Artist Geneva Benton shows us a world of color

You might recognize her better as Prinnay on Tumblr or GDBee, but however you know her, artist Geneva Benton makes an impression. I first started following her on Tumblr, drawn immediately to the bright bold colors that are a hallmark of her work. Her characters are nothing short of inspirational, and so I was really excited when she agreed to be featured on The Quibblerview to talk about her background and art style.

When did you first begin to become interested in art and drawing? What sparked that interest?

I started drawing since childhood but didn’t get serious until the late teens. I just really liked drawing, but then played a game called Chrono Cross, which sparked me wanting to draw and inspired me quite a bit more.

Bubble Tea by GDBEE
“Bubble Tea” by Geneva Benton (GDBEE).
As a self-taught artist, what were the resources you depended on to develop your skills?

I have tried watching streams on how other artists work and tutorials that they make. Also just starting and eye balling what makes someone else’s style so great. Doing the occasional study on anatomy, animals, etc is also quite helpful. Quite a bit is experimenting.

One thing that really attracted me to your work is how amazingly colorful it is. How did you develop that style?

Since I was a teenager, I’ve really admired an artist named Benjamin Zhang. His artwork is especially colorful, with hues and shades used so drastically and artfully. For the most part, my style is inspired by his color use.

"Taurus" by Geneva Benton.
“Taurus” by Geneva Benton.
Where does your inspiration come from?

Mostly random things. The way paint looks and chips off a wall. A single kiwi. I really have trouble explaining it.

Your art also features a lot of black women. Is that intentional on your part, to broaden the representation of black women in art? Or is it a reflection of you and your community?

Well, it’s what I know. I’m a huge cute stuff and anime fan and also black, so it’s all subconsciously boiled together and out comes the art that I do. I am trying to broaden these horizons but it’s definitely my comfort zone.

"Reach" by Geneva Benton/
“Reach” by Geneva Benton.
What advice would you give to someone looking to become a professional artist or freelance as an artist?

Freelancing is technically working professionally. I would say study on what you need to get started and amass enough savings for a couple of months to cover initial freelancing expenses. And do good work! Do good work and a lot of work will come to you. One of the most challenging things is finding work, but refining your craft always increases the odds.

What’s a project you’re working on now that you’re really excited about?

I was on course for Kickstarting an artbook but it’s been put on hold till next year, for time reasons. Otherwise, I’m just making whatever feels cool at the time, until another idea hits me that is less time consuming than a book.

Geneva Benton will be at Anime Weekend Atlanta from September 29 – October 2, 2016, at the Renaissance Waverly Hotel & Cobb Galleria in Atlanta, Georgia.

On food and family with author Diana Abu-Jaber

Diana Abu-Jaber is an award-winning author, with multiple books exploring identity and heritage through the lenses of language and food. She’s also written for The Washington Post and The New Yorker, among other publications, and today we have the distinct pleasure of featuring her in The Quibblerview! Diana talked about her inspiration and her new culinary memoir, Life Without A Recipe.
Diana Abu-Jaber, from her website.
When did you first begin writing, and what was your first published piece?
I started writing before I knew how to write. My family was filled with story-tellers, so the experience of making stories, their shape and arc and form, was  very familiar to me. Summer vacations, starting around fourth grade, were taken up with writing novels in my school notebooks. The first real work I published was actually some poetry when I was an undergraduate in college. The Windsor Review published a couple of my poems and sent me twenty dollars-it was thrilling.
Your new book is a culinary memoir, but this isn’t the first time you’ve written about the impact of food on your life. How would you say cooking and writing intersect for you? What are the ways in which the craft involved in both is the same, and what are the ways in which it is different?
Writing and cooking are both creative, intuitive, improvisational pursuits-they also rely on focus, testing, and revision. And cooking is a wonderful metaphor for all sorts of human experiences and ways of seeing. But there’s a real timer on food that makes it a challenging, evanescent medium to work with. You have to time your dishes; you have to make sure ingredients are ripe but not overly so; you have to serve hot or cold or just so. The great mercy with writing is that-at least most of the time- you can take your time. The longer you work on most writing projects, the richer, better, more developed they become. Unless, of course, you’ve worked something to death, then you’ve got another problem.
Your books seem to cover a wide range of topics. What inspires you to write? What are some of the things you try to explore in your writing?
I write to remember, to tell my truth, to entertain myself and my friends, and in large part, I write to try to better understand myself-what I feel and think-as well as to try to better understand those around me. I seem to be haunted by issues of culture and identity, family and community, and of course food-that always seems to show up in my work, even when I’m not trying to write about it.

How do you go about constructing your novels? Do you start with the characters, the plot, or a mixture of both?
I don’t usually follow the same path-it changes from project to project. But in general, I prefer starting with a storyline of some sort-not really a whole plot, but some sort of hook or angle. My thriller Origin started when I woke up one day with a character’s voice in my head telling me her life story.

My first memoir was organized around specific food memories about cookies and baking. But my new memoir, Life Without a Recipe, began as a response to the advice I got from my writing teachers that I could be a parent or a writer but I couldn’t be both. I’d felt haunted by those voices and, after years of writing-and parenting-I wanted to answer.

What is the very first thing you do when starting a novel? And what is the last thing you when you’ve completed it?
It’s a pretty organic process for me, so I don’t have a kind of identifiable ritual or pattern. Novels start in the imagination, in dreams and conversations and observations; they accumulate. For me, there’s a lot of thinking and note-taking. Once I’ve dreamed up a story-arc, I’ll usually try to cobble together an outline, maybe do a bit of research, and soon after that I’ll attempt writing a first page.
“Completion” is an even more approximate term– there are drafts upon drafts upon drafts. I beg friends and family to read and give me feedback. Even after my agent has weighed in and my editor has sent me notes, there are more revisions as well as copy edits. Through it all, I’m plagued by uncertainty, the eternal sense of incompletion, that it can’t possibly be done. Eventually, I try to console myself with that wonderful quote: art is never finished only abandoned. And, as soon as I can, I try to start something new.
Who are some of the authors whose styles you admire?
Virigina Woolf; Michael Ondaatje; James Joyce, Ray Carver; Chekhov; Marilynne Robinson; Annie Proulx; Anton Shammas; M.F.K. Fisher, Louise Erdrich, and about a million others.

Photographer Sheri Bigelow and the meaning of cute

Today I’m very excited to introduce The Quibblerview, an interview series exploring the inspiration, talent, and pure hard work that creative people put into their content. For our first installment, meet photographer Sheri Bigelow.

Sheri is a lifelong photographer who shares her work on her blog, Cuteness, In All It’s Versatility. Her work combines beautiful vistas with unique angles and playful light and shade. I spoke with her about her background and her techniques.

How did you get into photography? What’s the first thing you took a photo of as a “photographer”?

I’ve loved photography for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure what the first thing was that I photographed, but it was probably something boring. Over time, and after looking back through a lot of old photographs recently, I’m finding that the pictures I love most are of people. It’s an amazing feeling when someone loves a photograph I’ve shot of them, and several people have used photos I’ve taken as their Gravatar—which I feel is a pretty cool compliment.

“This one is great because it’s a unique perspective,” Sheri says, “a different way of looking at an icy, wintry world for a moment.” See the original here.
Your blog is called “Cuteness, in all its versatility.” How do you define cuteness? And how do you identify it as a subject for your work?

The name “Cuteness, in all its versatility” came about because I was told I tend to overuse the word cute! I probably used that word for anything and everything and anything for a while, and so the definition became a bit fuzzy in my world. To me, it means something I like, and so anything goes as a subject, it can be anything that’s interesting or intriguing or silly or beautiful.

Sheri says, “I love this one because other people loved it and because it’s a good memory of a good place and time. It was taken under Scripps Pier in San Diego.” See the original here.
What kind of equipment do you use, and why?

For everyday things, I shoot with an iPhone 6S. I love it. Shooting with an iPhone to create memories works really well for most of what I need. When photographing events, I like to shoot with either Canon or Nikon with the fastest lenses I can get. Often I’ll shoot with a 70-200mm f/2.8 because you can get better candid shots from a distance while staying on the sidelines. I also really like shooting with a 50mm f/1.2 prime or a 24-70mm f/2.8.

What do you look for in a subject in terms of lighting, etc.? How do you know whether a photo will come out the way you envision it?

When taking snapshots or when just photographing something for fun, good lighting is often something you stumble upon. One thing that I have learned is that if you see an opportunity for a photograph in a space that has good light, you should take advantage of it right then because you never know when the light will change! Natural light can change so fast. You don’t always really know whether a photo will come out the way you envision it. The trick is to take a whole lot of photos and then choose the ones that worked out the best.

Sheri says: “I love this photo because it’s not staged but looks just like a stock photo. These are real people working on WordPress at WordCamp US 2016.” See the original here.

Sheri Bigelow is also a UX researcher at Automattic, the geniuses behind WordPress.com. Find her work in UX and theme design at DesignSimply.com.