Rosalarian is the distillation and pseudonym of Megan Rose Gedris, who is known as a thriving comic artist and fromage enthusiast. Having spent a decade garnering success in the virtual world, she is now making a name for herself in Grand Rapids with her outrageous sensibilities and a personal brand to match.
"My whole life I knew that I wanted to do something in art," says Gedris, who is now 26. "And when I was in fifth grade, I decided I was going to do comics. It shouldn't have worked out, but by not even considering any other path, at all, ever, it kind of forced me into that space."
"When I was ten, I knew there were newspaper comics and I knew there were superhero comics. And I had no idea that there were any other kind of comics," says Gedris.
So, she alternated between drawing both genres of comics. "Most of them were just rip-offs of already existing comics," she admits.
For a period of time, Gedris lost interest in newspaper strips along with superheroes. But, when Japanese manga and characters like Sailor Moon took off in the U.S., Gedris was pulled back in. "And then they started coming out with different types of stories," she says. Web comics were her first new discovery, which opened an entirely new variety of genres, including indie comics by independent, underground authors.
An avid creator, Gedris took every art class that she could. "I basically spent every spare moment drawing comics and watching anime. I didn't get into any trouble at all growing up, I was too busy spending all of my time making comics," she says.
A chain of emulation followed her shifting interest in different comic styles, and eventually Gedris forged a personal style that broke free from those early inspirations.
"Doing comics, you come up with your own visual language. Essentially, everything is just symbols. Like when you draw an eye in comics or cartoons, it doesn’t look like a realistic human eye, it's your symbol for an eye. It was a lot of realizing that I was still speaking someone else's language and coming up with, 'how do I want to draw eyes? how do I want to draw noses?' Eventually it reaches a point. This (is) my thing."
In the summer of 2006, Gedris took second place in the Platinum Studios Comic Book Challenge. The company's interest was piqued and they eventually published the book I was Kidnapped by Lesbian Pirates from Outer Space. A month later, Gedris won a $1,000 grant though Prism Comics to publish her first printed book, Yu + Me: Dream, which is described as a surreal love story.
"The day that I first published my first book ever and the day all those boxes arrived in the mail and my mom bought the first one, she admitted that 'maybe it's okay that you are going to school for art and taking steps to make this into a career.' That was one of the most gratifying moments," she says.
Beyond garnering success and achieving a sustainable career through the web comic industry, Gedris' personal life is intricately tied to her work. "(Writing comics) was how I figured out my own sexuality when I was younger. I was drawing a comic about a girl, and then this girl met another girl."
This was at a time when GLTBQ, and even simply women-centric comics, were nascent genres.
"I never set out to cover gender and sexuality. To me, it was just like, 'well, this is who I am and these are the people that I know, and so these are the stories that I am naturally drawn to writing,'" says Gedris. "And no one else was writing these kinds of stories 10 years ago -- stories about lesbians -- or even women. It's so crazy that I get more shit for writing about women than lesbians, even though lesbians are women," she laughs. "I get so many people just out of their mind, livid, that I don't have as many male characters as I do female characters."
In many ways, aside from the significance of the subject matter of her work, it set her up for early recognition as well as paving the way for many spirited blog posts. "Putting it out there meant, for the most part, that any lesbians who were reading web comics probably heard of me," she says.
And now, "print comics are taking a cue and seeing that we are making a living by writing about these types of people who normally don't get written about," she says.
While comic culture permeates every aspect of her life, Gedris describes herself as having "artistic A.D.D." She has her hands in just about every artistic medium, from creating fabric designs and custom clothing (corsets are her specialty) to performance art, paper mâché and animation. In fact, Gedris is an Emmy winner for her work at FOX17, where she was employed for seven years. "I hand drew and animated (five) commercials for Biggby Coffee and we won an Emmy for the first one," she says. "It makes a formidable weapon."
Lately, Gedris has been exploring new frontiers. "There's so much more to the Grand Rapids art scene than I ever realized," she says, noting that while there are comic artists in the area, they are not specifically unified. Recently, she participated in her first gallery show, Featured Creatures
, at Ice Cream Gallery & Toys
. The piece she displayed was an original, damask fabric design featuring the H. P. Lovecraft character, Cthulhu, which she had fabricated through a specialty shop and then framed and hung.
"I've lived here my whole life and I've been very successful on the Internet for years. I'm new to the Grand Rapids art scene despite doing art in Grand Rapids for over a decade," says Gedris. "I love that I get to be a part of it now. It can be very lonely doing it all on the Internet."
This year, the solitude inherent in Gedris' work led to a part-time job at The Cheese Lady
, which satisfies her passion for cheese and gets her out of the house. "I was just thinking the other day (that) if I moved to New York I would be a waitress. Being in Grand Rapids, I can be a comic artist and I can work in the cheese shop voluntarily," she says.
You can delve further into the world of Rosalarian here
Audria Larsen is a freelance writer, entrepreneur and professional entertainer. Her work has been published in Rapid Growth Media, Revue Magazine, Michigan Blue Magazine and Hooping.org. She is the founder of Audacious Hoops, Grand Rapids' original "hula" hoop company and produces a myriad of art and entertainment ventures.
Photography by Adam Bird