Lino Arruda, 33, Brazil / living in Tucson Az USA, Phd candidate and graphic novel writer
Can you begin with telling me a little bit about your illustration practice? How did you begin to Illustrate?
I started drawing as a kid, since my mom was an artist she encouraged me a lot. I was a very introspective child and teenager and would spend most of my time drawing by myself, in that note I dedicate my first graphic novel to the fact that I was a lesbian growing up: isolation lead me to draw alternative realities. I graduated in visual arts in both Spain and Brazil, but couldn’t pursue a career in arts because of how precarious this area is in Brazil. I then started a masters in feminist art, illustrated for feminist countercultural events (made flyers, shirts, posters, album covers, etc) and started a collaborative comic zine for LGBTT community, alongside illustrating for myself.
What is your main focus in Illustrations?
In terms of subject I think it has shifted through different moments. As a kid I was fascinated and terrified about aliens, so I drew a lot of monsters and aliens, in college I was very involved with animal rights and was drawing a lot of animals, especially hybrid surreal animals. Then I started doing comics and have been depicting LGBT stories. Now I was given a publishing grant and am working on a graphic novel on monstrosity and transmasculinity.
When and why did you start to create Monsters?
I remember playing with action figures when I was a little girl, and asking my mom to draw me monsters. I drew the same monster for years: I named it “nunugi” , my mom framed some of them (they were “monsters with many skirts” that resemble caterpillars). I think it has been embedded in my imagination very early on. I have always had a fascination towards monstrosity, and if I had to talk about it rationally today I would attribute that to the fact that I have always been different: I was born with a visible disability on my legs and I also was a masculine child and teenanger, I was always visibly lesbian before transitioning, so I think I have had to deal with peoples discomforts about the way I looked from a very early age and that made me identify as a monster or relate to monsters. I think I embodied some of the visual aspects of monstrosity and, being disabled and trans, I have been exposed to the pathologizing effects of it throught my life and closely understood the function of the monster in our society.
What do you express through them? What do they mean to you?
I have attached different meanings to monsters that I create. I am currently working on a graphic novel in which the trope of monstrosity represents the inbetweeness of gender, they emerge in interactions that eludes masculinity and femininity, and are better represented as disability (as something that is wrong, socially inadequate and should be fixed). I also associate the monster to a refusal of the Human or, better yet, a refusal of norms that deem others less through racism, sexism, speciesism, etc.
Does gender play a role in your Illustration?How do you think Monsters are connected to Gender-questions?
This is a topic I have researched thoroughly and I have found monsters to be a useful and very common trope for queer selfrepresentation: from the work of Susan Stryker to more underground projects, like Latin American zines, monsters have consistently been used against and by LGBT subjects. Personally I have used monstrosity and animality in feminist visual projects (t-shirts, logos, posters, etc) that provide interpellation without defining the subject, as a calling where the “dissident” is marked but not specified.
I believe the interstitial space where monsters are born is the overlapping of dual categories and that monsters are necessary to both establish and disrupt or challenge the dialectic systems by introducing a third term that is incompatible with the binary structure with which humans create identities. In that sense monsters emerge as something to direct negative affect towards, fight against and reestablish the norm, and can be used to justify transphobia, racism, and hatred against disabled people. At the same time, claiming monster not as an identity, but as an interstitial subject position, can expose the norm and raise awareness of its internal structure, that is the use I intend.
Do you have a definition of what is monstrous? Do you need it?
I think monsters are more easily described by what they can’t be, since monstrosity can hold different forms and meanings. I think monstrosity is not stable, not Human, it is contingent and cannot stabilize itself as identity. It can be a refusal and mockery, it can be a negative disruptive force. I think the most adequate way to describe a monster is through looking at the overlapping of two structural terms that hold together a dialectic system: the overlapping of categories such as “feminine” and “masculine”, for an instance, create monstrosity. Monsters I believe escape definition because it should be that which we don’t yet have words to describe. In this way it defies language (for an instance monsters like Frankenstein’s creature and the Elephant Man become closer to humanity and less monstrous when they acquire speech) and, as Peter Brooks would say, it operates mainly within the visual domain: they are hypervisbile but we are unable to make sense of them, so they always remain blurry, imprecise.
What or who influenced your work? With whom do you talk about your work?
I really appreciate the illustrations of Monique Moon, who is very dedicated to depicting monstrosity. It’s hard to know who influenced my work because it has been changing a lot, but I would cite the graphic novel Monstress as a more recent influence. My intellectual pairs for monster theory are: José Gil, Susan Stryker, Eva Hayward (specially her essays on tranimal theory and nonhuman theory), Jack Halberstam, J. Cohen, Donna Haraway and Myra Hird.
What is your favorite monster ore piece of work? Why did you create it? (please attach)
My favorite work so far is a drawing for the cover of my upcoming book “Monstrans: experimenting horrormones” (I will attach that illustration and also a pdf of one of the graphic novels I am publishing, but urge that the pdf is not uploaded to the internet or made public) . It is a body/assemblage of beings that exceed and eat the Human. I remember not having any reason to create it as I drew it in 2015, but now I think it goes very well with the graphic novel I am working on.
Do you have any particular focus or self enforced rules that you follow when you work on your creatures? What visual methods do you use to create your monsters?
I rarely know what I am going to draw before I do. It is more of an intuitive process. I for sure have mannerisms or vices like particular teeth that I like to draw or animal noses that always pop in there. I guess there is not much I can rationally explain about the drawing process. I work in very small scale with 0.3 mine pen and watercolor. I get very focused on detail.
What do want to achive through your work?
I want to create representations that can speak about the split of the transgender life and the disembodiment I have experienced through disability and queerness. I hope my graphic novel work can counter some mainstream conceptions about what trans means and that it would create a venue for others to share their stories.
Do you do commission work when you create Monster? Have they been published, and if so where? Aside that, where do you publish your Work and where (ore in what context)do your Images circulate?
I have hardly ever made money with any of my art. I have done commission work for friends: I illustrated the cover of the book “la cerda punk” by Constanza Alvarez, I did a lot of different posters and t-shirt for autonomous feminist events (like vulva la vida, encontrada, korpus krisis, etc.), I made a couple of drawings for the artist and friend Auriceleste Zimmerman’s exhibition, I have illustrated some tattoos for friends, the album cover of Anticorpos (lesbian harcore band) and I have declined commissions by strangers that want my “collaboration” (meaning they won’t pay for my work).