I've known @goldenastrum—who goes by Moon—since we were just fumbling with our adolescence. Back then, I was starstruck (or moonstruck) by their art, and while we’ve both grown up, the awe I feel hasn’t changed.
Currently, they’re active as @goldenastrum on various social media outlets—their main one being Twitter. Looking through their online “portfolios” shows a diverse range of character designs; in fact, their art specifically aims to represent LGBTQ+ people of color and even sheds light on stigmatized mental illnesses. As an artist within these communities, they are constantly trying to spread awareness with uniquely fleshed-out characters and backstories.
Moon is as celestial as they come, and I’ve sat down with them to talk about their experiences with art.
Q: So I want to start at the beginning. In 2014, you were drawing for fun on Instagram and posting EXO fan art. How has your art-making evolved over your teen years?
A: Art had always been nothing more than a hobby when I was a kid. Drawing for me was what watching movies or playing video games was like for others: a way to pass the time. Fan art was also a way for me to experiment with my art by drawing the people and characters I loved. I was pushed by my parents to go into STEM programs, since they were convinced that it was the only way for me to find a stable job in the future. I kept drawing, and I kept posting my art online, but I never took it seriously because of school.
My turning point with art was definitely during my fifth semester of cégep (junior college). I spent two years and a half trying to convince myself that science was for me, even though those two years were mostly spent at home skipping classes I didn’t want to deal with. The more classes I skipped, the more I realized that the only reason I did this was to completely avoid science.
Science is objectively great, but I felt no passion studying it. My time in cégep studying something I hated was enough to push me into pursuing art (video game designing, to be precise) as a career. Now, I’m heading to art school.
Q: Your journey with art has not only been about your work, but also growing up and finding your voice and identity. What has art (and its communities) taught you?
A: People often have a constricted view on what art is (realism, pretty oil paintings, still lifes, etc.), and while all of these are beautiful, there’s more to art than the conventional.
I had always been taught that when it comes to drawing, realism means better art. I spent years trying to change my style to become more realistic in hopes that my art would improve, but in doing so I held myself back from developing a unique style that I could confidently call mine. However, the art community is very inclusive of all types of art, which helped me let go of the thought that my art would never be good unless it looked a certain way. As long as I have fun creating, nothing else really matters.
Q: As you’ve settled into your identity with art, I also want to ask about how being a person of color has affected your overall experience and journey. How have you been influenced by your background, and how has that tied into the way you approach designing your characters?
A: Being a person of color has greatly influenced my art. It’s a pretty common experience as a person of color to grow up without much representation—I know that was the case for me. As a result, it became natural to create characters that remind me of my heritage, and I strive to do the same for other people of color as well: I want all of my characters to be as diverse as possible; I want to play my part in helping other minorities learn to love themselves. Good representation always makes me incredibly happy; it also makes me realize that I’m just as beautiful and important as everyone else… and I’d like to be able to help others feel that same way through my artwork.
Also, representation is important to me not only as an artist of color, but as someone who’s grown up with mental health issues, I’ve often resorted to using art as a way to cope with everything I’m feeling. The original characters I created have become characters who I can identify with as a source of comfort. Drawing and creating stories in general have been great ways for me to distract myself whenever everything feels a bit too much.
Creating characters like me is a way for me to feel as though I am not the only one struggling with BPD and anxiety. My characters remind me that just like them, I also have a chance to recover one day and be happy. I can create my own happy endings for them, after all. These characters are ultimately a way for me to cope not only with these thoughts but also with the stigma against mental illnesses as a whole, since I can ensure that I’m representing this part of my background in a positive light, too.
Q: One look at your Instagram shows just how vibrant and radiant your style is. I want to ask you about your inspirations and how you’ve developed your artwork. Do you have a specific process that you go through as you draw?
A: Even after all those years, I still feel as though I don’t have a specific art style. If one were to compare two of my drawings, they could quickly notice some inconsistencies when it comes to the way I draw. One thing that I try to keep pretty consistent, though, is my coloring style; I tend to stick to cel shading and have a lot of highlights, which I have been told is something that sticks out a lot in all of my art pieces.
I’ve been inspired by many different sources. Fellow artists and artist friends have been a huge help in my journey, but it was video games (the "Atelier" series) and anime ("Bleach") that really started everything for me—particularly "Bleach."
As for my drawing process… it’s a bit all over the place. There are days where I want to plan everything out; I do a lot of research if I want to draw something as accurately as possible. I’ll create little thumbnails to figure out how I want the final piece to look like and spend hours looking up references in order to get the best drawing I can. Most of the time, I just draw as a way to stay occupied, though. I might watch some videos at the same time, listen to music, or even play video games. I think for the most part, my art creating process is just coming up with an idea that sounds fun to me and immediately working on it.
Q: You’re currently working on a game called "Succubus+," where you’re combining different mediums. I know you have an interest in designing video games and writing in addition to your visual art. Can you talk more about your goals with multimedia projects like this?
A: Making a game using my own art has always been a very big dream of mine. "Succubus+" is a visual novel created using Ren’py—a visual novel engine that runs on Python, one of the most used languages in programming. Getting into Ren’py requires a lot of coding knowledge, which I had the chance to take a course on during my last semester of cégep. While my main goal with multimedia projects is to create multiple-ending stories that can be experienced differently by everyone, I am also using them to get into programming, since I have always been very interested in it.
I feel like telling a story through a video game is very personal, which is exactly what I want. I want other people to let loose and really get absorbed in the storyline and my characters.
Q: As you’re nearing the end of your teenage years and reminiscing on just how deeply art has affected your youth, I’m sure you’ve been thinking about your future with art. I have one last question for you. What are your plans?
A: Along with making video games (and visual novels), one big goal of mine is to be able to create webcomics with all the characters I have. I want my stories to inspire people and bring them happiness, just like many stories from other great artists and storytellers have inspired me and made me become the person I am today.
Overall, I just want to create art that makes people smile, because that’s what’s most important to me.
This interview has been edited for clarity.