Celflux is a sci-fi, action-adventure, about OKIRA. A young, benevolent, kind-hearted priestess who becomes the involuntary leader of a disjointed group of strangers. Against the backdrop of a widespread call for greater diversity in comic books, comes a new ebony, lead, female character. Okira is presented as a character that anyone who has ever felt like their life has meaning and purpose can identify with. Her experiences mirror the reality that it is a difficult journey to realize and achieve your purpose in life. The comic follows her journey of discovery and personal growth as she seeks to find out why she has been given her abilities and how she can use them to help others. For many the focus will not be Okira’s abilities, but her personality, struggles, and successes.
Celflux was created by the husband and wife team of Dixie Ann Archer-McBain and Everad J. McBain Jr. They are the owners of GemGfx. GemGfx is a design support and consulting agency based in Trinidad and Tobago.
Dixie Ann Archer-McBain and Everard J. McBain Jr. (FOUNDERS OF GEMGFX)
TRINADAD & TOBEGO
1) What is your ethnicity?
My wife and I are Afro Trinibagonians.
2) What is your mediums(s) of choice?
I originally learned to draw and paint with pencil and watercolor, but I’ve changed to a digital medium because for me it was more affordable.
3) What scale/ dimensions do you usually work in?
Most of my work is done on an 11” x 17” page, but I also work on poster size and banner size dimensions. It depends really on what is required.
4) How old were you when you began creating?
As long as I can remember, I have always been infatuated with drawing. I always tell the story of how I was often scolded in school -- and by my father and my teachers -- for drawing cartoon characters in my school exercise books. Super Friends, Space Ghost, The Hurculoids were some of my favorites. They saw it as idleness and time wasting. My mother was the one, in her wisdom, who for my birthday gave me a gift of a sketch pad and a Flintstone’s coloring book, and instructed me to exercise my creativity in those rather than my school books. Thus began
5) What were some of your earliest inspirations?
Without a doubt, that would be cartoons and comics. It’s interesting that you should ask that because I just recently did a series of blog posts about those early inspirations. In the early years, I was fascinated by cartoons. The Hurculoids, Thundar The Barbarian, Birdman, Space Ghost, Thundercats and The Visionaries. Those are just a few. I was glued to my TV screen back then when Saturday morning cartoon time came around. When it comes to comics there was X-Men, Strikeforce Morituri, Justice from the New Universe. I was also introduced to Heavy Metal magazine later on. Those are just a few. But cartoons and comics were the huge influence on me back then.
6) Who are some of your favorite visual artists?
Well in the early days it was guys like Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo. I was fascinated by their realistic styles. But I realized soon that I wasn’t a painter and I gravitated more towards illustration. In particular comic book illustration. Some of the greats for me are Jim Lee, Joe Mad, Greg Capullo, Mark Silvestri and J. Scott Cambell. There are quite a few others, but these are the ones I look to for inspiration and whose work I think is fantastic.
7) What are some of the consistent themes in your work and please describe them?
Some of the main themes of our books are Spirituality, Destiny and Purpose, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Personal Redemption and Overcoming Life’s Obstacles.
8) Are there any other art forms such as music, dance, acting, culinary arts, or other creative domains you occupy that we should know about?
I love music. I taught myself to play the piano and guitar. For a time in the 90s, I moonlighted as a DJ. But I’m by no means a professional. It’s strictly for my personal enjoyment. I’m constantly listening to all kinds of music. I drive my wife crazy.
9) Name 3 of your biggest accomplishment in your artistic career?
My artistic accomplishments are limited, I only have two really and those are on a personal level. The first was finding a style that I could call my own. I’ve heard many times that people who are inspired by other artists, as I was, usually ended up mimicking that work. So their work looks like a copy of the artists that inspired them. I was inspired by quite a few people whose work I have great reverence for, but I’m happy to say that my work doesn’t look like their work. It’s not better than theirs, and I don’t think it ever will be, but it’s unique. When folks see the artwork, they will recognize it as my own. That means a lot to an artist.
Secondly I consider completing and publishing our first book a huge accomplishment. Not selling many copies, or getting any awards. Simply completing and publishing. You see back when I started reading comics, I thought to myself, how cool it would be if I could create my own comic book with my own characters and my own story. I tried to do just that. I created some very crude drawings in lined exercise books. I had continuing issues and it seemed to entertain my schoolmates so that was cool.
In the imagination of a young boy, the possibilities were infinite and achievable. In reality, however, the dream of becoming a comic book artist from Trinidad and Tobago and making a living, was just that -- a dream. The means, technology, respect, and wherewithal were not available to the comic book artist back then. Comics were little more than a recreational pastime. It was not to be seriously considered as a profession. So the idea was in all practicality shelved and the priority of becoming a Graphic Designer to earn a living took the front burner.
So for us now to have completed Celflux issues 1 & 2 and have them published, it is a lifelong dream come true even if we never become a major best-seller.
10) What purpose does your art serve for the viewer?
I would hope that for just a short while the reader will be transported to a place where they can live vicariously through our characters, to the end that they may be inspired in their real lives and situations to succeed and excel. If my art can do that, it would more than have fulfilled its purpose.
11) Do you think it is important for
(a) the viewer to have a subjective experience with your work or (b) to know and take the artist’s point of view into account to appreciate your work?
I think art is subjective. It’s impossible to avoid the viewer having their own subjective experience when viewing your art. Inevitably the viewer will look at the artwork through the lens of their personal experience and environment. What I’m hoping is that for a moment they see themselves in the artwork and find something to identify with. If they subjective view finds something in the art and story that they can identify with, then I have a point of entry to communicate my message that won’t necessarily change their subjective view, but perhaps broaden it.
(A) would you consider yourself a relativist when it comes to art appreciation?
If you’re speaking of relativism in art appreciation as the belief that in any particular study of art, all works are inherently equal, then no. I’m not a relativist. In my opinion, there are some things that can be called art. Because they were executed by people with skill, talent and who are creative, and there are some things that are
(A) would you consider yourself a relativist when it comes to art appreciation?
If you’re speaking of relativism in art appreciation as the belief that in any particular study of art, all works are inherently equal, then no. I’m not a relativist. In my opinion, there are some things that can be called art. Because they were executed by people with skill, talent and who are creative, and there are some things that are not. Not everything is art. This is my personal opinion. It’s not an elitist view, just a personal one.
(A) is there any art you don’t like?
No. I consider something art because there is an aspect of it that I appreciate. If I call it art it means I like it. If I don’t like it, it’s usually because I don’t consider it art. I appreciate and find inspiration from every piece of art that I encounter.
(B) please expand on your voice as an artist and explain why it is necessary to share?
I believe people need inspiration. I believe one of the places that people can find inspiration is through art. Art should inspire. I believe for people of color there should be art to inspire. There are many artists of color in the industry creating inspirational works to inspire people of color. But I believe there is always room for more. So I’m hoping my work can lend to the efforts already in existence to inspire people, especially young people, of color.
(B) would you consider yourself a socially conscious artist or art activist? Explain.
Yes definitely. We are very careful how we portray our characters. We are very careful to be sure that characters of color are properly represented. Our main character of the book Celflux is Okira. She is a young, strong, benevolent woman of color. She’s spiritual. She’s caring. She’s human. She’s not portrayed as many women of color are usually portrayed on the news and in the media. She has a mind. She’s intelligent. She has hopes, dreams, purpose. We want to show that characters of color can adopt non-stereotypical roles and thus inspire our people and give them an alternative to what they regularly see on cable.
12) Please name 3 tangible goals you seek to accomplish in your artistic career
I would like our characters and stories to become part of the cannon of pop-culture. To inspire other artists and creators to pursue their dreams. To be able to take care of my wife and family.
13) what city are you based in?
We are born and raised in the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago. The most southerly isle of the tropical Caribbean. Home of the Steelpan, Calypso and Limbo. We host the greatest Carnival on earth and have are made up of a beautiful cosmopolitan people.
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