I think anything that gets a person started [in art] is valid, but over time it becomes necessary to take constant inspiration from different things to develop interesting art. I never deliberately sought to improve myself until the age of 15 years, and since I did not know other artists or have clear goals, I did not improve in a swift or orderly fashion. But as long as I still have the capacity to learn new things, I suppose there is always hope – provided I truly believe in it. – Bimshwel Crimmenabim
Bimshwel Crimmenabim is an artist living with autism who has been creating artwork since childhood. Prior to receiving a B.A. in Painting from the Southern Connecticut State University, Bimshwel became involved in digital arts. With work emphasizing futuristic themes and an imaginative (and often humorous) outlook, Bimshwel says, “I draw things to amuse myself and potential others.” Bimshwel’s piece, Umby Ridge, will be featured in Madison House Autism Foundation’s 2017 traveling art show, “Imagine 21.”
Be sure to visit www.bimshwel.com for more information, and continue below to read a conversation with Bimshwel in which we discuss life, art, and goals for the future.
A Conversation with Bimshwel Crimmenabim
MHAF: How did your interest in art begin?
Bimshwel:My mother painted at one point but had to give it up to deal with what eventually was four children. I recall, as a very small child, repeatedly demanding that my mother draw the Snuggle fabric softerner bear and gaining amusement from that – despite some conspicuous, inexplicable inaccuracies such as dressing it like a farmer. Or maybe my mother just objected to drawing naked bears. I wish she had been consulted for those horrible Charmin toilet paper ads. Whatever the case, that may have put me on a path to doing things in a strange way when there seemed no reason not to. My mother also liked to make up songs about silly topics, and my father had his own silly songs. Perhaps I did not always appreciate them, but I think knowing people who are creative, regardless of how ostensibly small the ways, encourages the behavior, even if the influence is subconscious.
MHAF: What steps have you taken over the years to hone your craft?
Bimshwel: I have no recollection of not wanting to make things. When I started drawing, I was highly interested in Garfield comics and the incredibly stupid video games of the mid 1980’s. I think anything that gets a person started is valid, but over time it becomes necessary to take constant inspiration from different things to develop interesting art.I never deliberately sought to improve myself until the age of 15 years, but I did not know other artists and did not improve in a swift or orderly fashion. But as long as I still have the capacity to learn new things, I suppose there is always hope – provided I truly believe in it.
MHAF: What is one of the greatest lessons you’ve learned about yourself throughout this process?
Bimshwel:Every time I sought success via someone else’s “rules” of how to make art or what subject matter was valid, I got stuck making terrible art for terrible people or nobody at all. Between last November and January of this year, I had a series of self-realizations and retroactive shame waves that prompted me to finally, I hope, be true to myself and work on the projects that are important to me. Ideally, I will do those things better than what I did at the urging of others, and ultimately be welcomed anyway.
MHAF: Which of your works are you most proud of and why?
Bimshwel: Recently, I completed a 3-minute animated cartoon about a pathetic orange snake, presently viewable below. The drawings are rough and the story unclear, but I have a terrible history of starting ambitious projects and not finishing them, and this is the largest one that has definitively been concluded, and I hope this means I will complete more, better, clearer things. My comic strip (viewable here) is also very important to me, however silly it is, but I suppose it suffers from the same deficits with the additional shortcoming of not being able to move.
MHAF: Who or what inspires your work? A certain artist? A style? A theme?
Bimshwel: It worries me that especially lately I am most motivated by shame, brought on by seeing other people, often considerably less old, succeeding at things I have long struggled with. The internal personal resentment brought on by my failures push me forward in a fashion that is not always pleasant, and rarely kind if I cannot meet its demands. Positive influences include going for walks at night, in the rain, and traveling to different parts of the world – both of which are sadly rare to come by, the latter considerably more so. But I am never totally unsinspired; there is always something I want to draw. Specific artists I have taken long-term influence from include Dr. Seuss, Herge, Pierre Gilhodes, Jack Davis, and whoever invented rutabagas.
MHAF: Is there anything about you that surprises others?
Bimshwel:I think people are surprised, and sometimes unwilling to accept that I dislike being thought of as male because I never took any steps which are readily apparent to purposefully alter my appearance. I do not aspire to be my biological opposite. I do not want to be either of them. I do not relate to them, and both have silly arbitrary rules which I have no taste for. But a patriarchal society treats neutral things as male so for the time being we are at an impasse. It seems to be shifting in the direction of recognizing gender discontent without laughing at it, but I am fine with people laughing at my issue, provided I can laugh at it first. Once everybody can laugh about a social problem, it probably is not so big a problem anymore.
Umby Ridge, which is featured in the Imagine 21 show
MHAF: What is your dream job?
Bimshwel: I have always wanted to make a living with comic books, but I have lately had to accept that I will likely only ever get them produced and distributed through my own efforts, and definitely do not work fast enough to be able to make them for an employer, much less while also making my own in my free time. But if I am imagining, sure, that would be great. I find static illustrated stories relaxing and satisfying in a way that I experience less often with animated work, but sure I want to do more of that, too. I also have made digital music since 2004, including a sequence of songs about beets whose story I have been trying to animate for almost as long. Right now, I feel terribly compelled to make a video game, or some such thing that combines all that I think I can do moderately well in a meaningful fashion. I aspire to do all aspects of all things. Which is not at all realistic but few dreams are. Yes, please pay me to do whatever I want at my own pace. I would very much appreciate the frivolity of my life to amount to something financially stable so I do not regret having devoted the elapsed latter half of my life to it. I do not wish to be dependent and resented. I want to buy my parents a house.
MHAF: In what ways do you feel your autism helps you with your work?
Bimshwel: Ideally it allows me to think of [useful] things which other people would not. But since it also creates such a massive barrier to emotionally resonating with others, it is uncommon that I cause people to appreciate that I thought of a new way of doing something or that I did anything at all. It may also be a factor of autism that I fixate on meaningless aspects of the “work,” being horrified by and correcting insignificant errors, delaying the conclusion of minor tasks and acquisition of skills, thereby prolonging major tasks, or worse, preventing them from occurring at all. Nobody wants to collaborate with a slow person who makes very little sense, either, so it is hard to join or want to join the projects of others. However, I typically want to succeed alone anyway, and perhaps autism has its hooks in that, too. It is hard to join or want to join the projects of others, and I have little idea how to bring them into mine, or who. I certainly do not want to enjoy the results of my work alone.
MHAF: What are your greatest challenges as an individual living with autism?
Bimshwel: If I had known at the age of 16 years how much a dead-end not being able to drive would be, I hope I would have put more effort into learning how to do that back when assistance was more readily available. The “developmental services” in Connecticut seem to be dedicated to getting people into low-skilled, non-creative jobs and having “mentors” who drive them around limited distances at limited intervals, and it is not known what to do with somebody who does not want to be in the system in Connecticut their whole life. And I cannot say it is anyone else’s job to know what to do with me, either. I should never have let myself fall into it so deeply.
MHAF: Have you ever been in love?
Bimshwel:I have felt what I considered to be “love” for people outside my immediate family on at least two occasions, and it is difficult for me to believe this is something that will ever be reciprocated, in the event that I am even able to express it in a definitive manner again. And before I felt it, I did not want or need it. I imagine I would be more productive if I had it than I previously was without wanting it, but wanting it without having it is worse than anything. It did not happen until I was 26, by which point in life most people have been loving, not loving, not being loved, and all that for a decade or more, with others who have comparable levels of experience. Much like with driving, I do often feel like the world resents that I didn’t take the first chance it gave me, and is uninclined to give me another at this point.
MHAF: If you could teach society one thing about autism, what would it be?
Bimshwel:Autistic people are not petting zoo animals. Or at least I am not. Please do not expect them to be happy and oblivious of the limitations imposed on them by the condition. “Aw, isn’t it cute how hard they try? It’s like they think they’re real people.” I have dealt with persons who seemed to look at me that way, and that got me nowhere. In fact, that made it harder for me to function outside the bubble, in venues where uninitiated parties were less looking to give special treatment to mal-developed weirdos such as I. The whole special education machine is broken and I let myself believe it created a broken person. But once again there is no one good way to handle all disabled persons. I do think many of the people who have been assigned to my company could have stood to be more openminded, or trusted that I knew what I was talking about when I stated what I was and was not capable of doing. When I contradict what a dumb piece of paper says about me, please consider that the paper might be wrong.
MHAF: What are your greatest goals for your future?
Bimshwel: To not hate myself or think that others hate me. I am uncertain which is more plausible. I direct far too much resentment at people who do not deserve it. I would prefer to help people. For all my deficits and barriers, I can often see solutions that are not obvious. These answers I have given have a somewhat depressing tone to them. I do not intend to be a depressing person, but I do not think I have ever been “happy,” either. Discussing the things that have kept happiness from me may exacerbate that. And so I have no desire to create or partake of depressing artwork. I am amused by silly, fake pain.
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MADISON HOUSE AUTISM FOUNDATION