Hearts and Crafts: Rory Midhani, Our Own Beloved Illustrator

Welcome to the very second Hearts and Crafts, where we talk to artists and crafters about their amazing work and they share a craft tutorial with us! It’s the best of every world.

Header by Rory Midhani

Hearts and Crafts (take 2)_Rory Midhani_640px

I am so, so excited about this week’s installment of Hearts and Crafts. You know why? Because Rory Midhani is incredible, that’s why. Oh, that name sounds familiar? Good, it should! Rory has been contributing his adorable illustrations to Autostraddle for a year now, including the fucking cutest paper dolls you’ve ever seen, all of our headers and the most adorable Valentine’s Day card.

Full disclosure: I have a gigantic artist crush on Rory and routinely stalk his website and silly sketch tumblr, so when he emailed me about a new header for Hearts and Crafts (DO YOU SEE HOW CUTE THAT IS?!), I basically peer pressured him into being featured. He eventually complied but I had to use a lot of caps lock and charm.

Rory Midhani is a trans* artist living in the UK with a delightfully quirky style. Rory has had work featured in publications in the UK, US and Canada, and has exhibited work in Russia, Germany, The Netherlands, the UK and US. Basically Rory is a big deal. You should know him. Besides being a regular illustrator here at Autostraddle, Rory’s work is also featured in Geeked Magazine.

via {Rory Midhani's website}

Dragtopia (via Rory Midhani’s website)

What I love most about Rory’s work is that there’s the first, main image you see, expertly composed and balanced, and then there’s the tiny details in the background. Check out Dragtopia, for instance. There’s so much going on here, but it’s not overwhelming. The details are subtle enough that they come out when you look close enough – leopard print couches, anyone? – and the illustration tells an entire story on a single page.

Rory finished Dragtopia as part of his honours project for his Illustration degree. Along with Dragtopia, which “came partly out of a particularly magnificent night I had in Soho, and thought why can’t there be a world where life feels like this all the time” (I feel this feel), Rory also worked on a feminist horror comic book called Femkinstein AND made a narrative series of prints about a young actress’ rise and fall called A Starlette’s Progress. Then, in addition to this, he wrote his dissertation on “the power autobiographical comics have in giving voice to the Othered and the silenced.”

Did I mention Rory is the coolest person ever?

When I asked Rory how he began illustrating for Autostraddle, he said, “I just sent an email seeing if illustrations were ever needed and then I did the Oh Gay Cupid series illos and then BAM I started doing the headers and stuff.” As a freelancer, Rory says that work isn’t always reliable, but there have been “patches where I’ve been able to get by on illustration alone, and at other times I’ve taken on various odd jobs. Since graduation I’ve been a maths tutor (I don’t know how that happened), an arts marketer, a safer sex educator and some-kind-of-groundskeeper.” Ah, the life of a freelancer, right?

But take heart, young artists, because Rory has a pro tip: “Hot tip for struggling creatives who want to go dancing: If you’re dirt poor and you just want a night out I recommend taking face paints to a club – drunken queers will pay anything for a little glitter on their faces.”


Drawings Rory has made for Autostraddle!

Drawings Rory has made for Autostraddle!

As far as the process goes, Rory says,

I start on paper. My process is most exciting when I have to draw something that is very rich in activity. I draw all the characters and the things on little bits of paper and play around with them until I’m confident about the composition. When I’m satisfied that I know what I’m doing, I make a pencil sketch, put it on my light box and trace out the line work in pen on a separate sheet of paper. Then I scan in the final drawing and colour it with my tablet.

Rory's drawing process in action

Rory’s drawing process in action

Rory’s favorite project that he’s currently working on are his travel journals,

…but I’m finding it difficult to articulate why they are so important to me. In terms of “formal elements” it’s some of the shittiest work I’ve ever done!! But they mean something special. I recorded in drawings the places I went and the people I met and the things I did. I did things I thought I was too shy a person to do, and when things are difficult I can look at those drawings and think, “if I did that thing, I can do this thing.”

Other crafts that Rory’s into include:

…a lot of cardboard weirdness. Mostly costumes, and also stuff like spaceships, time machines, sarcophaguses… the usual stuff, I’ll send you some pics in a separate message. Just today I’ve started making a cardboard Satellite of Love! For Lou Reed. Rest in peace. Another creative endeavour is doing live visuals for club nights and festivals sometimes. That’s fun. Oh and I’m good at making up games. And is face painting a craft?!

Cardboard weirdness: Sarcophagus / Dorian Gray / Spaceship

Cardboard weirdness: Sarcophagus / Dorian Gray / Spaceship

Speaking of cardboard weirdness, have I got a treat for you. Rory’s graciously shared a tutorial for making your own little piece of cardboard weirdness, which also works out as a last minute Halloween costume!

Little Shoppa Horrors Cardboard Weirdness!

Bop sh’bop!

Supplies Needed:

+ A poster sized piece of cardboard/mount-board
+ Paint
+ Paintbrushes
+ Scissors
+ A cushion (because you’ll be making this on the floor and you must look after your knees)

Level of Difficulty: Easier than caring for a mean green mother from outer space.


1. Figure out your design! Get a couple of pictures and make a rough sketch of what you want.
2. Draw a face-sized egg shape about two thirds of the way up the cardboard.
3. Cutting a hole in the middle of solid piece of cardboard can be a right faff, I find the best way to start is to just stab it, and then cut out the oval.
4. Sketch out the basics in pencil. Just look for the main shapes.
5. Paint the block colours.


6. Add a few colour details.
7. Crisp everything up with a clear outline.
8. WEAR IT. It’s lightweight enough to just dangle off your face and walk around with it on.

Note: if you really really really don’t think you can draw, you could maybe get a horror film poster, spray mount it to a piece of card and cut out the face off the character on the front!

Make sure to go check out Rory’s website, his tumblr, and his silly sketchbook (where you might find a sneak peek of a project you’ll be seeing on Autostraddle soon)!

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Hansen is the former DIY & Food Editor of Autostraddle.com and likes to spend most days making and cooking and writing. She teaches creative writing at Colorado State University and is pursuing a Masters of Fine Arts in her free time.

Hansen has written 189 articles for us.


  1. um, WOW. i’ve always admired rory’s contributions to autostraddle, but now it’s official: i am IN LOVE with his art. joining hansen with her gigantic artist crush!

  2. this article is making me so happy!!!!
    I seriously love rory’s art so much, it always amazes me how (like hansen said) there is so much going on and the lines are so clean and its so colorful but everything goes together and is sort of a reserved chaotic and uuuugh /artcrush
    it’s great to see some of the process behind the art–i love seeing the different processes that artists use to create (if only bc i can sort of fruitlessly speculate about how that effects the outcome of the art).
    speaking of processes, on a fairly unrelated note does anyone know a good starter graphic tablet for a broke queer? and on an equally unrelated i was totally going to be seymour for halloween but I ended up being poison ivy instead–maybe I should just change my costume by going around yelling FEED ME SEYMOUR (or FEED ME BATMAN if i’m in a crossovery type mood, idk)
    ALSO ALSO ALSO i’m pretty sure rory followed me on tumblr for like a hot minute, and that is my claim to fame y’all (ok so I lied about the artcrush being over bit)
    long comment but it;s becuase i’m so happy, yay~!

  3. I loooove Rory’s illustrations for AS! Its awesome to hear more about his creative process and see some of his other fantastic work.

  4. So glad to see a profile on Rory! Does he have art for sale online anywhere? I would love to buy a print or two but couldn’t find any info on his website.

  5. Rory is totally the best! I was able to talk to him about comics and then he made an amazing awesome header for Drawn to Comics that I absolutely love!

  6. Yay! I’m so glad this was the feature. I had always enjoyed seeing his work on AS, but never knew who it was from. Clearly, there should be more of Rory’s work everywhere because not along is he talented, he’s also awesome as a human being.

  7. Does Rory have prints available or a Society6? I’ve been wanting to purchase some queermo art, with little luck!!

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