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.





Interview with Patrick McEvoy

13 07 2010

Fantasy artist Patrick McEvoy is not only extremely accomplished but also a greatly generous person that invests part of his limited time to help others improve. His art is highly energetic and interesting. Let’s have a look into Patrick’s world!

Patrick give us a little background information about you. How did you become interested in art?
I was always reading comics from a young age, and drew characters from there. I just loved it all from a young age. Then when I was around 11 I started discovering some of the great fantasy/genre illustrators from the 60’s and 70’s, such as Bama, Frazetta and Steranko (and of course I’d already seen Steranko’s comics).  They inspired me to want to learn more about this “art” stuff!

Dirty work (c) Patrick McEvoy

You have worked in different areas in the art industry, what attracted you to become a full time illustrator?
My first long-term career was as a programmer, believe it or not!  But at some point I realized I was wasting my time in a job I didn’t care for and I got back into art, pretty much teaching myself everything I needed to know about the craft of illustration.

Since I was getting into professional art rather late, I approached it very logically. I already knew computers and programming, so I concentrated on doing art with the computer, and also learning “Director”, which was a program used a lot back in those days for computer animation and interactivity. (Basically like Flash, but without the vectors and much more solid).

This paid off pretty quickly, as I got jobs working in the game animation industry right off the bat. My very first big professional gig was as an assistant storyboard artist for Lee Marrs, a wonderful comics artist/writer who at the time was an A.D. for game company 3DO.  Then I landed a few jobs as a freelance animator and I was off and running!

After that I became an Art Director, working at a couple of different companies that specialized in educational games (“Edutainment” they used to call it), and I did that for several years.

Finally, about 5 years ago, I decided that I should really go back to my first love, illustration. I had been doing some illustration work on the side for a few years before that, and at some point I just said “it’s now or never” and took the leap!

Rising (c) Patrick McEvoy

How did you land in your first jobs for great companies as Wizards or Marvel?

Well, with all of the companies I’ve gotten to work for (also Sony, Blizzard, and many others!) it’s largely been a matter of putting together good portfolio pieces, tailoring my submission to what I think the company will need, and (very importantly) being professional and timely when I do get the job, so I have more of an opportunity to do work for them in the future!

But I can’t rule out networking! I think at least 75% of my jobs (including my long-term gig with Marvel) have come about because I have contacts with other artists, either personally or through online art groups. Taking Marvel as an example, I knew Scott Johnson through Gutterzombie and Ninja Mountain, and I’d also met up with him at the Chicago Comic-con one year. So when his A.D. at Marvel said they needed more artists in the marketing group, he knew me, knew that I could do the work, and had seen my track record. So he was confident in passing my name along.

That sort of thing happens all the time. You NEVER know when a contact will come through, so make as many as you can.  Of course, it helps that I really like to talk to people, so it’s maybe easy for me to get to know other artists. But even if you’re shy or don’t easily talk to strangers, it’s a good thing to try to overcome that. Networking is key!

Once you have your sketches approved, how do you choose the palette to set the mood for each piece? Do you think about this before starting your sketches, during, after?

This is different for every piece. Sometimes I know the colors almost first thing when reading the brief, and sometimes I’ll play with colors after the entire drawing is done and I’m in Photoshop. Or somewhere in the middle!  I just let it happen and it usually works out.

But I DO always like to start with one main color, which I roughly slop in over the entire background with slight hue and value variations. That way the entire picture has one mood and temperature to start with.

What do you think are your greatest strengths in your artwork? And your weakness?

Strength – probably my ability to come up with a good story, and an interesting point of view for my compositions.

Weakness? That’s hard to narrow down, I have so many!  Probably dynamic figure poses – I always feel my characters are a bit too stiff.

You give art seminars in MacWorld, would you mind explaining a little bit what are they about for those of us that cannot go?

Well, I did the one at MacWorld Expo this year, which was kind of expensive to attend (they charge a lot for the seminar track), but I’ve also done them at comics conventions, including San Diego Comic-Con last year. And in a few weeks (April 3, 2010) I’ll be doing it at WonderCon in San Francisco,  and it’s free with the regular admission to the con. So that’s a little easier to attend!

I describe the seminars as a “cooking show”.  That is, I show a piece being created from the ground up – sketching, drawing, color blocking and rendering. But I’ll do just a few minutes on every step, then “put it in the oven” so to speak, and skip to the next step.  That way I can concentrate on big ideas and important techniques, rather than too much time just rendering.

As an ex-art director, what attracts you to a piece? What should an artist do to impress you?

Really, it all comes down to the job you are hiring for. If an artist has what’s needed for THAT SPECIFIC job, then he or she will have an important advantage. And that’s something you never really know as an artist when you send in your submission. That’s why it’s good to remember that a lot of getting jobs is just luck – do you have what’s needed right then?  But the important part is to always be ready to do great at a job when it is assigned to you.

After a job is assigned, the main thing is professionalism. That’s what keeps an AD coming back for more work from you. And that professionalism encompasses many areas: hitting deadlines, good communication, and living up to the quality of work in your portfolio. It’s all important.
Glaring Admonition (c) Patrick McEvoy

Tell me about Ninja Mountain, what is it? How did it evolve?

That came out of a group of artists who all knew each other online, mostly through RPG.net. They just decided to put together a private forum where they could share ideas and information without the prying eyes of the outside world! I was invited in a year or so after they began it.

You can find out a lot about the early days of NM on the interview show we did for Escape From Illustration Island.

What about Ninja Mountain Podcasts?
Well, I started that, pretty much. I just decided I wanted to do a podcast, and  here I was chatting with folks on Ninja Mountain all the time, and it seemed perfect for a show! A bunch of really good artists, from all over the world, who already get along well, and have a lot to say about art. As it turned out, we’ve had a pretty good run (over a year now!)

For more info on the subject, check out the blog post I wrote about the origins of the podcast here.

Tell us about your graphic novel.

Starkweather: Immortal, coming this July from Archaia. Written and created by David Rodriguez, and one story in the book is written by fantasy legend Piers Anthony.  It’s going to be a hardcover graphic novel, with 138 pages of comics story and some other art, as well as Piers Anthony’s original prose story.

This book started as a standard comic book, with a story set to run for five issues and then be collected. But after we did issues 0, 1, and 2, the company took a hiatus to reorganize (one of the partners left) and there was a year and a half break in the series.

By the time we came back, it didn’t really make sense to do the last 2 issues of the story arc as newsstand comics, because no one would remember they were reading it (we feared), so we decided just to finish up for the collected edition and skip the comic book versions.  That also freed us up to change the story a bit, and add a few more pages.

I’m very happy with how it’s come out, and I’m really looking forward to its release in July! Find out more, and see an excerpt from issue 0, here.

Starkweather Immortal (c) Patrick McEvoy

Why the name Megaflow? And Ninja Mountain?

Ninja Mountain I have no idea at all… Megaflow is a term my favorite sci-fi/fantasy author Michael Moorcock uses for the space between all the alternate realities in his multiverse. I liked the sound and meaning of that so … there we go!

How do you find the time to do it all!? Please, let us know!!

Not much sleep. Not much at all…

Where can your fans find you? Will you be doing conventions?

Please find me at
http://www.megaflowgraphics.com,
or my blog at
http://megaflowgraphics.blogspot.com.
Also I have galleries at http://megaflow.epilogue.net and http://patrickmcevoy.deviantart.com/

Also, you can hear new episodes of Ninja Mountain almost every week here:
http://ninjamountain.blogspot.com
Or find it on itunes and subscribe.

Melissa Findley

Patrick is an amazing artist, always willing to go the extra mile to help newer artists get a step up. I’ve found his advice invaluable and I’m honored to have been able to meet him in person and see how he works first hand. Also, his fashion sense is fantastic. 😉

Chris Malidore
Years ago when I first began to freelance I ran into Patrick on the Epilogue gallery and recognized his name from a product that we were both in – I said hi, and ever since then he’s remained a person that I not only look up to, but love to speak with. He’s helpful and has great artistic insight. Even to this day, I refer back to wisdom and knowledge that Patrick taught me in those early years. I owe him a great deal of thanks!

Jon Hodgson
Patrick McEvoy is a machine. An art making machine. Not a coffee machine or Xerox machine. More seriously, Patrick is one of those really well grounded people who it has been a pleasure to work with, and one day I’d like to buy him a pony.

Scott Purdy
”Patrick is one of the friendliest and talented illustrators that I’ve bumped into since Ninja Mountain set it’s roots deep into the core of the earth. His vast knowledge and unwavering humour keep me listening to the NMS podcast week after week.. now, what did he say to me the other day.. oh that’s it.. he’s the ”idol of millions and Emperor of Awesome!!”
Go Patrick!”





Book Review: Draw and Paint Fantasy Females by Tom Fleming.

18 06 2010

Tom Fleming has worked as a comic artist for years, and he has recently started to explore fine arts with stunning results!

Draw and Paint Fantasy Females by Tom Fleming.

I had the luck of getting to talk to him at Pittsburgh’s Comicon, and I so wanted to buy one of his wonderful canvases! But I cannot afford it yet, and I did not want to leave without something of his, not only because I wanted something his, but also because I wanted to support somehow this great and humble artist. So I had to settle for the economic version of support and bought his new book: Draw and Paint Fantasy Females.

The book covers the basics of doing sexy fantasy females. It goes through basics of anatomy, body and face construction, expressions, pencil and watercolor techniques. It is a basic book, if you are already doing this it probably will not open your eyes to anything unexpected, if you are wanting to get started this is an easy read with understandable directions. The anatomy section is a little brief, but then, this is a very general book, not an anatomy book. There is no mention to composition either, which I find it can either make a piece succeed or ruin it.

I enjoyed very much the tutorials section, Tom walks you through a few pieces that he has done in the past and shows the techniques he uses. Some of them are a little unorthodox and I love it! I really enjoyed taking a look into his personal technique  like the use of white opaque watercolors.

I recommend this book for beginners and for those that would like to have a glimpse into this artist’s techniques. Also you cannot miss some of the photos in the book that show this fit strong armed man posing as a fantasy girl to get references of poses! 😀





Interview to Stephanie Pui Mun Law

11 05 2010

Stephanie Pui Mun Law is a watercolor artist of Chinese descent. Her watercolors are characterized by a vibrancy that is not usually associated to the medium, plus elegance, flow and a lovely mix of Asian and Celtic motifs. Stephanie was a great inspiration for me, I discovered her through a friend around 1998 and I realized that a fantasy artist with a very feminine style could earn a living and be successful. She has inspired me an many others, and her amiable personality is evident in how accessible she is.

Stephanie, what is your formal education and how did you get started in art? What was your first big gig?

I got a BA in art at UC Berkeley, though at the time it was secondary for me to studying Computer Science.  I was just taking so many art classes anyway that I figured I might as well get a degree in it while I was there. However, the art that I did there was entirely different from what I do now, as it was a Fine Art program, and focused more on abstract expressionism and conceptual installations. The few illustration-relevant courses I took were forays into the architecture and theater departments where I managed to squeeze in some classes like computer graphics, and costume design. For the most part I did my paint-throwing-and-splashing in class, and then when home at night to work on fantasy themed pieces for myself, and for various fanzines I started getting involved with at the time. My first big gig was with Wizards of the Coast, illustrating some Magic: the Gathering cards.

Dark phoenix (c) Stephanie Pui Mun Law

You favor watercolors over other media even when watercolors are not the easiest of them at all, why is that?

I had worked with acrylics in the past.  The technique I liked to employ involved laboriously prepping a canvas with many layers of gesso and sanding in between each layer. It took hours just to have the surface ready and smooth enough to my liking. Then when I finally started to paint on it, I was thinning the paints out with acrylic medium, and painting with many thin layers of glazing.

It took a while for me to realize that this technique was much more suited for watercolors! Part of the delay in coming to that realization was that watercolors were frowned on in the college classes I was taking at the time. It was looked down on as “an illustrator’s medium” and not something for serious art; and in fact the painting classes specified “any painting medium of your choice, except watercolors.” By which it meant, “oils or acrylics”.
Once I tried watercolors seriously, it was an easy switch. The technique I was using for acrylics worked so much easier and better with watercolors, and I didn’t have to spend time arduously preparing the canvas (or storing huge wooden frames for that matter!) The layering of thing glazes brings out a luminous quality that I loved.

You used to do some digital in the past but now we see none of it, why did you abandon digital art?

Well as I mentioned before, my first big gig came a few months after I graduated.  I had spent much of the previous four years starting to really enjoy working digitally in Photoshop and Painter. I did some research on various gaming companies, and sent out my portfolio to the art directors, among which was Wizards of the Coast.  I was surprised and excited when the art director for Magic: the Gathering responded. He told me that my portfolio looked pretty good, but that they didn’t really take digital art. It’s ironic and funny to hear that now isn’t it, when most art done for games seems to be digital!  He told me to send him more work when I had some traditionally painted pieces in my portfolio.

I had just started playing with watercolors, and I had a few older acrylic pieces lying around. So within a few months I whipped up enough to resubmit a portfolio of watercolor and acrylic artwork. Which resulted in getting three Magic card assignments.

By then they were accepting digital art, but I was already really starting to enjoy watercolors. So while it seems everyone else was drifting towards digital, I was swimming the other way!

I discovered your art in 1998 through a friend, besides the obvious focus on only watercolors, how do you think your art has evolved in the last 10 years? Where do you think it is going?

I like to think it’s gotten more sophisticated. I’m more conscious of what I’m doing, and so things happen more by purpose rather than accident. Anatomy has improved vastly. I’ve become more confident professionally, and so I don’t feel the need to take on every project that gets offered.  This results in a higher quality of work, because I’m picking and choosing the work that strikes a chord with me. When you feel inspired by the concept, the resulting artwork is much better! I have no idea where it’s headed, but I try to make every piece that I work on The Best. If too much time ever elapses and my favorite is still something I did a year ago, it’s time to shake things up!

Gemini (c) Stephanie Pui Mun Law

What do you find advantageous of using stylized images instead of realistic? How does the public react to that?

I’ve always preferred to take a photograph if my goal was for realism. And since I’m an awful photographer, I stick to my stylized painting! Although, it wasn’t such a deliberate thing from the start. It’s like I always tell new artists who come to me asking how they can make a style.  My answer is you don’t set out to create a style. A style is what happens to your artwork when you just draw and paint every day the subject and in the way that you like. It’s like your fingerprint. It eventually makes itself apparent in the lines and colors and compositions that appeal to you. If you try to consciously force a style, then you’re just copying someone else’s fingerprint and not finding your own voice. As for how the public reacts, it’s nice that people can see a piece of mine and instantly recognize it as mine!

Tell us about your Tarot project.

I started on the tarot art in June 2004 and finished the last painting January 2009, so it was quite a long journey!  I started on it because for years before that people had been suggesting it to me, and I felt also that it would be the perfect way to explore archetypes. The Major Arcana especially is really built around these basic archetypal characters found in so many stories.  It was a way to create my own mythos through an interface that was familiar to people. Prior to 2004 I had attempted taking part in several multi-artist decks that just didn’t find any interest from publishers for being too nebulous in focus, but the prospect of doing 78 cards entirely on my own seemed a daunting task! Eventually I decided to just dive in, and I do not regret having done so. It was a very rewarding path and though I am happy that there is cohesion from the start to the end of the project (four and a half years is quite a stretch of time and much room for the art to evolve!) I found I was still happy with the first cards by the time I finished the last.  When I look at them I can see how my work has changed but it still works as a whole.

And after the Tarot, what will be next?

The Lovers (c) Stephanie Pui Mun Law

Well I’ve been taking things at a bit of a slower pace lately. I’ve just had my first baby a few months ago and so I want to be sure my life and art are balanced. As my artist friend James Browne pointed out, you can only snuggle with the baby for a short period, but there are decades of art still waiting and ready to be painted when there’s time again. And this lull may be a time of inspiration for that future artwork.

This doesn’t mean I’m not creating art right now. I don’t think in the past 10 years I’ve ever spent more than a week without drawing of some kind.  Even when I go on vacations I look on those as opportunities to fill my travel sketchbook with some on-site drawings.

These days I’ve been doing a lot of ink drawing. Inks are nice and portable. I can start and stop easily. And flailing baby-hands won’t knock over cups of paint-water! I’m working on putting together another self-published book as a companion to “The Art of Shadowscapes Tarot: Major Arcana” that I put out last year. This one is for the Minor Arcana. And though it’s mostly featuring the color tarot artwork I already created, I supplement it with a whole lot of new ink drawings and sketches as well. It’s a fun project, and something that I can work on in my own time since there are no art directors looming over me.

I plan on some other self published projects as well in the future, perhaps pairing some of my short stories with illustrations.

I’ve also got another technique book due out this year from Impact Books.  It’s tentatively titled Dreamscapes: Myth & Magic at this time. I have been poring over the manuscript these past weeks, proofreading and making edits before sending it back to the publisher.

You are a successful artist that sells her products regularly and has a good following public, what advice can you give to people that would like to do art for a living?
This is something that is really hard for many people, how do you price your work?

It’s tough, and a combination of many things. Primary is how long the piece took me to create. Work and effort have to be paid off at least to make it worthwhile to sell.  If nothing else, you can just decide what your hourly rate is and figure your materials and time spent, and come to a price calculation that way.  I’m usually much more casual about deciding though, and it’s an estimation that combines the size and complexity of a piece.

And then there are several more nebulous things I take into consideration.  Sometimes I know a piece just won’t really sell easily — usually because it’s a game commission and of a subject matter that may have been really fun for me to create, and great for the game, but just not something that people really want to have hanging on their walls.

Pieces that I know will have a high demand for (again due to the subject matter) can command a higher price. If I’m posting artwork on my site that 3 people simultaneously try to purchase before I can even check my email in order to update the sale status, I know it’s priced too low and can accordingly adjust when I create similar work in the future.  If on the other hand it just sits around for years, then I know I need to lower the price. Sometimes I’ll lower prices just because I’m tired of seeing a piece, and I want to be able to move on from it completely (which means selling it and removing it from my website as well!) so that I can get on with the newer (and better) work.

Occasionally there are pieces that I really don’t want to part with, and they’ll have a higher price because then it becomes a matter of my effort gone into it, as well as my personal attachment.

Neither Collar nor Crown (c) Stephanie Pui Mun Law

There had been some events in the past that made you take radical turns in your career. Were you keeping a hopeful attitude in those moments or you were freaking out?

Actually I was pretty deliberate about it all. Aside from the familial strife it initially caused, things went mostly according to plan. So I guess let me back up and explain what The Plan was!

As I mentioned, I was studying Computer Science in college. My senior year I went to a career fair, getting ready for that not too distant graduation. After spending hours wandering the stalls and handing my resume to numerous tech companies, I headed back to my apartment. I was glum, but not sure why.

After taking a moment to examine my own frame of mind, I realized it was because though I did enjoy programming, the thought of doing that and not art as my career made me profoundly depressed. So I started thinking about what I could do about it. Three   options seemed logical.

I could take a job with a computer game company. I had a few offers, both as either a programmer, or as an artist. But neither was really what I wanted. It would be a compromise to attempt to find some middle ground of art and my technical schooling.  I wanted to paint, not write heavily mathematical programs to render, or create textures and models. What I really enjoy is telling my own story in a painted scene.

I could see about going to art school to do the type of artwork I wanted to (instead of a degree in paint splattering that I had). The Academy of Art was conveniently in San Francisco. After a tour of the campus, I was excited, but also aghast to hear that it would cost as much per year for a MA there as I could get by taking one of the software jobs being offered me.

Or I could go ahead and accept one of the programmer jobs, and burn the midnight oil to make my own way.  I would have income to spend on attending conventions and exploring different avenues. I would have to seriously submit my portfolio to companies, and make my very amateur looking website into something polished. I gave myself a two year deadline if I were to follow this route, because even then I realized it might be far too easy just to stay in a comfortable software job once I got started.

Three years later, after following the third path, some events in my personal life conspired to take me to Japan for a short stint. A side effect being that I took an extended leave of absence from my software job. I probably could have left Plumtree Software at my original two year deadline.  By then my website was doing quite well for selling prints, and I had some regular clients I was doing illustration work for, as well as a steady stream of private commissions. At any rate, I took my leave of absence, and then never went back to software, even though I came back to the US six weeks later.

On Hopeful Wings (c) Stephanie Pui Mun Law

What drives you to go on during hard times?

I hope I don’t jinx it by saying so, but I have been blessed so far not to really experience any hard times! I feel that I have been very lucky because I create the art that I want to create — I do it for myself. And I am

very fortunate that for some reason people actually want to buy these creations that I do for love.

Has motherhood changed things?

It has in that my production level has slowed for the time being, and I’ve been doing a lot more pen and ink work rather than watercolors.  But I have also been greatly inspired by the whole experience, and already it has made its mark in many of the personal pieces I’ve created in the past year.

Do you realize that you inspire a lot of people (including me) to take art more seriously and to try to make it as fantasy artists?

Thank you!  It’s an honor to hear that. I have been inspired by many artists as well, and just as so many of them were extremely helpful and friendly and encouraging to me when I was starting out, I hope to be able to do that for others as well.

Liiga Smilshkalne
Stephanie is easily one of my favorite artists out there. She has a very distinct style, that manages to combine a beautiful flow with many interesting details. And of course she mostly draws natury stuff, which is major brownie points in my book.

Jessica Douglas
Steph is so utterly charming. She is one of the sweetest ladies out there and when you couple that with her amazing artistic skills… well she’s pretty incredible. I don’t know her as well as I would like to, but I do know that she’s a delightful person, with incredible depths to her personality.

Suzanne Gyseman
Hi there! I admire Stephanie’s work immensely. It is very graceful and flowing, with a wonderful use of colour and medium.





2009-2010: the year in review

5 05 2010

Hi! I know it is rather late to make a ‘year in review’ post. But this last year and a half has been really intense, with a wedding and two part time jobs (plus art) so there has not been a lot of art done in the second part of 2009 and also not much time to analyze things. Besides, I live in the academia calendar, so my year finishes in May 😉

Longing for Spring (c) Constanza Ehrenhaus.

So, how has this year treated me? Rather well, I must say. My blog visits grew consistently and I am hitting 1500+ views per month, which is not bat at all! Last year in April I had 334 views and I was happy 🙂 Given that I do not write about politics or sex I would say that it is a very healthy increment, and I am hoping to keep publishing at least one post per week to keep the viewers happy.

I also started writing interviews for the Artist Spotlight column in EMG-zine, which I consider awesome! You guys have no idea how nice it feels to be able to interview great artists! So far it has been great, everybody has been super nice and accepted to answer my questions. This also gives me a very good opportunity for networking, since a have a good excuse to approach artists worldwide 😉

Also, with Ellen Million, I became an editor for Fantastic Portfolios (FP), a great place not only to showcase your awesome fantasy art, but also to get great critiques and push yourself to improve your artwork. The premise of FP is that there is always room for improvement. So come over and join us!

Earlier this year I took for the second time the Creative Direction Workshop. The workshop is mainly aimed to cover artists, but the incredible people teaching it know so much that they are a source of  knowledge and inspiration regardless of what your artistic area is. I did learn much, and have been implementing techniques learned there not only to improve my art but also to make my work faster.

I feel that my art has been improving slowly but surely through 2009-2010, I am very pleased with some of my images and I have not started to hate them the next day after publishing them. Commissions have been slowly building up, which is nice, and this year I got the first commissions coming my way on their own. I usually put a lot of time into finding people who want art to be done for them, it’s the way this works. But it feels really good when someone knocks at *your* door instead! 😀 Those two commissions came to me because of this blog. So people, if you have a blog, keep it updated!

And, oh, yes! I sold my first print through DA this week! Ain’t it awesome? I am so giddy about that! Whoever did it has made me so happy! I send my buyer a big hug!!

That is all for right now, I hope next year I can also give you a load of positive improvements. Thank you very much for accompanying me in this journey, people, there is no way I could do this without you and your wonderful support!





The making of a tattoo

17 04 2010

As you might know one of the things I really enjoy doing is designing tattoos. I enjoy the process and the close interaction with the client. My last tattoo design was done for this beautiful lady and I want to share the process with you.

Medusa by Kimberly Crick

V. contacted me because she had seen my Goddess Tattoo and wanted something in the same style, but unique. She knew very much what she wanted and was very specific about it which made my life

easier because it got me designing with a very clear direction in mind. She showed me an image by artist Kimberly Crick that she really liked and wanted it to be the basis for my illustration. She also mentioned she wanted a moon, a Celtic knot, maybe a star and three flowers in the illustration: Marigold, rose and lotus. So I searched for references of those images both as illustrations and as photos:

samples of references used in the makin of Flowers Goddess tattoo

Samples of references used in the making of Flowers Goddess tattoo. The image showing la Catrina in "Dia de los Muertos" belongs to artist Kiriko Moth http://kiriko-moth.com/blog/ and has been used to study the flow of marigold petals only.

I did a few sketches and send them to her. For her to choose from. At this point the sketches are unrefined but they show the placement of different objects we could use in the final composition.

Rough preliminary sketches. (c) Constanza Ehrenhaus.

This is the moment in which my adrenaline is running high. I always fear that I completely missed the point and the client will not want any of the sketches, that I will be sent back to the drawing board with empty hands trying to reinvent the concept. Luckily, V. was happy with the images and we got to mix and match sketches 1,2 and 3.

Flowers Goddess sketch for V (c) Constanza Erenhaus 2010

I reorganized the parts and inked the sketch we arrived to. I think the vines on her hair are lost in the strands of hair.  My client wanted the Goddess to have a rhinoplasty and lips enhancement 🙂 and to have the lotus to look more real, since the flowers were a crucial part of the tattoo.

I reworked the image and offered her two options for the lotus. Finally we got to the final image, which I am very proud of 🙂

Flowers Goddess tattoo (c) Constanza Ehrenhaus.

Now the next step is completely not in my hands, which is to find a good tattoo artist. The election of a good (as opposed to cheap) tattoo artist not only takes into consideration hygiene but also the fact that you will not end in World Ugliest Tattoos (NSFW). Fortunately V. found an excellent artist and now she has a beautiful rendition of this design.

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This is all for now! Enjoy the lovely Spring weather!

tattoo on V's skin. I love it!

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Medusa image by Kimberly Crick

Dia de los Muertos image by Kiriko Moth





Interview to Jessica Douglas

22 03 2010

Sin by Jessica Douglas

Jessica Douglas is a traditional artist owner of a very particular style both as a person and an artist. Her flowy and delicate images sometimes contrast with her blunt and sincere opinions about artists‘ rights, though both her art and her mind possess a wonderful energy and passion that are transmitted with all honesty through the screen.
Let me invite you to read this very interesting interview to Jess.

Do you have any formal training in art?
Yes. I studied at the Visual Arts Institute in Utah, every art class my elementary/secondary and high school classes could give me, and several years at the Orange Coast community college. However the majority of my growth came from taking private lessons from mentors such as Arthur Roberg and Mike Dringenburg. Without them, I wouldn’t be nearly as far in my art studies as I am now.

How long did you start to work as a professional artist?
Mmm… It kind of varies. I’m one of those people who work for a while, and then go on hiatus to study new things, before going back to work. At one point I stopped art all together to learn custom framing (a skill EVERY artist should not only learn, but master). I was first published when I was twelve, and had working artistic gigs on and off from that point on. Usually building sets, doing commissions, building props, etc. Unfortunately it was never -steady- work, so I can’t say ‘since I was twelve’.  I officially started to list myself as a professional artist when I was twenty two.

What would you say have been your biggest success? And your most rewarding project?
My successes are few and far between, to be honest. I prefer little things, like remembering to get out of bed on time in the morning so I’m not flying out the door with two minutes to get the kids to school. That’s a big success. The day I managed to break through a two year long art block to actually do art, that was another success. I’ll feel pretty successful if I can get off my butt and get my house clean.
The problem is, I’m not real in touch with the things most people consider important. When I illustrated a Garth Nix story, it took about a year before I found out it’d won all kinds of awards/acclaim. And all I could say was ‘who’s Garth Nix?’ Some people would say doing that illustration project was a ‘big success’ but for me it was… just another job. The things closer to home are what really make me smile. The first time I won an award at an art show (as an adult, not including high school things) I was overjoyed and grinning for WEEKS. It was for best fiber art, and it was even more important to me because one of my mentors had been one of the judges. That was sort of… an affirmation that he felt I truly had come a long way from the girl he first took in to learn anatomy. To anyone else it wouldn’t be an important award, but for me it validated everything I’ve done.
To date, my most rewarding project is my ongoing project to illustrate my children’s hopes and dreams. And the project I’m working on with my father, to do a collaborative book/illustration set together. He’s a great writer, and it’s an honor to work with him.

Peacock Butterfly by Jessica Douglas

Why are watercolors your medium of choice?
They’re actually not. Prismacolor pencils are. I am a bit of a texture phobe. I dislike the feel of clay on my hands, I don’t like the grit of charcoal, pastels make me shudder the way nails on chalkboards get to people. So do erasers. Oil paint makes me nauseous and acrylics make me think of slime. Watercolors are gritty and irritate me but at least they wash off easily. So basically my own irritation at the textures of all these mediums caused me to stay isolated as a pencil artist. I have learned how to USE those mediums, don’t get me wrong, and I have an intense appreciation for artists who can use them well. They just drive me up the wall.
My mentor, Mike, eventually told me I had to get over it, because he was sick of grainy backgrounds in a lot of my pieces, and he wanted to see my work larger. So I bowed down to his skill and knowledge and tried my hands at watercolors. The texture still makes me very frowny in the face, but I do like how it blends with pencils, so I stick with it.

Usually people associate watercolors with vague, splotchy, mild colored-landscapes. How do you achieve such vibrancy and definition in your work?
Uh. I don’t suck? Ahah… no, I’m sorry that was a terrible answer. Well first off, I really really really hate doing landscapes. I can’t express that enough. I dislike landscape art, landscapes in general and wide open vistas. They’re just so… blah… to me. So that’s why you don’t get landscapes out of me.
As for the vibrancy, watercolors are paint, like any other paint. They use the same pigments, just a different binding item so it’s not waterfast. The only reason why you see so many pastel watercolors is because too many people use pastel colors and -cheap- cake watercolors, then water them down like crazy. I use tube watercolors and try to dilute the pigment as little as possible. There are also mediums you can use that do the same thing as water does, but doesn’t dilute the pigment. There’s no REASON for a watercolor to be pastelly, unless you intentionally want it to be.

The themes in your artwork are varied: from flower faeries to apocalypse warriors. What inspires you?
Whatever’s around me? Also a lot of times my commissioner dictates what I draw. Right now I’m working on a Mecha commission. Bet you didn’t see that coming. I’ve got a huge list in my house of anything that popped into my head as ‘oh hey that’s a cool idea!’ eventually I’ll get to it all. It’d be pretty sad if I was only inspired by one thing, at least I think so.

Aopcalypse: War by Jessica Douglas

Love seems to be always present, either as romantic love or friendship, why is love so important in your work?
No clue. I’m not a particularly romantic person. I don’t like romances, I’m not fond of romance movies. My movie of choice is a good old fashioned zombie flick. But it shows up quite a bit. I’ve yet to figure it out.

What is your favourite series to work on?
Currently? Or in the past? My past series that I liked the most was my apocalypse one. I’m currently working on doing the same thing, but deifying the plagues of Egypt. I’m also working on the book with my father, which is creepy fairy tales, and THAT is fun.

Despite being an atheist person, your work shows a lot of religious imagery, why is this?
I was a religious studies major at one point. I find religion absolutely fascinating. Do I believe in it? No. Do I think it’s some of the most amazing sources for visual inspiration ever? Yes. I like looking at it and seeing the way religion moves people, the way symbols affect how someone thinks about a society.
Take a look at the Mormon Church sometime. There’s a TON of controversy over the symbols around it. For the people in that church, they have profound, spiritual meaning. For others, they are signs of occultism and witchcraft, as well as Masonic leanings. Or look at the swastika. Hitler has claimed that sign rather well, but for the culture it came from, it had deep meaning.
Angels are another thing that fascinate me, why sticking wings on something is universally accepted as ‘a messenger of god’. Not just human type angels, but other bird messengers like crows, owls, etc. I usually wonder WHY it moves people and what would happen if I drew something… this way. Would it offend everyone? Would it convey the same message I think it would? What would happen? And can a piece of art, done by someone who has no religious preferences, still be significant to someone who’s deeply religious? Would it be possible to do ONE piece of art that actually has meaning across… all the religions?
It all comes down to me going ‘what if’, and wondering what would happen. Religion just seems to be my ‘what if’ trigger point.

You seem to draw a lot of your strength from your friends, how do you feel that internet friendship is different from real life friendship?
Well considering I know almost all of my internet friends in real life as well, I don’t see them as separate at all. I’ve been very blessed in having met quite a few people who are honest about who they are online, and in person. So it’s more like… being able to talk to your friends all the time, instead of only on the rare times I leave my house. We all meet up in person now and again, and… nothing’s changed. We’re the same people online that we are offline.

Your relationship with DA seems to be turbulent. What are the things that bother you about it?
Woo that’s putting it mildly. I’ve actually expressed myself, in detail, to the administration of Deviantart about exactly what upsets me. I don’t think that they’re out to ‘OMFG steal my art’, but I do think there are certain policies and ways of speaking that they need to change. Having an administrator call people who disagree with them ‘tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theorists’ is insulting to say the least, as well as completely unprofessional.
To date my only real issue with them is the tracing policy. Deviantart likes to style itself as a place of learning, and wants to take some of the fair use rights granted to educators to put into their policies. The only way I will agree with that, is if DA stops being a business, and gets their education licensing. Until THAT happens, I will continue to disagree with them. The fair use rights given to pop artists? Now that I actually agree with Deviantart on, and think it IS in their rights to protect the pop artists (though if a court rules against them on a particular piece, it’s still going to have to go). It’s just… you can’t take educators rights of use if you’re a business. I’m sorry. You can’t. It even says so in the fair use act.

What is the good that you find in DA as to still remain there?
The people. Not so much the administration. I think the admins have gotten a little out of touch with reality. But the people who watch over my gallery, my fan base if you will, are really important to me. They make me smile, they make me laugh. They bring me up when I’m feeling like my work has no merit. When I have something random to say, and I want to share it, I know that somewhere in my watchers is someone who’ll laugh with me. And that’s what keeps me there.

Jess by Adri
Jess has been a good friend of mine for a few years now, and I don’t think there’s been a time within those years that I wasn’t thankful to have her as a friend. She is a very talented artist, quite imaginative with her composition and ideas, and knows how to wrangle her media to the point that I believe it’s all second nature. Jess is always ready to help, or to give bits of advice and critique if asked as well. I can testify to that, mostly because whenever I personally have stumbled or struggled with something art-wise, she’s always been happy to redline for me or offer suggestion. All in all Jess is a wonderful person, and a spectacular artist whom I am fortunate enough to call my friend.

Jess by Kyme-chan
I “met” Jess by chance by reading one of her journals: I had known her work for a while, but there I discovered someone genuinely honest, straight-forward and enthusiastic at many levels. Jess is not only talented but she’s always ready to help others, share her experience, give tips and advice to beginners and professional artists alike, and she’s an inspiration to many of us!