Interview with Marley Mcleay

16 03 2011

Image (c) Marley Mcleay

Marley, as an artist living in New Zealand, do you find that there are any advantages and disadvantages to living “on the other side of the world”?

Good Question, there are many facets to this and so many things have popped in mind so ill try to be coherent, hehe

The art scene in New Zealand has a better infrastructure overall now than when i was growing up. The Government in the past ten years has placed a lot more emphasis into developing talent across a whole range of artistic endeavors from performance to visual art to music. (I am especially appreciative of New Zealand music now, it really is starting to stand on its own two feet).

Alternatively, this also has coincided with the “Internet” and/or the “Electronic Age” kicking into peoples psyches so there has also been a connection to the “outside” world and bringing the best the world has to offer (artistically especially) into ones living room.

I think to an extent our geographical location (or isolation) has been very beneficial in my experience. I was 22 before the Internet etered my life. By this stage i had my lifes experiences(which includes a diploma in visual arts), influences and ethics and very much an identity set well in place before being introduced to the world standard of Fantasy Art via the Net, I think this is a good thing.

What are your tools of choice when doing art?

Well growing up it was certainly Pencils and Blue Biro’s (ball point pens). Although i never grasped the concept of painting in layers and having the patience for paint to dry so i avoided Oils and Acrylics like the plague. Interestingly enough When i was introduced to Photoshop back in the 60s….*cough* sorry i mean back in 1999 i was in love. Photoshop allowed me to experiment safely without having to worry about pigment bleeding or mud. These days primarily Photoshop 7 and a Wacom Graphire 4.

Your images have a blend of sci-fi, fantasy and surrealism. What were your artistic inspirations?

Right from the get go STAR TREK haha. at the age of 4 i remember seeing a trailer for “Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock”. It had the glimpse of the Enterprise, everything from its organic circular shapes to the colours of the red impulse engines to the blue deflector array underneath, it was virtually a warm fuzzy feeling in the chest when i first gazed upon it.

My lovely mum had also a lot of Isaac Asimov novels with illustrations from Chris Foss on the covers with seemingly gigantic larger than life spacecraft and landscapes.

As a teen, video games such as the “Mortal Kombat” series were heavily influential. Full of rich and very ambient environments with equally impressive moody soundtracks. Mortal Kombats 2 and 3 were a favourite of mine for many years.



While your art has always been stunning, lately it shows more dynamism and higher visual impact. How did your style evolve into what it is today?

WOW thank you very much for the compliment, thats great. As a child it was almost exclusively science fiction scenes and battles. As a teen going through high school, I started to take in other influences from friends and of course artists recommended by tutors.. I now was into Max Ernst, Maurits Escher and a New Zealand artist by the name of Silvia Siddel. Her work is just gorgeous, at about this time my art went quite surreal.

When the internet entered my life, I started to take note that Photoshop really was an amazing illustrative program. I previously used the tool to manipulate photos and such to create surrealistic landscapes.

Seeing works by artists such as Socar Myles, Gary Tonge and Linda Bergkvist steered me more towards the art i grew up with again, with tinges of my surrealistic influences left.

The colors in your images are amazing, very nontraditional! How do you come with those combinations?

Image (c) Marley Mcleay

You know, Initially I had no Rhyme nor Reason for the colours i choose, I just selected them because they looked cool. It actually felt incorrect until people starting commenting on how well i deal with colour, which to me was perplexing haha. I guess you could say the majority of the time its all Intuitive and over time gaining experience and memorizing which works with what. I was taught the rules of the colour wheel many a time but that knowledge for some reason never sunk in, I’d always forget and or loose patience with them.

Besides your colors, I love how strong your compositions are. What are the rules you follow to develop good compositions?

Gosh very good question. Really the only written rules i try to follow is the rule of thirds and the various point perspectives. When doing landscapes, I like to use 2 point perspective most times, sometimes using a third point to exagerate forced angles for architecture for eg. But while placement of objects is still random, I use the rule of thirds to line up the dominant objects or subject matter (i.e Spaceship or Character). I find it easier to guide the eye and capture the type of angles i am after..A few times i have actually used lines of intersection in a triangular formation, but i never really developed an intuition for that.



Would you like to make a living as an artist?

That was the dream for many years, and matte painting was at the top of my list. But lately i now wish for other things to happen in my life and perhaps allow the odd commission from time to time. The thought of slaving away in front of a computer for literally hours on end day in day out has become less attractive, especially in recent times, i am not a fan of seeing dark circles under my eyes, i think i look terrible with them hahaha.

Image (c) Marley Mcleay

Do the storms in your homeland inspire some of your pieces?

Storms and weather in general has been the other big passion in my life, i just jump for joy when a thunderstorm comes for a visit, If ever i should win lotto, i shall be booked on a plane and chasing storms in America. In an artistic sense not so much storms but beautiful cloud formations in general are very influential. From a visual standpoint, movies such as “The Ten Commandments”, “Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan” and “Flash Gordon” (1980) “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Never Ending Story” all utilize the “Cloud Tank” to create atmospheric effects, Typically these are the movies i remember most from my youth.

Star Wars or Star Trek?

Mary Poppins hahaha. No, “Trek” by a country mile for me. Trek was not only visiually more engaging for me but i was also in love with the musicians that contributed to the series. Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner for instance. More left of field than the now traditional sound of John Williams


Avatar visuals?

And AVATAR Sound ;). What can i say, aside from feeling slightly nauseous in the first 10 minutes (it was my first 3d movie), It had been a looong time since i was lost in a fantasy world like i was with this movie. Easier on the eye than the Star Wars prequels, which is jam packed full of visual noise and nonsense. It was immersive, colourful and inspiring and of course had a grand sense of scale to everything. I felt the virtigo of being atop “Hometree” and the loss when it was felled. Great movie and stunning on Blu-Ray i might add.

Where can the readers find your art?

I say to everybody, just google my name and the galleries that i am on appear. I have appeared in 2 issues of Imagine FX one in the readers gallery in issue 8 (has a portrait of a beautiful alien female on the cover by John Kearney) and one other issue i am not sure of which is quite helpful isn’t it?.

More recently i was invited to showcase my art in the web magazine entitled “Visual Arts Illustrated” I believe i am in the current issue for June 2010, it is released bi monthly.

Image (c) Marley Mcleay




Chris Malidore 

I always look forward to Marley’s work, the spacious scenes and brilliant colors instantly suck you in to whatever world he’s just created. I find myself often pondering about what sort of culture he’s just created with his image… and for me that’s a powerful mood setter. Top this all off with a friendly and enjoyable approach and you get one of my favorite people to speak with. I offer many thanks to Marley for his creations and eagerly look forward to more.



Rita Ria

Marley’s work is just wonderful and so very unique. His choice of color always makes me in awe. Esp. his two latest works just puts me in outer space, in completely different but beautiful worlds. His imagination and artistic skills are fabulous. Knowing his work for some years now, made me see his massive improvement and I hope I can see many more new artwork from him, which I can enjoy.

Interview with Katherine Wadey

16 09 2010

Katherine Wadey is a multifaceted artist that can face projects involving abstract, figurative, fantasy, religion, digital or traditional media. All her art is  full of beauty and vibrancy and her gentle and motherly character makes her well loved and respected by many artists in the web. I don’t think I ever got so many people wanting to comment about her, and that in itself says a lot.

(c) Katherine Wade

Kate, do you have formal training in art?

I started high school as an art major. Dad was transferred in the middle of my freshman year and I couldn’t get back to it until I was a senior. I did acquire an Associate in Arts Degree with an emphasis on graphics, rather than illustration, and a minor in archaeology and anthropology, before I had to get a full-time job outside of school.

Was your family supportive of you pursuing an art career?

Not exactly. We moved a lot because of dad’s job, and art materials were considered a luxury item that could put us over the designated weight limit for our household goods.  There were several teachers in the family, one of whom was a retired art teacher at/from The Chouinard Art Institute. The emphasis, my mother and both grandmothers were teachers, was on “teacher”. Art was OK as something to do after one’s chores, and homework, were done.

How would you describe yourself as an artist? Who would you say were your main influences?

As an artist, I’m all over the place. I love shoving color around just as much as I enjoy doodling landscapes and creatures. The earliest were Tyrus Wong, whoever in the Disney studios illustrated a “Little Golden Book” titled “Grandpa Bunny”, and Yoshinobu Sakakura’s beautiful illustrations in “Old Tales of Japan, Volume 1”. Later major influences were Arthur Rackham, di Lodovico Buonarroti Simon, Virgil Finlay, Kelly Freas, and Neal Adams.

Some people think that religious people are against representations of fantasy creatures as mermaids and dragons. How do you reconcile both fantasy art and religion?

Most of the time, I don’t bother, beyond not forcing it on people who have made it plain to me that “that sort of nonsense” makes them decidedly uncomfortable. Fantastic, I am using the old definition here, creatures have been a part of Christian religious art ever since the first artist monk tried to illustrate the third chapter of the book of Genesis or the book of Revelations. Dragons and mermaids peek out of ornamental capitals and borders of many copies of The Book of Hours, frescoes in the Sistine Chapel and others, and modern allegorical written works, such as C. S. Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles. Dragons are one way to view the serpent in the Garden who, as stated in the Bible, walked upright before the fall. Mermaids, unicorns, centaurs and the rest, are pretty much in the category of “what I thought I saw in that quick glimpse” as drawn from the description of the “viewer” by someone who wasn’t there at the time of said glimpse.

How does your religious and spiritual life affect your art?

I think that that part of my life is one of the reasons I prefer to paint or draw images that reflect the beauty and wonder in the universe. As someone who grew up in the Cold War

(c) Katherine Wade

years, often apart from most of civilian society, and has lived in an area that was a bit violence prone, I feel it is vital to learn to see the world, and the people in it, through the fears and stereotypical masks we often use as defenses, or more sadly, weapons. I see no reason to paint or draw mankind’s violence of any kind as an end in itself. If I do draw it, as I did in “Damage”, the message is blatantly “this is not a good thing because…..”

I have seen you working both figurative and abstract art masterfully. Also you seem to be as comfortable with traditional art as with digital. What attracts you of each?

Thank you for those kind words. Actually, I fight my way through figurative work because I have a screaming need to be able to give the illusion of life to my humanoid figures, as well as to the animal based creatures, which I can much more easily draw. I seem to be addicted to colour. Abstracts, which I find to be enormous fun, give me the ability to explore emotions, spatial relationships, volume, and mass, without the distraction of poor anatomy rendering. I love the feel, flexibility, and smells of oils; the many ways acrylics can be used; the precision of technical pens; and the portability and tidiness of coloured pencils and markers. As my children arrived and grew, with my studio space in a corner of our living room, working with traditional media became more and more stressful. With digital media I no longer have to worry about dropped brushes, spills, smears across the art, the kids getting the media on themselves, or set-up and clean-ups. Best of all, I can get the final art to the clients much faster this way.

Tell us about your stained glass-abstract art project.

When it was decided, in the late 1970s, to enlarge the sanctuary of our church, a request went out to the artists in the congregation to submit designs that might be used in the windows in the new building. I decided, at that time, they would be rather non-objective so that viewers would not be caught up in the “but that’s now how they looked” syndrome, and totally miss the point of the image. I submitted three designs, Crucifixion (in a rectangular frame), Sermon on the Mount, and Two Dispensations. None of our submitted designs were used; but by then I had painted Nativity and The Woman at the Well in acrylics on canvas, both as gifts, and Two Dispensations, which I still own. Shortly thereafter, our pastor commissioned, and I completed, Sermon on the Mount as an acrylic on canvas piece for his home. That was the end of it. Then, in 2006, I started recreating all of the designs using Photoshop as note card designs, with the scripture references on the back. I am aiming for twelve pieces, to become a calendar. Throughout all of this I have tried to be mindful of the strictures of working in glass, so that the pieces may actually be built as windows.

Among many other things, you have done some game art. What can you tell people that want to get into that discipline?

After having been a RPG player for years, I rather fell into those jobs through friends who worked in the industry; however, Steve Jackson Games posts their Artist’s Guidelines on their website and Wizards of the Coast lists job openings. If you want to work for a particular game company, do your homework as well as working on your art skills. Get your portfolio in proper order. Research their websites for job openings or artist /author guidelines. As with any industry, find out what the company you want to work for wants, and how they expect it to be presented to them. If you can get to the conventions and industry shows where the art directors are likely to be, find out if they are reviewing portfolios, if they aren’t, but are there to chat with the gamers and public, then by all means chat, politely. If these are the folks you want for your bosses, listen to them, and learn.

(c) Katherine Wade

I know that you and your family have been going through some rough times recently, how has that affected your artwork? Do you find art to be cathartic or more of a burden in hard times?

Well, when it started, the whole family was so emotionally drained and physically tired  for about four months that my youngest daughter, with whom I share art space and supplies, simply put our active traditional media projects away to keep them protected until we could work again. Once again I am extremely grateful for clients who are both understanding and patient. I am also very lucky, in that what I am working on now is aimed at private collections, and therefore has no print release deadlines. As to whether art is cathartic or more of a burden in hard times, it really is a bit of both. It is absolutely wonderful to be able to get a project properly completed, no matter how small. It is also incredibly frustrating to get focused in on a piece and get a call that means packing it up and dealing with the current situation, which really is more important, at this time.

What would be a favourite piece of yours and why?

I find October Country a bit amazing, actually. It is one of those pieces that sort of ran out of my paintbrush and took on a life of its own while I was working on it. It was a college art assignment, painted on chipboard, a cheap cardboard, using the kind of cheap tempera paint that used to be used in grade schools. My teacher told me, as he handed it back after grading, that the low grade he had to record was because it didn’t follow the assignment, not because it was a poor painting. It went on to win a couple of art show awards. My mother and one of my best friends wanted it. My parents had it framed and hung prominently in their home. After my parents passed away, my friend bought it for her home. It has neither faded nor deteriorated appreciably during all those years.

What is so special about centaurs?

In 1973 a friend, who has been known to create incredibly beautiful sculptures using dental tools, and I agreed that I should create a series of centaur drawings, a favorite subject

(c) Katherine Wade

of his, as payment for one of his sculptures. Four years later, with the piece paid in full, and as a result of several more “centaur societal concepts” that had been sparked by the art trade, I released a set of eight pen and ink prints. Shortly after that, the full colour drawings, Daddy and then Mommy were commissioned, one Christmas after the other. Those were followed by commissions of a belly dancing centaur, and Make My Day, Mate. I seem to have centaurs and dragons yelling “paint me!” in the back of my brain. They’re a raucous lot.

Where can the readers find your art? Will you be doing conventions?

My art can be found on my website at, which I am a bit behind in updating, because coding gives me nightmares, and time to work on it doesn’t exist right now. That is also why my newest pieces, both complete and WIPS, may be seen at There are also a few pieces up in galleries at and, but my time has been so constrained, I haven’t been able to really participate in those sites nearly as much as I would like.

Yes, I will be doing conventions this year. I will be sharing Artist Alley table space at Anime Expo in Los Angeles and I have a space in the Dealers’ Room at LosCon. Other than that I hope to have work in the ComicCon in San Diego, again this year. Westercon, in Pasadena is still up in the air as it is scheduled the same days as Anime Expo, but I apparently need to be there, as well.

Angela Sasser
“I know Kate from our ongoing interactions within the DeviantART community (and now also through other online means). Not only is Kate a talented artist, but also one of those special people who always encourages others to succeed. That combination of community spirit, creativity, and kind words makes each interaction with her a gift to read.”

Christine Griffin
“She’s far wiser than I could ever hope to be; her eye for design leaves me in the dust. I can always count on Kate to have valuable information and opinion on just about any subject under the sun. I respect her, and am more than lucky to name her among my dearest on-line friends!”

Linda Smith
From what I know of Kate online. I think she is a wonderfully talented artist. Her talents lie in the use of many different mediums. My favorite pieces of hers is the Lion she did in acrylic. She is very sweet and always takes time to comment on other peoples work.

Diego Faustro
I think she’s a a great artist who knows how to mix nature with fantasy and really make it work. Every animal in this world has a “human” factor that she expresses very well within her pictures.

Karyn Lewis
When I think of Kate’s art, I think of elegance. Like the stained glass designs she sometimes creates, there’s something clear and precise and pure about her art. Her work gives off a feeling of serenity; and so does she, always with a supportive or calming word to her online friends.

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 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.

Interview to Priscilla Hernandez

13 04 2010

Priscilla is a Spanish artist whose music depicts highly fantastic themes, and her shows are very visual, with fairy wings and medieval cloaks. She has been very brave through her life, facing sickness, deciding against a conventional career to do music and rejecting record companies so she could keep creating the music she loves. All who know Priscilla are enchanted by her, let me tempt you to be enchanted next

So you actually went to college for molecular biology. I have known of many people (me included) that find a fascination for science and art. What would you think to be the link between the two of them, or why do you feel attracted to both of them?

I confess it was never my intention to get involved in a scientific career, can’t remember very well the way I finally got into it. I always was quite brilliant in my qualifications and by then my family didn’t want me to squander my life studying arts.

In all I do, even for arts, I do admit that I have a scientific approach to things, and I don’t regret to have done it. In fact, I finished it with honors but somehow once I finished the bond to art was stronger, and biology forced me to put it aside again at least for awhile. I love animal life (though my specialty was Molecular Biology) and somehow all the animal subjects I loved also helped me to have a more realistic approach to details as wings, animal anatomy and all sort of things I never expected to put into fantastic artworks. The call of my artistic side (both music and art) was just to strong… so I stepped into the wild forest again.

When did you decide that you wanted to live as an artist and why did you finish your studies in biology?

I always liked to write stories, then to draw them. Actually I think Im a better scripter than illustrator, but that part worked for me as a whole. Eventually poetry became music and the train of music became my strongest point when coming to live from my art. When being a teenager I had the dream of drawing, be part of a animation company, or create my own short movies (I did some amateur approach to that). I got a grant to work in an animation company when I turned 18 but my father was an artist and he didn’t want that struggling way of life for me. I do understand his point of view, though it was certainly a mistake from him to drive me to another direction, and from me to let myself be driven.

I started medicine and eventually I moved and finished my studies in animal biology and Genetics… still in the middle of it all I really fell sick for a couple of years and that made me think a lot about life, and about happiness, and about my own spirit. I went back and finished because I’m the kind of person that needs to get to the end of things (sooner or later all my unfinished things will come to an end, hopefully).

Besides singing and composing, you also paint, are you self taught in those areas?

Yes, I am self taught in almost everything I do (LOL!) but I wish I had instruction. I think to be taught enhances any potential that you can have, it polishes it, let’s say. Things are as they are and I hope that now as I’m emerging again as a visual artist I work enough to improve. I really enjoy doing both things. I can’t remember a time I didn’t compose songs or draw but I’ve had long times of resting without doing it. A few years before releasing Ancient Shadows I became very active in music and somehow I gained quite a success for a newcomer, somehow that drove me a little away from drawing (even if the album has quite a lot of my illustrations). Many of my listeners and followers actually still ignore that I’m a fantasy artist too, they only see the stage “persona”. I want to mingle them both, to make my on stage show a bit more derived from my art. Still need to investigate how to do it though.

The faeries gift by Priscilla Hernandez

Priscilla, I read that much of your inspiration comes from your experiences with sleep paralysis; can you explain our readers what is that condition about?

Yes, I have severe sleep paralysis. Actually I have also temporal lobe epilepsy which affects and triggers my sleep paralysis to be even weirder. Sleep paralysis is not so uncommon though my case is rather severe as I have it quite vividly and too often since I was a child and that really affected the way I perceive things. I have also a very vivid, intense and tiring dream-life (to call it that way). Due to the TLE I’m a bit brain hyper, and it triggers during the night so often that I’m always at the boundary between sleep and awareness, field of “sleep paralysis” Im afraid.

Have you ever got up in fear, not being able to move and with a great feeling of menace? You can try to talk, feel you’re touched, see shadows, even night horrors, even feel that you’re getting out of your body and float around your room. All this happens because your brain awakes before the body does (just exactly the opposite as sleepwalking). It’s really very scary and frightening, though it’s a normal physiological response of the body. If it happens to you, you’ll be happy to know you’re not mad, but probably will be in need of a healthier sleep schedule. With both things I’ve always felt surrounded by a SUPERNATURAL feeling of things, and I’m grateful to have a scientific brain to cope with that.

As a proper article will do better than me objectively explaining this, here are two articles:

Sleep paralysis:

Temporal lobe epilepsy:

What is exactly that inspires you in your experiences and how does it translate to art?

As a way to get the dark side of that way of feeling out in a healthy and positive way, I try to give it a romantic approach. The first line in my album is “Now Im daring face my dream, dreaming” It’s a way to deal with it, not to be afraid of it, accept it and make it part of my art and inspiration somehow. Some of my works deal with eerie ambiguous creatures, with things in-between, with that blurry space when you’re about to wake up where everything is just possible. Mixing that with my love for myths and legends it triggers and develops even deeper my love for fantasy. But all in a metaphorical and artistic way. I may see monsters in my wardrobe but I don’t believe they’re there.

Who are your influences in illustration, and in music?

I love illustrated fairytales, specially the “treasure books” that were published early XX century with illustrators like John Bauer, Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Kay Nielsen among others. I also like others that with a simpler drawing can evoke weird dream-like things like Edward Gorey. I grew up loving animated movies, so I confess cartoons had also a great influence in my way of drawing, from Disney, Don Bluth to my favourite Hayao Miyazaki. So it was quite a wealth of things. My favourite movies were “Labyrinth” and “The dark Crystal” so Brian Froud was a must too in my collections, and due to be a great Tolkien fan as a teenager Alan Lee, Howe, Kaluta and many others approaching his works (even Tolkien himself) were also something that I really took into consideration.

In music, well, my music has been compared a million times with Enya, Tori Amos and Kate Bush. I really enjoy Enya’s voice though I confess it’s not the kind of music I listen to. I discovered Tori and Kate through the comparison and I was glad they compared me because they’re both unusual in an unique way, still I have to say that my source of inspiration vocally were groups like Tears for Fears (sad electropop) and Cocteau Twins, and above it all, classical music and film scores. I was an avid collector of soundtracks and I still imagine my music like a soundtrack with works. I really dream of having a philharmonic orchestra at my hands. For a while I really focused The Underliving as an orchestral work but we have to leave the idea for future projects.

What is your music about? What do you want to transmit through it?

Ancient Shadows explored the boundary between being sleep and awake in “Ancient Shadow”, “Facing the dream” and “Nightmare”. Then it also featured all sort of common topics in fairy and ghost literature which is a genre that I really enjoy. They were all a metaphor of my way of feeling. When I wrote “Haunted” was about an abandoned house and dealt with desolation even if it’s clearly a tale about a haunted house. My music is mostly sweet sounding, yet like the siren’s chant bittersweet and sometimes a bit tricky if you read the lyrics. It always has an eerie sharp edge into it because I think there’s always shadows to build depth and contrast in any image, just like you do when you paint.

what do I want to transmit? Well every artist wants to transmit emotion, in different ways I guess. I confess I’m a bit selfish cause I first make the music for the relief of my soul and spirit, and then it comes the public. Of course you appreciate when someone is moved, and when someone really is touched by something you do, but it’s not done to provoke a reaction in them, I’m honored and glad that it does when it happens. I’ve felt blessed when someone, crying, approaches to you after singing a song and says… “you know I also feel that way, thank you”, or “that’s the way I imagine it”. It’s really thrilling, that was a part of it I never expected but Im really grateful

Is it true that you were offered contracts with discography companies and that you rejected them? Was it like finally getting there to all of the sudden realize that it was not what you really wanted? Was it scary to turn them down?

It was very scary to turn them down, specially the latest two cause they were major companies that could have changed my way of living… in a good or bad way. I feel I have always been an artist but It was not till recent that I became a singer… that’s another point of it. I started to sing in public cause I was looking for a vocalist and, although I enjoy it, it was not my first option. I did it cause I wanted to share my music, and somehow all the deals I was offered were as a vocalist, or simply too compromising on the freedom I had to make my own music.

I was told once … “there is too much fantasy in your music”. That was it. I may be the kind of artist that ends up under the bridge with a cup getting coins and happier if I am just doing my kind of thing. It heals me, you cannot sell that. I don’t know why Im so protective with my work, it’s simply something I cannot help to do it. Maybe that wasn’t the most “professional” thing to do but it was the most honest and only option I found out. Then I put all my effort to get it out, in honor to my lost dog and companion Kira. It was a promise, and I found myself needing to do it. I did, and there were enough people who really encouraged me ahead so here I am, going through “the long way” which by the way is one of the titles of our new “Underliving” songs.

Your shows are highly visual. Does that fact of also being an illustrator help you to create this unique experience for your public?

It would be even more visual if I had the money to produce a bigger show. But yes, it’s part of the way of communicate, adding as much elements as you can get. Words, image, music, expression… A good prop and costume always help too. At the beginning I thought Oh, my God… I’m making fantasy music who the hell is going to listen to that? and then I found other bands, other fellows, other friends, and a big devoted public very specifically wanting to listen to that kind of music. The narrower the field is the harder to break through the masses maybe, but also the most faithful and giving following. I really don’t complaint. Most of my fans are my friends now and I really like that (thank you!).

What are your plans for the future?

Well right now I’m working in my upcoming release “The Underliving” it’s taking ages to be out but it’s being done with great love and care and I’m a solo artist under my own independent company so things go slow at the pace our pocket allows us to proceed. So hopefully well get The Underliving out, and after The Underliving which is somehow related with my comic (and also with Ancient Shadows) I’ll force myself to finish “Yidneth” which besides giving name to my company it was an unfinished comic project that I drew and scripted in the late nineties. It’s been over a decade I stopped the work way half into it. Then It was almost published but somehow it didn’t work (I was asked to ink it and the other company couldn’t edit it in color), so the project was deserted but always present in my music and motif.

Actually the “Yidneth” logo of my company is a “Y” silhouette due to it. So the intention is that Ancient Shadows: the ghost and the fairy, The Underliving (both slightly inspired in the universe around the comic) and Yidneth will close as a some kind of trilogy and this third album would include the comic for free as a booklet or book-CD.

Aside from that project I’m working in several fantasy art compilation books, next one is “pure inspirations” coming early 2010 and Im compiling the art of myself and some fellow fantasy illustrators. I also would like to sit down and paint and plot a solo book for my art, and as a personal project I’d like to make an illustrated version of M. R. James “Lost Hearts” ghost tale.

After The Underliving is done I will probably be involved in the promotion of it, and hopefully seeking for more performing spots, thus I am looking now for new musicians to join me in the project in order to be able to bring it to live. I wish I had the way to make the show I have in my head, but it will comfort me enough to have a humble set full of visuals and catchy enough with the humble ways I have at my hands…. with as much spirit, soul and heart as I can. For now people has always been very close to appreciate that.

Ancient Shadows by Priscilla Hernandez

Where can our readers find your art?

Right now some of it can be found at Its a bit out of date but I’m currently working in a replacement of main website into Right now both URL lead to the same website, but I’m preparing one more focused into the artworks. Right now you can see some examples in, and also compiled in several fantasy books listed there. Also of course if you buy my CD you will get two fully illustrated booklets with artwork made specifically for it, as you will also get the same thing in The Underliving and upcoming musical works. For purchasing original works, there are always some listed and some small mini-paintings or prints in my store at

Offcial site:







Kelly Miller-Lopez

As an artist Priscilla is one of the most authentic creative beings I have ever encountered. Her inner universe is so vast and vivid, I think it is more than imagination at work behind her musical and visionary genius. She has found a way to take a very frightening affliction (sleep paralysis disorder) and channel the hallucinations and terror that have been with her since her birth, into a romantic and evocative story…the story is told utilizing her many talents in a combination of voice, composition, lyrical poetry, and illustration….
There is a lot of universal wisdom to be gleaned from Priscilla’s inner landscape…about the polarity of light and shadow, good and evil….it is a faery tale universe, but it’s not invented or contrived….I truly believe in her case, it is very much real 🙂
She’s a shaman. A seer, a living faery. She is bright and luminous enough to travel deep into the darkest corners of human spirituality, and return, with stories, visions and secrets to share with the world….
Her work is a treasure that opens doors for a real journey, if you listen very closely, and pay attention. This is a rare gift. Her voice, and music have changed me and shaped me in my own work in very real and powerful ways. She is so much more than a musician, or an artist….she truly is a very ancient soul, and as such I honor her as I would a spiritual elder, or a shamanic guide….her humbleness in my opinion, proves her wisdom. For instance she thinks I’m absolutely silly for worshipping her like I do…and that’s the nature of Priscilla….she is both young and old, dark and light, profound, and absolutely silly.
She’s one of the funniest and most adorable humans I have ever known. And absolutely THE most mysterious and fascinating at the same time.
She’s an angel. She has a heart of gold. And a soul as big and bright as the moon.
She’s the queen of the wolves….
I don’t know what else to say!

Susan Schroder

When I first met Priscilla, it was like meeting someone you’ve known forever….her kind spirit emanates like a visible glow instantly bringing joy. I was entranced by her music before I met her, and I still listen to it everyday when I create my own artwork as it brings to me and endless spring of inspiration.

Hector Corcin

Priscilla is for me a beautiful talented true extraordinary artist, a dreamer, and a fighter for her art. She can make you cry in 1 minute and make you laugh the next one. She has the most beautiful soul I can imagine in this planet

Mary Layton

There can be no doubt that Priscilla is of the Fae. Her lilting, ethereal voice and haunting melodies are proof of that

German Hernandez.

I have been in love with music since chilhood, and few things have carried me to thos special places where I always wanted to be just by closing my eyes and listening to her music…. What else can you ask for…?

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!

Interview to Tiziano Baracchi

21 02 2010

Tiziano Baracchi is a young Italian artist that in a very short time established himself in the fantasy illustration world by means of life like characters and a wonderful technical skill. He is not only a terrific artist but he is very amiable and approachable and everybody that interacts with him seems to love him.

Topia World: Zamanta by Tiziano Baracchi

How did you get started?
In art? I don’t really remember when I started painting, but I remember drawing hundreds of robots and spaceships all through elementary school, then the cartoon version of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ made me fall in love with elves, and my focus shifted to fantasy.

Much later, in the fourth year of high school, I went from rapidograph and colored pencils to acrylics. At that time I was also heavily into role playing games (a passion I still have) and the illustrations on manuals and modules by the likes of Larry Elmore and Jeff Easley totally captivated me. I studied and analyzed them to no end, my biggest wish and dream was to become, at some point, good enough to have works of mine on the covers of RPG products.

Even though my very first industry works, back in 1997, weren’t fantasy at all. Back then I worked with an Italian Egyptologist on a serialized publication and 2 CD-ROMs about ancient Egypt.

How has your mother’s artistic inclinations affected you? What have you learned from her? What has she learned from you?
I grew up in a home where both parents painted (even though my father soon moved on to photography), so I can say that the smell of colors and solvents is among my earliest memories. My mother (then an art history teacher) thought me the fundamentals of figurative art (sorry, I haven’t really warmed up to abstract art yet): perspective, color theory, anatomy…

When mother went back seriously to doing her own art, around 1990, she devoted herself to landscapes, while I, just starting, was heavily focused on the human or humanoid figure. Each of us has somehow helped the other in shifting a bit towards the middle. Now she often inserts figures in her landscapes, and I, while still in awe of the depth and richness of her gardens and woods, give more importance to a character’s surroundings than I used to do.

Moreover, starting with acrylics at the same time, we helped each other in learning this new medium, each experimenting and trying out new things and then sharing with the other one.

Having started as a traditional illustrator, why did you change to digital? Do you still do traditional art?
As a traditional illustrator it would have been very difficult for me to break into the industry. Nowadays there are still people working in traditional: Boris Vallejo, Julie Bell, Alan Lee and John Howe come to mind, but those are giants that have already earned their high position and can afford the time it takes to paint traditionally and the expense of top-level tools to scan and photograph their works so that they don’t lose quality in the process.
The industry usually doesn’t want originals; they want print-quality files. Moreover one has to deal with deadlines, which can be very tight. It is way faster to change a composition, re-scale some elements, or experiment with color schemes working in digital than in traditional.

Another element is that ‘real’ colors, in particular acrylics, my traditional medium of choice, are temperamental. Before going digital, summers were a real problem. It was the season where, with holidays, I had the freest time to paint, but with the hot, damp weather we have here everything was a struggle. Colors didn’t mix well, and often dried on the brush before touching the canvas.

There is also the ‘set-up time’ factor. With traditional media I didn’t even start if I didn’t have the possibility of a few hours of uninterrupted work; it wasn’t worth it. With digital I’ve only to turn on my computer and I’m set. I can work even just half an hour during lunch break.

I miss the feel of an original in my hands and would love to go back to paint some personal pieces in traditional, if only because I’m also curious to see how digital has influenced my way to use physical media. My problem at the moment is finding the time to do it. I need to work reasonably big, otherwise I feel cramped (even my digital files are most of the time European UNI A3 size), and such a piece would need time I don’t have at the moment.

Why did you follow the fantasy path?
Because it’s fun (laugh). It’s a field I feel a strong affinity for, even more so than my first love, science fiction.

As I said earlier, it is a life-long attraction; a part of me is still a child fascinated by fairy tales and epic legends, and starting off in the fantasy industry was literally a dream come true.

What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of fantasy art?
Interesting question. I think it is striking the balance between ‘classical’ elements and novelty. Fantasy has a whole lot of canon elements from subjects (fairy-folks, knights in armor, dragons, orcs and so on) to styles (pre-Raphaelite or Rakham inspired for instance), To not to lose him or herself in the crowd an illustrator needs to be able to treat these canon elements in a very personal way, while still keeping them recognizable and appealing to the public (and Art Directors, of course), within the boundaries of the genre.
It is a though balancing act, and one has to accept in advance the risk of a few falls from the high-walking rope.

Xava Mischief by Tiziano Baracchi

Your textures are amazing! How is your technique to get those textures to be so real?
When I started working in digital three years ago, for a short while I was enchanted by the possibilities offered by photographic textures. After a while, though, I realized that in that way my works looked artificial very ‘plastic-like’, something I really didn’t want them to be.

So I started again, in the other direction, drawing upon my experience in traditional media, with the added bonus of the specific capabilities of the digital medium.

Nowadays all my textures are fully painted. In all my works I mix Painter and Photoshop, the first color base is invariably in Painter and I find it helps much in giving a more natural feel to the image. Then I start to differentiate the materials with a large use of custom brushes, often playing and fiddling with them for quite a time, experimenting and taking advantage of ‘happy accidents’ (for instance one of my favorite brushes for skin textures was originally made to produce cracks in arid ground).

In my opinion textures most of the time need to be perceived, not seen, and careful observation of the real material and its behavior under different conditions is an absolute must.

Besides having an impeccable technique, you achieve something really hard, which is to load your illustrations with character, how do you give so much life to them?
You are very kind (smile).

One thing I discovered I really need, when painting, is to know the character I’m working on. If it is a private commission, I’d much rather have a detailed bio or extracts from a role-playing session or a full psychological description than a very detailed physical one : a lot of characters can be 20-year old, black-haired and brown-eyed, slim, with an heart-shaped face, straight nose, freckles, and a star tattoo on the left shoulder, but is she a shy, late-come student in a magic school, a tomboyish aspiring paladin, a caravan guard with a lot of experience for her years, a runaway slave, an orphan raised in a gang of city thieves? What does she aspire to? How did she arrive at this point in her history?

Each answer will give me something more to work with, to give her the right attitude and personality, hopefully to make the viewer feel like he or she is meeting a real person.
For personal pieces, of course, I make up the story myself (quite often with the input of my wife, who loves story-building). For industry pieces we either delve into source materials or make up the story ourselves (for instance when dealing with generic non-named characters).

Kativa by Tiziano Baracchi

How did you enter the professional arena? What advice you have for those artists that are just beginning and would like to work for publishing houses?
For quite a while I painted only for myself and for the occasional private client. When I started looking for professional gigs in the fantasy field I discovered that in my country the market was nearly non-existent. My real opening with fantasy came through the Internet, with EMG and (a little later) Portrait Adoption. Through these two venues I discovered that there was a market for what I did. The growing number of commissions spurred me on and gave me confidence enough to start proposing my works to art
directors of companies active in the fantasy/SF market.

Advice? I’m still looking for it myself… I’ve learned a few things though: be persistent, never stop studying and never stop promoting yourself. Be realistic: evaluate honestly your strengths and your weaknesses and work on them; then use this to choose how and to whom propose your portfolio.

Be polite. It feels silly to say it, but quite a few Art Directors’ blogs have me wondering at the huge sense of entitlement or basic lack of social graces of many aspiring illustrators. No one with half a choice gives work to people they don’t feel at least comfortable dealing with.

One’s reputation is what brings jobs in. Producing at a consistent level of quality and respecting deadlines are absolute necessities. When in doubt about anything regarding an assignment, ask.

Keep informed: know the field and the industry, keep track of Art Directors and product lines the best you can.

Who have been your most important clients?

The most well established in the field up to now is also my very first and a recurring client: Fantasy Flight Games, for whom I do work for the ‘A Game of Thrones’ and ‘Call of Chthulu’ Living Card Games.

Recently I’ve signed a contract with Imagine Publishing (a UK company) as a columnist for their ‘Corel Painter Official Magazine’

Quite a few of the other clients, for now, are new companies in the field, both in the USA and in Europe, that appear to be off to a good start. That’s quite exciting too.

Having among my works the very first cover of a company that could in time become the new TSR, helping to shape the visual identity of a new line of games, it’s a real thrill.

Take 20 by Tiziano Baracchi

You seem to be soaring! Tell us about your recent successes.
Thank you.

I don’t know if I’m really soaring, but I count as successes both when a client keeps coming back and when a new one arrives on its own, without me proposing myself, and that has happened quite often in the last couple of years.

The most recent big surprise was being offered a feature in Corel Painter Official Magazine (that was big enough) and immediately after also a freelance contract as a columnist; thankfully I was seated when that e-mail arrived.

Do you still have time for personal art projects?
Less and less. Often when I have some time I use it to paint images that, I feel, are needed to steer my portfolio in a specific direction, or to fill a void, or correct an imbalance, rather than painting purely what I feel like. The ideal, of course, is when what I need and what I feel like are one and the same.

Besides art, what is there in your life?
First and foremost my family, both by birth and by choice (I’ve been married ten years, we live the floor above my in-laws and I often feel like I’ve been adopted by them); then my friends, both those living nearby which we can see often and those I know only via the net, but are nonetheless very near in spirit.

I don’t have much time for regular free-time activities, having a full-time non-art related job (a blessing in times such as these, and a way to be free to build my career as an illustrator on my own terms), when I have illustration work my evenings and week-ends are devoted to painting (thankfully my wife is as enthusiastic about my illustration job as I am), but I enjoy music, games (tabletop, cards and RPGs), the company of our animals (three cats and a dog) and long walks in our beautiful countryside as often as possible.

Where can our readers find your art?
At the moment my two main galleries are on Deviant Art and GCSociety (on the Net I often go by ‘Thaldir’).

I don’t have a personal site right now, but one is in the works.

Saber McConnell
The first thing I noticed about Tiziano is his artwork. (Who wouldn’t?) All I could do was stare at the realism of his pictures, from convincing textures to minute details and vibrant colors.

But aside from being an awesome artist, he’s also a really nice guy. He’s always been encouraging and friendly — and with all that skill, he manages to be modest, too. 😀

Miguel Couto
Tiziano is a great artist; he makes incredible work with his colors forming a great composition. His beautiful art inspires other artists. Have a look into his gallery, and you will know what I mean.

Cris Griffin
I’ve know Tiziano for several years, on-line. I consider him a compatriot and competitor! His attention to detail and soft touch is without compare. He has a brilliant facility for believability. I always look forward to his handiwork! Keeps me running…

Jenny Heidewald
Tiziano is an artist who just blows me away with his fabulous talent. His work truly is a feast for the eyes. One of the most amazing things was when he switched from traditional mediums to digital. There are pieces where I literally can not tell if they are traditionally or digitally created! To me, the way he has kept his traditional style in digital medium speaks much of his artistic mastery. I am eternally grateful to know Tiziano, to benefit from him sharing his knowledge, and art. The main lesson he taught me: “Less saturation in the background!” 🙂

Laura Mori
I remember Tiziano started scribbling before being able to walk steadily. As a child he used to start a drawing with one hand and finish it with the other one. His characters have always been lively, curious, always involved in the war between light and darkness. His art worlds have always been science-fiction and fantasy ones, it’s a joy to be able to see his art grow, mature and be recognized.