Each month we’ll be doing a profile on one of the creators from the Creator Advisor database, giving you an introduction to who they are and what they do. We have a fantastic collection of talent in the Creator Advisor database and want to be able to share these talents as widely as possible!
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Tell us about yourself!
Hi! I’m Ashanti Fortson, a cartoonist, illustrator, and editor with a love for compassionate stories and complicated emotions. I primarily make solo comics as the writer and artist, but I’ve been working as a colorist as well.
While I’ve been reading comics with a pencil in my hand all my life, I didn’t start making comics until my freshman year of college. That was just over five years ago, which feels like both a huge milestone and a tiny one! I’ve been making comics for a relatively small amount of time, but it’s something that immediately clicked for me – somehow, I think it’s the medium and format best-suited for the way my brain works. I feel very lucky to have found that so early.
I made the leap to editing other creators’ comic work relatively recently (just this past spring). I’m currently helping to edit the Wayward Kindred comics anthology, which has been a phenomenal experience.
What is your favourite thing about creating?
Without a doubt, it’s the ability to process my own thoughts and feelings about my life and the world around me through the work that I make. I don’t make a ton of purely autobio comics, but all of my comics explore facets of my own emotions and experiences. Creating provides me with an opportunity to reflect, feel, and grow in a focused, cathartic way, and my hope is always that my work can connect with other people similarly.
For my editing, it’s absolutely getting to work with wonderful people and seeing their work at so many stages of the process. It’s so exciting to help pitches and scripts and comics develop and evolve.
What one thing do you wish you could go back and tell yourself when you started?
“Health comes first.” I live with chronic illness, and I used to have incredibly unhealthy and harmful work habits – working all day through midnight or later, not taking breaks, linking my worth as a human to my productivity as an artist, etc. College exacerbated this and things are a lot better now, but the way I worked then has absolutely had lasting negative effects on my health. Claiming the adjective “prolific” isn’t worth ruining your health at any point.
What tip would you give someone interested in creating?
Health comes first. You only get one body, and you only get one brain. Nobody will congratulate you for destroying yourself in the name of your work. (At least, nobody who is worth your time.) If you’re creating for yourself, remember that this is supposed to be fun, not painful. If you’re creating to pay your bills, communicate with your editors/ADs/collaborators/etc as soon as possible if you need an extension. It’s not shameful to ask for one. Burning yourself out will damage your mental and physical health, and it’ll lower the quality of your work. Try your best to take care of yourself.
Regardless of whether you’re creating for fun or professionally: step away when you start to hate yourself and your work and everything else. That probably means you need a break.
Can you share a favourite resource or mentor?
In terms of resources, I love Paper Cat Press. It’s a curated blog that does weekly roundups of opportunities and resources for animators, illustrators, comic creators, and writers. Definitely check it out, especially if you’re trying to get your foot in the door and aren’t sure where to start. Leanna (@frenchpressplz on Twitter) does an amazing job with it and provides such a valuable service to so many people, so a huge shout out to her.
Another huge shout out to Kori Michele (@korimichele on Twitter) who mentored me when I was starting to make comics. They’re an amazing person and artist, and their guidance and friendship has been so important and precious to me. Thank you for everything, Kori. <3
Shout out someone else whose work you love that we should know about!
Olivia Stephens is seriously phenomenal. Her work is expressive, tangible, colorful, and stylish, and there’s such a tenderness and sensitivity to it. She’s fantastic and everyone should have her on their radar.
Where can we find you?
You can find my work on my website. I’m also on Twitter, and my Patreon is currently set up as a tip jar if you’d like to support my work.
I mentioned before that I’m working as one of the editors on the Wayward Kindred anthology. Though submissions have now closed, keep an eye out for the Kickstarter in the next several months!