CC | I want to say I got into furry around 2010. I had always been drawing anthro animals ever since I was a kid, I just didn’t know that there was a word for it—or that there was a group of people that did it, or had it as their source of entertainment, or as a hobby. In 2010 I was on Deviant Art mostly, and Deviant Art was not a great place for furries. There was a lot of furry hate. My friend told me, well I know this site called Fur Affinity and it’s just that kind of drawing. And I was like, ‘well what do you mean, like animal people?’ And he was like, ‘yeah!’ So I signed up and started focusing on that kind of art because it’s what I like to draw best.
Z | Do you have any formal art training?
CC | I do! I actually went to an arts high school where we studied college-level art from freshman to senior year. My high school was not the norm at all. Actually my grandfather founded the school I went to. He was really passionate about the arts and education, and also founded a few other schools in the south-central Pennsylvania area. I still had to audition like everybody else, though. I didn’t just get in. The way it was set up was half a day, every day, was dedicated to art and the other half was academics. We studied drawing, painting sculpture, and art history. There are several majors in the school. Visual art was just one of them. They had theater, music, figure skating, dancing—any kind of artistic expression, you could major in. So I learned all my art basics in high school.
Z | Did your grandfather encourage you to go there? Or is that something you always knew you were going to aspire to art, so you knew you were going to go?
CC | I’ve always loved art. My mom claimed as soon as I could grab a crayon, that’s when I started drawing and just haven’t stopped. She really encouraged me to go. At the time, I had just turned 13 and I did not want to move away from my home in New Jersey. I was very adamant about not moving away and staying with my friends, and all that stuff.
Z | It’s hard to blame you. At 13, the idea of moving away from your home is a huge step. Not many 13 year olds are doing that.
CC | It is, it really is. Just uprooting your life. I was born and raised in New Jersey. And it was hard. But after I went to the school for my audition and met my potential future art history professor, she was just so cool and passionate about art that I was like, alright, I have to go here. I moved with my parents. They uprooted and we all moved to Pennsylvania so I could go. And my parents are still there. They’ve been living in the same house ever since.
Z | And you went to college for art, as well?
CC | Honestly I couldn’t afford a high-end art college. Even with financial aid and scholarships, it’s rough. My mom actually worked at one of the local community colleges, Northampton Community College, so I decided to go there and major in communication design. Finances play a roll in this kind of thing. As much as I would have liked to go to SCAD or one of the New York art schools, it’s just not feasible for some people. That’s why I’m a huge supporter of community college. I will always recommend it. I like to drive home that it’s not a “cop-out” by any means. It’s a great step, and my community college had fantastic art classes.
Z | Do you have any professional background, working in the industry after college?
CC | I had an internship out of college for a big company that did pretty basic graphic design. It was a food company, so I helped with designing menus for colleges and hospitals. It was mostly pretty boring stuff. Other than that, my only other “professional” art job was as a face painter at Dorney Park. So I did face painting there. It was funny, because I was the only one on the face-painting team that even liked art. The other people with me had like no interest in it, didn’t know how to draw. It was just a summer job to them, but I was taking it so seriously. [Laughs]
Z | So after that, you got into doing furry art? Is that your main source of income?
CC | Yes, I started dabbling with that when I joined Fur Affinity in 2010, somewhere around there. I would take some small projects, like icon commissions. Then I was like, wow I know some people who are making a living off of this, and maybe that’s something I could do.
I struggle with anxiety, so I had been looking for a job or something I could do which I enjoyed, but also fit my needs, anxiety-wise. Drawing obviously is like an innate part of me, so I’m pretty relaxed while I do it. And furries are a really nice clientele. They are understanding, and not only that but they have so many creative ideas. It’s so exciting just to work with all my clients. They come at me with these awesome ideas and it makes me so excited to do what I do.
It started out really slow, and it took about a year for it to be sustenance. I was lucky, people seemed to like my art. I brought some people over from Deviant Art when I made that switch to Fur Affinity. And now on Twitter, of course. I learned a little bit about social media networking and marketing in college, so that came in handy. And it just grew from there.
I still do some freelance work for non-furries. My mom and my aunt are both authors, so I’ve been hired to do some illustrations for books and book covers and stuff like that. But the difference between furry clients and real world clients is astronomical. You get your fair share of picky clients, no matter what fandom or industry. But in general, working outside of the furry fandom can be harder to get through to people, I think.
Freelance work is not for everyone. And that’s okay. I know a lot of people who think it’s “the dream”. You can work at home in your pajamas, and you can eat out of a jar of peanut butter while you draw! [Laughs] Nooo! I frantically wake up, I get dressed, I have a proper breakfast, then run over to my computer and sit my butt down, and draw. I get work done. You have to have that drive and self-discipline to do it. Because if you don’t, it’s not going to get done.
Z | Let’s talk about inspiration, either artistic inspiration, or even just general inspiration from media anywhere. What sorts of things have influenced your art?
CC | I’m going to say the corniest furry answer: anime. I love anime and I always have since I was young. I can’t even pin it on a specific show or artist. I guess if I had to pick one very big inspiration, it has to be Studio Ghibli. I can’t even describe how much Spirited Away influenced me when I was younger. It just really awakened something in me, artistically. Then Disney, of course. Who would I be if I didn’t say Disney? And Chris Sanders who did Lilo & Stitch. He was a huge inspiration to me in high school. He drew all kinds of bodies—not like how they’re “supposed” to look. He had fun with weight and body shapes, and that always spoke to me.
I feel like Spirited Away and Lilo & Stitch are like my benchmark of influence, especially throughout my young artistic life. Because that’s when you’re really finding yourself as an artist.
Z | Do you have any non-visual influences as well?
CC | Oh yes, totally. Music in general really inspires me. I love the story aspects. I love stories, I love music. My biggest musical inspiration is most video game soundtracks. The Persona series soundtracks are my latest thing. I’ve always loved the Katamari games. Those influenced me a lot.
Z | Video games are a major theme in your art, particularly the character cosplay. Can you talk a little about character cosplay, how that came about and what that is?
CC | Video games have been in my life since I was very young. My mom was really into Legend of Zelda, and when she had me, she was really determined to get me at least one kind of game system when I was old enough to start playing games. So thank you mom!
Video games are just as important to me as my artwork is, so I’ve always been inspired by them as well. When I started realizing that most of the furries I talk to are also into video games, I drew my character dressed as Princess Peach. And thought, wouldn’t it be cool to do more of that?
I really think the idea of furry characters dressing as their favorite video game characters is cool and fun. Of course it’s not an idea that I came up with. People have always been drawing cosplay of their characters as other characters. But I love video games so much that I just started offering that.
I think my first commission type that I started offering was Smash Brothers. I offered Smash Brothers icons where it looked like the “player select” icon from the game. Ever since then I just pay attention to what’s coming out, even if it’s not a game that I personally play. I try to play whatever is hot and trending, for this purpose specifically. But even if it’s not a game I’m not playing, I will research it and see if there’s something I can do with it. Like is there a character here or is there a portrait in the game that has a certain style that people would look at and recognize? Then it’s like, okay cool, get your character drawn that way.
Z | You’d also mentioned another main theme in your art is body positivity. And you talked about Chris Sanders and how he inspired you by drawing a variety of body types. Can you tell us more about that aspect of your work?
CC | I strive to represent bodies of all kinds in my art. Furries tend to have a specific body type that’s like an idealization—and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I based my fursona on myself. Her body looks like mine. I always strive to make that an important part of my life because my whole life I’ve been fat. Discrimination against people of different sizes—whether it’s discrimination against someone who’s too thin or against someone who is too fat—is something that has been on my mind my whole life. And I know I’m not alone, so I try to show the beauty in all kinds of bodies in art. I often have an emphasis on chubbiness or fatness, because I can model for myself which is helpful. I just love having diverse body shapes in my art, and I’ve noticed in the furry fandom that’s become a lot more common.
I just think it’s beautiful. I genuinely think—100%, as corny as it sounds—that every body is beautiful. I just want to show that as much as I can. I know that for a lot of people their fursona is what they want to be, or what they aspire to. It’s not necessarily who they are. For some people it’s a combination of who they are and who they want to be—whatever their expression wants to be.
I know a lot of people think they’re not allowed to love themselves as they are. I think that’s horrible. I want to show people that it’s okay to love yourself. If someone gets mad at you for loving yourself, that is their problem.
I’ve had the one piece in here, Love Yourself that is a really special piece to me and very personal. But it’s also my favorite piece that I’ve probably ever done. That piece in particular garnered a lot of attention. I got a lot of messages about that from people just thanking me for making it. At first I didn’t understand because that was me trying to love myself and my body. But then I realize the impact this kind of media has on people is so important. So I’ve tried to keep doing it, as much as I can.
Z | With that in mind—I don’t mean this question to be insulting, but I’m curious—‘cow’ is often used as an insult. So do you have the cow character as a way to take ownership of that, and turn it around as something that’s positive for you?
CC | You nailed it on the head! That is the main reason I chose a cow as my fursona. I’ve probably been called a cow the most as an insult. (Whale is a close second—but it’s kind of hard to make a whale fursona.) I can draw cute cows though! And I love cows. I’m really glad you mentioned that, because it’s the number one reason I chose a cow.
I wasn’t always a cow and it felt weird to be just some random animal. I started digging deep and I was like, I love cows. But also I can take this thing that I’ve been called my whole life, but I can be called it but in a different way! Now I can be called cow, or moo, or momma moo, and it’s great! It’s awesome and it feels empowering. I’m so glad I made my fursona a cow.
Z | You’ve been doing furry art full time now for nearly a decade. Where do you see yourself going in the future? What do you see as the future of your work or where you want to take your practice?
CC | I try to think about that a lot. I think one goal I’d love to achieve soon is selling at conventions. I never have before. I’ve just done digital work and selling my entire career.
For a while I could only afford one con a year, and it was Anthrocon. And it was kind of like vacation time for me—like a family reunion. I did a panel at Anthrocon before, but that’s the closest I’ve ever come to “working” a con. It’s a very intimidating thing for me, being someone who’s only ever sold digital goods online. But it’s something I’d love to take that next step and do.
Z | Of all your art, this stood out as particularly striking. It seems like such a powerful piece. Would you be comfortable talking about this one in particular?
CC | I had a relationship that ended in August, 2017. It was a long relationship, and my whole life changed. You just have so many questions and so many doubts about everything you’ve been through.
Even though art is a job for me, it’s also very therapeutic. I usually don’t share too much of my vent art. But with this one, I felt better and better as I was drawing it. So by the end, I was like, “oh this looks pretty cool. I think I’ll post it.” And it worked. I felt really good when I finished it.
But yeah, it came from a place of my life changing so suddenly and drastically. And, you know, heartbreak. The classic, “art is made from love and heartbreak.”
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