Beverly Necessary and Terra Hanson-Necessary, high school rivals turned sweethearts, were on a panel about LGBTQ+ representation in anime at the 2007 Nan Desu Kan, one of Colorado's largest anime conventions. There they met their future Atomic Pixies collaborator, Sarah Hughes, who was sitting in the front row. She was dressed as Yuuko Ichihara from the anime xxxHolic, a character created by one of the couple's favorite manga studios, CLAMP.
“Terra and I had a brief connection during a conversation during said panel about a character whom we both love,” Hughes recalls. “We followed each other over LiveJournal for a bit."
A few months later, all three hung out at a screening of Across the Universe, and they've been friends ever since.
In 2012, Necessary and Hanson-Necessary tied the knot, and the three women now live together.
Before Atomic Pixies formed, Necessary, Hanson-Necessary and Hughes were part of Studio Fae X, a larger group of artists making comic books in their parents' basements. After some of the members left town to pursue their careers, the remaining trio formed the Atomic Pixies.
Since the early 2010s, the three have taken on commissions, creating images of pets, characters and more for customers, including custom Art Nerdveau prints inspired by Czech painter Alphonse Mucha.
“Some people have a very specific idea in mind, while others may only have a general idea,” Hughes explains. “We want to be sure we’re hitting all the points. Is this a soft, somber memorial piece for a loved one, or is this a bold and vibrant character who slays dragons?”
“It was a dream where me and a few friends were trying to meet another group of friends in the mountains,” she says. “While en route, the world was literally overrun by less-than-friendly spaceships."
Hanson-Necessary was inspired by Hughes's dream and decided to draw a scene from it.
Of all the Pixies' art, Necessary says, their Nerdveau prints and enamel pins sell like hotcakes at conventions. In 2019, they started a monthly pin club with fantasy-oriented designs by Hanson-Necessary and Hughes.
“While someday I’d love to learn how to make them by hand, almost all of our mass-produced enamel pins come from China,” Hanson-Necessary says. “I work with this great manufacturer there who helps us fine-tune the designs and get everything perfected.”
The Atomic Pixies have visited various anime and non-anime-related conventions and met plenty of celebrities along the way, including Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols at Starfest.
“I was rushing to get back to my table when I thoughtlessly collided with someone,” Necessary recalls. “I suddenly hear a familiar voice ask if I was okay. I looked right into the eyes of Nichelle Nichols and almost died. I made sure she was okay and apologized deeply. She was the sweetest, most kind person I’ve ever collided with.”
The Pixies also encountered The Crown’s Gillian Anderson at FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention in 2016.
“[Anderson] asked us what our punk rock-inspired Naruto cosplays were,” Hanson-Necessary says. “We all burst into tears before I managed to blurt out, ‘I don’t know.’ So cool.”
Each Pixie brings unique skills to the collaboration. They call Necessary the “third eye” of the group, because she ensures that the right message is expressed in their artwork. She also works as a manager, colorist, writer, and designer.
“Like spinning plates, I get one role moving, and once I feel it’s stable, I move to the new plate,” she says. “Right now, I’m mostly focused on managing and fulfillment, but I wear a lot of hats here."
She pays all the bills, secures venues, ships online orders and ensures that Hanson-Necessary and Hughes have the resources they need to complete projects.
Hanson-Necessary, the lead artist, colorist and line artist who studied fine art at Metro State University, particularly loves coloring: "Whether that’s digitally or hands-on, there’s a whole world in colors that is easy to get lost in. It can become almost meditative getting lost in the colors and the strokes.”
Hughes, self-taught, is the lead designer, lead writer and background artist.
“I’ve always been the sort of person who, if I get an idea in my head that I want to do something, I’ll figure out a way to make it happen” she explains. “If you’re patient and willing to do the work, I think you might surprise yourself with how much you can learn.
“For a long time, I had an old version of Photoshop that taught me more than any other program I’ve ever used,” she continues. “I’ve never taken a class on how to use it, never read the instructions. I just installed it and started to figure it out. Some things came intuitively and some things needed a deep-dive Google search and twelve hours of practice before it clicked. But I think the thing I’ve learned the most is that there isn’t one right way to do things.”
What unites the group is the members' love of science and fantasy — and it's all in the name Atomic Pixies.
“Atoms spoke to us, these tiny things — so small compared to the universe — that build everything, that can destroy us or give us unlimited power. That’s art," says Hanson-Necessary. "But also, we’re a bunch of magical creatures and have been compared, both positively and negatively, to the idea of manic pixie dream girls, so we wanted to own that.”
See more from the Atomic Pixies at the Atomic Pixies website.
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