On the surface, society seems to be more ‘accepting’ than ever. However LGBTQ+ hate crime, in London alone, has almost doubled since 2017. The Brighter times chatted with illustrator and self-confessed merman Dom Evans, aka @domandink, on style icons, self-love and the success of his latest smash-hit book ‘Free To Be Me’, an LGBTQ+ journal of Love, Pride and Finding Your Inner Rainbow.
Dom has created works for Little Mix, designed the official logo for Emma Watson’s ‘Our Shared Shelf’, drawn at The X-Factor live finals, had the ‘honour of doodling the ‘tit-tees’ for GIRLvsCANCER’, and had his creations reposted by Jameela Jamil, JVN, Kylie Minogue, Little Mix, Cheryl and Keala Settle to name a few.
Firstly, thank you so much for sharing your story and taking the time to RISE!
Let’s start from the beginning, when did you first start illustrating?
I first started doodling super young. I think I was around 10 and I had this book called ‘How To Draw The Marvel Comics Way’. It taught me everything I know about drawing. I learnt so many things from it, I implemented into my first few years as a budding young doodler! Illustration wise, I’ve been doing it freelance since 2013, and full time since Christmas 2018. OMFG.
Haha, congratulations! Doing what you love! Was it something you studied also?
Yes it sure was! I studied it at Manchester Met as a BA, took three years out, worked in retail, and then BOOM, hun was back in the game doing an MA at Uni of Brighton!
Your illustrations have a fashion influence and quality to them, is fashion something you love?
Fashion has been a huge influence on my work. I’ve always loved costume design and styling so a lot of my inspirations came from fashion illustrators like Jason Brooks and David Downton. Working in fashion retail, and more recently as a personal shopper also really fed into that.
I love David Downton too! So chic. Who’s your fave fashion icon?
BILLY PORTER. His stylist Sammy Ratelle styles him in some of the most stunning, excitedly and proudly queer outfits I’ve ever seen. Through fashion identity, Billy Porter is paving the way for so many queer people of colour in how to express themselves proudly.
Yes! I remember the exquisite black velvet tuxedo-gown he donned to the Oscars,“a walking piece of political art”, he called himself. I loved the sense of empowerment that shone through him.
You’ve gone down the empowerment route with your illustration – was this a conscious decision, something personal to you?
Working in retail a long time, I came across a lot of very different people, from many walks of life. Everyone has a story and journey, and in those fitting rooms people would share their vulnerabilities, hopes and dreams. I’ve always been about building others up and empowering them. You really can do anything.
Has your life story shaped wanting to promote such positive messaging?
Yes. I went through a lot of stuff when I was younger that made me very emotionally resilient and tough. Through that pain and journey, it taught me so much how positive messaging has a very deep and profound impact that can last a life time on someone.
I absolutely, whole-heartedly agree, and thank the stars people like you exist! ...Speaking of positive messaging, your new book release ‘Free to be Me’ has had an INCREDIBLE response! (YAAS!) Talk to me about how this idea came about?
Thank you! I’m still blown away by the reception to it! My first two books had been interactive journals with a smaller publisher, and I remember thinking it would be so amazing if I could do something for the LGBTQ+ community. There is a whole demographic out there that was and still is, fairly under-represented in the world of publishing. I wanted something purely for them, to celebrate, empower and remind them they have a whole family out there.
How long did it take you to create?
The idea is something I’d developed over a number of years. The main chunk of actual work, basically the entire first draft, was completed in a month, along with a font illustrated by me also, exclusively for the book!
So yeah, first draft was a month, second draft around three weeks, and third draft about 10 days! I’m an illustration machine ha!
Haha, that you are! It has such an educational and inclusive aspect to it, I love how it’s pitched to ages 3 to 103! …Why do you think offering insights in to the LGBTQ+ community is so important?
It’s really important, now more than ever with the conversation over LGBTQ+ lessons in schools. I wanted this book to help and educate a community, but also any allies that came across it.
(For you lovely readers, if you didn’t know, an ally is defined as a (typically) straight and/or cis person who supports members of the LGBT community.)
The fact we got Stonewall to sign off on their official glossary is a huge huge deal, that glossary is amazing and such an important tool in the book in terms of the educational aspect.
What’s your most memorable moment of empowerment to date?
I would say my general moment has been receiving messages from so many readers and parents/guardians who have said that FTBM has really helped them, and empowered THEM. For me, that’s so special to know it’s making such a difference!
So who do you look to for motivation / inspiration / encouragement?
I find Instagram an amazing place for that vibe. Accounts like @adameli @ukblackpride @ladyphyll @gaytimes @leopardprintelephant @i_weigh are all massive accounts that teach and educate you. I want an account I can learn something from.
I hear you!
In terms of encouragement, I normally find that within myself, more than from other people. I think being bullied a lot at a young age for me, made me very tough, but also taught me about how important it is that you’re your biggest cheerleader, especially when battling negative thoughts like self-doubt and imposter syndrome which we all get!
REJECTION IS PROTECTION
Finally, any advice for humanity?
My advice is simple, just be really f**king kind to people. That is what makes a difference. We can ALL do better, when we push ourselves to be a better version of ourself!