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Interview with Priscilla Hernandez
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Inspiration Gets You Nowhere
Interview with Priscilla HernandezArtist Spotlight
by Constanza Ehrenhaus
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 I’m 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. As a teenager I had the dream to draw, 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 for him to drive me to another direction, and for 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.
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" I’m afraid.
Have you ever woken 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:
Temporal lobe epilepsy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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 I’m 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 I’m 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 I’m 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 we’ll 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. The next one is "pure inspirations", coming early 2010, and I’m 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.
Where can our readers find your art?
Right now some of it can be found at http://www.yidneth.com. It’s a bit out of date but I'm currently working in a replacement of main website into priscillahernandez.com. Right now both URLs lead to the same website, but I'm preparing one more focused into the artworks. Right now you can see some examples in yidneth.com, 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 http://priscillahernandez.yidnethfanclub.com
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!
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.
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
There can be no doubt that Priscilla is of the Fae. Her lilting, ethereal voice and haunting melodies are proof of that
I have been in love with music since childhood, and few things have carried me to those special places where I always wanted to be just by closing my eyes and listening to her music…. What else can you ask for…?
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