Illustration & Feminist Superheros: Melanconnie from Priya Comics

Interview by Carla Haid  

CARLA: Connie Michelle Molina, you are from Bogota, Colombia. You’re an artist, an  illustrator, a character designer, a creative director, a media artist… So, my first question  is: what made you want to do art in the first place? Is it a « given  skill » since childhood, or is it something you learned little by little? 

CONNIE: Well, since I could hold a pen I started drawing. I was not especially good at first but I  always felt like I had something there. And art, it’s something I don’t judge myself at. I am good at  judging myself at other stuff but not at art. And everytime, I keep drawing until it gets better.  Drawing is really something I started during my childhood and that I never stopped doing. I started  with pencils and coloured pencils and then moved on ink pencils. I also painted a lot but it was  mostly drawing with pencils and watercolours.  

CARLA : What support do you use for your work? I saw on your website that you use lot  of animations, how do you do that? 

CONNIE : I bought a tablet last year, but I’ve been doing it on paper most of the time. Everytime,  especially for the work you saw online, I do it frame by frame. I play a lot with that, some are  slower, others faster. I draw each frame by hand so I do the drawing several times. My thesis was on  animations, so this is the reason why you can find a lot of animations on my Tumblr.  

CARLA : You have a deep interest in art linked with gender. I’ve seen in your various  work that you mainly draw women. Why women?  

CONNIE : I just do it. I think it is super pleasing. It’s not like I prefer drawing women rather than  men or that I don’t like to draw men but I think women are so beautiful and express the outside  world so well. I always end up drawing more and more women. Also, I am part of a gender group  here in Bogota, which is helping to achieve gender equality in different areas (theatres etc). I also  like going through a lot of deconstruction in this gender topic, but I had the chance to go to a liberal  art school, and learned a lot from my female artist friends.  

CARLA : Do you try to convey a message through your work, as the one of gender  equality for example? 

CONNIE : My illustrations are most of the time based on a context, on a social context. Many  things about my work in the past were about myself in my art, but now it’s more about political  twists, with the aim of delivering a message. Most of it has a meaning or a context behind.  

CARLA : Would you say it’s easy to touch people and raise their awareness through art? CONNIE: Well, I think it’s easier when you deliver something that is easy to understand but the  power of the image is really important. Standard of beauty goes this fast, but if you see different  messages like « be beautiful as you are », maybe you can start thinking differently .  

CARLA : How is gender equality in your country, is it a sensitive subject ? 

CONNIE: Colombia is a very conservative country, and we are really holding tight to past traditions. Gender is not really a common topic here. There is a lot of sexism here and sensitive topics, even in the households. There are a lot of things you are expected to do as a girl, you are not supposed to chase greater things than that. If you don’t have children, it’s sacrilege. The way you look physically too. There is also lot of violence here against women, domestic violence and murder. We have a long way to go. In the women’s movement protests, violence and police brutality are common. There is a lot of hate. The average Colombian girl has to be not « that thin » but with « big boobs and big butts », they must have « meat to hold ». Girls have to have long straight hair and little make up, have to be beautiful without not a lot of make up. They have to be dressed in bright colors, but not too much, have to be short but not too much, tall but not too tall…  

CARLA : What would be the thing we could do to improve gender equality ? 

CONNIE : Well, there’s a lot of things to do. I think everyone, from their own place, should try  not to be silent about gender equality and abuse. They need to raise their voices and stand up for  female friends and themselves. It is a key to have allies in this fight and trans people, men…have to  be included in this fight. The world is not just about ourselves, it’s about everyone and other people  around. Everyone should take the lead in the fight and stand up for themselves. There’s a feminist movement here in Colombia. Something really cool is happening which was born from the art school and university: making sorority in public university (which is really rare). Public universities usually hate the private ones. But I noticed a lot of sorority between us lately. Last year, we made a program called « Destapa la Olla ». We made a public denouncement of abuse of every type: rape, pressure etc; and we discovered more than 30 girls denounced the headmaster of my faculty of science. It was so shocking. I illustrated a frog with his face (because he’s a specialist in the matter), made a giant poster, saying that the poisonous frog here is the headmaster of this faculty. 

I also have a friend of mine, she is such an inspiration. She did a performance at a medical center,  where a doctor raped a lot of patients. It was mass coverage and it was so revealing. I think the  movement has been getting stronger each time. These are little victories that just make a difference.  But to get back to sorority in University, the movement grew bigger, almost in every University in  Bogota right now, where lots of girls are involved in different contexts. We created a very strong  network of support within us all.  

CARLA : You participated in the Baturu campaign for gender equality. What did you  think of this campaign? Why did you decide to participate ? 

CONNIE : I think this campaign was really good. Places like Colombia or China are not that  different culturally. It was really nice to see different countries, to draw characters that have already  existed before. I loved participating in this campaign because, who doesn’t like international  representation and interesting projects like that? On top of that, groups of women superheros are not  something you see everyday. Why is it that drawing 5 men super heros seems normal but drawing 5 women super heros is not. I am super glad I made it. I am glad I participated in this project because it was really cool. The freedom is not just being strong women that are not perfect, but just being themselves. Because, most of the time still, a women superhero has to be perfect.  

CARLA : One piece of your work is the poster of this project. What did you want to represent  through this work?  

CONNIE : Sorority. That is something you don’t see that much here in Colombia. Being friends  with another girl is not that common. But it’s important not to see another girl as an enemy or as  competition. I learned sorority in art school and it was the best thing in my life: being friends with  another girl. In this project, I tried to make this group bonded, like real friends. They know each  other and care about each other. Everyone has different personalities but they take care of each other.  

For example, the lady in green pants is super moody but everyone knows her well and tries to make  her happy too. The black girl with the green and purple suit was my original character. I created it when I was 16 actually. My favourite one is the one in the pink outfit. When I drew her it came out so great! She has a nice power, she can control with music, it looks so mysterious. We also  represented Natalia Ponce de Leon (with the tiny panther), a woman who was attacked with acid.  20% of her body was damaged. She is a celebrity here in Colombia because she made a law about  acid attacks. She’s a feminist and activist, and created a foundation with her name to help people  with severe burns. Colombia is the second country with acid attacks, the first one, is India. 

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