"Covering an image with ornament is like turning it to gold, or setting it to music; it glorifies it, revealing the inner nature of the subject on its visible surface. The result is enchanting yet mysterious, for it is a revelation of something originally invisible, like a scent, a mood, or an ideology. Ornament is a metaphor, an essential element of poetry."
Allison Stanley's web-page (www.allisonstanleyart.com) opens with this description of her unique style. In many ways, the quote is very similar to her art; beautiful, poetic, mysterious. I first met Allison in the artist alley of Anime Expo 2014 and I was immediately drawn to her table. She was exhibiting with her equally talented sister, Electra Stanley, and there was nothing else at the convention quite like their work. I just had to know more.
From a young age, Allison had always loved art and wanted to make a profession of it. She dropped out of high school at 15 to get a head start on her artistic career. Her initial forays into the creative profession included some writing, specifically for games. She soon found that she preferred the independence and creative freedom that came with making and promoting her own original illustrations. She was also drawn to classic art and literature, most notably of the medieval period. She studied illuminated manuscripts and even uses some of the same tools as one would have used in those times. The results are unique works that look like they could have been exhumed from the catacombs of an ancient church.
“I explored different mediums, and it was always a struggle. . Ink nibs were instant bliss! (They) challenge you to try to make finer and finer lines. I want to have something fascinating on every inch of an art piece.”
The classical aesthetic of her pieces is further enhanced with the use of mediums such as calf-skin vellum, oak gall inks, and gold/palladium leaf.
In today’s environment, it may surprise some to find an artist with such a classic style at an anime convention. I must admit I was initially caught off guard myself. Allison was quick to point out that this is a fallacy, and anime fans have more diverse tastes than for which they are often credited.
“I feel reasonably at home at anime conventions--because my art connects with people's deep childhood dreams of celestial, goofy anime beauty. My art style is very retro-manga, which is exactly what some people are looking for in artist alley.
A closer look at her works will reveal inspiration from the likes of Yokohama Shopping Log, Kyoko Ariyoshi’s ‘Swan’ and the Miyazaki works. For Allison, bringing her work to anime conventions was a very natural move. She does what she loves, and sincerely wants to share it with the world. I see her as a model for young artists on the fence about getting that first artist alley table or starting a DeviantArt page or an Etsy. I asked her if she had any advice for those needing that slight boost of encouragement:
“My advice to a young artist just entering the art world would be: Make art! The number one job of an artist is to make artwork. Don't get caught up sacrificing valuable creation time on social media, answering emails or whatever life throws at you. It can seem like the lowest priority item on your to-do-list, but it's important!.... Don't stress too much about finding your style. Look at a lot of beautiful things and visually process them, really look at them. Whatever you look at will be absorbed and come out in your art.”
Allison enjoys a quiet life with her husband in Texas. When she is not on the road to her next con, she loves reading, aquatic-gardening, and playing with her cats. It was a pleasure and honor to have this conversation with Allison. Be sure to look for her at your next anime convention or Renaissance faire. I encourage you to visit her site at www.allisonstanleyart.com to learn more.