Cons, Illustrations, Audience-building, and More
Playing with Line and Shape
Interview with Lisa Cree
EMG News for February
Interview with Lisa CreeArtist Spotlight
by Constanza Ehrenhaus
Lisa, can you tell us something about your background as an artist?
I never had any formal training in art. Although I was quite talented all my life, I never pursued it as an education because I saw art as a freedom of expression and didn't see the logic in being told what to paint and how to paint it. I learned a lot about art techniques and history from my local library.
You have a very peculiar style. How did it evolve?
I think that a big part of my style comes from a need to depict a certain element in something that I see or imagine that I find beautiful. For instance, eyes are the worst for me... a person is looking to the side, and logically, the eye should be 3/4 of the size that it normally would be. I can't let that eye go! I have to try and squeeze the whole eye into the portrait anyway! Legs too... they have to be super curvy, hair, unable to draw a straight hair, and outlines, I can't seem to just leave a line to the imagination, it must be drawn and so it goes on. We end up with a sort of medieval look from the centuries before people had a clue about perspective. I can't shake it, hard as I try sometimes.
All artists have other artists that they admire. Who do you draw your inspiration from?
One of my biggest influences is video game art: the small details, the atmosphere, the exaggeration of physical traits. If I had to pick specific artists, I would say that my friends are the biggest influence I have... I have been lucky enough through social networking to meet a lot of great fantasy artists, and each of them influences me in one way or another. I find that rather than looking at someone who has found their artistic style or niche is less interesting that joining others who are still en route.
What is the reaction of people to your style? Do you find you cater to a niche?
A lot of people like my style, but I don't think I have a niche. My art seems to touch all kinds of people. When I ask my close friends about which pieces they like, it's often very hit and miss... some of my pieces touch them and some they do not like at all. It seems to be the same with everyone.
What challenges and advantages there are to be an artist in France?
I really couldn't say there are many advantages for an artist in France. I'm quite surprised, as when I didn't live here I imagined it to be the artistic capital of the world, with so many of the greats having spent their time here
The good materials are very hard to come by here, like copic markers, and prismacolour pencils, micron pens, Daniel Smith Watercolours, things like that you have to have them shipped over and I end up having to buy almost everything from Ebay and paying a lot of shipping.
... And the taxes! They don't like the little guy to be self-employed here! I pay a large percentage as a sole proprietor then again in personal income taxes, and am unable to claim my materials or even my postage costs.
Art is very traditional over here. They seem to like still lifes, landscapes and portraits, so there is not a lot of support for fantasy art. And when I have to explain what I do, I usually end up just saying "I paint fairies".
How do you juggle art and motherhood?
When my son was younger, I used to work a lot while he slept, or when he was playing on his own with his cars but now he has grown up to be quite the little artist himself so sometimes he works right along side. For example, sometimes we'll both draw the same thing, or use the same paints and paint together (I think I am the only mother crazy enough to give her 6 year old her best paints and pens to play with hehe). He even has his own micron pens, prismacolor pencils and a few copic markers... a real pro. I sometimes even set up the laptop next to me when I am working digitally and he has a little graphic tablet that he uses with gimp.
I often draw in the living room while the family is watching a film, I'll sit there and sketch; which is why you don't see a lot of paintings from me at the moment... I do what the situation allows.
It's not making the time to do art that I find the challenge, more being able to switch off and have some real dedicated time with my family.
Tell us about your many artistic endeavors.
My first professional artworks were portraits which I did part time in my mid twenties, but my full-time job soon took too much of my time for me to pursue that. The money was never enough for me to live solely from the portraits and I also found that people wanted an exact copy of a picture rather than an artistic interpretation which was kind of off putting.
When my son was born, as I gave up my work to care for him. He was quite a good sleeper, so it gave me some time to continue a part time career at home during nap-time My husband and I decided to make a jungle themed video game together and I learned to make 3D animations for that, little "sprites" of a monkey running and jumping, explosions, jungle animals walking and attacking... that sort of thing. It took a lot of time to learn to do everything myself, the modeling, texturing, rigging, animating and rendering... about two years in total.
After that project was finished, I started trying to sell my works on Ebay, and found ACEOs. I created a lot of those in a semi-abstract style in all sorts of mediums.
I'm not sure how I made it into fantasy art... it's been something that was always there. I had books about fantasy art, and was very big on video games, but for a long time I never considered that I could do it myself. I think it was my friendship with Katerina Koukiotis which got me to cross over. I had met her because I very much admired her portraiture work, and as she is a fantasy artist too, I guess it gave me the courage to try.
What are Tubes? And what is PSP Tubes Stop?
The best way to describe tubes are to make reference to paper scrapbooking... you cut images out of magazines, pictures whatever and stick them in a book. Tubes are digital "cut outs": we take an image and remove the background, so that it can be used in another setting. Some people have been doing digital scrapbooking for many years now and it is amazing what they create.
The PSP Tube Stop is a website that I created to sell the tubes of fellow fantasy artists. I started to create my own tubes when I was licensed with another company and when they closed, I wanted to continue as it was something that I enjoyed doing. It's very satisfying to take an existing work of art and create a way for others to interpret it in their way.
I also wanted to create a licensing company which caters for the artist. Knowing what it is like to be on the artist's side, I try to create the environment that I would have liked to have had when I licensed my work.
How do you coordinate all those artists?
I have a background as a programmer, and have created a website and database that helps a lot with the coordination.
Do you realize that you do organize a lot of things for the artists and you give back to the community a lot? What motivates you?
I try to give back as much as I can. This community has given me so much so I feel like I owe it. When I first met with the fantasy artists that I know, I was suffering from depression, had no work and no hope for my professional future. Fantasy Art and the artistic community have given me my pride and my health back.
One thing that motivates me is the tremendous amount of talent and work that I see and the relative lack of opportunity there is to show it, to get it seen. I say relative, because we are living in a digital age, people are always on Facebook, in forums, Google... connected to something somewhere and there are many opportunities to get seen and to market artworks and yet there are only a select few who manage to get seen regularly and make a decent living. Eventually I would like to use my programming/web skills to help artists with this.
Where can our readers find your work?
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