Interview with Angela Sasser

8 04 2011

Angela Sasser is a very talented artist. This innate talent is not all, she is a very hard worker and has studied a lot the business of being an artist. These qualities make her unique, since it is not very easy to find a fantasy artist that has such an extensive academic background as Angela’s. To top it all, she is incredibly friendly! Please, join me in this interview to know more about this wonderful person!

Image (c) Angela Sasser

Angela, you have had a very intense and interesting education regarding art. Can you please tell our readers about it? How has it helped you so far as an artist?

Where to begin? I spent a long time trying to decide what I wanted to do with myself when I was younger. I always knew that I wanted to be involved in illustration and storytelling, but as a young dreamer, I was discouraged from pursuing it as a profession because it was seen as a fool’s errand and a profession that wouldn’t allow me to put food on the table.

I went to college with every aspiration to be an English teacher, since I had an equal love for storytelling and it was a profession at which I could make a modest living.  As time passed, I tacked on a second major in Studio Art and the two majors battled for dominance over what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I also took several business and art education courses in an attempt to find out just what it was I wanted to do with myself.

In the end, I decided I was more interested in the creation of art (even after achieving a Masters in Arts Administration), despite the fact it still took some time to convince myself I was good enough to succeed on my own merits. If my varied education has taught me anything, it’s that confidence in yourself and your art is the essential ingredient to success!  (Learning basic marketing strategies can’t hurt your chances either).

Tell us about your thesis, could you give us an outline of your findings?

For my thesis to complete my MA in Arts Administration at SCAD, I tackled the topic of e-marketing for artists.  My thesis examines the evolution of patrons of the Arts, specifically how these individuals have evolved from an elderly well-off group of appreciators to a younger audience rising up to take their place using internet as the fulcrum of their support. I also breakdown some of the more prominent methods of marketing online that artists can utilize and how many of these internet-based organizations were founded and developed.  I actually started many of my social media pages for my studio as experiments to record research findings for my thesis.

It all boils down to the fact that the arts, particularly those that are considered ‘niche’, are finding new audiences and enthusiasm thanks to the internet and social media!  I have it in mind to rewrite my thesis as a handbook to e-marketing for artists, but that is still in the very skeletal phases while I put my energy into promoting Angelic Visions.  For those who’d like to read my thesis, you can do so at the Savannah College of Art & Design’s libraries in Savannah and Midtown Atlanta where it is kept on file.

If you had to choose one single thing, what is the one decision that has influenced your artistic career the most?

Image (c) Angela Sasser

Hands down it is the decision to work on Angelic Visions for Impact Books.  I had resigned myself to a very desolate job search after finishing grad school when they approached me about doing a book for them.  My experimental efforts in marketing myself for my thesis had paid off, especially for the fact that the editor who found me did so via Google’s search engine!  It was proof this wasn’t the fool’s errand so many claimed it to be and gave me the push and confidence in my work that I needed to get going in my career.  I’m still at the beginning of my journey, technically, but the fine folks at F+W Media (Impact’s main company) got me started and forced me to focus on what I needed to do.  They gave me the push I needed to find out what I was really capable of as an artist!

Can you call yourself a “Jack of all trades”?

I’d like to say so, but I am still a novice at so many things!  I’m a novice leathercrafter (crafting for less than a year now), a hobbyist writer (too many projects waiting to be written), a web designer (I worked as one for a few years in college before programming languages left me behind), a freelance editor (when I have the time), and a would-be artist’s agent (I have the training, even though I am currently working for myself till I feel set on my own path).  All in all, I have interests in many different disciplines, but don’t quite feel a master of them all yet!  Even still, life would be boring I did not learn something new every day!

How has each discipline you practice affected your artwork?

Without this odd combination of skills, I don’t think I could be as independent as I am. If I want my website updated, I do it myself. If I want to make a budget for a convention, I do it myself. It’s been interesting learning more about leathercrafting as well, as it’s really given me wonderful insight on how my characters might function in their armor and even more inspiration for designing armor in a visual sense.  I am a firm believer in learning to do things for yourself. When you have a shoestring budget, it can be a lifesaver!

How did you get started on the masks business?

I’m still somewhat new to mask-making, but I bought my first leather hide over two years ago now along with my friend Brenda (Windfalcon on DA).  She took one half and I took the other. The hide sat in my closet for a

Image (c) Angela Sasser

whole year while I was busy with other things.  Eventually, after drooling over Brenda’s gorgeous feather and leather designs and viewing tutorials by the wonderful Andrea Masse (Merimask on DA), I finally got off my duff and started playing around myself. It was amazing how easy it was for a non-3D minded person like myself to pick up leathercrafting!  Leather surfaces take acrylic paints much like canvas and tooling designs in leather is also very meditative in its tediousness.

Are you a full time artist? How do you deal with this recession?

I am a full time artist and I will be bluntly honest in saying that it if were not for the help of my loving family, I would be working a day job right now to help pay the bills.  They supported me while I took time off to write Angelic Visions and are still supporting me during my endeavors to promote the book. More practically, I’ve been dealing with the recession by providing cheaper, smaller, and easier to produce items, such as ACEO prints and leather keychains which people can invest in small doses without stretching their budgets too far or feeling guilty for spending large sums of money.

The funniest thing about this recession is that if you find the right market to present your work, you can still find buyers! For instance, I did pretty well this year at DragonCon because it is such a large event. There were people in attendance with the willingness and appreciation to pay money for original artisan crafted work, which made it a great market for me.  Smaller events, however, have been somewhat of a bust for me this year.  Mostly I am picking my venues and events more carefully so I can keep the budget for peddling my wares manageable.  You really have to learn to read the mood and crowd of an event so you can predict where you’ll sell better next time.

Tell us about your book.

My book, Angelic Visions, came to be after Pamela Weissman over at F+W Media found my work online and approached me about creating an angel book for them.  From a business standpoint, they knew there was a market for more feminine watercolors after the success of Stephanie Pui Mun Law’s Dreamscapes and they needed someone who could provide a similar book while still being unique.

For me, it was a chance to bring a lifelong obsession with the topic of angels to fruition by combining so many interests, including mythology, painting, theology, and art history into a book that I pretty much had free reign to do what I wanted with!  And so Angelic Visions was born! It is a 125 page tome with many inspirational prompts on character design, demos on using different media, and tidbits of angelic information sprinkled throughout.

Image (c) Angela Sasser

Who is Aurora Adonai? And why does she show up so much in your work?

Ah Aurora. Like so many characters playing poker in my head when not in use, she pops up at her own discretion, usually when I have too much to do.  Aurora was originally a sassy backtalking Shadowrun character of mine – an Elven Street Samurai, to be exact! (Yes, I am a closet geek) She came from a setting that combined technology with the resurgence of magic in a decaying futuristic world.

Something about that backdrop and the way it brought to life a uniquely dark and visually interesting character stuck with me through the years.  She’s yet another pet project awaiting a novel or graphic novel.  If anyone is curious to learn more about her and the other major characters in my artwork, I’ve written a blog series on my ‘muses’ here.

What is the importance of your artist friends in your development as an artist?

First, I should say that all of my friends, including the non-artistic ones, are a precious vein of support that keep me going! Kindred spirits who can weather discussion on topics from gender roles in novels to the best way to bake a potato are a priceless commodity. Those special few of my friends who are also creative professionals prove to me that there are others who are as equally insane to embark on this ‘fool’s errand’ of being an artist.  By supporting one another and sharing information, we pave the road for others and inspire one another in a way we may not have been inspired before!

Where can our readers find your art?

Readers can find my art at my professional online portfolio, http://www.angelicshades.com. I’m known to hang out mainly on DeviantART, where I have a large presence under my studio name – http://angelic-shades.deviantart.com. You Facebook addicts out there can keep up at http://www.facebook.com/AngelicShadesStudio. Finally, I have a blog at http://blog.angelicshades.com with discussions, announcements, and other tidbits of advice.

Brenda Lyons
I’ve known Angela for several years. Before I actually met her, I remember seeing her work online and saying, “wow, I hope someday I’m able to draw as well as her.” Years later, I still see her work and find myself admiring her ability with color, line, and inspiration. She has a determination that follows her into success, and I have a feeling this book will be first of many projects to come.

Samantha Hogg
Ang has been a dear friend and a huge inspiration to me for some years now, and it’s wonderful to see her work finally getting into the public’s eye with her up coming Angelic Visions book! We’ve often spent many a night feeding each other’s project fairies and incurring moar research (inside gag :D) and she’s always been there to offer me thoughts and advice on art and the world beyond. You couldn’t hope to meet a more enthusiastic, imaginative and downright sweet human being, I count myself very lucky indeed to know the lady.

Image (c) Angela Sasser


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