Arianna May, also known as FilthyWitch, is a freelance artist from Los Angeles, California whose skills range from live show photography to graphic design to self portraiture. As founder of Pinstriped Zine, an independent online magazine, May also curates visual art, music and creative writing from local artists — highlighting their talents and connecting communities.
"SWAN," by Arianna May, self portrait
“My mom is a full-time freelance artist, so throughout my entire childhood she would teach art classes at my school, so I’ve been doing art my whole life,” said May. “We create together, we have good insight. She’s been there the whole time.”
May explored many mediums throughout her life: drawing, painting and using watercolor as a child and eventually moving towards graphic work.
“I feel there’s more freedom in [graphic design] and accessibility supplies-wise, minus the whole deal with licensing and everything. It’s definitely the most accessible way to be creative and do some freelance work, which is super easy because you can do it quickly for the most part,” May shared. “I did graphic design before the pandemic started, just here and there for a couple show posters. Then, during the pandemic, I was making kind of more collage-y work, with more artistic freedom in a way that I wanted to express my graphic design… The pandemic gave me time to really focus on graphic design.”
"Xerox Red," by Arianna May. Collage work with images of items from estate sales
May photographed countless live shows before the pandemic, as well as photographing for band merch launches and promo shoots. Once the pandemic hit, however, May took a step back from photography.
“Photography, it’s my number one. I really do miss going to shows and photographing bands. That I was doing since like 2016, and then I went to one show like the day before the pandemic started, and that was it. So, I was doing it for a couple years,” said May. “Most of the photography I do now is usually self portraiture, so that kind of crosses over into my graphic design work, being my own subject and getting to edit through that and kind of merge that mixed media.”
"CRUSH," by Arianna May, self portrait
May is a full-time freelance artist, drawing inspiration from websites like Tumblr and Pinterest. They generate income through custom graphic design work and product-on-demand websites, although these sites tend to have their ups and downs.
“You start off with uploading your product and then you just manually go through and resize all the products that they have available. Every product-on-demand website is different — there’s Redbubble, Society6, TeePublic which is also owned by Redbubble — Those are usually my main stuff,” said May. “It’s pretty simple, it’s good passive income. Unfortunately, you do need to be really annoying online and constantly promote, and I definitely don’t do it as much as I can.”
In 2020, May uploaded a self portrait graphic design piece to their Tumblr page titled, "Inverted," which generated over 27,000 notes and shares. This photo then began circulating multiple websites, and eventually, May found their artwork was being used for music album art without their consent.
"Inverted," by Arianna May, self portrait.
“I went on Pixsy — they kind of just go through all the websites and Google images and Tumblr and everything, and they have their legal team handle it for you — I signed up, had to put some money down, but you gotta spend money to protect your work, it’s important,” May said. “The first search that came up were Spotify songs from artists I’ve never heard before, usually like more DJ stuff which I thought was really interesting particularly, like SoundCloud stuff, and then there was some artist across the world. I was just like, ‘Woah, this is crazy, I was not expecting this at all.’”
May continued, “It’s flattering for sure, but it’s like, that’s me, that’s my face, even though it has a long exposure effect on it so it’s like kind of not me, but it’s me, it’s my body, and especially it’s not just my face. People think I’m naked in that photo and I’m not actually, I’m wearing like a long-line corset. So I think it’s really funny I ended up on these like, NSFW ‘sexy whore,’ Twitter accounts and stuff and I’m just like, ‘Um… I wasn’t naked in that.’
It just kept spiraling after that. I just kept finding stuff and thankfully nobody was reselling anything, but definitely if I didn’t have those product-on-demand sites I wouldn’t have been able to take them down as easily, because it shows it’s mine, I’m not licensing it out, it’s my work and I’m using it for specific projects… I had to shut that down right away.”
Despite dealing with these unfortunate setbacks, May has continued to grow their independent online zine, Pinstriped Zine.
“I started Pinstriped Zine in, I wanna say around 2016 or 2017. That’s when I really started putting out issues, which is so crazy to think about,” May said. “2018 was our first anniversary show. It was a couple months after our anniversary, I just usually celebrate then because that’s when the issue came out in January, and that was at The Lyric Hyperion, that was the first show I ever threw. Since then, I prefer throwing real events, but then, obviously, COVID.”
Pinstriped Zine posted 20 online issues of the zine, however, due to long wait times between issues, Pinstriped switched over to uploading as submissions come in. “I feel that that will create some of that creative drive in me to want to create more for Pinstriped,” May said.
“I use [Pinstriped] as a platform, an outlet and a safe space for all artists, BIPOC and LGBTQ+, and everyone in between that spectrum,” said May.
It would be difficult for anyone to stay constantly motivated with a schedule as packed as May’s, from their many forms of artwork on top of being the guitarist for Los Angeles local band, Faetooth. However, May is able to stay motivated by reminding themself why they do what they do.
“When I have a lapse of motivation, I’m kind of like, ‘There will be a day where I have a show again, and people will come, and they’ll enjoy it, and they’ll take a night off from their lives to be present,’” May said. “I just have to remember that feeling. People will pay attention, they want an escape, they want a safe space.”
You can support Arianna May by following them on Instagram or Tumblr, messaging them for graphic design work or searching for their work under the tag “filthywitch” on websites like Redbubble and Society6.
Watch the full interview below!