"The Shift of Sex" is a Tale-Type in the ATU. It is categorised in the "Tales of Magic" volume of the index as number 514.
Disney interpreted this story as the animated feature (and soon to be live action remake) "Mulan": the story of a girl who pretends to be a boy in order to go to war so her sick father doesn't have to.
During my research this term I read a really interesting PhD thesis about this tale type which suggested that it was a positive transgender narrative.
"She was really the man she pretended to be": Change of sex in Folk Narratives by Psyche Z. Ready at George Mason University, 2016.
This was a great read and a significant turning point for me because it showed me an example of a thesis that looked at queer visibility, in this example Trans identity, in folklore and the ATU specifically. It supported my own desire to write a paper about gay male love and visibility in the ATU. This paper gave me confidence to proceed in a new, queer-er direction.
I started to assimilate my practice as a writer and illustrator by creating a new website and branding, so I began building the website using the ecommerce platform "Shopify".
This threw up a bit of a dilemma for me I hadn’t predicted to be an issue... how to brand myself as an illustrator when I already had branded myself as a screenwriter, and was challenging the notion of illustrator as designer. Could these various skillsets align aesthetically?
I didn’t really want to have two website for two (or three!) different practices - partly because of the cost, partly because I just want to manage one website. I therefore deleted my slightly boring “screenwriter” website, and created a new logo, and fully functioning web store.
The website would be called petejordiwood.co.uk and I would market myself as a “Writer and Illustrator”. I also wanted to incorporate somehow some jewellery I had made previously under the name “Jordi Buoy” based on Tattoo motifs, so I redesigned the branding for Jordi Buoy to fit more with the new ‘Disney’ style aesthetic of the overall website. This would just be a sub collection on the site in a “jewellery” section or something.
I wanted to practice drawing in a Disney style more so I made sketches of various Disney characters to continue learning the craft of drawing. I needed to make my product as authentic as possible...
I then created some more ATU designs based on Jack and the Beanstalk, Ariadne’s Thread and the Three Little Pigs from folklore.
I needed to think about colour and how to draw my “collection” of illustrations together better visually so I consulted some Pantone books in the library and settled on a sort of sweet shop mixture of palettes.
While this was going on, I was also building and coding my website's back and front ends, writing product descriptions, testing buttons and the user interface, and incorporating information about my practice and my biography in the “about” section. Here, I created an illustration of my ideal “studio” to represent my work and different aspects of it, such as writing (there’s a script on the desk) illustration (some drawings) and books, with a Cornish scene in the background to locate my practice.
The "mockups" of products to illustrate future things I would like to make were starting to look nice on the website, and I started to think about what I could offer to customers which was more bespoke. I came up with the idea of making little enamel pins with prints encased in them. I wanted them to look like little fairytale books, so I designed a backing card with some gold spot colour on them. I would offer my customers custom portraits as pins.
I then realised there wasn’t much actual writing on the website, and I needed a blog to showcase that I could write stuff... so I made a blog section, and uploaded my Critical Publication. This would be an area where I would publish my research (like this journal!) although I will probably take this journal down after assessment... I don’t want to share all my secrets JUST yet.... 😏
A shift then occurred in my practice, and an emotional Crit Group followed when I cracked and just opened up and probably overshared about my personal history, and why I draw Disney characters. You see, my dad left when I was very young and I didn’t grow up with him but One of my earliest memories was he came to visit me and he had been to America and so he brought me a US video cassette of a Disney movie, I think it was Aladdin, which I had loved at the cinema but it wasn’t out in the U.K. yet. Because you couldn’t play US videos in British video recorders he had gone to loads of trouble to find one that accepted American videos and brought me that too. It is one of the positive memories I have and maybe the only one where I felt my dad understood me and loved me.
I realised that I wasn’t being honest in my work, and that I had fallen into the trap of wanting to be commercially acceptable over wanting to be authentic. I wanted in my heart to draw the "Red Riding Hood" of my lamp as a boy... going into the woods, a dangerous place, and leaving the path HE had been warned not to stray from, meeting a dark and dangerous man in the woods. It felt like a gay metaphor for Cruising and it’s dangers. It felt like it was saying something more. It felt authored to do that, regardless of whether people liked it or not.
So I went back to my drawings from the whole year and made changes, improvements.... making them queerer. I began to think about publishing my screenplays as Zines on my site, the dvd of my film etc. I realised I could be an Indie Author, and to screw the publishers and 'gate keepers' I was waiting to approve my work and give me a break. I needed to give myself the break I needed. I decided to illustrate book covers for my writing portfolio and self publish all of my work to date, as well as creating new works for the future...
Moving forward, I would be more authored in my work I decided. I would forget about trying to fit in in the Cornish art scene, to meet the aesthetic of galleries like the poly who had rejected my work. I would just out what I did online and see if I could find the audience that liked it, if it was out there somewhere. And I think it is an audience made up of people like me, predominantly. Gay men.
i was an Indie Author now, and I realised that I would have to learn a lot about the production process of making books in the months to come. I started to research how to buy ISBNs, register book sales with Nielsen etc. I realised there would be costs involved in this, so I decided to offer my book projects for pre order to raise some funds from pre order sales to buy my ISBNs and cover other costs.
I went back to the lamp design determined to finish it, but with a more authored voice. I then decided after a test that my concept would work better as a fine art print. Rather than illustrate a tale type, I would use its motifs and create my OWN variant of the tale. So here is my version of the Little Red Riding Hood tale type. Like the original it serves as a warning, to be wary of those who set out to deceive you. Set in the forest where gay men go “cruising” my Male red hiding hood strays from the path, and meets a stranger in the darkness. There are good people and bad people in every community, including the LGBT+ community. I have met some bad people that have harmed me, and some good people too. But rather than tackle Abuse in a really intense way, I hope this illustration just serves as a warning to stay safe to my fellow gay guys...
I didn’t make a guide for the ATU in the end... the original concept for this project.
But to be honest it’s not hard to use so I’m not sure there even needs to be one. Instead, I found my voice as an illustrator, which it turns out was my writer’s voice. I’d just been too afraid to use it.
I spent the final weeks of the course completing the website (petejordiwood.com) and creating new products to sell on my store, learning about coding and back end design, improving the user interface and the overall front end design of the site. It was a lot of work and I’m really proud I finished it all on time. I also created social media pages for the website too.
Finally I needed to market my site, but with no money to invest in Facebook or Instagram paid advertising, I decided to go the Fan Art route. I created some Fan Art for the TV show Riverdale and it’s Teen icon, actor KJ Apa, the movie Gremlins, the new Star Wars video game and Spider-Man. I first read up about fan art and legal stuff. Basically you can get away with it if you only sell a few limited edition, one off prints, don’t use official logos, make it your “own”, and make it clear you are not affiliated with the IP and it is specifically fan art. So I’ve put a few limited prints on my website and posted to social media to try and attract followers and get attention on my original works. I could get asked to take them down, and I will just take them down if that is the case, but I’ve seen a lot of artists doing this so I’m going to see what happens.
I am confident I have a safe space for my work to exist in the world now. It’s a place where I can experiment and share knowledge and hopefully have some fun too. It’s my own online gallery and everyone is welcome. This website is essentially my very own publishing house and I am so excited I have built a “platform” on which to host my Second Year final project and launch all my creative projects and ideas.
I guess, as I move forward, and start to market the site on Instagram, we will see what the response is. In the meantime, I need to learn Finnish and put my Detective hat back on.... there's a gay fairytale that needs unearthing and who knows how many more to discover...
Ulterior Motifs: Introducing an alternative resource for the creation and analysis of popular cultural texts.