so, in terms of my art, it’s very vibrant and bright and I use a lot of colours., I recently looked and I think I’ve been going at this since- as Retrophiliac since like 2006 or 2008. And I’ve done hundreds of pieces of art, different subject matter. So I like to do like landscapes. I like to paint pictures of cats and different animals, flowers, abstracts, probably there’s more things, but off the top of my head, those would be the main ones.

Onikage

Do you think being autistic has an impact in your art and your creativity?

Margaux
I do, for me, art has always been a really good escape. And I find that I’m able to really kind of zone out. And really, even though I’m zoning out, I’m still really focused on what I’m doing. And I find that it is such an expression of my inner self that even if I’m not, talking or expressing myself in that way, just being able to see what comes to fruition in front of me on a canvas is just kind of amazing. And I think that because my brain is wired differently, I do see the world differently, and in a whole alternative way from maybe neurotypical people and I think that my art is a great expression of that and it’s a great way to bridge the gap and show people what autistics are capable of, and to kind of get rid of those negative stigmas.

Onikage
Yeah, I do definitely agree when it comes to art being some sort- a language. A way of us communicating our emotions through our medium, wherever it’s drawing or music. For me, I used to draw a lot when I was a kid. I wanted to be a cartoonist when I was growing up but, during my late teens and adult years. I kinda neglected drawing so I joked to myself “I’m ten years behind” And most of the time when I do draw, It’s making cards for family members or my partner or some friends. I forget how as you say that drawing and gets you zoned out but in focus, and how calming it is, and I’m just like “Why don’t I do this more often?” And I’m trying to improve more my drawing again, but my main medium is photography and I do express my emotions in my art through that, and I definitely think being autistic unleashes my creativity.

Have you ever focused on autistic themes in your artworks?

Margaux
Not really so much I mean, my art is really colourful and I know that the like infinity sign uses a lot of the same colours that I use, but in terms of having anything that’s like directly correlates to autism or being autistic, I wouldn’t say so. I think the closest I’m going to get to that is just calling myself an artistic artist and introducing myself that way. Because I think when people know. They either say things that are really patronising like, “you’re not an autistic artist, sweetie, you’re just an artist.” And I have to say to them, by you saying that, you’re automatically assuming that autism or being autistic is inherently bad, which is why you want me to drop the label. It’s nobody else’s place to tell somebody how to identify. And so what I say to them is, I’ll introduce myself and say, autism is a very empowering neuro type I aim to break down barriers and reduce and hopefully eliminate stigma by saying that, so I think if people see a physical representation, a visual representation of what somebody who was autistic is capable of, I think that opens up the conversation to be like, okay, you know, I have people telling me, my family member is autistic. My grandson is autistic. My children are autistic. Your art is so inspiring and I’m showing my child your art and my child loves art and my child loves cats. So I think if that’s the way that I bring autism and art together, then that to me is like, self fulfilling and so rewarding.

Onikage
I really don’t understand the whole stigma behind the label “autistic artist”. I think it’s because of the whole labelling thing when they go “stop using autistic as a trend. Why are you using it as a label like it’s your gender or your sexuality” and it’s like, that’s not what it is. that’s what I am. I don’t have autism I am autistic. When it comes to being an autistic artist, I see it as more, it’s kind of a of a sub-genre in itself, as you say it creates less stigma. I think it bridges the gap of neurotypical and autism, not in the way “oh, you have two labels, you’re trying to increase the gap of them two” It’s like “no” It’s kinda like sub-genres of music. There’s like two different ones, but we’re not treating them as two different things, they could merge.
It’s a different perspective and I see autistic artist as a different perspective, but it’s still art, and they are still artists. They can choose what they call themselves autistic artists or artists if they want. Other people shouldn’t judge or try to choose names for them.
At the end of the day, i think It’s definitely a different perspective and I think it can be a genre in itself with how our works are formed, I could technically be called an autistic artist, because I’ve done projects based on autism itself women in the spectrum is one of my projects for my photography and Autistic ways of gender. Those two videos/photography hybrid projects are all to do with autism, an autistic point of view. Also the neutral point of view cos I like to see things from all angles. If I called myself an autistic artist, and someone told me no, I’d be like “well, why are you being so ableist about it?”

Margaux
No, totally. And I think that it’s just so incredibly important for more of us to, if we’re comfortable with, to say it up artistic before maybe whatever we do. I mean, I know a lot of people have to conceal it, and I respect them. And I understand that’s a personal choice and that’s, you know, what their prerogative and what they need to do, but if, if we’re, you know, an artistic artist, artistic photographer, it’s not that we’re looking for pity from people because we’re not. We’re looking to open up that conversation to say, “Hey, look at what we’re capable of look at the fact that we have a different neuro type. And this is how we see the world”. You can see the world a little bit through our eyes, and you can connect with us and ask us, if we’re open to it. You can ask us questions and learn. And I think, yeah, totally. If we’re able to claim that and take it back and make it something positive. I think that’s the only way to really have any real change or growth. In terms of growing positivity. That’s the only way to make it happen.

Onikage
We need more of that because too many infantilizing attitudes, like some ableists see autistic works, they go “oh! well done! well done!” and it’s just like, “no, just treat them like they’re human, not like some sort of toddler” and it frustrates me to no end.

Margaux
Totally I can completely relate with that.

Onikage
It’s just- Even to this day, it still happens. we have a long way to go. But I do try being optimistic and there is definitely optimistic examples online, which is pretty cool.

Do you have any favourite pieces of work in particular that you’ve made?

Margaux
So, I’m not really sure about what my favourite pieces of art are. I’ve done one called Innercity Zoo with an elephant and playground on hopscotch with a Heron wearing a bandana and, inner city zoo is kind of like a play on words right, inner city and then city zoo, so I put it all together. And then Autumn Sin, which also is a play on words like autumn sin or autumn’s in so, that one is got some houses and a swirly tree and a wavy sky. That’s very Van Gogh inspired. Then I’ve been doing a lot of cats, and cats and cups, and then I do a lot of like landscapes, so I don’t even know like, I’m on Deviant Art, and I’ve had that account for a super long time. I try to put most of my art on there. But literally, I think I’ve honestly done hundreds of pieces of art at least a couple hundred. That’s a big range of designs and pieces to choose from.

Onikage
I really get that. Especially when you have a large portfolio of things you’ve made over the years it’s like, “Uh! Favourite? Ugh! I don’t know!” It’s always good to ask, even if it’s just various pieces that stand out to you.
I do like your cats in mugs, I think those ones stand out most to me. I just think they’re adorable and they’re great for like tote bag patterns or even just like, up on the wall I just think they’re really adorable. I think those are my favourites.

Margaux
The tote bags and the prints have sold like, I’m doing pretty well with that. And it’s kind of amazing to know that like, I’m Canadian, right so the majority actually of my customers are like Americans (O: Yeah). So it’s funny how that in various states, there’s different people holding tote- like having tote bags with my art right on it and it’s like, just amazing. And I never in my wildest dreams thought this could happen like I’m at about 166 sales on my Etsy and I really started going hard and focusing on it just the beginning of the summer, (O: Yeah) Only like maybe June. And it’s like, yeah, it’s September now so June, July, so like four months. I’ve made like 166 sales, so it’s wild.

Onikage
That is awesome! I know how it feels to get a sale, I don’t have a store or anything but when I had my exhibition at University from the end of my Photography degree. Two people managed to get their prints on the wall sold, and one of them was me, and I was just like “Holy crap. Someone like my works”

Margaux
That’s amazing. it’s so reaffirming when somebody else was like,” hey, like, I want to have your art in my home”, it’s like, You’re giving me that honour that like a piece of me is going to be like in your personal space like it’s just really cool.

Onikage

Any comments that stand out? That those who are possibly not autistic?

Margaux
Yeah, I think most of my customers aren’t on the spectrum. A lot of them actually are ladies that I met through like cat groups (O: Yeah) So I mean, they don’t really have anything- They’re pretty positive and really supportive. you know, once in a while, I’ll get a pretty rude comment from you know, they seem to be like middle aged men. Only a couple but it’s mostly been really positive and yeah.

Onikage

Have you tried other mediums other than just painting?

Margaux
I have definitely dabbled in some photography, so I have taken some pretty decent photos like when I end up taking pictures. One of them that I took was of a cabin and it literally looks like a professional like magazine shot like, like from a multi magazine. I looked at it I’m like, I took that. So definitely photography. I like to make YouTube videos. I do have my own podcast but I’ve kind of abandoned it. Sure I’ll come back to it but it is called Autistic Speaking. I wanted to kind of mock Autism Speaks. So that was the name I came up with. Editing YouTube videos and filming them and crafting those to me, I think is totally an art form. And it’s something that I really enjoy. I really like, I actually- it’s a little bit controversial. But I recently or at least a couple months ago, maybe I posted a video about The Aspie World, Dan Jones and I actually did a react video to his girls with autism video because there was so much misinformation in that video that I literally was cringing so hard. And was like, face palming and just in the video, you can see me get increasingly more upset. So it’s pretty funny actually. So, I mean, I don’t know, I like to paint I use paint markers and I use acrylic paint. I don’t really like oil paint, I’ve used pastels I’ve done collage. I’ve done art journaling, I’ve done Mono printing. I sold art supplies actually for over three years of my life. So my wealth of knowledge is pretty vast. So it helps if my mom or my sister has any questions about art supplies or mediums I can really chime in. So I’ve really kind of expanded my artistic endeavours especially, you know, from where I started to where I am now.

Onikage
I find that quite amazing that you like others, like to dabble in other mediums. I do agree with you when you say editing videos is an art form in itself. I’ve been dabbling in video editing in my teens but only recent years, I’ve decided to do a videography along with my photography and put it in one area, and another recent thing that I’ve been doing is a graphic design and I’ve been dabbling in that and I actually really enjoy it it said say I started doing it like one module in college and I’m like this is so much fun.

Margaux
Yeah, I’ve dabbled a bit in graphic design myself. I just tend to get frustrated with like the limitations of my computer and then learning like, Photoshop or whatever really, for me, (it) takes me back to a place of how frustrated I was with math in elementary school and So I get the same kind of like frustration I need to give up kind of feeling, (O: Yeah) but I get overwhelmed so easily.

Onikage
Yeah, I understand that and I do have my moments it took me quite a while to actually efficiently use Photoshop, but the best thing about Photoshop is that there are so many ways of doing one thing, there’s like: the easy way, there’s a convoluted way there’s an odd way or there’s a brand new way that only you know. It’s just so versatile but it’s a pain in the butt if you don’t have a good enough computer.

Margaux
Absolutely!

Onikage

Any advice for those who are autistic, and are aspiring artists?

Margaux
Yeah. So what I would say is, you know, just continue creating your art. It’s finding your audience, but I think is the most important thing. If you’re looking to sell. If you’re just an artist, I mean, if you’re an artist that basically creates work on a hobbyist level versus professional, I think just doing it. And also don’t feel limited by the quality of the materials that you’re able to afford. Even if you have like a discount store or $1 store or something like that, you can still find really, really good materials that will get the job done. You don’t need to go like spend a whole lot of money. I use pretty middle of the road standard stuff for my art, like I don’t use the high end acrylic paint all by what’s on sale, like and it still gets the job done. What I would tell people is if they’re really concerned about their art fading, because maybe they used really cheap paints, you can just buy a spray that has a UV protectant, and as long as you have that can, you’re going to cover so many pieces of art with that and you’ll still make sure that they don’t fade over time. So buy the cheap paint, get that spray varnish with the UV and it really will extend your dollar and make it go far, but really just be motivated. Just do it like if you feel that creativity coming on, have a few materials.

Onikage
What I do is if you’re new to a medium, start from the bottom, because if you go to the top, you will have no idea what you’re doing. It’s always good to start from the bottom and build from there and that’s what I’ve been doing with my camera equipment and also be comfortable with the tools that you use. Just because something is the highest quality and you use it doesn’t mean you’re gonna be good at it. But if you’re with something that’s more your level and you’re comfortable with it you can use it very efficiently and that’s what I’ve learned with photography, it’s like my very first camera, I used it up to its limits to the point that couldn’t use it anymore, because it was too slow, it was too grainy with the photos, It’s like I needed something new, and ever since I tried another camera and got that. I’m still learning with the camera I have now, it’s like it’s got so many menus, even I forget what half of them are, but it’s just working with the tools you have and if you are on a certain budget, try those things on the budget, and you know what works and what doesn’t cause sometimes, some of the cheap things work as well as the expensive things.

Margaux
I think what you were saying about photography equipment, you know. You can take great pictures on maybe the most low quality camera that you have, I mean, look at what’s coming back aesthetically too, it’s like people are using Polaroids or people are editing their photos to look more grainy. Like, you know, I think it’s what you personally capture and I think anybody is capable of making their art. You can even make it look better digitally, right? Like you can even scan in a photograph that maybe you got physically printed and do different things to it. So really, I think what we’re most limited by is our imagination and putting a mental block in place saying, “Well, I’m only as good as my materials” No! your materials are only as good as you.

Onikage
Yeah. I totally, totally agree with that. And finally? Any other comments?

Margaux
I just want to thank you and I also want to say that I definitely do dabble in activism work, so if anybody wants to check out my YouTube it is Original Retrophiliac. It’s all linked on my website navigatingjourney.com that I mentioned at the start. And if anybody wants to contact me they’re more than welcome to, I’m @Artfulretro on Twitter. And yeah, Margaux Wosk. M-A-R-G-A-U-X W-O-S-K. I have a strange name. That’s okay. I’m named after wine. And anybody who look me up and feel free to converse with me if they have any questions, I mean, I’m mostly an open book. So I’m happy to continue the conversation of really breaking down these barriers, reducing the stigma and showing people what autistic people are capable of.

Onikage
Great! Thank you so much for participating.

Margaux
Yeah, thank you so much.

Onikage
It’s great to have you here.

Margaux
Yay.

Outro.

Thank you for listening to the Aut-Ish podcast. If you like more blog information, please access autish.wordpress.com. Thank you for listening and stay tuned for future episodes. This is Onikage from Aut-Ish, signing out.

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