Queer Faces – Anna Olver
Queer faces is an ongoing series on Fashionably Femme. The goal is to highlight queer artists and professionals, to put a face to their art, and help promote them and their work.
In April, Dannie and I sat down with Anna Olver to discuss her artwork, and how the development of her own genderqueer identity has both influenced and been reflected in it.
Anna identifies as genderqueer and demisexual, but says that the term “lesbian” just didn’t feel like it fit. “I would say I am largely attracted to people who have a strong relationship with their own femininity.” I loved this answer.
The question of how to label oneself when you identify as genderqueer, but have a tendency to be attracted to a specific type of person, is one that has circulated in my personal circles quite a bit lately. When I brought this up, Anna said that she’s found it to largely be the energy that the particular person puts in to the world, and is more about their own relationship to gender.
The Evolution of Anna’s Queer Art
Along a similar line, Anna’s art focuses on the constantly changing and developing conversation between people and their internal selves, with Anna’s own gender and sexuality journey influencing her work. After growing up with art all around her – her mother was an art teacher and her father designed t-shirts, so she began creating before she can actually remember – her pursuit of art dropped off between the ages of around ten to 17. When she did begin to create again, it was as she became more aware of her own mental health issues, and began exploring her own place in the LGBTQ+ community.
It was around this time that Anna’s series The Inklings began to develop. What started as fantastical portraits of people, turned into a now six-year series of increasingly androgynous, fascinating faces, that have, over time, become less attached to a specific gender.
“ I feel like art at that point was really a way for me to take these really tumultuous thoughts in my head and put them in a more concrete way that was a bit more accessible to the real, solid world.”
I have known Anna for quite a while and I remember talking to her about the Inklings when she first began to draw them. As the collection has grown, I’ve gotten to see them come into being individually and together, and the sense of personality that imbues each of them has always been a major focal point for me. Whether it is serenity, curiosity, or sadness, each of the incredibly unique faces draws the eye as if reading, and makes you want to know more. The pieces themselves build on Anna’s fascination with the human form.
Queer Art Inspirations
“Essentially, I love those because I love human faces. I think human faces are so beautiful and expressive, and I just love being able to show a lot of this beauty that I find in features and shapes and lines in these kind of fantastical, surreal faces. “
This focus on form and line of the human body has long been a source of inspiration for her. Logically speaking, she said, she thinks humans are incredibly strange looking, but in a way that when she looks at them she sees the beauty in the line of their body when they’re standing a particular way, or in the shape of someone’s eyes. It is this combination of beauty and the external manifestation of inner identity that led her to creating many of her pieces. When we asked her how her work reflects or discusses the LGBTQ+ community, she said that a lot of her work has to do directly with identity.
“I think that specifically the LGBT community has a really beautiful relationship with their own identities, that it’s constantly changing and constantly personal to them and doesn’t necessarily follow a tradition. I think that that was the thing that inspired me the most, is that I keep seeing people in this community who really are finding these beautiful, eccentric, exciting ways to be comfortable in their own skin, and I feel like that’s really influenced how my art looks. It’s just these constantly evolving identities, and this want to find characters who do show what’s inside of them on their outsides.”
While the majority of Anna’s work is in watercolor and ink, finding watercolor was something that surprised her. She said the medium has a reputation for being difficult to work with, but that that quality is something that excites her about it.
Exploring Identity and Watercolor
In the process of finding mastery in watercolor, you also have to learn when to control it and when to let it go, something which she has found very cathartic. This wasn’t an unusual experience.
“I was told a lot that I should steer away from watercolor and ink because it looked so illustrative, and I got told a lot that it looked really cartoony,” Anna said.
She continued on to say that she would love to see more artists feeling free to work with whatever medium they like the best, and to not feel constrained by those who see more illustrative and graphic styles as being confined to specific types of publications. She wants more artists to know that “if their style looks more illustrative or more cartooned, that they still have the ability to say ‘this art can stand on its own, it doesn’t need to be pushed into a graphic novel, it doesn’t need to be pushed into illustrations for a book, and it doesn’t have to play second fiddle to words.’”
Anna’s work can be found on her website, www.inklinedarts.com, and has a direct email address if you’d like to contact her. She would love to hear from people about their artwork and identities, so feel free to drop her a line.
Do you know a queer artist or professional that you’d love to see featured? Tell us about them!