#4: Badass Business Babes*: Althea Solis, Illustrator & Future Icon
It feels like the media/press recycle the “same old” influential [white cis men] creatives. So, instead of just complaining about this (which I’m super good at!), I decided to begin highlighting some of my favorite creative business babes! (Here, “babe” is used as a gender neutral term.)
Althea Solis is a queer and trans illustrator (they/them pronouns), who is a sci-fi illustrator, creative and badass babe.
I met Althea because we lived in the same queer cooperative at Stanford. I met them and wanted to squeal, BECAUSE THEIR AESTHETIC IS SO SO SOOOOO GOOD, but I kept my cool. Later on, I took closeup photos of their work, as they were working in a painting studio next to a class I was taking, (I’M SORRY THIS ISN’T COOL I’M A SQUIRREL.)
Note: All photos are used with Althea Solis’ explicit permission, and cannot be used without their consent. My goal in sharing Althea’s FUCKING AMAZING work is to get them a few commissions, so I asked them to quote me prices for a variety of pieces they’ve done, in hopes that you (or your Facebook friends, or their friends when you share this article!) will commission them.
1. What has life looked like since graduating from Stanford?
I graduated in 2015, and in that first month after I booked it to Asia. I packed my stuff, and I flew to Philippines for a month. It was my family’s first trip back in 10 years.
The six months following graduation were kind of blah. I was living at The Bridge [counseling center at Stanford] and job hunting. I had an awful time finding work. I stuck with my campus job working at the art library.
I moved to Oakland and was still working at the art library. I didn’t find a job until December of that year, and I got the job through a friend. I worked part-time as an after school teacher in Oakland, making basically nothing.
Fast forward, and now I’m tutoring full-time.
My living expenses are super high because I’m in the Bay, so my hustle is super strong. I’ve worked in various safety/quality situations, and I’m in a stable apartment. My first apartment the door didn’t reach the ground and water came through when it rained.
To be honest, I didn’t expect a lot after school. How much could I live on? I could live on $20K a year. Actually, $20K is a ton of money as a sum. So now I’m in a more stable place. Post-grad life is really rough. I feel like I’m finally in a stable enough situation to begin making my art career happen.
When I was in school, I felt a lot of pressure to be a “Fine Arts Person,” and I was so focused on coming up with something theoretical. And I ended up in a rabbit hole, full of garbage I didn’t care for.
Stanford was — weird. I took bookmaking twice, and I did the Stanford Graphic Novel Project, where we created full graphic novels in 9 months. I learned so much, and I’m so grateful for that class. It’s where I really learned to do digital.
2. Okay, immediate follow-up question: Do you do commissions?
I’ve done a handful of commissions, because I don’t have a network of folks who are constantly asking for commissions. [But if you’re a self-published writer, nerd or someone who wants to support living artists, give me a shout on Instagram.] I did a few things for various art orgs in the Bay Area, as well as a graphic novel startup.
Recently, I started tabling at zine fests, and we started a printmaking co-op together. If we make stuff it pays for itself, but it’s not necessarily income, it’s more to make art and have supplies paid for.
3. What direction is your work currently going in?
I’ve always been a comic person, and I feel like I was trying to justify myself, saying stuff at Stanford like, “I’m ‘pushing the limits’ on graphic novels.” I would ask esoteric questions like, ‘What is a narrative?’ Which is fun, but not what I’m actually interested in.”
My senior year, when I was in Honors in the Arts, started out in the same vein. “I’m going to explore the hells of the mind! Like Dante’s Inferno!” and, honestly?
I was really bored with it.
So, I went to a fun fiction story set on Mars. And I was really into it. I hadn’t read a science fiction book, and I didn’t watch movies/tv, and my prof was like, “What science fiction have you read?” So in the past few years I’ve gobbled up a ton of science fiction.
My aesthetic changes, but at the core it’s diving into sci-fi and the way you can stretch it in order to explore things ready to now — kind of like “Speculative Science Fiction.”
For example, take this scenario: What happens if you’re stuck at work, but you have that “GET OUT!” of work feeling but you can’t — because you’re on Mars.
4. Let’s talk about the kickstarter, “We’re Still Here.” ! I saw online that you were selected to be part of a trans anthology?
They’re a small publisher that focus on marginalized voices, trans and queer people, and they wanted to put together a compilation of trans artists. I saw an announcement for it on tumblr and I turned in an application, and I didn’t think I’d get in.
And I got in!
I’ve been making work in the void, but now I have an editor! And they’ve been really understanding of my switching from 10 to 40 hours a week in the last month. It’s the first time I’ve been paid to do comics, and I’ll be published! And I’m so excited.
The project has received twice the funding we all thought it would, and the publisher is being awesome and paying artists more for their work. Honestly, that’s an amazing place to pitch in a few dollars if you’re not looking for a commission.
5. This is a good segue! How does your trans identity play into your work?
I’m not Janet Mock. I’m still figuring out a lot of the “identity stuff,” or gender or queerness or race, and I don’t have it figured out enough to have anyone listen to me.
I have a really hard time saying, “I am trans.” I don’t want to come out and be like, “I AM A TRANS ARTIST” because I’m not comfortable at all. One of the ways I work through things is by making work about it. I’m making a comic with a trans character.
I feel uncomfortable in rich white places, and it’s hard for me to ask for support from those spaces.
Queer people love to support other queer people. I support people on patreon. So I feel okay asking for support for queer comic stuff. I feel like I belong here. Whereas in other spaces I’m not comfortable. I’m changing from queer and brown spaces and leaning on my community to support me while I’m figuring it out.
6. What are you excited for?
This is the year where things I’ve wanted have started to finally happen. I’ve been wanting to get published for so long. Last year I ran into my favorite professor at SF Zine Fest, and this year I’m tabling there!
I’ve set a lot of goals for myself. Here’s what I want to happen, and with a flowchart of what kind of adult I want to be. I’ve had a lot of barriers, and a lot of it is money. I can’t afford to not work constantly.
I have a lot of student debt, I didn’t have health insurance for the last 12 months but Medi-cal but this year I’m on a company health insurance and I can get fucking therapy. This year I can actually do those things.
I’m not there yet. I’m kind of getting there, and that’s pretty exciting.
I feel like I’m starting to get on my feet. I tell myself, “This is the meaty part of my memoir.” This is the beginning of my movie. This is the part that Terry Gross is going to ask me about.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hi, I’m Bri! A queer fashion designer (currently paying for that calling as a business and marketing professional for HBICs). Insta here, twitter here. If you’re a Creative Business Babe, and would like to be featured, drop me a line!
If you enjoyed this post, please share the shit out of it! Let’s raise the profile of badass business creatives. ❤