Artist Spotlight | Amaranthia Sepia
"I created my comic series “Emo Bunny” to continue healing and to help facilitate conversation about mental illness among teens, their peers, and their family members."
My name is Amaranthia Sepia (Eternal Brown Flower). I’m a 19-year-old sequential comic artist and character designer who specializes in pen, ink, and digital art (GIMP). I’m of African-American and Caribbean descent. At age eight, two years after I returned from Tokyo, Japan I declared my purpose, which is to become a self-supporting and successful comic artist. I’ve been on a focused and disciplined mission to achieve my goal since. Currently I reside in Concord, New Hampshire. In Japan I attended Pal International School and Nishimachi International School, in Tokyo, Japan from 2004-2006 before returning to public school in America. Those early years in Japan heavily influenced my art style. I didn’t realize how much I was inspired by Japanese culture, history, people, environment and architecture until I returned home to America. My art is influenced by Japanese mythology, manga, and Japanese pop art. Some artists who’ve influenced me are Tezuka Osamu, dubbed the God of Manga, and Jamie Hewlett, the artist who created Tank Girl and Gorillaz. I modeled for Tezuka Productions’ AstroBoy by Ohya, 2005 Spring/Summer “Save The Glass Earth” fashion show in Tokyo, Japan at age 5, but I didn’t know who he was until age 13. I...rediscovered my modeling pictures with Tezuka Productions last year. I was in total shock because I didn’t realize I modeled for his company since I was so young.
In later years...I became fascinated by Japanese mythology. I spent hours researching and learning about this aspect of Japanese culture. Through these efforts I developed a love for Japanese fantasy creatures (yokai) and they became a focus of my work.
Severe bullying in middle school worsened my health, forcing me to enter online schooling. The trauma from it caused my anxiety and stress to increase. This led to me being diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and adrenal gland issues. In spite of this, I found peace by creating artwork based upon my fond memories of Japan. Those memories served as an anchor during the time of crisis after the bullying. Despite feeling lost and isolated due to trauma, I knew there were people in the world who cared about me and accepted me for who I am because I experienced this from the many friends I made living there.
One of my goals was to have an anti-bullying solo showing of my artwork, titled “I’m Proud of Who I Am” when I left middle school. I had multiple solo shows in this series and participated in my first group show between the ages of 13 and 14 while homeschooled online at Virtual Learning Academy School (VLACS) in NH.
“Anxiety Looms” is a series portraying how having an anxiety disorder can cause you to feel bogged down and isolated. This piece expresses the feeling of anxiety looming over your body, making you physically ill and causing a feeling of impending doom. For Emo Bunny, it causes her to crawl upon her bed and into the fetal position. This piece also characterizes her depression symptoms - she refuses to take care of herself. This is shown with her apathy towards covering herself with bed sheets or even putting a pillow under her head. In the background, her cat, Serenity is seen staring at her with a concerned face. Serenity is the only one who can sense the monster’s presence. Sarah’s bedroom window shows the beauty of the radiant spring day with the sun shining on her. Despite this, she remains in her gloomy room, which is barely illuminated by the sunshine. I created this contrast because I want to show that despite the beauty, or good things around us or in our lives, mental illness doesn’t care. It will use these things to tell you that you don’t deserve it - that you’re a waste of space and these great things around don’t matter.
I created my comic series “Emo Bunny” to continue healing and to help facilitate conversation about mental illness among teens, their peers, and their family members. Sarah, nicknamed "Emo Bunny", is a young girl who suffers from anxiety and severe panic attacks. "Emo Bunny: Anxiety Monster" is a short, seven-page comic draft I made near the end of 2017. It won the Gold Key in the New Hampshire Scholastic Art and Writing Regional Competition. In this short comic, she deals with a sudden panic attack while trying to go to sleep. Her emotional support cat, Serenity, eventually comes to comfort her, ending the panic attack. My goal with “Emo Bunny” is to show anxiety disorders are a serious mental illness, which causes many young people to suffer silently. This comic reflects my experience of having Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Sarah deals with day-to-day struggles due to her anxiety issues and depression. Her anxiety is personified as a gruesome monster who harasses her and becomes stronger as she becomes more stressed. When she experiences anxiety, it feels as if a monster is intimidating her and attacking her. I wanted to use a bunny for this series because although bunnies are cuddly and soft looking, they're very anxious and sensitive pets. They need to be carefully handled due to being prey animals.
In part 2 of this series, Serenity approaches Emo bunny, feeling uneasy about her appearance. In this panel, Sarah’s disheveled blonde hair is obscuring her face, but there’s a slight part, revealing tears flowing from her eyes. Her body is tightly wound and trembling. The looming anxiety grows larger and increasingly menacing, getting closer to touching Sarah’s body, causing her panic attack symptoms to get worse. The monster carries a murky black aura, causing the walls of her bedroom to have a dusky appearance as it gains more power. Its obscure eyes enlarge. In this phase, it’s extremely important for Serenity to be there. Sometimes with my anxiety disorder, I need something external that will help ground me, whether that’s a pet, family member, friend, or my therapist. Serenity’s presence always comforts Sarah, making her feel less alone with her anxiety. She lives alone in her apartment, so Serenity makes her feels cared for....
The purpose of "Emo Bunny" is to highlight the struggles people with mental illness experience, and how emotional support animals can help people with these issues. Emotional support animals aren’t like service dogs or therapy animals – they are pets whose presence and affection comfort their owners who struggle with health issues. These animals don’t require intensive training like service or therapy animals and aren’t allowed in all public spaces like a service dog. In the universe of this comic, humans, (anthropomorphic) creatures, and feral and domesticated animals exist. The comic series, “Emo Bunny” will detail Sarah’s struggles while facing anxiety and depression all while meeting strange and quirky characters as she works to become a top alternative model in a big city. These concepts are still being developed. I’m working on a full 20-page version of “Emo Bunny: Anxiety Monster”, which I plan to complete before next year.
I found the courage to show my artwork at such a young age because I wanted to push back against bullying, which exacerbated an unknown chronic health problem. I felt the need to advocate for and support other kids who were affected by bullying. Exhibiting art locally allowed me to reconnect with the community after the bullying caused me to distrust others. Creating and doing something positive allowed me to interact in a healthy and constructive way and to become stronger. Doing the shows proved to me I could truly move and inspire people with my art. Knowing this gave me hope and courage for the future, allowing me to keep going during the darkest of times.
In the final part of this short series, Serenity lies under Sarah, allowing her to pet and embrace her. When Sarah is around Serenity, she feels she can be herself and is comfortable in her skin. This is indicated by her brushing away her hair from her face to look at Serenity. She almost always covers her eyes with her emo haircut, which she uses as a buffer so people would be less likely to interact with her and make her anxious. Now that Serenity is there to comfort her, the monster is dispersing. With my GAD, I’m almost always worried about what happens if I unravel, or what happens if I become physically ill from it and can’t function? Therefore, it’s important for many to have an emotional support animal (ESA), or a service dog, to assist with their anxiety disorder. Some people are judgmental of people who have emotional support or service animals for invisible illnesses, simply because they can’t see the illness or disability physically. Despite this misconception, it’s important for many to have an ESA or service dog because they allow them to thrive daily without worry. It is extremely important for the anxiety sufferer to have a buffer between them and any known personal triggers that causes the disorder to come into play.
Although I’m mostly self-taught, at age 12 I received a full scholarship at Kimball Jenkins Art School in Concord, NH. From age 12 – 16 I took human figure, watercolor, acrylic, and illustration courses there. When I attended VLACS, I took two art courses titled Digital Imaging and Digital Art. Additionally I took a Fashion and Interior Design course on VLACS to help me develop design concepts for my comics. My process/technique is traditionally drawing on paper with a light mechanical pencil, then using a darker pencil to darken the lines. Then I ink the piece and scan it into GIMP. After that I edit the drawing so it’s a transparent inked image, then color it in digitally. When drawing, I sometimes reference multiple photos I save on my phone in an art reference folder and create a drawing that’s inspired but drastically different from the photos.
“Stages of Anxiety” is a two-part series showing how Sarah’s anxiety monsters grow and develop into a panic attack. The splotchy gray and black background embody the chaos and discord Sarah’s anxiety builds within her. Social Anxiety: The first drawing shows Sarah bogged down by her social anxiety monsters. Her expression is tired and worn down, which is due to the monsters cluttering her head with excessive negative, uneasy thoughts about her surroundings. The weight of her anxiety is prevalent in this stage. Escalating Anxiety: This is usually the first form of Emo Bunny’s anxiety monster. It appears when her anxiety is triggered. The disorderly movement and shape of the monster personifies the chaotic feelings anxiety provokes. The myriad of eyes symbolizes the scrutinizing, harsh, anxious thoughts and self-judgement about her flaws and shortcomings. The vibrant markings depict the aggressive, in-your-face nature of the monster. This form of the monster usually makes Sarah helpless and overwhelmed which makes her tear up and causes her fur to spike up, especially on her ears. Building Panic Attack: Sarah’s anxiety monster forms multiple heads, menacing multicolored eyes, and deeper colored stripes. At this stage, the monster is signifying a full-blown panic attack is about to occur at any second. The heads form mouths and grow sharp teeth, representing her anxious thoughts getting louder, increasingly destructive and disparaging. Sarah becomes increasingly disheveled, her hair crinkly and messy and her fur spikier. The monster makes her voice and body shaky, causing her mouth to tremble and her tears to overflow.
Japanese culture still heavily influences my work, especially the Japanese practice of Shinto. I was also born into a sect of Japanese Buddhism, which informs every aspect of my lifestyle.
This project has been a major therapy for me. My endocrinologist and therapist told me these projects are the key to my healing, as they allow me to get out into the world and advocate for myself and other young people who’ve struggled with trauma and invisible illness. This, along with becoming a professional full-time illustrator and comic artist are my main goals. This current project is a continuation of my previous activist work.
“Social Sensory Overload” is a comic art piece showcasing how Sarah (Emo Bunny) experiences her anxiety disorder in crowded social settings. The piece tells a story of Sarah going to an art gallery she was invited to through her growing modeling career. There’s a large crowd of people all around her, triggering her anxiety. It doesn’t help that everyone she’s surrounded by are well-off people with rich families, which makes her feel inadequate and out of place. Her social anxiety kicks in, making Sarah isolate herself on the couch. Sarah’s social anxiety is personified by looming monsters with gaping mouths and huge, crying eyes staring right at her. The eyes represent the feeling/fear of being judged by the people around you for being awkward, strange and out of place. The tears personify the overwhelming feeling social anxiety causes, while the gaping mouths and sharp teeth represent the abundant condescending, aggressive thoughts anxiety disorders put through your head. The second panel shows Sarah’s anxiety building and caving in on her. The social anxiety monsters become increasingly aggressive - their eyes intensify and their sharp teeth grow bigger. The venue goer’s presence and the voices from their conversations, represented by black and white silhouettes talking surrounding her, make her feel claustrophobic. The colored heads outside of panel symbolize the reality of situation around her. The intensity of this panel portrays the symptoms of sensory overload. Sensory overload occurs when multiple senses are over-stimulated, which is triggered by situations or issues such as crowds, excessive noises, messy surroundings, and multitasking. The anxiety caused by a sensory overload causes you to feel helpless, scared, overwhelmed, and even depressed. This is something I’ve experienced with my GAD in crowded, unfamiliar, or claustrophobic situations. Since this is a major part of my experience with anxiety, I wanted to develop a piece interpreting my experiences by using Sarah.
This piece portrays the final stage of Emo Bunny’s panic attack. The turbid shades of gray and black along with the eruption of reds interpret the tumultuous feelings of a full-blown panic attack. Sarah’s anxiety monster builds off her overwhelming anxiety, developing the monster into an aggressive entity. It’s now formed sharper teeth, long tongues and larger mouths, allowing it to implant more insecure thoughts in Sarah’s mind. There’s copious amounts of bulging eyes and multicolored markings. Emo Bunny’s eyes well up in tears, and her ears droop, signifying her giving into the panic attack. During a panic attack, I feel paralyzed by over stimulation and rampant debilitating thoughts. Some of these thoughts might be around several unnerving scenarios about various situations that are unlikely to happen. On the other hand, these thoughts can be self-criticisms over awkward interactions, physical flaws, past situations you were in where you didn’t speak up/speak out, etc... Any doubts, fears, or weaknesses you’ve had will gather and come through as one- it becomes almost like a chant, so much so, that you must bring up everything within you to counteract it. For example, I have grounding methods to stop the avalanche. Focusing on the details of three objects around me, counteracting with happy memories that de-legitimize the negative self-talk, meditation, and using an object or fidget toy to play with in my hand so I can focus are some tools I personally use. Additionally, lying down, closing my eyes and taking deep breaths to stop myself from fainting or getting nauseated helps. Sometimes excruciating chest pains, body aches/soreness, and/or trembling occurs, so finding a place to rest is crucial.
In page one of the “Emo Bunny: Anxiety Monster Draft” the comic begins with Sarah in bed, struggling to go to sleep. She feels a surge of anxiety coming on while she’s trying to go to bed, which starts to put her in distress. Emo Bunny tosses and turns in anguish, trembling and crying nonstop. Her hair is frizzy, and the fur on her ears and elbows begin to rise and spike up. In the first panel, she is clenching and grinding her teeth, which is a symptom of anxiety. In the second panel, Sarah turns to the side, breathing heavily, and her eyes are wide, displaying her discomfort and fear over her anxiety building. When I get anxiety from negative, condescending self-talk while trying to go to sleep, it can cause insomnia or lack of sleep, making me sweat, breathe heavily, or toss and turn in bed multiple times. This comic, especially this page, reflects on that experience. This eventually leads to her experiencing a panic attack later in the comic. Last year I wrote a script for the full version, and I’m currently working on the final version of the “Emo Bunny: Anxiety Monster” and the beginning of the main series.
In this last page of the comic draft, Sarah’s cat, Serenity saves her from the anxiety monster, successfully ending the panic attack. She attacks the anxiety monster for harming Sarah. Not only can Serenity sense when Sarah’s distressed, she can also see the monster itself, and is the only one who can see it. I made this choice because of the numerous stories and folklore detailing how cats can see spirits and other paranormal, otherworldly beings. The monster, however, isn’t a spirit, although it’s inspired by menacing yokai creatures that have multiple sets of eyes, strange markings and sharp teeth. The anxiety monster is a fragment of Sarah’s self – it’s a version of herself that likes to pester and pick at her flaws, shortcomings, bad memories and trauma. After the monster’s onslaught, Serenity falls asleep on Sarah to comfort her and prevent her anxiety monster from coming back. Sarah’s hair is still tousled, displaying the distress she felt from the panic attack, but Serenity’s presence makes her break through her insomnia and allows her to get a full, satisfying sleep, indicated by her drooling. When making this comic, I was rushing to finish it so I could submit it to the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition, so I decided to use it as a short draft at the time.
This bedroom drawing is the first (not final) concept design for Emo Bunny’s bedroom. When developing her bedroom design, I wanted to depict her emo personality by making the bedroom consist of mostly dull colors, and various shades of gray. The drawing is slightly inspired by contemporary bedroom designs, and Goth decor. There’s a few things in Sarah’s bedroom I added to show her interests, hobbies, and things that are close to her. Sarah loves black and white clothing, furniture and decor. She tends to avoid a lot of color and usually prefers various black and white patterns. On her nightstand, Sarah has a Rubik’s cube, which she uses as a fidget toy for her anxiety, and a drawing book she uses to sketch fashion designs. On the round carpet, there’s a Gameboy and 3ds, showing her interest in gaming. Near the door is Serenity’s bed and some cat toys. For every major character in the comic, I plan to create bedroom concepts to delve deeper into the character’s personality. I like using collectibles, clothing, and wall colors/wall paper, and other kinds of decor to show a character’s identity, interests, hobbies, and much more. In turn, it helps me think deeper about what aspects I can add to a character, such as certain quirks, their fashion style, etc.
This piece is part of a work-in-progress series. Emo Bunny is wearing various emo outfits, but drawn in the same position each time. Each drawing has Sarah wearing a wrap around her ears to pull her ears back. “Lunar Bunny” is the first of the series.Sarah is extremely passionate about fashion and fashion design. Her Mom, who worked as a fashion designer, tragically passed away when she was around six years old. To cope with the trauma around her loss, Sarah found solace in exploring the world of fashion design, eventually making it her goal to become a model.I wanted to create this series to display her fashion sense and her emo personality. The body language she displays is very reserved and introverted. Sarah’s style is inspired by emo, Goth, punk, and other alternative fashion styles. I use these character design drawings to develop the concept of Sarah modeling for the alternative modeling company she works for in the comic series. I created a background with a dark lunar theme to further portray her emo personality. When I draw backgrounds for character designs, I tend to create experimental designs that pop the character out or add a bit to the character’s personality.
“On Vacay” is a piece I created in late 2017, when I was developing Sarah and Serenity’s character designs. It won the Regional Scholastic Art and Writing Silver Key award in 2018. I wanted to show Sarah’s joyous side, which comes out in full force when Serenity’s around. Sarah’s so happy to go to the beach that she doesn’t realize when she grabbed her suitcase Serenity was attached. Instead of using a dark background, I used a simple, bright blue background to accentuate the happiness she feels in the moment. I also used this piece to design her signature swimsuit top and bikini cover up shorts. Currently, I’m designing various signature outfits for Emo Bunny and other main characters so there won’t be any characters wearing the same outfits over and over again. Many people with anxiety disorders have these moments where you feel happy and optimistic about yourself and the world around you. These are moments we savor, because we don’t know when we’ll start to battle again with our ‘anxiety monsters’. It’s difficult because, in my case, the anxiety can come out of nowhere and hit like a semi-truck, or gradually build up again, causing a panic attack or even a mental breakdown.
Photoshoot is like “Lunar Bunny”; this piece is another character and modeling shoot study. Sarah is modeling with her friend and fellow model, Roxie, nicknamed Tawny Fox. I wanted to show the contrast between their characters with their clothing and posing styles. Roxie tends to wear bright colored alternative clothing, especially shades of blue and clothing made of denim. Usually Roxie is a bit tom boyish, but she put that style aside for the photoshoot. Roxie is more of an extrovert and is confident when modeling. On the other hand, Sarah, despite working to be a model for most of her life, is still a bit reserved in front of the camera and likes to still cover her face with her hair. However, the company that scouted her chose Sarah specifically because of this shy, reserved look. The company nicknamed her “Emo Bunny” because of her introverted nature and black, white and gray clothing preferences. They like to give nicknames and taglines to their models so they’re easier to market.Throughout the series, Emo Bunny will be interacting with eccentric characters in and outside of the modeling industry, and both Sarah and Roxie will grow closer together. Each character’s backstory and aspirations will unfold as the series develops.