Interview to Inge Vandormael

22 04 2009

Inge Vandormael, Alexiou in Deviantart, is a surrealist artist that creates wonderful works with a limited palette. Her works also include portraits of people that have had an impact on the word, artistic or otherwise, but always with a nice surrealist touch. She has amazed me with her fine intellect and wits, and when asked she would tell you that she speaks five languages.

Lately she has been working on a project about child abuse which has captured me from the beginning, even raw and brutal it also is beautifully and creatively composed.

I had the honor of interviewing Inge last month; let’s see what she has to say. I hope to interest you in this great artist, and please drop by her gallery and see her wonderful art.

Original art by Inge Vandormael. Reposted with permission.

Original art by Inge Vandormael. Reposted with permission.

When and how did you become a surrealist? Where you always a surreal artist, or did the style develop over time?

I don’t think I made the conscious decision to become a surreal artist. Surrealism just gave me the opportunity to express what was going on in that good ol’ brain of mine. It became an outlet for the personal situations in my life, positive and/or negative. I suppose you could say that I grew into the style.

Who were the major influences in your artistic career?

The first artist that really caught my attention was Salvador Dali. I must have been 17 at the time. I went through a period where the only art books I opened were about Dali. And then there is Frida Kahlo. How I look up to this woman. Her art is so raw and filled with emotion. I am also an avid collector of graphic novels, created by among others David Mack. I would say that he definitely has a great influence on my latest project.

Here are a few artists that I admire greatly: James Jean, Chris Mars, Chris Ware, Dave Mc Kean, Ralph Steadman, Julie Doucet, Jeffrey Brown, Craig Thompson, Ekundayo, Mark Ryden, Danny Roberts, Manon Gosselin, Gris Grimly … There are truly too many amazingly talented artists out there to mention them all.

Surrealism has been associated with death and decay, which is a logical association for most people. However, your works are a mixture of death and beauty. How do these two things come together for you?

Original art by Inge Vandormael. Reposted with permission.

Original art by Inge Vandormael. Reposted with permission.

Death doesn’t necessarily equal decay. It can equal beauty as well, or a new beginning. I’m mostly driven by questions that keep me occupied in daily life. What awaits us when our life ends here on earth? How do we undergo our transformation from a pupa to a full grown butterfly, to a life unknown? Is our path on earth stippled out before we even take our first breath? Is there something as a higher power, or is that just a creation by human kind to have something to fall back on in difficult times? Or we finite or infinite creatures?

Immortality. Mortality. Transformation. Metamorphosis.
Those are the keywords.

The major themes in your oeuvre seem to be eyes, skulls, flowers, and insects. Is there a reason why?

These themes are all symbolic, and do indeed re-occur in most of my paintings. Each element has a meaning for me, and I try to stay true to that. The eyes can either signify the all-knowing, the higher power, or certain feelings. The butterflies carry a special meaning for me. They are the symbol of metamorphosis, a new beginning, a sudden or well-thought out change. Whereas the flowers signify a new life, the skulls and bones signify the end of a stage, the end of a period in life.

I notice that you work with a limited palette. How does this help to enhance your artistic expression?

Using a limited palette started as a necessity. When I started getting art material together for my first paintings, I picked up 4 tubes of watercolor paints. I was surprised to see what I could accomplish with such a limited color palette. Now it has become such a habit to use just those colors, that the use of any other colors actually makes me anxious. I am not sure if it helps me enhance my artistic expression, but it surely feels comfortable.

You also use words in your artwork. Do you think of words as part of graphic art too?

To me, words are an important part of graphic art. I choose to use words because I see it as one of my tools. My words are an integral part of my graphics.

I’ve been fascinated by one of your projects about a girl that is molested by her parents. Can you tell me about your project? Why did you decide to work on such an edgy topic?

My academic background gave me access to numerous research papers on the subject matter. I was also deeply affected by stories relayed to me by people that are close to me. I realized that incest is prevalent in our culture, and won’t go away. We are all exposed to it in literature, the media, and so forth, but remain uninvolved. We remain the reader, the viewer. I felt it needed to be presented in a more engaging way. I wished to integrate the viewer into the story, and engage him/her.

Original art by Inge Vandormael. Reposted with permission.

Original art by Inge Vandormael. Reposted with permission.

How did the ideas come together?

The ideas came from stories I heard, research papers I read, the media, music. This project has been in the works long before it made it to canvas. I first wrote the entire story line, and decided later on that it might be a good idea to illustrate it.

Does the fact that you treat each vignette as a single piece of art affect the quality of the work?

It was my decision as an artist to make it more comprehensive. The character is a collection of stories I heard, but I rather told it through the eyes of one character. I thought it important that the viewer only needed to identify with one person, instead of multiple characters.

Why did you decide to tell the story as if the viewers were the main character and you were telling them what was happening to them?

I wanted to integrate the viewer into the story. I found it deeply traumatic to experience the feelings I had when putting together the story line. I wanted the viewer to experience this set of feelings, make the viewer part of it, instead of just looking at/reading it.

I like to see how you integrate the blocks of words to the composition, leading the eye around the canvas. How did this occur to you?

The story is a visual experience. The emotions and graphics bead together the visual experience and the story. It exposes the viewer to the entire image, and helps me convey the emotions that come with the story. The story is the visual.

Why do you use wooden dummies to represent the people? Sometimes though you choose to represent the poor heroine as a real person. Is there a reason for that?

Original art by Inge Vandormael. Reposted with permission.

Original art by Inge Vandormael. Reposted with permission.

The abusers are presented as people devout of soul. They remain the same throughout the story. And while the heroine comes from the same family, is cut out of the same material, she evolves throughout the story, and will eventually break free.

Are you hoping to publish it?

My wish for this project is to find a publisher for it. I would love to see it in book form. A showing in a gallery would of course also be amazing. We’ll see where it ends up.

How Inge is seen by other artists:

Deborah, a-neon-devil-breath

She has been my friend on this site and on breed art for a long time. I met her in 2004. We have collaborated together and had many great conversations. She has a unique style and she is a really great person.

Angelique, eliq

I’m a huge fan of Inge’s art… so much in fact that I have one of her paintings tattooed on my stomach.

James Somersetholmes

I’ve known Inge Vandormael through the magic of the Internet for some years now, in my view to say that Inge is a controversial artist would be too broad a statement and too thin a skin for her to wear, her beautifully crafted conceptual work is indeed deep meaning and relevant to us all, not many artists can put claim to that, her passion and courage as well as her humanity are clearly main ingredients in her work, for me her creativity and heart know absolutely no frontiers…I suspect the incredible artwork and concepts that we have been so privileged to view thus far are merely surface dust to what is yet to come…I for one

About pricing one’s work

17 04 2009

I was listening to the Ninja Mountain podcast of this week, a very interesting topic was brought up, and it is about pricing one’s work. This is a topic that comes over and again in the art community, because it is not easy for a beginner artist to price their work. But this topic also brings a lot of argument about artists that charge close to nothing to our standards for a job done, usually with the remarks “you get what you paid for”. Not always true, sometimes you get really good quality.

I would like to start with an anecdote from the Renaissance, just to make the point that this is not a new argument, and probably will go on for many more years:

Tintoretto was the son of a clothes dyer, he was not a high society guy, and unlike with may of his contemporary colleagues aristocracy was not attracted to his work and he had no patronage from them. He took on the strategy of appealing the less rich middle-class by having a high turn over rate and lower prices. He was widely criticized by other artists because they said it would hurt their work. This does not make him a mediocre artist, he had to eat.

The Deliverance of Arsenoe by Jacopo Tintoretto

The Deliverance of Arsenoe by Jacopo Tintoretto

It is easy to point at those that do what we consider denigrating to the profession from our comfortable position. Yes, I’ve seen those that would go low for a ‘gig’ offering themselves to do a full illustration or logo for $10-20 but then they refuse to give help to a newb without Photoshop and they ask for $15-20 to boost brightness/contrast in a bad scan (unbelievable, I actually have seen that situation!). But I want to talk about something different today, something relatively new for the world, but absolutely prevalent, and it is a globalized market.

I know the financial/economical situation is rough in USA, but I would like to ask the art community to think outside of the USA and Europe for a moment. There are countries in which the currency exchange goes for 50-200 (and more!) respect to the dollar. Yes, I am sure the cost of living might be higher there too, but if you get paid US$10, you might be receiving 2000 of whatever coin that country has. That might be good enough to pay rent that month or to feed the family. Today, with access to internet two people might be interacting from different continents in real time! These people might be really good artists too, and the employer might get a very good end product for much less than what they would pay a USA artist. Is it fair? no, not at all, but it is the reality of the world and one of the consequences of a globalized market.

Internet usage in the world. Map obtained from

Internet usage in the world. Map obtained from

This puts us, those who live in the ‘developed countries’ with decent economies in a rough position. What do we do about it? Should we bring our prices down? Not at all. As I once told a potential costumer that wanted to pay me $2.50 per illustration (with commercial and exclusive rights, mind you), that does not even pay for a pound of meat, I cannot put hours of work into something that will not help me to reach the end of the month. And I am talking from a very comfortable position here, I do have a day job, the pay is not crazy good, but I like it and it certainly helps a lot with the bills. So we should not lower our prices, and those artists that are producing excellent work should not bring themselves down.

I have been having very interesting conversations about this with Patrick McEvoy, and earlier with Angela Sasser and I guess my point is that if we don’t know where the artist is coming from, if we don’t know what US$10-20 mean in his or her country, can we then speak of them bringing down the value of art?  Maybe for that person, the rate they would receive in their own country is $0.25, and this is a great opportunity for them. It does not make it easier on us, those that would expect a certainly much higher pay for a work that takes many hours and previously many hours of study, but it would not be fair to look down or criticize those artists that, after all,  are just trying to make a living like the rest of us.

I wonder if this puts the responsibility on the employers. I understand that they will try to get the most of their investment, but they know when they are abusing the system. They know they will be getting thousands from an art piece that cost them several orders of magnitude less.

Obviously there is not an easy answer to this centuries-old problem, obviously we face new challenges, like interet access around the world and different currency rates, and obviously it will take some time for the hole world to addapt to this. In the meanwhile, let’s keep the discussion open, let’s keep searching for the answers, and I would really like to know your thoughts in this particular issue.

Bringing the Muse back home.

10 04 2009

Last month was a bad one for my art. Real life took over and it overwhelmed the Muse, which just left me. So there was no art done. Doodles yes, but nothing really serious was started nor finished. Until now.

succubus-copy2-web1I decided that if I wanted my muse back I needed to actively bring her, so I embarked in a series of projects all at once! On one hand I am working on a piece for the contest Monsters and Nightmares over Addictive Hobby the good news are that they have extended the deadline so I can push really hard and get mine done. It is still in process, but if you have comments and critiques, please tell me.

The other thing I got into is this super fun group project for the Character of the Week challenge at Concept Art. I am working with Meredith Dillman, Karyn Lewis and Mythmaker. We are currently defining the characters that we have to illustrate (6 in total) and expanding the briefs that we were given. Soon we will start sketching and painting. And I will post more when we have something that we can show.

One more thing I’m working on is on illustrating a tale for Dargonzine. I am really thrilled about this, since it will require me to puch myself to develop new skills.

And as a silly side story, when I told my husband, all sad, that my muse had left me he looked less than pleased and asked me “And who is your muse!?” to which I could only laugh and explain him that in my case it is not a flesh and bone human being.

And before I go, let me remind you that Amazing Events #003 has been released, it features my art and art by many other talented artist. Also, I am listening to Nijna Mountain podcasts, which are a fun way of learning about the professional environment and challenges in art, go listen to one, you will get hooked!