“I can safely say that I've never had this much confidence in securing a job as I do working with the people at Depot Artspace. Anyone thinking about joining the family, who lives with a disability or lifestyle they're nervous to be open about, will be treated with the best of care and love,” says Auckland digital artist Ashe Black.

Ashe Black at ArtsLab“It's a wonderful place with a kind and hardworking staff, who give lots of helpful resources and ways to feel confident moving into the creative workforce – or any workforce, for that matter.”

Ashe is a member of Depot Artspace’s ArtsLab programme. He describes himself as “a digital artist with a love for character design and self-expression”. Drawing has been a big part of his life since he was a child and something he’s wanted to pursue for a long time.

Ashe says being part of ArtsLab has helped him develop his confidence as a visually impaired transgender man.

He appreciates being able to use modern technology to make the creative process easier for him. “Being visually impaired, I have to do my work in very specific ways. Digital art has always been the easiest medium for me because of the ability to zoom into my work and see detail up close and personal.

Ashe Black standing outside Depot Artspace with his cane“Having a large monitor is also a must so laptops are unfortunately out of the question when it comes to creative purposes. I use a tablet to draw and look at my monitor as I do so. I have to lean in close to my screen to see what I'm doing but it works for me and I have a lot of fun doing it.

“I've been visually impaired since birth and it's something that can't be improved with the use of glasses or treatment. Although I live with my disability well, it's something that holds me back from really taking chances in the workforce as I tend to worry about not being able to perform certain tasks as well as others.

“I’ve received a lot of help with my visual impairment and ArtsLab has never made me feel incapable of being able to get by on my own either. They're there whenever I need them, and treat me as an equal.

“I've been transitioning as a female to male (or FTM) transgender person for about five years now. Although I've grown a lot in those five years, I've still got a long way to go. I find myself nervous in certain situations even to this day, such as mentioning my chosen name over my legal name.

“ArtsLab has made me feel supported, welcome and able to express myself for who I am where other workspaces have not – particularly with my being transgender. From the get-go, everyone was addressing me by my chosen pronouns, and professionally correcting themselves if there were ever any mess-ups.

“After announcing my chosen name to them, the team was outgoing in reaching to me to ask if changing my name in their system would help me feel more comfortable. They respect my boundaries without hesitation.

“As I've grown to understand myself more over the years, the LGBT community has become a big part of my life. I enjoy expressing this side of myself through my drawings, and hope to help normalise the life I live to others around me one step at a time, by conveying who I am, how I feel, and the community I'm part of through my work.”

Ashe Black with two of his key ringsA note from Ashe

You can find me and my work on varying websites. My DeviantArt is my longest running platform and I also have an Instagram and a Twitter account. For recent LGBT+ related works, I'm currently offering special flag-themed cartoony commissions to celebrate Pride and support the Black Lives Matter movement. This, alongside my personal illustrations and upcoming physical merchandise in the form of keychains made from my art, are all work I'm passionate about and am eager to share with the world.

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