Artistic influences

31 08 2010

Coty's Influence map

There is this awesome meme in DA (probably the only meme I’ve ever wanted to do) about what has influenced your artistic development. I have completed it and wanted to share it with you:

1-Disney. I grew up on those things, and while today Disney is highly criticized for whathaveyou, I think the concept art is amazing, the animation is amazing, and it is probably because of Disney that I wanted to draw and draw and draw! I would love to suck on the neurons of Disney’s concept artists.

2-Anime, particularly Sailor Moon, but a lot of earlier ones as Heidi, Candy Candy, Mazinger, etc. I loved the aesthetics of it! Later on I got tired of the fandom.

3-Religious imagery and art. Putting aside the fact that I do consider myself very religious, there is something to judeo-christian tradition and art that is highly inspiring. The constant search of expression of a higher being with human tools have pushed artists to excel for centuries!

4-The beauty of the human body. I cannot deny that this is what inspires me the most all the time. When I find myself through an artist block I just dig out photos of nude models and start sketching. The body never ceases to amaze me!

5-World mythology and cultures of the world. When I was a child I devoured mythology books, this made me have an appreciation for the art related to those cultures! This definitely influenced my art!

6-My family. Without the constant support from my family I would have never got myself where I am now. They have given me as present the coolest and fanciest art tools I have 🙂 Also conversations with my husband often end up in paper 🙂

7-Renaissance artists. Nothing else to add.

8-Nature. Nature is a constant source of inspiration, and I keep hoping one day to be good enough as to represent it as I see it.

9-Music! Oh, how could I leave music out! Not only music keeps me accompanied while drawing, but also it is a constant source of inspiration!

10-Argentinean comics, like Nippur of Lagash, Wendolyn, Pepe Sanchez, Danske. They have a more European style, not so much super heroes and impossible muscles, and I read them like crazy during childhood.

11-Alphonse Mucha. You can tell.

12-European comics, particularly Belgium ones, as Tin-Tin, Asterix, Smurfs. Awesome stuff if you are not familiar with them.

13-Stephanie Pui Mun Law. The one person that made me realize that you can make a living out of art and that watercolors can be beautiful and vibrant. Thanks to her I decided to put hours into painting to become *hopefully* as good as her. Then I met many more awesome artists that fit the description, but she was the first one.

The original can be found here

What has influenced your artistic development?

What art can teach you about yourself

27 08 2010

I always wanted to be beautiful. Beautiful, elegant and sexy. After all, I am as human as the next girl, right? I don’t take myself too seriously so I am never all that beautiful, or elegant… much less sexy! I never have my nails done, of my hair for the case. But sometimes I really try to be all those things!

All my life I’ve been called cute, which is not bad. My family thinks I’m cute, my mom sees me cute, my husband sees me cute, friends, people I’ve met over internet. Always the “Aww, you are so cute!!!” “Oh! I like that photo! You look cute!” Not bad… but still sometimes frustrating, because it is never beautiful. And though I do not want everybody thinking I’m sexy, sometimes I really put a lot of effort into clothes, and makeup and stuff for my husband and he would tell me “I really liked the way you did your make up yesterday, it looked so cute!” dagnabbit! (to be honest, after I complained a couple of times he now does reassure me saying I am beautiful and sexy too, God bless him!)

Bear with me, this post goes into art.

A few days back, when Ellen Million was holding the monthly sketchfest (incidentally, if you have not done it, it is great fun!) one of the props was “you in the fantasy world” I thought to myself “Oh, that one is easy, I’ll draw the Faerywitch”. Since I was short for time, as usual, this was a great prop, I can do the Faerywitch, my alter ego, in no time 🙂 And this is what I drew:

Faerywitch (c) Constanza Ehrenhaus 2010

All of the sudden it hit me! Complete and absolutely cute! Cute, cute, cute! and what did I write in the description? “Much cuter than in real life”

So I finally am given the opportunity to represent myself however I would want! Did I draw sexy? Nope, Beautiful and elegant? No! I drew a cutesy creature with big cute eyes in a cute pose with a cute outfit!

So, what did art teach me when I draw without worries, what comes from my subconscious? That maybe I’ve always wanted to be cute after all, and that I have been what I want to be all this time in the first place.  So now to shut up and be happy! 🙂

You are always improving

23 08 2010

More often than not, even as I paint frantically on my Wacom I keep thinking that I am really not as good as I’d like to be, that I will never be Leonardo and that I seem to be going nowhere. This is an easy trap to fall into while we strive for excellency, but it is really not the truth. As long as we keep putting the hours of practice and we keep learning, our art does improve, it is just hard to see when we are in the middle of it, and surrounded by awesome artists that are far superior, and of course, we tend to be our worse critics.

This year I’ll be taking the Leap of Faith and entering Ballistic’s call for Exotique 6. It is frightening and I don’t want to entertain hopes of making it in, but I’ll send some of my work. I am rather busy at the moment finishing up a couple of pieces, so I do not want to go over old pieces to fix them up.  I was surprised when a bunch of people suggested that I should submit Freyja awakening, but given that it has a high visual impact, with the frame of knotwork and flowers, I think they do have a point. However when I went see it again I did not like the skin and hair work. I decided to go super fast over it and try to beautify it a bit, I really should go over all of it, but have not the time at the moment! I put in a few minutes and I was surprised to see the difference! Not only it looks much better now, but also I knocked it down in less than an hour, when it had taken me days two years ago!! :O

Freyja awakens (c) Constanza Ehrenhaus. 2010

So I guess, I am improving after all, I am a better artist and I am going somewhere 🙂

Book review: Dreams of Magic by Michele-Lee Phelan

17 08 2010

Dreams of Magic by Michele-Lee Phelan

Yesterday I got Dreams of Magic, I was really excited since the postal service took forever!
The book can be purchased through Amazon or Michele’s website. If you purchase them through her site though, you get it signed and she included two of her wonderful oracle cards on mine!! So thrilled! 😀 The book runs a bit on the expensive side, but it is with good reason. The quality is incredible! I don’t think I’ve bought any book like this since I was a child and my mother payed for books 🙂 This is a hardcover book with pages of incredible print quality, vivid colors and great definition. Almost like having a small collection of Michele’s prints at home.

This is not a “how to” book, it is an art book. There are almost 60 full color plates showing Michele’s works from the Oracle deck, the Tarot deck, and also other personal works and some of her loved older ones, as “Night she cometh”. The book is also a display of the artist’s poems and spiritual path, which is completed toward the end with a series of questions and answers about her spiritual life and the role art plays in her life. She closes the book with a walk through of “the Gift” in which she explains her technique.

If you are in search of a book that will teach you to paint like Michele-Lee Phelan, you will be disappointed, this is not that kind of book. This is a high quality art book showcasing the artist’s best works and her poetry.  It is pricey because of that same fact. The one big drawback I found with it is that since it was shipped from Australia by boat it took over 3 months to arrive to me, which made me a little nervous. At the time it was the only way that Michele had to ship her books, I am hoping that she has other methods available to her now!

Interview with Ciruelo Cabral

11 08 2010
Argentinean-born artist Ciruelo Cabral has worked for some of the most important publishing and gaming labels, and for a good reason. His artwork is absolutely amazing and makes the viewers believe that dragons are real. Ciruelo is not only incredibly talented, he is also an example of humility. He always has time to talk to a fan and his friendly demeanor makes him incredibly accessible.

It has been some time since the first time I talked to him. I couldn’t believe that someone I had admired for so long was so willing to chat to a (back then) young girl that he didn’t know. Interviewing him now also feels surreal. I was surprised, though, to see that so many artists did not know him: they are familiar with his art, particularly his dragons, but they didn’t know the artist. I hope this interview brings more attention to him, an attention that he amply deserves.

How did you realize you wanted to be an artist?

Ever since I was a small child, I expressed myself through drawing, as everybody else. I just never stopped, and when I was 16, while I was listening to Yes records and was looking at cover art done by Roger Dean, I had already decided this was my profession.

How did you come to the conclusion of leaving your country and emigrating to Spain? Was it a hard decision?

I had to leave because in Argentina I couldn’t do what I liked, which was “fantasy art”, because there were no editors in that style. I was working very well as a publicity illustrator but I needed very much to do more creative things. So I had to go out and search those editors in the world.

Spain was a logical choice because of the language. Besides I had friends there. It was 1987 and I was 23 so it was a hard decision on one hand but full of adventure and illusions on the other hand.

(C) Ciruelo Cabral

Some of your earlier work includes commissions for magazines like Fierro®, who kept the originals. When did you get to the point in which you were in the position of naming the rules of the game? How did you realize it was the right moment?

It is all a matter of time and to earn a certain position based on the work’s quality. It is a slow progression.

Your style is very “classic fantasy“, who do you think were your influences? How did your style evolve to be your own?

In a way, each person has their own style that needs to be discovered first and built up later. That is why the influences by other artists help to enlighten the way. Some of my masters are: Frank Frazetta, Roger Dean, Alan Lee, Brian Froud, Juan Gimenez, Moebius and a lot of classic painters. Currently my style is still evolving and that is what I like most about my job.

You paint the best dragons I’ve ever seen, they are extremely believable. How do you achieve that believability?

For a painting to be realistic, it is needed to dominate the pictorial technique, and that is more or less easy to achieve. Regarding to achieve realism on something that does not exist, I achieve that by visualizing the figure in my head before painting it. I have stored in my memory the texture of crocodile’s skin, or a snake’s, the wings of a bat, etc. All that helps me to achieve realism in the figure of a dragon, for example. After that there is the issue of ‘atmosphere’ or the ’emotion’ that a painting transmits… and that belongs to a field that it is not possible to be explained.

(c) Ciruelo Cabral

Why do you find dragons so special?

I always liked all mythological figures, but when I came to live to Barcelona, in 1987, I found the figure of the dragon was predominant since Barcelona is the dragon city for historical and traditional issues. Soon after, I published the Book of the Dragon, published in England and Spain and distributed to the rest of the world very successfully. In USA I was known as a dragon artist since 1990 and I started to be hired as such.

The dragon always has a very special place in most ancestral world cultures, which intrigues me and fascinates me at the same time. My dragon paintings transmit magic and power to people that I cannot explain; I just have to use my brush as an instrument for the magic to continue.

Looking through your work, most of it is what could be defined as “high fantasy”, why do you do mostly stick to that?

I always was interested in the fantasy world. As a child I was attracted to fantasy movies and books, so it was very natural to dedicate myself to draw that kind of things. When I became a professional, that tendency became a basic necessity. Big part of my career shows epic fantasy, of a medieval European style. Now I am trying to reflect more of an atemporal universe, with elements from ancestral cultures as Maya, Inca and Mapuche.

(c) Ciruelo Cabral

For being color blind, you have a great management of colors. What is your way of bypassing this problem? Did you ever feel that you were “handicapped?”

My daltonism gave me serious trouble when I was working for publicity companies, and I had to find a way for it not to be a paralyzing problem in my career. I achieved that working in fantasy art, where I find a great freedom to use colors. Now I take it as a quirk and I don’t worry about it.
I do not know how others see my illustrations, I know they see them different than I do. I can’t identify colors when they are too light: greens, beiges, pinks, grays, browns, and also when they are too dark: blues, violets, grays, reds, etc. I also have a hard time with certain oranges and greens and ochres. I tend to “value” the colors, that is, I perceive the value in the grayscale more than the color itself.

In the past, this used to make me feel uncomfortable, but with time I got used to it and I learned to take advantage of it. Since I have a good management of values I can manage well volume. This give me the skill of seeing shapes in rocks and this is how I developed my technique in Petropictos.

Can you tell our readers about petropictos? Do you still work on that?

Petropictos was born from my passion for rocks, which is nothing more than my passion for nature. I am attracted both to the textures and shapes int he rocks, and I take advantage of those to achieve a tri-dimensional figure just through painting. With this technique I achieve a sculpture through painting. many think that it is impossible that I have not sculpted the rocks due to the compenetration of my work and the preexistent shapes. It is something very magical. When I do this I feel it like a dialogue.

You have tried many media, oils, pens, acrylics and rocks in petropictos. Have you ever tried digital? Why do you decide to stick to traditional?

I do sometimes use digital technology to create images and I find it very stimulating since I have not to worry about technique, or materials, I just face the creation and the process is faster than with traditional art. However, I will still be a traditional painter, since there is something in the exercise of painting that gets impregnated in the original and the public receives when they are facing it.

(c) Ciruelo Cabral

Not only you work as a visual artist, you also compose music. How did that start? Do you feel both your paintings and music complement each other?

Yes, music and painting empower each other. I also must mention that other art perform is writing, which, as well as the former two, I’ve been practicing forever. There are just different languages to express the same ideas in different ways.

Steve Vai?

My relationship with Steve was born from the admiration I feel for him since I was dreaming to be a guitar player. I had the luck of meeting him in 1992 and started a friendship that has been growing since then. He is a very special guy, a great master. I collaborated with him in two of his albums doing the cover art and his work is still a great source of inspiration for me.

What are your current projects?

(c) Ciruelo Cabral

Recently I made a painting for George Lucas, with whom I collaborated several times since 1993. This new project includes publishing a book and an exhibit with other artists. Also I have just writen a new books: Cuaderno de Sueños (Dreams Notebook), which is a continuation to Cuaderno de Viajes (Travels Notebook). And I am working in several other projects simultaneously.

Where can our readers find your art?
My art is distributed through the world as books, calendars, book and records covers, posters and all kinds of merchandising. You can find it all over internet, but my official site is is: DAC Editions

What Others Say

Michael Cross:

His dragons have a distinctive look to them – regal, serpentine, yet their appearance hint at hidden deviousness, like a snake ready to strike at appropriate moment. I would say that he is one of the top dragon artists, and even though I was not previously familiar with his name, he has inspired me in many ways.

Todd Lockwood:

Ciruelo is not only one of the premiere artists working in fantasy today, he is one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. I have the privilege of sharing an end-cap with him at Comic Con again this year, which is always one of the highlights for me of Convention season.

Aaron Pocock:

The guy’s amazing. He’s versatile, his technique is flawless and he’s a walking, talking expert on how dragons should be painted. His work just keeps getting better and better.

Uwe Jarling:

Can’t say much about Ciruelo, I only meet him two times quite some years back: first at “Spiele Essen” and in the same year at Book-fair Frankfurt. It was great talking to him, he’s a very nice and gentle guy.

First time I got into contact with his art was when I bought the book “Dragons.” I was blown away by his dragon illustrations at the moment, the book still has a special place on my bookshelf. What I especially like about Ciruelo’s art is the diversity; he does high quality illustrations for publication purpose as well as stunning artwork with his Petropictos (paintings on stone). I love it when artists try several techniques and styles and Ciruelo masters so many several techniques. Maybe I love this so much cause I myself try to experiment with new techniques all the time.

So what shall I say, I’m a huge fan of Ciruelo, his art is awe inspiring to me!

*this interview was conducted in Spanish and later translated by me. Please, forgive the clumsiness of it, it is by no means Ciruelo’s fault but all mine.

Book review: Dreamscapes: Myth and Magic by Stephanie Pui Mun Law

4 08 2010

Myth and Magic by Stephanie Pui Mun Law

In this book Stephanie Pui Mun Law shares her knowledge and mastery in creating wonderful watercolor images. She covers the basics in art and specifically in watercolors, and then offers a series of practical hands on walk throughs using several of her wonderful images as templates.

The thing I find the most interesting about this book is the way Stephanie designed it. Instead of grouping all the instructional part at the beginning and then showing the step by steps, she has used a very dynamic approach in which she basically submerges you in the practical aspects of watercolors almost immediately. Each chapter is based on a special character (the sun, the moon, the witch…) and in each chapter she talks about character design, one or two important basic concepts (as light or skin colors), has one or two myths and proceeds to one or two walk throughs. As the chapters progress she covers more difficult concepts, making the learning gradual and interesting.

I can say that I would highly recommend this book. It is absolutely wonderful and very entertaining, full of interesting tips for using watercolors. If you purchase it through her website the book will be autographed and come with a print of the cover image!