A ‘Mega Queer Christmas,’ is the inspiration behind DOM&INK’s emboldening Christmas cards. The Bolton born illustrator reflects on safe spaces and self-love in this uplifting series of LGBTQ+ focused illustrations, commissioned by akt. We caught up with him for a chat about the importance of community, wellness tips to manage lockdown and his own creative journey.

How did you get into illustration?

In 2008 I graduated in Illustration from Manchester Metropolitan University. I then worked as a visual merchandiser (styling and dressing mannequins) for three years working 5am - 7pm everyday - it gave me a very good work ethic! 

I then took out a loan to do a masters in Sequential Illustration at Brighton University. Following that, it became a matter of knocking on the doors of branding agencies to ask if they needed an illustrator! A lot of places just want to employ you around Pride season, so you have to work really hard to carve out a name for yourself. Slowly, through word of mouth, I started to build up my portfolio to the point that I was lucky enough to secure two book deals.

Your favourite piece of illustration work?

My interactive journal Free to be Me is a testament to being queer. It was quite cathartic for me to create; each chapter includes a little diary entry that references my own coming out story. I wanted to produce something positive for my community. I still love getting messages from parents and kids about how empowering the book was for them. And it’s published by Penguin - I’m proud of the achievement.

Why do you support akt?

I’ve always supported akt’s winter campaigns and appeals. akt offer so many great resources for young people, and for anyone interested in fundraising - including a whole fundraising pack on how to do it yourself. Right now, is a challenging environment for young people and I thought queer xmas cards would uplift the spirits. They make a great gift to yourself, a friend or chosen family. It’s important to me to support the community where I can – this summer I did a face mask with Skinny Dip and all the money went to UK Black Pride.

What do you value most about the LGBTQ+ community? What would you like to see more of?

I really value when people show up for each other. When something happens everyone gets behind it. Like when Tanya Compas’ launched Exist Loudly - so many people came out to support and uplift each other online and offline.

In the community it would be great to have more open discussion on issues such as racism, transphobia and internalised homophobia. I’d like to see more straight people uplift the community even with simple stuff. I’m working with a brand at the moment and want to know if what I’m creating is going out to straight or queer people. If it’s the former It’s more useful for me to educate them on allyship.

Do you have any lockdown wellness tips for our readers?

Yesterday I woke up and everything hurt. I couldn’t focus and was in such a funk so I accepted I’m not going to work today and took the day off for myself to watch The Housewives of Atlanta. It’s an important time to prioritise mental health and be open about it to employers. Turning my phone off for half an hour a day also helps me to focus, and avoids situations where I find myself procrastinating doing a TikTok quiz on dinosaurs!

I always have a routine where I stop work past 5 or 6pm. Keep evenings free. Be open with how you're feeling. I used to bottle things up and deal with them later but now I try to be as open as possible. And if you feel like there isn’t anyone you can speak to then reach out to akt – they’re a great place to start.

Head over to our shop where you can find these special edition DOM&INK Christmas cards – treat yourself or a loved one!

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