Interview to Louisa Gallie.

16 01 2010

**Edit. Louisa is holding up an auction to help Haiti victims here***

Louisa Gallie is a Scottish artist, recently graduated from college, with a huge love for Labyrinth. Although she is very young her talent and skills are amazing, showing the work of a mature artist. Louisa is very kind and warm, and has gained the love of all that know her.

Louisa, tell me about your formal training?
Well, I took art as a subject right until the bitter end of high school, plus life drawing classes.  When I was seventeen I started university, studying a four year Computer Arts course at Abertay Dundee.  I went into it with the ambition to work in games and film.  Although the first year included a life drawing module, it wasn’t so much a traditional art course as it was a smörgåsbord of different digital art disciplines – working in Photoshop, 3D modelling, web design, interactive design, game design, film making, all kinds of animation and even a smattering of programming here and there.  I also took a course in screenwriting and a year and a bit of Japanese language lessons on top of the main course, and in our final Honours year we had free reign to choose our own project.  I focused on character concept art and the role of women in the games industry.

Thirteen o'clock by Louisa Gallie

How did it help you to become the artist you are today?
Well it did, and it didn’t.  As you can imagine it was quite a technical course, low on traditional art education, with a lot of time dedicated to learning new programs.  The tutors were also (understandably) sick to death of sci-fi, fantasy and anime and often steered us towards modern and abstract art and away from traditional illustration styles altogether.  I found this pretty frustrating and felt like I was torn between producing work I liked and work the lecturers would like – and as a result, I wound up half-assing both aspects.  However, packing so many different kinds of classes and disciplines into a relatively short time (three or four different radically different subjects in six to twelve week periods) meant I was learning FAST.  When I compare what I was doing in first year to the work I was doing in my final project, I’m shocked at the difference.  I also had the opportunity to learn more about the games industry and gained a lot of practical insight that really helped to guide me in life after graduation.

Since there was little to no focus on fundamental art skills (beyond “keep a sketchbook”), students had to rely on ourselves and each other to keep our basic art skills sharp and our enthusiasm up, and I learned a LOT outside of class, especially when it came to sharing ideas, criticism, finding online communities and professionals that inspired me.  As a form of distraction/relaxation, I also started doing fanart again which kept me more active in the art community outside of university.  I never would have met the friends and artists who inspire, help, and encourage me today if I hadn’t had that escape!

What do you do as a day job?
I work for a small games developer in my hometown, Hunted Cow Studios.  At the moment we have quite a few 2D MMOs out, but I came onto the team to work on our first 3D MMORPG, Eldevin (www.eldevin.com).  I work on 2D graphics for the game, which ranges from loading screens to teeny tiny icons to graphics for the game interface to website design.  I also work on promotional material from time to time and do the odd bit of concept art.  It varies.  I’ve always got a full task list at the moment but eventually, theoretically, I’ll get to work on worldbuilding and 3D aspects too!  We’re a small team, so everybody multi-tasks.

How do you manage to work as a freelance artist after long hours of work?
By only taking jobs from good friends and family who I can’t turn down!  I have been gradually reducing the number of commissions I do – at university I needed any extra income so the hours on top of coursework and my part time job were worth it.  Right now though, I’m pulling in a steady wage.  That’s not to say I don’t have time to paint – I ALWAYS have time to paint.  I get home, make dinner, and get right back in front of my tablet.  It’s my life.  But since the bills are taken care of, I want to spend my time working on my own art right now.  As for how I do that – well, it helps that I’m single, don’t have kids, and get my exercise every day just by walking to work!  So I don’t have many demands on my time except for the demands of my brush, and the bajillion ideas in my head that want OUT.

Years ago you made this image for a friend’s story. Today that story is an emerging popular book… tell me how do you feel about that?
I’m SO thrilled for her.  She’s such a talented writer, and she deserves to have been published a dozen times over by now.  I feel pretty honoured to have a friend so skilled with words, and it’s a privilege to get to illustrate those words for her.  I fully expect her to take over the world, become famous and I will get to crow that I worked for her way back when!

Beyond Neith by Louisa Gallie

I have seen your evolution time line, how do you think your art has evolved? What have you achieved as of lately, and what would you like to improve in the near future?
Well…I’m a lot slower than I used to be?  I’m not kidding, but I’ll explain why in a second.  Achievement first, right?  My last few paintings (Eil Ton and Goblin Nights in particular, plus a few WIPS), I feel I have just nailed them.  I don’t mean they are technically flawless.  I mean I had a vision of what I wanted those paintings to be and I nailed that vision on the canvas.  I feel like I’m finally learning how to be brave with colour and light in a way that gives me that “wow” feeling, that satisfaction where a piece just clicks.  It’s really thrilling after having quite a long period of feeling burned out and tired last year, and then awkward and rusty when I started painting again, to get the flow going again.

However, I AM getting slower because I’m also starting to realise I’ve reached a point where my inspiration is getting ahead of my abilities.  Every time I start something new, I want to push myself to the next level and I do, but I spend longer and longer studying references and trying to correct mistakes without quite knowing how.  It feels like I’m climbing higher and higher on a tower I’m building myself, but I’m not spending the time making sure the bricks under my feet are solid enough.  I know that I need to go back to basics and do more studies, more work on light and form and anatomy, and keep building that foundation so it can keep up with my ambition!

What do you think are your best assets in your artwork?
I love colour, and I think it shows.  I try to use colour schemes that feel vivid and beautiful, although colour in a more local sense – in skintones and hair for example – is something I’m always trying to study more.  Something else I love is playing dress up with my characters and I will spend a lot of time designing clothing, unusual jewelry and accessories.

Goblin Nights, Faery Bites by Louisa Gallie

You have a lot of fan art in your gallery. Some people feel strongly about fan art, what is your take on it?
For me, fanart has always been a form of escapism.  When I might feel like all my originality is being poured into other projects but I still want to paint, I’ll turn to fanart.  I’m a voracious reader, a major daydreamer and get very attached to settings and characters.  It’s the same with films (my Labyrinth obsession is hardly a secret now, is it?) Fanart is a way to keep those worlds alive when the book is finished or the movie is over.  What can I say? I love stories, and sometimes that includes borrowing from someone else’s story and running away with it for a little while!  However, I won’t sell prints or take commissions for fanart.  I have taken one or two fanart commissions is the past.  I know others who do.  But over time I’ve come to the decision that it’s just not for me.

One of your projects, together with artist Melissa Findley is a blog called the Artemisia, could you tell me about it?
Artemisia was an idea Melissa and I came up with while I was staying with her for a few weeks back in March.  I happened to be there around the time that Expose 7 entries were being accepted. It occurred to us when flipping through her collection of Ballistic books and other art collections that almost all of the accepted entries were of young, sexy women (and that most of the characters that could be described as male were hideous monsters or demons).  Out of our circle of artist friends, most of whom had been published in at least one art book, almost all of their accepted works were of women too, even if they had also submitted men of the same quality. We had a hunch and looked up the judging panel for Expose 7 – and yep, the entire panel was male.

It was no surprise to either of us that we work in a male dominated field, but rather than just accept it we decided it was high time that women in the industry had their views put out there. We wanted to find a way to showcase art that celebrated our tastes in fantasy and sci-fi art, and so we created Artemisia as a resource for female artists (or just women who love fantasy art in general).

Have you ever felt mistreated in the art industry for being a woman?
No, never.  I’ve dealt with a few biased comments on the subject of women in fantasy, and made my arguments against them, but I’ve never dealt with any outright misogyny.  Most guys seem to think it’s cool (and that working in video games would make an awesome pick-up line)!  I was the first woman to be hired by Hunted Cow and I can’t say I felt out of place at all.  I work with some very cool, laid back guys who never treated me, or the other women who were later hired, any differently.

Eil Ton by Louisa Gallie

Why do you think there is such a gender bias in the fantasy art industry?
Digital art is so connected with the video game industry, fantasy/ sci-fi/ horror films and books, and graphic novels – all of which are things that we’re taught are for boys, not girls.  Even when we grow up and should know better, there’s this prevailing attitude that if a girl is in the comic book store or looking at video games, she must be lost or shopping for her boyfriend.  And of course, girls can’t use computers, so we clearly don’t belong in this industry! Girls who want to be artists are generally expected to go and paint portraits of pets, or sell pretty watercolour fairies.  We’re steered away from the industries that digital art has the strongest presence in, so most girls don’t realise the opportunities they have.

Jareth?
One of my first crushes, made me partial to villains for life, and set some very unreasonable standards for my future boyfriends.

Sexy guys and strong women?
More of both, please!

Zoe Radha

“Louisa Gallie is probably the third best thing to be produced by Scotland, after deep-fried Mars Bars and blokes in skirts. She’s an awesome artist, with a wicked sense of humour which I adore. It’s also thanks to her that I started taking digital art seriously, and I hope she’ll continue to be a huge inspiration of mine for a great deal longer. Plus, she makes great crepes.”

Melissa Findley
Louisa is one of the sweetest, most generous people I’ve ever known. Plus she has a really subtly sly sense of humor that can catch you off guard. Her work is amazing, the colors and the amount of detail she works into backgrounds always astound me. Additionally, she has an innate sense of texture that really shines in her digital work. She’s one of my best friends, practically a sister, and there are very few people on this planet who I’d rather spend time with.

Rebecca Morse
I know Louisa principally in her quality of a member of the “Goblin Court”, a small, dedicated and deranged chat group of Labyrinth fanartists and ficwriters.
She is a very focused, meticulous digital artist, but her attention to details doesn’t lessen the creative energy and overall flair of her pieces. She has Vision and the skill and patience to get there.
I admire and approve of what her and =Mercuralis are doing with their Artemisia blog.
I admire her craftsmanship, enjoy picking her brain and bouncing ideas off her, and hope to have the chance to meet her in RL some day.

Liiga Smilshkalne
I think that Louisa is a person with her own strong outlook in life and ability to stick to her values that inspires. It shows in her art as well through strong and determined characters.


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