Interview with Alexandra Knickel
News for May
Dryad in Watercolor
Interview with Alexandra KnickelArtist Spotlight
by Constanza Ehrenhaus
Alexandra is a German born artist that over the lat few years has developed a strong style and great portfolio. Her art is characterized by beautiful shapes and great colors.
How did you get started in art, and how did you realize you wanted to make a job out of it?"
As most artists usually will tell, I had a strong liking for drawing/painting since I was able to hold a piece of chalk or a pencil, I didn't even stop at the walls of my room ;) Not to mention my teachers always beeing annoyed at me, drawing strange little critters instead of actually listening to what they say. By that time I already wanted to become an artist and make this my job.
But as life went along I almost stopped drawing. It was around 2000 that I decided to give it another shot. Right after that decision I found out that there is something called a "graphics tablet"... and dang... there it went.. =)
How did you get started as a professional artist? Is art your sole profession or you need a 'day job' to make ends meet?
I think it's more like a "slipping in." There comes that point when people start to like your paintings enough to comission you. I started mostly with private character portraits -- which is still the genre I utterly love the most. Then I thought of sending out some portfolios to companies... and got my first business jobs doing illustrations for educational books and character designs for handyvideos.
At the moment I am only doing the art thing but I will surely take on a "regular job" since being a freelancer brings a lot of hassle with it, too. Sadly, illustration, especially fantasy illustration, becomes an "as cheap as possible" field here in Germany, so as sad as it is, it doesn't always pay the bills.
It gives great freedom to have a safe job to ensure you have your fridge filled with food ;)
Lately we've been seeing a lot of great art created for a game. How did that project come about?
Ahh yes, the "Chronicles of Blood" Stuff. That was one of a kind... It wasn't a freelance job, but I was so eager to try this "game stuff" I agreed to work as a regular employee. It resulted in over 40 illustrations in around 8 weeks.
While it was an awesome experience working on a game I left after that time to go back to being a freelancer. I really hope to have the chance to work on some games again in the future.
Like a lot of today's artists, you used to do a lot more traditional art before, but now you seem to work in digital for the most part. What is so appealing about digital? What are the advantages and disadvantages for you?
Acutally, it's the other way round ;) I directly started painting digital, mostly due to the fact that I am a computer nerd, usually spending most of my time on my PC. I remember it must have been around '97 I took my very first steps in "digital painting" using my old mouse and a very simple drawing program. I mostly oultined and colored my sketches. It was time consuming and hand-hurting -- but I really enjoyed it.
When I figured out that there existed a thing called a "graphics tablet" I was thrilled! Got me a big sized aiptek and a programm called "open canvas" and *dang* I fell in love =)
Nowadays I have started to work with watercolors and oils -- and I think they now give me more freedom and fun than digital painting does.
I think the most appealing thing about digital painting is its "quickness" -- You dont need to be scared of that white sheet of paper, as I usually was. The fear of ruining that expensive paper always prevented me being really creative.
In Photoshop, I just start doodling. If I don't like it, the undo button is my biggest friend =) I also like that it's clean and doesn't need much space. And especially with the Cintiq, it really gives a traditional feeling of working on something.
One of the disadvantages -- and I had a highly discussed poll about this on my deviantArt Account -- is the fact that you don't have an original, which seems to lower the price or lets say the feeling of "worth" for a lot of people.
I'm in between two chairs here. While I can understand that it is a huge difference between touching or looking at an oil painting I somethings feel annoyed when people tell me that digital art isn't worth that much because of its nature.
These days it's possible to have those printed on special watermarked paper which makes the print really one of a kind.
You have two lines of work; one is uber cute, the other is darker and more realistic. What is the decisive factor for what direction to take when you sit down to draw?
Hahaha! Oh, yes... this will always be my crux ;) To be honest, there is no real decision behind it, it just happens.
When not working on a comission or a special planned painting, I tend to just run Photoshop, staring at the white screen until something just "comes in."
And usually the uber cute stuff is much easier for me to do. I remember the first time I tried to do a mean and ugly orc... it was one of the creatures your instantly even laugh about or want to cuddle it ;)
On the other side, I was always fascinated with realism and highly realistic paintings, especially of faces or humans. When I first saw the paintings of Linda Berkvist in the days she had her own art boards, I was like "Oh my god, I want that too!"
And finally, I just don't want to limit myself to a special style or genre. I like to try out everything.
Nowadays, since I am so fed up with all those "photo-parts-used-in-realistic-paintings" (which I don't mean to talk bad about, it's just nothing I want to do for myself) I try to go back to a more traditional-looking style -- mostly focusing on concept and character design.
Especially since I am working on a game together with a friend of mine, doing all those items and monsters and backgrounds and stuff is very satisfying and inspirational. =)
You seem to have improved tremendously in the last few years. Can you please give our readers and insighti n what goes into getting your artwork from nice to WOW!
Thank you! Well personally I don't feel it is fast enough, but that's the sickness all artists tend to have. ;)
Well, I can only speak for the self-taught fraction here. If you really enjoy painting and drawing, there really is no shortcut. It takes a lot of time, blood and tears and an extra portion of thick skin. You should paint or draw each day. During the last years I spent around 8 hours a day painting, sometimes a lot more.
The most important thing is to not get frustrated, especially when looking at other paintings. Way more of them are created with a huge base of "shortcuts" you wouldn't imagine, be it because of tough deadlines or because of the artist has a different point of view to the "painting thing."
Set goals for yourself, but don't set them too high or too short in time.
Also, if you cannot attend a school or similar, try to have a good base of books you can always refer to, like James Gurney's Imaginative Realism and Color and Light, which are very useful. Or the books of Don Seegmiller. They are really worth the money.
Get your hands on video tutorials or ask other artists. Some of them will always be willing to give you a tip or a critique.
Which brings me to one of the crucial things -- stay open to competent critique. Even if it doesn't feel like it, it's a gift that person gives to you.
Reading your journals, there seems to be some kind of love-hate relationship with art communities. Without going into details, what is that bothers you so much about them? What do you like about them so much that you keep your internet activity?
*laughs* Ohhh my... is this really so visible? It's indeed a love-hate thing =) But I am an internet person, playing my first MMORPG in 1999. ;) It just feels natural to me to be "online" (..now that sounds nerdy).
I was used to a very special kind of community, coming from the game genre. Art comunities are totally diffferent from this -- or at least were different back in days past.
While I have met fantastic people on the internet -- and, I would say, got around 60% of my artistic skills or knowledge from the net -- it has its hassles, too. Lets see... it's not easy to explain that in English..
The problem in my opinion is that everyone has an opinion ;) So it's very easy to get irritated and insecure about what people criticize in your paintings. That's why I said a compentent critique is worth gold. Usually a typical art community critique contains just a personal opinion of that person, especially when you think of our "distorted" picture of "beauty". Dare to paint a woman with a large nose and I BET at least 5 people start to critize that you have "painted the nose wrong"! Or that the ears are not correct, or... whatever. Or they misinterprent their personal taste as a good critique.
Especially if you are a self-taught starting artist, you can easily become very insecure, sometimes leading to a nasty sort of artist block. I think everyone knows that artist block thing... you start to get unsatified with what you paint or draw; sometimes people start to ignore your paintings (or you just interpret it that way); because of that, you feel even more insecure and even more unsatified; and there it goes... that circle of artist block. And it's not that easy to break out of it. Artist block happens much more when you are involved in art communities. So that's the biggest disadvantege, in my opinion.
Will you be doing conventions?
Oh my I would love too! Sadly I never did one.
But we do not have a big lobby here in Germany when it comes to fantasy art. While you can go to one of the normal book fairs showing your portfolio around, it's way to expensive to buy yourself a place to show your artwork.
Where can our readers find your art?
I'm showing my artworks usually on the "usual suspects" like Deviantart, CGtalk, Epilogue, etc. You will usually find me under the nickname "Aruyinn" or "lhiondaig" which is also the name of my homepage. It's still under reconstruction, but once finished I plan to add some insights, videos, tutorials and stuff. Feel free to visit under www.lhiondaig.net. =)
Alex is a great artist and very professional. She's something of a perfectionist and strives to make sure that everything is just right, soliciting frequent feedback. She's one of a very few artists I have commissioned repeatedly (normally I like spreading my commissions out so I have works from many different artists), as everything she does is absolutely beautiful.
It's hard for an artist to improve on what I see in my mind's eye when I'm describing my ideas, but she manages it every time
She is an exceptional artist and I very much enjoy her work!
Alex's artwork has something very special. She is able to express so much personality and charm in her characters. And she is also able to do this digitally and traditionally. When she is painting a face, it is not just a face, it is a person with experience with a story and lifestyle. Her paintings always tell a story, what just might happen here. Even her animals, may they real or fantasy ones, have a strong expression. I think it is Alex personality, that she takes the viewer with her to her imaginationed world.
Her work is always worth to look longer at it - and it is always a pleasure to see new ones.
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