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In Conversation with Another Con Artist: From Botany to Artistry

Connor James is a digital artist from Perth, Western Australia, with a background in Environmental Science after studying a double major in Botany and Zoology at the University of Western Australia. This degree lead to conservation and rehabilitation work of Australian Bushland, but after the eight years of intense study and subsequent work, Connor felt a little disconnected from his creative passions.

Having worked at various conventions in the past, and holding a love for all things geek — video games, comic books, and anime — Connor returned to Murdoch University where he majored in creative media, game arts and design. From this degree, he has delved in to the arena of concept artistry, animation, 3D modelling and encoding; and has since taken the LGBTQI+ community by storm. We sat down with the man behind @another_con_artist and picked his brain about his digital art career, being an artist during Crisis, and RuPaul’s Drag Race.

What has it been like being a digital designer in Perth, Australia?

“Being one here has honestly shocked me. Before 2020 I had grandiose assumptions of pursuing an artistic career over East — but then the Crisis happened, putting a hold on immediate plans and a mini-migration — I thought there wasn’t going to be much work for me here, but was happy to find out I was wrong. My work was picked up quickly by local drag queens and the Perth LGBTQI+ community, which have been major sources of inspiration for me as a freelance illustrator. I’ve received nothing but love, kindness, and support from our sleepy little city!”

What was it like the first time a drag queen reposted your work?

“One of the first groups of people to truly get behind my art were local drag queens in Perth. I initially completed a trio of fan art pieces, showcasing three of the first drag queens I ever had the pleasure of seeing when I was 18: Fay Rocious, Ruby Jewells, and Veronica Jean Jones. Their pride and power on stage genuinely inspired me to truly accept myself as an out-and-proud gay man. It only seemed right to depict these badass entertainers as the super heroes that they are to me, and many others.

I was then contacted by Barbie Q, another Perth drag queen. She was the first person to offer me payment for my art, and I will never forget the internal excitement and panic of accepting my first commission! At this point I hadn’t considered the idea of charging money for my work, but through some advice from friends and colleagues in similar fields, I was able to set a foundation. Barbie’s reaction was golden! This commission was shared across all social media platforms, which only sparked more interest from local (and not so local) queens, who contacted me for more work, or just messages of love and support! The reception has truly been nothing short of magic, and I owe it all to the beautiful drag queens here in Perth.”

What has been the reaction, and community interest, in your work?

“One thing that I wasn’t expecting was for my work to leave Australia, let alone be contacted by RuPaul’s Drag Race queens! But my work has been shared, and posted by these high-profile entertainers — some even followed me on instagram! It was strange to see such interest in my brand at its early stage, but seeing this international recognition fills me with a further sense of drive and energy. Just knowing that someone, somewhere out there in the world, appreciates my art is an inspiration to create more!”

What is your creative, and technical, process in designing these pieces?

“Honestly, I don’t think I have a solid process yet. I’ve yet to develop my style, something that I know a lot of artists try to chase. A sense of individuality and uniqueness that makes your art special and soulful. I’m still on this journey, and genuinely try to take it day by day.

My biggest inspirations, and artistic idols, play a heavy part in my creative process. I’ve been influenced by comic books, including many Marvel works, and not shy from a Beano magazine or Dandy annual. Famous artists have given their part, such as Dali, Delaroche, and Giger.

Genuinely, my biggest sources of inspiration are my family. I am blessed with an incredibly creative lineage; my three brothers are musicians, and emerging actors, whilst my mum studied fine arts before she had a family. I even have one of her pieces above my bed! (pictured below). Being surrounded by these artistic individuals helps feed my creative drive and passions.”

Original Piece by Joan Finchett

How has isolation helped, or hindered, the creative process?

“I’m one of the lucky ones, my work continued during the Crisis, so really it didn’t hinder or enhance the process. But I will say a huge chunk of my work is queer focused, and I miss being among my queer family! I miss the dinners, and drinks; the parties, and celebrations. Needless to say, when this is all over and done, and things are safe to return to normalcy, the sense of pride and family will be overwhelming.”

What advice would you give people interested in pursuing digital art?

“The biggest piece I can give is to just do the thing. The thing you promised to start next week, but won’t actually do. The song you want to write, the painting you want to paint, the book you want to develop. Just do it, even if you don’t think it’s very good or don’t think anyone will care about the final result. Just do it. The act of creation is a magical experience, learn from these experiences and keep on creating beyond that. You might just be amazed at the response you receive.”

What’s next for the Con Artist?

“Hopefully a continued social media growth, and increased demand for commissions! I have so much to learn as an artist, and a lot of experience to gain. Somewhere down the track, i would love to join a game development studio and be apart of a larger creative team — such as League of Geeks, or Summerfall studios in Melbourne — both create marvellous games with art and inclusivity in their forefront. It’s exemplary and something I aspire to be amongst.”

Connor’s growth from scientist to artist, is absolute alchemy. You can find this amazing artist on instagram, or at ArtStation.com — like, and share to support this emerging talent. Be sure to get in fast whilst commissions are still open!

by JOSHUA HALL HAINES
Editor-in-Chief of The Independent Press Co.

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