What Should You Do When You Need To Take a Break?
Interview with a Vampire Queen: Cris Griffin
Interview with a Vampire Queen: Cris GriffinArtist Spotlight
by Constanza Ehrenhaus
It is time to introduce you to the fantastic, super talented and amazingly humble Chris Griffin. Cris seems to be the one with the right worlds around the net, the one who is always measured and in a good mood. Her incredible talent does not interfere with a humble character, and it makes for incredible pieces. Let's see what she has to say!
This is a question that you might get a lot. Did you go to art school? How did you get that good?
~Well, 'get that good' is up to debate, but yeah, I went to lots of art school. I earned my BA in liberal arts, specializing in the fine art, then an MFA in painting. I came out of the womb with creative inclinations, and just ran with it from there. I don't think you HAVE to go to school to learn art, but it helps. It keeps you from taking shortcuts. You have to be very self-motivating and willing to take advice if you choose to teach yourself, just like any other 'skill'.
I've seen you drawing for a couple of years, when do you think you got to the point to which to felt "ah, yeah, this is where I wanted to be"?
~Pft, I'm not there yet. If you EVER get to the point you want to be, art is dead to you. The creative arts are constantly evolving; you never completely learn them. And if you feel you have, you're lying to yourself.
You are terrific in skintones, how do you do it? can you share some tips?
~Well, paint what you love! I love flesh. Tips? It's not peach. Shadows aren't dark peach, and highlights aren't light peach. Don't just add black, and think you'll get shadows, nor add white to assume you'll get nice highlights. Skin 'pops' when you add non-local colors: green, blue, orange, etc. And dark flesh is more reflective than light; exaggerate your contrasts! I could go on and on and on, but I'll spare you...
You have "no stealing" comic phrases in each piece. Have you been victim of art theft?
~Oh, here and there. I have one piece that gets ripped continually (my red-haired pirate lass named 'Leonie'.) Only once or twice has someone stolen my stuff, in order to sell it, and their ISP provider responded quickly and thoroughly with a complete take-down. I google for my stuff pretty regularly, and as long as I'm credited and no one's making money from me, I'm pretty lenient. It's the internet; you'd be chasing bloggers non-stop if you got your panties in a twist about every illicit posting.
Your gallery has traditional and digital pieces, more digital now. Putting aside the mess, which one do you rather in a finished piece, and why?
~Oh, traditional, hands down! I woefully miss not having that tangible, visceral art to touch, and watch as the sun plays across the surface and changes the colors. There's nothing like it. BUT... I've learned immeasurably from my digital painting. You have every color at your fingertips, and can test-drive all sorts of techniques and palettes. I love both media, and I'm so out of practice at this point. But there WILL come a day I'll resume the traditional arts. I simply must.
Your artwork is full of fascinating characters, most of them far from the prancing cutesy faery. What attracts you to the dark folks?
~I've always been a creepy kid. I discovered Steven King in 5th grade, and instantly fell in love with the macabre. Though in terms of 'darkness', I'm really pretty tame. I find those subtle oddities most interesting: the housewife with strange golden eyes, or the vampire who cries bloody tears over the monster he has become. I don't like to hit folks over the head with "FEAR ME! I AM GOTH!" (No insult to Goths out there; love your black hearts! )
How do you achieve that sexy yet elegant mix in your characters?
~Dumb luck, really. Iím not sexy and elegant in my real life, so maybe itís living vicariously through my imagery. (Iím not looking for pity here! But Iím a tomboyish mother of three sons who is distinctly pear-shaped. Just keepiní it real. Yo.)
What influences and inspires your work?
~Color and music. And the human face. I love portraits, and find every face beautiful in its own way. Color combinations will jolt me into painting, and if I donít feel like working, Iíll slap on some tunes and instantly, Iím in the zone. I do very little fanartÖthat just doesnít motivate me. Iíd rather put my own spin on the world, as we wish it were.
How did you get into the games illustration industry?
~I love seeing my work published, but I donít think Iím of the caliber that Magic, The Gathering requires. There are, however, a great many fun collectable card games out there that are right up my alley. I simply took a chance, and sent samples to the companyís art director. Just about every gaming company has hints on their site as to how to apply for freelancing work. Be professional, succinct, and only show them your best stuff, tailored to their subject matter and style. Seems self-explanatory, huh? Itís really that easy. You just gotta dare.
You are a stay home mom of 3 boys. Does art help you to keep sanity? How do you pull off to take care of the house, the kids, and the commissions?
~Iím not as good at juggling all those tasks as I wish I was. The family always comes first, and I struggle to keep up with my clients. This year, Iíve turned down a great many projects, in order to work only with my favorite people/companies. And I hope to find time to pursue my own personal visions. Sanity isnít an issue, but professionalism is. Iíve learned that really, to make a solid name for yourself in the fantasy art industry, you can do little else, but art. Itís more than a full-time job, considering all the self-promotion and marketing and web design it requires. Saying Ďnoí, and asking for more money, are the two hardest things for me.
Do you have any exciting project in view that you can tell us about?
~Iím working on illustrating an rpg through Ellen Million Graphics, am designing a pirate riding a scooter for a company in Florida (zoom, arrrr, zoom!), will be featured in Ballisticsís Exotique 4, still producing cards for the wonderful Fantasy Flight Games, and HOPEFULLY, Iíll start some traditional, large-scale drawings any day now. Add that to the novel thatís bouncing around in my noggin, unwritten, and thereíll be a hot time in the olí town tonight!
I've seen you in action in several art communities, you always seem to step in and have wise words, keeping a great mood, and many times you achieve to tone down arguments where other people have failed. How do you how do you keep the good mood and find the right words to say?
~Iím the eldest of four kids, and the mother of three. You get very practiced at diluting tense situations. I always employ a few key clichťs: ďYou catch more flies with honey than with vinegarĒ, ďHumor cools the bloodĒ, and ďIt takes a strong man to grab the bull by the horns, but an even stronger man to know when to let go.Ē I never try to Ďright fightí; I donít care who wins or loses an argument. I just want everyone to learn from each other, and be wise enough to admit when theyíre wrong. If you canít admit youíre wrong, youíve stopped learning. Itís that simple. And regarding the good mood? NEVER respond to a heated discussion when youíre PMSing. Go eat ice cream instead.
Cris is wonderful. She's the artist I want to be in a few years, always willing to learn, to grow. She's an incredibly hard worker (who needs a vacation!), and I'm proud to call her my friend. Also, she totally digs the hot guy art thing, too.
Cris by Ellen Million:
Cris is a beautiful soul with an amazing sense of color and design. She is always a joy to work with - energetic and enthusiastic, with a wonderful generosity of spirit and willingness to help new artists.
Cris by Debbie:
She was a wonderful person to work with. We were both so busy in our lives so the commission took longer than normal, but we kept in touch and didn't hound each other and got along just beautifully. We still keep in touch here and there. For me it was a very easy process. I was not afraid to tell her to change something and give her ideas and she was very open to them and also to make suggestions. I hope this helps. She is a wonderful person and a fantastic artist and I will probably commission another piece from her when I can!
Cris by Michelle Lee Phelam:
Cris is the epitome of superwoman. She juggles home, career, and still feels inspired to create gorgeous art. She is imaginative and intelligent and her art reflects that.
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