This article originally appeared on columbusunderground.com.
Illustrator and designer Christian Cimoroni is keen on representation. He himself represents a host of identities as an LGBTQ artist and Columbus College of Art and Design alum, while his work sets out to give everyone a voice, or rather, an image.
Cimoroni’s day job is at PrintSyndicate, a local t-shirt company where he designs trendy items referencing pop culture, social justice, politics, or whatever else people seek to express themselves.
Cimoroni’s personal illustrations, however, exist primarily on Instagram. His vibrant, chromatic portraits of LGBTQ identities and celebrities have been liked, reposted, and shared by a modest 23,000 followers, including YouTube star Tyler Oakley.
“I didn’t intend for it to get like this,” Cimoroni says. “I couldn’t even dream of it, to have the amount of followers I have. And it isn’t even that many, but it’s more than I could’ve thought I would ever have.”
Cimoroni’s initial interest in illustration came naturally, inspired by his artist mother and interior designer grandfather. He attended CCAD to major in illustration, leaving his small town of Aurora, Ohio for Columbus.
“It’s like art’s been my constant my whole life. I’ve always had it,” he says. “It was always this clear path of, ‘Art is what I want to do.’ That’s what I wanted to create for my life.”
Cimoroni says moving and being in Downtown Columbus allowed him to experience growth and self-exploration within the local LGBTQ and drag scenes.
“I kind of saw myself in the artist community at CCAD, and then I really got to explore who I fully was in the LGBT community,” he says. “Just like being in that scene and being able to do the art of drag and experience it as an art form in itself…it was really nice to be around that and be able to express myself in ways I didn’t think I could.”
Having his illustrations primarily live on social media allows Cimoroni to express his creativity without many barriers. He makes use of color and tone to create images that empower. His focus is to portray certain groups who may not get many opportunities to see themselves in media, in fully rendered, dynamic images.
“Whether that’s like, different body sizes, or races, or gender identities, I just want to make sure that all queer identities are being represented,” he says. “And give people that maybe don’t have a voice some sort of visual representation of themselves, whether it’s just on my little platform on Instagram or [wherever] it reaches.”
The art that once had some people telling him, “You can’t make a career out of making art like that,” now receives feedback and praise from thousands of viewers and fans. Fortunately, he hasn’t run into any “trolls” or people trying to take credit for his work, which is rare.
By contrast, Cimoroni continues to get positive reactions, especially from the community his illustrations are inspired by.
“It’s really special to me, because I’ll have people messaging me saying, ‘Thank you for representing my size,’ or ‘This piece meant a lot to me,’” he says, “That kind of thing is what I intended to do always, was to affect people in a positive way with my art.”
Check out more of Cimoroni’s work on Instagram.