Sometimes it really helps to shine a light on all the good things about fandom – how we help each other, how we help others, how we try to make change in the world. It’s an integral part of fandom, and one that I cherish – that’s why every purchase of Family Don’t End With Blood benefits Random Acts’ important work helping those who need it all over the world, and Attitudes in Reverse with their mission of ending stigma and opening up conversation about mental health challenges to combat suicide. On this #GivingTuesday, if you haven’t read FDEWB yet, you can help make a difference by picking up a book for yourself or for a friend. Most of the Supernatural actors wrote chapters — Jared, Jensen, Misha and many others — in which they shared their own personal struggles and challenges, hoping that will inspire others to keep going when the going gets tough.
The book has been our way of trying to help, but there are so many people in fandom whose creative talents enrich us all and also make a difference.
Recently a wonderful thing happened in the fandom that also benefits one of Misha Collin’s many charitable endeavors. With the help of charitable organizer Stands on twitter, the “I Wish For This” campaign to benefit Lydia Place was launched. Lydia Place works to disrupt the pervasive cycle of homelessness and foster autonomy for families, something that Collins knows about from personal experience. Fan artist Little Pop Work made a customized Pop Funko Misha doll which was signed by Misha as an incentive to participate in the campaign – which was seriously awesome!
The I Wish For This Misha Pop is based on the touching story that Misha has told about his daughter, Maison. When Misha asked his kids what they wanted to wish for as they picked dandelions and got ready to make a wish on them, Maison simply replied “I wish for this.” Misha can’t tell the story without tearing up, and frankly I’ve never been able to listen to it without tearing up either.
Sometimes you have to wait a little while for the good things. I’ve wanted to interview Lee Majdoub ever since he appeared as Hannah on Supernatural, taking over the role from Erica Carroll and making it his own while also nodding to the spark that had developed between Hannah and Castiel, which I thought was a great choice that said alot about the actor. He came to a Supernatural convention earlier this year as a guest of Ruth Connell (along with the Erica – double Hannahs!) and I had a chance to chat with him briefly there. He was warm and welcoming and frankly any friend of Ruth’s is a good enough testament for me! When he was cast on one of my other favorite shows, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (along with a bunch of other Supernatural alums), I absolutely had to chat with him. I caught up with Lee a few weeks ago to talk about both fascinating roles.
Lynn: You made a memorable entrance on Dirk Gently in the season 2 premiere as Silas Dengdamor – in part because of that passionate kiss with Panto Trost (Christopher Russell) That scene was important to fans, who are often looking for more LGBT representation in the shows they love. Did it feel important in that sense to you also?
Lee: That scene was very important to me, and Chris as well. We spoke a lot about the importance of building a relationship between Panto and Silas that was believable. The conversation around the kiss itself was about finding the balance between making it important without making the scene “about” the kiss. I’m really happy the fans liked it and felt represented. That was a huge sigh of relief for me.
Lynn: It was important to fans too. The parallels to Romeo and Juliet seem obvious even in that first scene. Was that something mentioned explicitly or if not, does the parallel ring true to you now?
This is the final installment in my series of articles shining the spotlight on some of the talented artists within the SPNFamily. Friendly reminder that, for the purpose of these articles, I am spotlighting some of my favs. And you might agree, my favs might be your favs. But it’s also very possible that your fav might not be spotlighted in this series… and that’s ok. I mean no disrespect to your fav, I mean no disrespect to you, the Artist. Shine a spotlight on your favs by letting them know how much you appreciate what they do!
As I explained in the previous articles, “art” has a multitude of definitions. If you asked 100 people to give a definition of art, you would probably get 100 different answers. Art is photography. Art is painting. Art is drawing with graphite, charcoal, or ink.
In this article, you will learn that Art is a multitude of things. Art is painting and drawing, and it is also mixing in a plethora of other materials into these creations. Art is taking a piece of wood and fashioning a piece as unique as your idea. Art is taking wire and stone and other bits and pieces and forming these materials into beautiful pieces of wearable art. Art is taking an idea and adding your creative touch. Art is finding the right words to create pieces that evoke every emotion under the sun. Art is fabric and stitching and sewing and creating unique pieces. Art is, quite literally, a hundred… a thousand… tens of thousands of different things.
Take a walk with me, friends. Join with me in this journey into Art as I celebrate the talents of Amanda & Sammie, Anne, Candice, Jilly, Paula, Lisa, and Jodi!
Before I get to the first two artists, I want to be completely honest… *whispers* I have never read fan fiction. I read one piece a few years ago; I beta’d another piece not long after. Both pieces were pure… straight up… uninhibited… unadulterated… pornography. From those two experiences, combined with the bits and pieces I have seen on social media, I formed the opinion that all fan fiction was pornographic. To be clear, I am not judging, that’s just not my kind of thing. So I have never explored it any more than those two pieces.
I absolutely wanted to include fanfic writers in this series, in this article. So I approached two friends of mine, and I told them I’ve never read any fanfic, and I asked them to explain it to me, to convince me that I am truly missing out on a wonderful form of art.
Amanda and Samantha were quite happy to try to sway me into this fictional world. I must admit, one of Amanda’s comments really intrigued me. She said her favorite genre is romance because she loves “people in love… I enjoy watching them fall in love, I enjoy seeing them overcome struggles because of love, I enjoy seeing them explore their fears or embrace new things via the emboldening power of love.” Okay, seriously, who doesn’t love that? Then Samantha explained that she likes to switch genres sometimes (fantasy to sci-fi to more standard fiction, etc) because it gives her an opportunity to “stretch different writing muscles, because different genres employ different tropes, language styles, etc.” I understand that! It can be so refreshing to step outside of the box sometimes!
They talked about their writing process. They take notes, jot down simple ideas, make lists of storylines and characters, expand those lists into outlines containing more detailed thoughts. They use Google docs, in part because it is a great medium for sharing and collaborating with others on any given piece. They also talked about Archive of Our Own, a site that is both organized and user-friendly. They talked about doing challenges, such as a Reverse Bang challenge where pieces of art are submitted and you choose one that inspires you to write… okay, seriously, I wanna do this.
I asked them about writers who have inspired them. While they did mention a few names, like J.K. Rowling (hello, um, #Lifegoals ), the actual statements they made about the source of inspiration was, frankly, inspiring. Samantha said, “I have been particularly blessed to receive encouragement and praise from writers I admire, and have recently been in a position to give that back to readers who have expressed similar feelings to my writing (a completely surreal, humbling, and heartwarming experience).” And then Amanda said, “These writers make me laugh, they make me cry, they make my heart hurt and soar in turns. They create beautiful worlds and scenarios that completely immerse me, and all just with their words. It’s amazing. It is simply my goal to try to do the same, just in my own way.” Wow. No really – WOW. What a community. It must be so rewarding to be in this fanfic world of support and collaboration and inspiration!
Okay, okay. Maybe I’ll check out this Archive of Our Own thing, maybe I’ll try to wade through the tags to find something a little less pornographic. Maybe I’ll look at this community of writers, and explore their works and their talents. Maybe I’ll start writing again… ok, no, I won’t go there again, but maybe I can at least try to read this fanfic stuff one more time.
My next featured artist is Anne Kirn, aka House of Darkly. If you look up ‘jack-of-all-trades’ in the dictionary, I think it says ‘See also: Anne Kirn.’ She’s a photographer. She’s a graphic designer. She sews. The list goes on. And on.
In my opinion, the single most fascinating detail about Anne – and it is also the most inspiring – is her attitude. She’s incredibly talented, true, but it is her attitude that shines through in her work. I asked the artists about their process for creating their art. Anne’s comments included “self-taught, largely by finding the 99 ways that don’t work. Occasionally this has ended in setting something on fire. But only slightly…” and “My process involves staring, angst, and some cursing, usually all at once.” Anne tries things. She experiments. She fails. She tries again. She’s able to take a step back and study her project, re-think it, and try again. And through her method of trial-and-error, she maintains this wicked sense of humor. Frankly, I love that about her, and I think that’s a lesson we could all apply to our own lives.
Anne is inspired by anyone who’s accomplished in an area or genre and is dedicated to encouraging other people to create. It is therefore no surprise that she is an encourager. Her tip for other artists is simple: “If you want to be doing the thing, do the thing.” She went on to explain that it is important to pursue the so-called dumb ideas because sometimes these turn out to be the best ideas. She said that it is also important to take a break or step away sometimes. But the most important thing is “just be doing something.”
My next featured artist is Candice Langham. Her preferred genres include abstract realism and grunge art. She uses a variety of materials and mediums, including colored charcoal and wood/wood burning, and she enjoys creating sculptures out of different materials.
Candice is involved in Art 4 Kindness, a project she started and whose focus is raising money for charitable causes. She has raised money for several organizations including RAICE (an organization of lawyers that helps immigrants with legal assistance), Suicide Hotline and the Tiger Frances Foundation (an L.A. based non profit animal rescue). Candice also works with a children’s hospital, teaching free art classes.
Her process is more a visual thing. She finds inspiration in photographs and photographers, tv shows, and so on. She sees something, and an idea starts to form in her mind, causing her imagination to kick into overdrive. She explained, “Once the idea is formed I will stop at nothing to complete it.” Art is very fluid and has a way of speaking to you. I’ve always just gone with the flow, even mistakes in a piece can be important. This is why I love abstract art.”
Jilly M. is the next artist. Although she has recently began drawing again – using colored pencils and focusing on Baby – her main area of creativity involves sewing, knitting, crocheting, and so on. She uses a variety of fabrics, including cotton, cotton/elastane, lingerie weight polyester, polyester toy stuffing, and yarn.
She wanted something unique to get autographed at a convention, but she couldn’t find what she wanted, so that motivated her to make her own item. She’s been making Supernatural dolls ever since.
Her favorites are the original Sam and Dean set. She has taken them to cons, and both dolls have been autographed by Jared and Jensen; the dolls have also appeared in a couple of J2 photo ops, so they’re very special to her. Mark Meloche (Supernatural VFX Supervisor) called her an artist! She said she hadn’t thought of herself as an artist until that moment. Oh trust me, you’re definitely an Artist!
Making the Supernatural dolls is Jilly’s hobby, but she does sell a few. Typically, she makes a set, then advertises them for sale, rather than looking for advance orders. The dolls are very labor intensive, but she just doesn’t feel right unless she’s working on a doll. She plans to introduce different characters to her expanding collection.
These dolls are quite complex. Each doll is approximately 13 inches tall. The faces are embroidered. She designs and sews the clothing herself. She buys clear buttons and then hand paints them to get the colors needed. Although the cowboy hats came from Build-A-Bear, she did her own design for Bobby’s hat. She said the work with these dolls is “mostly improvisation – I’ve learned whole a lot about thinking outside the box.” It takes at least 10 hours, and oftentimes more, from starting to finishing each doll.
Paula Mould is the next artist. She worked for years running her own tech business, painting off and on over those years. Two years ago, she began working as an artist professionally, putting to use her three art diplomas (Art Fundamentals, Interpretive Illustration, and Post Graduate Graphic Design).
Paula’s preferred genre is anything pop culture, including a slew of topics such as Doctor Who, Star Wars, Marvel, and of course Supernatural. She uses a multitude of mediums and materials, such as acrylic paints on canvas or wood; she often uses shells, stones, bits of bark for her mixed media pieces; she also uses inks, powdered copper, and glitter. Another interesting medium is something she called “encaustic mixed media.” This type of media involves painting with hot wax and oil paints. She said, “Ecaustic is difficult to work with because it has a mind of its own, but it smells amazing and for me it feels like mediation. Plus, the real bonus is you have to work with fire. I use a blow torch to burn the wax in.”
And for the record… someone once told her that fine art did not include glitter. She has used glitter in 14 different paintings, just to prove them wrong.
Paula is currently involved in a few projects. If you have been to a Supernatural convention recently, then you might have seen her paintings at the Attitudes In Reverse tables. She is the artist behind the large IMAlive paintings.
She is also part of The Cabal Creative; this group recently held their first international art show in Spain. Paula is also running a project called Finding Inclusivity (www.FindingInclusivity.com) . For this project, she is interviewing about 120 women (or people who identify as women), painting their portraits and writing their stories. “My goal is to take the usual story we have about women, especially in pop culture, and change it.”
The next featured artist is Lisa Rourke. Not only does Lisa create pencil and color pencil/water color portraitures, she is also the artist behind the amazing customized Funko Pops! She has been customizing these for about two and a half years. She uses a variety of materials, including acrylic paints and brushes, Apoxie Sculpt and Milliput, sculpting tools, Xacto blades, sandpaper, pencils, and pastels.
Lisa was gracious enough to explain to me her process of customizing a Funko Pop. Sometimes she takes an existing Pop and repaints its features, per a customer’s order. However, other customization, called a Kitbash, takes much longer and is significantly more complex. The process begins by – literally – boiling the various Pops in water, to loosen all the glues. Then she starts taking apart the Pops, replacing parts, re-gluing, and creating a new customized item. From there, she begins adding the details, such as hair, clothing and accessories. She paints on the finishing touches. A Kitbash creation often takes a few weeks to complete.
Lisa surprised me with her answer to the question, who inspires you? She rattled off a list of names from several Funko Pop customizer groups, saying, “their work constantly amazes me and inspires me to keep practicing and improving my sculpting.” Let me repeat that. There are Funko Pop customizer groups. How freakin cool is that?! It just goes to show that no matter your passion, there are other people out there who not only share your passion, but also seek to encourage and support you in that passion. #Famdom
Jodi Zulueta is the final artist in the spotlight. If you have been to a Salute to Supernatural Convention, then you have probably seen her in the vendors area. Her table is full of unique, beautiful pieces of jewelry… but let’s call it what it is – what Jodi creates is Wearable Art. She loves working with wire and glass, creating some stunning pieces!
Some artists begin with an idea. Others begin with a simple sketch. Others begin with a series of notes and thoughts scribbled onto napkins and pages, or as in my case, sticky notes. (I should probably buy stock in Post It, wait, let me jot that down…) Anyway, Jodi begins with the title. She said, “the pieces are inspired by the titles; the titles are what I was thinking of at the time I created it.” With the title in mind, the piece begins to form and take its shape. It can be finished in as little as half an hour, but usually much longer depending on the technique she is using, such as hammering, weaving, wire wrapping or painting.
Although Jodi’s “favorite” piece changes from time to time – I mean, look at her work, how could I even think of choosing a favorite – but right now one of her favorite pieces is “Family Don’t End with Blood,” a piece Lynn asked if she wanted to design. This piece is one of her favorites because of what it represents – particularly the chapters in “Family Don’t End With Blood” written by Kim Rhodes, Ruth Connell, Briana Buckmaster, and Rachel Miner. Jodi went on to explain that as she read these chapters, she came to realize the common thread through all them – embracing what made them different, finding strength when they were at their weakest, being absolutely transparent whether they’re in front of the camera or speaking with a fan, ultimately finding each other and creating their family.
With that commonality in mind, and being inspired by Family Don’t End With Blood, Jodi designed a piece that is “akin to a continuous journey with an embrace; finding ourselves and our families; choosing our families.” The piece is a gray/blue round luminous glass wrapped in layers: a silver layer, a black layer, and another silver layer, with a red crystal on top to represent family.
Jodi draws inspiration from a number of different people in her life. The support and encouragement from her husband and her children are immeasurable. She also mentioned the Vendor Squad, a group of vendors traveling the country, often attending the same conventions together. She said, “Their spirit, work ethic, and dedication to their crafts are beyond inspiring.” She also explained this Squad is a constant source of support and encouragement. They band together and promote one another’s work. If only we could live in a world where this kind of support and encouragement existed between corporations… what a world that would be.
I asked all of the artists a few key questions, and below are some of their responses.
Thoughts on tagging celebrities:
Anne summed it up best when she said, “My rule of thumb on tagging is never assume they will see it, but always assume they might see it, so it’s better to err on the side of caution.”
To Post, or Not to Post, that is the Question:
(and the answer seems to be – think first, and use some common sense!)
“In cases of hate/slander, it should be shut down immediately. Anything with the subject of malice and hate to me is not art. If you are creating art and truly love the subject, you should have respect for that and choose to display that love and respect.” – Candice
“These type of things should at least be tagged so people can choose whether or not to see it. There’s room for everyone, but I also believe we have an obligation to show respect to each other, and to the people we admire. There are some lines that shouldn’t be crossed.” – Jilly
“I think freedom of expression is very important and an artist should be allowed to post their artwork on social media. That being said, there’s a place for everything and I believe content should be rated or given a warning label so that if you do not want to see graphic pictures of violence or sex for example, you would not have to see it.” – Lisa
“Think to yourself… “Would I walk up and show this to a million people in the middle of times square on the coca cola marquee? No? Then maybe I shouldn’t post it.” We are all unique individuals that enjoy the right to be able to enjoy what we do enjoy. It’s about respecting others and knowing your audience. Basic manners is what it all comes down to. Embrace our differences, folks.” – Jodi
About crediting artists:
Without fail, they all agreed on the most basic of points: Don’t. Remove. Watermarks. It really is that simple, folks. Just don’t do it.
I think my favorite part of doing these interviews has been reading their advice for other artists struggling with self-doubt. Sometimes their advice sounds simple, such as “practice, practice, practice!” That might sound easy enough, but when your head is swirling with self-doubt and negativity, it can be hard to find the strength to practice your art on a given day. In times like that, Amanda, Samantha, and Lisa recommend reaching out to your fellow artists, seek out encouragement and support from your artist community.
Candice and Jilly both said, “Don’t give up.” They talked about the importance of making mistakes and learning from it. They said to stop comparing yourself to others, stop worrying about other people’s opinions, just keep going, keep working on the art you want to make.
Jodi said, “Strive for uniqueness, but don’t get hung up on perfection. Perfect is boring. Develop your own style and technique.” Anne echoed that when she said, “If you’re hung up on one thing, do something else.” Anne also said something that really resonated with me, “If you wouldn’t let someone say it to a friend of yours, don’t say it to yourself.”
And then there’s the advice from Paula. (I’m not crying, I just have something in my eye) She said, “If you paint or write for “likes” or validation, you’re doing it wrong. Paint because you can’t live without it. Write because the words are pounding inside of you, trying to get out. Be relentless in living up to your dreams. Don’t listen to the naysayers. But most of all, give yourself a break. If you need to feel your feelings, then feel them. These feelings will lead to new creations. Relish them.”
Another look at their wonderful art!
Everyone’s advice is powerful and worth repeating, every day. But for me, it was this statement from Paula that really hit home, really punched me in the feels:
“If it’s in your blood, then do it. Create. Make. Be.”
I’m gonna need that on a shirt.
Please check out the links (found beneath their names throughout the article) for all of these wonderful artists!
This is the second in a series of articles in which I am shining the spotlight on some of the talented artists within the SPNFamily. Friendly reminder that, for the purpose of these articles, I am spotlighting some of my favs. And you might agree, my favs might be your favs. But it’s also very possible that your fav might not be spotlighted in this series… and that’s ok. I mean no disrespect to your fav, I mean no disrespect to you, the Artist. Shine a spotlight on your favs by letting them know how much you appreciate what they do!
As I explained in the first article in this series, “art” has a multitude of definitions. If you asked 100 people to give a definition of art, you would probably get 100 different answers. In this article, I am spotlighting artists who use a variety of mediums and materials, each creating their own unique style.
This article was truly a learning experience for me. I don’t know anything about drawing. Trust me, fam, you do not want me to do artwork for you. You’ll get a stick figure sketch worse than anything Sam Winchester could ever draw. Seriously. But the artists featured here, well, how do I even begin to talk about their talent? Are there even words to describe their works? I am so glad I had enough sense to ask the right questions, because they told me about materials and mediums and styles and used words and terminology that I did not know even existed in language. To be honest, I’m a bit scared to write this article, fearing I won’t do justice to these amazing artists.
So without further ado, gather around and join with me in drooling over their work and celebrating the talents of S. Dahl, Christine Griffin, Kaiya Plagenhoef, Angie Siketa, and Scout Villegas!
The first featured artist is S. Dahl. Formerly an elementary school teacher, she is now teaching art to middle school students – I hope these students and their parents appreciate the gift of having Mrs. Dahl as their teacher! She is primarily self taught. She uses oil, acrylic and watercolor paints, and has recently begun experimenting with colored pencils. However, she works primarily with graphite pencils, which is perhaps her signature look.
Mrs. Dahl explained her process of creating art. She typically starts by studying a photo, studying the details of the subject. She went on to explain, “When I draw a picture, I always start drawing the right eye, for some reason, then the left. If I can tell who the person is from just the eyes I have drawn, then I proceed. The eyes are the most important part of the picture, they are the focal point. So, if I can’t see the person in just the eyes, I keep tweaking until I can. I easily spend 10 hours drawing a picture.”
I asked each artist who or what inspires them, and to offer a piece of advice for aspiring artists. I thought Mrs. Dahl’s answers were interesting in terms of perspective; how we see things with our own eyes versus how others see us. Her advice to aspiring artists: “You have to be strong, learn to take criticism, learn to change when it is needed, see your mistakes for what they are, and be your own cheering section. Push yourself to step outside your comfort zone and try new techniques and materials; I am constantly experimenting with other mediums. I experiment with other mediums for not only a break, but also to see if I can find something that will finally help me feel a sense of personal success in art. I get frustrated with being mediocre and want to create something that I can feel really proud of.”
She said that she is inspired by Michaelango, Rapheal, and John Singer Sergeant because of “their ability to take a paint brush and create art of subjects that look as if they could walk right off the canvas.”
I asked her if there was a specific piece that she would love to create. First she said that she would like, for once, for her parents to look at her art and say, wow, that is really good. Then she said she would love for TPTB behind Supernatural to see her art and say “hey, we want to use your drawings of the cast for our show”.
Seriously, Mrs. Dahl, nothing mediocre here! Every time you post a new piece on Twitter, I am just awed! I really think your subjects could just walk off the page! #AmIRight
Christine Griffin is the next featured artist. Cris is a lifelong artist. She has a bachelor’s degree in art and a master’s degree in painting. Her primary job is as a Domestic Engineer (A+ terminology!) however she does take commission work and she also designs book covers, such as the cover of Family Don’t End With Blood. She uses a variety of materials, including graphite, oils, acrylics, watercolors, carbon and conte pencils, and Photoshop. She prefers the genres of urban fantasy, horror, traditional fantasy and scifi.
She went on to explain a bit about her process, which typically starts with a tiny doodle to hash out what goes where. Then she looks for photoreferences and takes this new information to create a more detailed drawing, working out anatomy issues and whatever additional bits need further exploring. Then she begins painting. When she paints in Photoshop, she paints the same way she would traditionally, with the added bonus that she can play with the colors ad nauseum. As anyone who paints digitally knows, you can have a nearly infinite amount of layers in your file. Cris explained that she used to paint this way, with a ton of layers, but the past few years she’s been trying to limit the number of layers as much as possible because it just feels more comfortable and traditional to her. She said it’s not unusual for her to take 30-40 hours to finish one of her more detailed pieces.
Cris said she experiments constantly, in part because she gets dissatisfied easily. She would like to focus on one ‘look’ more consistently, because consistency is what gets you jobs. It’s what gets you arting better. She also said which technique she uses for a given piece depends entirely upon what she wants for the MOOD of the piece. She said, “If you can get your viewer to feel, then you have truly rocked it. They will forgive you many sins if you hit them in their heartplace.”
Cris had a fabulous piece of advice for aspiring artists. She said, “Beginning is always the toughest part. I’m worried I won’t be able to get the image in my head out onto the ‘page’ (or screen). I’m worried I’ve forgotten how to hold a damned pen or use words. But listen, you will ABSOLUTELY fail if you never try. So at least TRY.” Good advice, indeed. Her other tips included:
• Don’t take short-cuts. Learn your basics, like anatomy and light and perspective.
• Photo reference is not a SIN, but do use it prudently. Don’t let it become a substitute for knowledge.
• If the photo isn’t yours or stock, you’d better get permission to use it.
• Don’t be afraid to ask for concrit. Get used to people having opinions about your work.
• Don’t be so hard on yourself. There is a spot for us all, for all of our gifts and skills.
• Let people help you. F*ck the doubting voice in the back of your head and embrace the one that brings you the joy.
Cris would love to be able to celebrate the completion of something big, such as her own book, a gallery show, or something she can share with her friends and mentors and idols. Um, yeah, I am 100% there for this! She would also like to create original canon about Supernatural. She has a small handful of characters creeping to life. Interestingly, her favorite piece that she has created thus far is called The Flock, an image that had festered in her mind for ages. She said it’s not often that a piece surfaces exactly the way you wanted it to, but this one did. And let me just say, to anyone and everyone reading this article, can this become canon? Please?
Kaiya Plagenhoef is my next featured artist. She is currently in high school, and no, that is not a typo. Suffice it to say that, yes, she is taking art classes in school, but hello – she is very much self taught at this point in her young life! She does want to make art her primary source of income one day. Currently she does commissions for people based upon photos, typically of children. She said that she enjoys creating pieces for people that they would love, that would make them smile. I think she’s definitely well on her way to that goal.
Kaiya’s preferred genre is portrait realism, and she uses graphite and charcoal pencils. While she typically sticks to black and white portraiture, her classes allow her to experiment with different styles, techniques and mediums. Oftentimes, what starts as a requirement, turns into something she thoroughly enjoys as it allows her to expand and fine-tune her abilities.
I asked her if she has developed a signature look. She explained what her art teacher told her, “In art there are light people and black people. Those who stay on the lighter end of their pencil, not shading too heavily, are light people. Those who love the darkness, who reach for charcoal and strive to create heavy shadows in pieces are black people. You, you’re both. You’re a paradox.” What a beautiful thing, to be so gifted, so talented… and to have that both recognized and acknowledged by your mentors. #Paradox
Kaiya’s process also starts with a photo. When she comes across a photo that she loves, her immediate thought is “how do I draw this”? In doing portraits, she focuses hard on the little details in the subject’s face: the way their eyebrows curl, a hidden scar, the freckles around their nose. Because of her attention to these details, her pieces can take anywhere from 6 hours to 70 hours to finish. “It’s a grueling process, usually accompanied by me doubting how well I’m actually doing, resulting in many do-overs or re-sketching certain physical traits”, she said. Ultimately, her goal with every piece is to create something that evokes an emotional response with the viewer.
Kaiya is inspired by many artists, but there’s one who always, unknowingly, pushed her to do better. Fellow fandom artist Angie Siketa is a huge inspiration to Kaiya because she has a unique look to her pieces, with incredible detail and a beautiful balance to her shading. Through studying Angie’s works, Kaiya found ways to improve her own pieces.
So many fellow artists experience feelings of self doubt and anxiety, and Kaiya often feels it too. She said that she can see “every flaw, every mistake… it jumps out at me like a giant, flashing red sign, which just adds to my anxiety with my art.” She pushes through these feelings by turning that negative energy around and using it to fuel her desire to become better. Her tips for aspiring artists:
• Do not compare yourself to other artists.
• Art is a learning and growing process that can be slow at times, but the more you work at it, the better you get.
• Keep working, to keep creating art whether you hate what you’re doing or not.
• Allow yourself to feel, really feel, that sense of reward and accomplishment when you make something you truly love.
Kaiya’s favorite piece is a portrait based on a photo by Kelsi Sickmann of Rob Benedict, titled Fare Thee Well. She completed the piece in three days during her after school hours, finishing at “4:30am covered in charcoal and utterly exhausted.” Kaiya went on to say that if there is one piece that she would love to do, it would be to paint a mural on the side of a building one day. I know I’d love to photograph it – the whole process of her creating this mural, and of course, the finished project.
Angie Siketa is the next featured artist. She has been drawing since she was two years old and is mostly self taught; art was one of her least favorite subjects in school because the class was heavily theory based, with an emphasis on writing and research rather than actual drawing. She also tried a Digital Media course, but it was ultimately cancelled due to lack of interest, teaching staff, and funding. At that point, Angie decided to just move forward on her own.
She uses Palomino Blackwing pencils most of the time, however, she has experimented a bit with color using Faber Castell Polychromes. For her digital art, she sketches the piece in pencil first, then scans it and finishes it in Photoshop. She enjoys drawing portraits and chibis of actors/characters from TV shows (Supernatural was a big foundation), movies (Tim Burton!) and bands (My Chemical Romance, The Used, Green Day) as well as anime/cartoons (Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon). She also draws family members, people, and pets on commission. Although she does have a ‘day job,’ she has been freelancing and doing commission pieces since 2013, and she hopes to grow her art base into her primary source of income someday.
Angie has developed a signature look in her portraits, something she describes as “very high contrast with a unique blending/texturing of the skin.” With her chibi work, she says it took a few years to develop a style that was hers, but now she feels it is recognizable.
Angie’s process also begins with a reference picture. Next, she grids her paper and then she starts with the eyes. Depending on the size of the project, it can take anywhere from three hours to a few days. When drawing her chibis, she searches for photos to use for referencing details and outfit ideas. She sketches them in pencil, starting with the head and then determining their pose. Next, she adds all the features. Then she takes a photo of her piece, imports it to her laptop/Photoshop where she then traces over her pencil work and adds color. One chibi can take 1-2 hours or so to finish, from sketch to the final product.
Angie also had some advice for aspiring artists – lots of practice. She said she draws almost every day, and encourages artists to draw no matter what. She also echoed the advice of others, saying not to compare yourself to others, but instead compare your current work to your past work and keep goin’. She said looking through her past work also helps her combat the feelings of self doubt because she is able to see how far she’s come and how much she has improved. One of the things she said really struck a chord with me. She said “art is a never-ending lesson, and with every piece, you are learning and improving.” That’s definitely something I need to remember as I continue to work on my photography.
Angie is inspired by many artists, praising and applauding artists such as Mel (@melissanti), Adele (@uhdele), Katie (@artbyktgamboa) and Euclase (@eliciadonze). On Euclase, Angie said, “her digital portrait work is both soft and vibrant, and so very stunning – always has me in awe. One time she (Euclase) messaged me on tumblr and told me my work was amazing and I was giddy about it for days.” It is a beautiful thing when Artists Support Artists.
Angie doesn’t have a favorite piece, but she does enjoy scrolling through art on blogs/instagrams/whathaveyou for hours. She said it becomes something she “can really feel in her heart, and it’s such a feel-good ache and I just want to ooze my love all over the art.” She doesn’t really have a piece that she would love to create. Instead, her dream piece is a bit more extensive than just one piece: she would love to see her name in the credits of an animated movie.
The final artist featured in this article is Scout Villegas. She has been interested in art for most of her life and is mostly self-taught, with some minor education throughout high school. She considers herself a cartoonist and digital artist, but she also loves working in fantasy and portrait work. She started working in the digital medium about ten years ago, now using primarily Photoshop CS5 with her own custom brushes. She does occasionally do more traditional art, using Pigma Micron pens in a Moleskine sketchbook. Recently Scout has been experimenting with other mediums, in part to give her eyes a break from the digital work. She does have a signature look, something that she continues to work with and build upon to strengthen that signature style.
Although art started as a hobby for her, now it is her primary job. She does everything by herself (management), and she would like to work in close collaboration with others in the future. She also mentioned an interest in getting into an art department. She hopes to go further in the industry, possibly within animation or comics. Traveling and doing cons have been super beneficial to helping these things come closer to tangibility.
Scout’s process begins with a very, very vague blob of an idea. She said it’s like seeing a vaguely-shaped chunk of marble, something that can be carved into a bust. A piece can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 12 hours. She has learned that the implication of detail often creates a visual illusion to the viewer, allowing them to see more than is actually depicted. She said, “The emotional impact of those works can be heavier, so I’ve been teaching myself to take less time on painting and more time composing.”
Scout said that she is honestly so inspired by everyone that just puts their best foot forth in the arts now. “No one has to necessarily wear the professional title of “artist” for me to admire them. Anyone that creates inspires me to do more, especially when the general mood of the world is “tense” and “chaotic.”
Perhaps it is that tense, chaotic mood that leads so many artists down the path of self doubt and anxiety, including Scout. She said that she always experiences self doubt and anxiety when working on a new piece. Although she has moved past the feelings of completely giving up on her art, she did explain how she works through the anxiety. She said, “It’s become a natural habit to continue creating for me. It’s strange, but I’ve trained myself to make drawing a very strong muscle memory. Even if I’m overwhelmed with a project that’s over my head, the way I calm myself down is by focusing on one that I’m more confident in. Which, in turn, helps me improve so I can go back to what I was originally scared to work on and eventually finish it.”
Scout shared her tips and advice for aspiring artists. I really appreciated her frankness as she explained why we, as artists, should stop comparing ourselves to other artists. She said, “To get good at anything, you almost always have to completely suck at it first. This is a huge barricade to get over, but once you start looking at artists as mentors and friends rather than Untouchable Art Gods, things get a bit easier.” Amen.
She had other tips too, such as try not to take too big of leaps. If you don’t think you’re ready for something new, work up to it. She said, “It’s like drawing a face. Sometimes you have to work on it in sections. Draw a thousand noses first. Then a thousand eyes. Then lips. Eyebrows, etc. Afterwords, you’ll be able to put together what you couldn’t before.” She also advised that persistence and experimentation are powerful tools every artist needs to use.
Scout does not necessarily have a favorite piece, but she does have a favorite project. The God’n’Gabe books that she has done have been huge feats for her, so each one she finishes in the series is something she considers a huge accomplishment. She recently finished The Swaingels, which is her favorite series of works as of right now. Her dream project is to animate a music video for Louden Swain. Um, yes please, can this be a Thing?
Lastly, we all discussed posting art on social media. They all agreed on several key points:
To Post, or Not to Post, That is the Question:
I think Scout summed it up best when she said “There’s a time and place for everything, and art is art.” She explained that there is likely a platform out there for literally anything and everything, so find the platform that is best suited for your work. They all agreed they would be hesitant to share art that is perhaps unflattering or embarrassing to any given celebrity, and they would not tag said celebrity in the posted material.
Some Do’s and Don’ts:
• Don’t try to claim or distribute or sell an artist’s work as your own. Not Cool.
• Don’t show the celebrities an artist’s work without the express permission of the Artist. As Cris said, not all art is suitable for widespread display.
• Do consider carefully tags. Perhaps avoid using anything rude or crude, or offensive/profane language. Obviously, these kinds of things are subjective and vary from person to person.
• Do credit your inspiration, such as “inspired by (photographer’s name)” or by a song (title and singer/song writer). Angie oftentimes includes a link to the music video that inspired her work. As Kaiya said, “I think by crediting what inspired you as the Artist, it could open up a better understanding of your work to those who view it.” On the other hand, sometimes the line blurs a bit when it comes to the finished piece; it may have been inspired by something, but the final product may have ended down a different path.
ONE MORE TIME, FOR ALL Y’ALL IN THE BACK:
For the love of all that is Holy, Don’t crop out or remove watermarks. And tag the artist when reposting. I think Cris said it best as she explained: “If someone wants to hire me, then that client needs to be able to find me; that’s partly why watermarks are so important as it helps potential clients identify my work.” So on that note, why not help spread these names out there for potential clients? #SpreadLove
To learn more about these fantastic artists, or to buy their works, please visit the following links:
I’m rather fond of saying that everything leads back to Supernatural, but honestly, it’s just true! I had the pleasure of chatting with Michael Adamthwaite, who is currently playing Caesar’s lieutenant Luca in the new film War For the Planet of the Apes. The film had a presence at Comic Con with a panel showing off the artistic and visual effects of the film. As a long time fan of the entire Planet of the Apes series of films (I even read the book by Pierre Boule and loved it), I was excited about the last in the sequel trilogy. The film focuses on Caesar and the war between his quest for revenge and his innate empathy, as well as on the actual fight between humans and apes. It also introduces the de-evolved young human girl Nova, a familiar name from the original series of films and first group of sequels. The movie tackles deeper themes than might be expected, which makes it even more intriguing to me. So having an opportunity to chat with Michael Adamthwaite, who played Caesar’s lieutenant, Luca, was a real treat.
As soon as I did a little IMDb research on the film, I realized its Supernatural connection – Michael, as well as Ty Olsson and Aleks Paunovic, had all been on SPN too! Here’s my chat with Michael, which I thoroughly enjoyed.