News and Hearsay
"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.
Since I have recently decided to get back into the sketchbook, I found that it helps to find a favorite artist or artists. Basically they are these wells of inspiration from which I drink from time to time to replenish my creative juices (dang that was a baller metaphor!). One of them is very conveniently related to me, that being my brother whom you all know as P-Shinobi. The others I have discovered through my daily troll sessions of Deviant Art and Instagram. On today's Spotlight interview I had the pleasure of talking to one of my earliest and still one of my favorite such inspiration wells.
Peter Mohrbacher is an independent artist best known for creating the Angelarium series. From the start I had a feeling our talk would be quite revealing. I met him at Anime Central last year in his home state of Illinois where I got a canvas and 2 prints from his booth. Suffice it to say I was a fan long before that meeting, and was thrilled when he made the time for my interview. When I asked him his age he responded thus, “32? 33? I forgot. I think I'm 33. No wait, it's 32.” I'm going with 32. He worked several years in the gaming industry in very low profile and some unsuccessful titles. When asked what caused him to leave that world he answered flatly, “I have a hard time having bosses.” Peter places a lot of value in the worth an artist places on their work, and being managed by someone else tends to distort that self evaluation.
“I want to value my work highly and when I work for someone else, that isn't always the way they feel. It's more comfortable for me to take my work straight to an audience rather than filter it through the layers of management present in office work.”
I feel that this is a thought most artists will appreciate. We at Boomslank are constantly walking the line between managing our artist and giving him full creative freedom.
It was one thing to want something different, but Peter needed an extra bit of inspiration to go in the direction he chose. He found that inspiration in the form of another independent artist.
“It was when I saw my friend Sam Flegal (http://www.samflegal.com) make as much money off his personal painting doing a Kickstarter as I got paid to make a Magic card. I realized that an artist could find success on a scale that was achievable for me. When I got fired from my last job, I didn't hesitate skipping the search for a new one. I just packed up and started working for myself instead.”
The success that followed was instantaneous. Peter had built an online following spanning a decade by featuring his work on as many outlets as he could find, and when he finally went independent his fans were ready. It is a model worth considering for any artist.
The Angelarium (http://www.angelarium.net) is by far Peter’s most well known work. It is a collection of original paintings of Angels. Peter starts with the name, which can be found in several sources. Then he paints his interpretation of that name. He enjoys the artistic challenge of giving a body to seemingly intangible notions like “Mystery” or “The Written Word”.
“The idea of personifying abstract concepts like ‘dust’ and ‘memory’ was immediately interesting to me.”
There are currently over 40 Divine Beings with more to come. Those of you that are already familiar with Angelarium also know of the poetry and storytelling that accompanies each piece. Peter was doing all the writing himself at first, but has since enlisted the help of Eli Minaya to handle the bulk of Angelarium’s written content. When asked about the possibility of a complete story to accompany the paintings, Peter leans towards leaving some things to the imagination.
“I'm a big fan of the storytelling in something like Dark Souls. Rather than setting up a grand epic, I prefer to see glimpses of a story that is better imagined than told outright.”
He does however encourage fanfics, so go nuts!
In closing Peter had some wisdom to share on the worth of an artist, and how this power is sometimes misunderstood or even unnoticed by the artists themselves.
“Artists need to be the first people to declare their work has value. It's a running joke that people think artists should work for free. That's why it's so important that we chose to be our own advocates. We have a monopoly on our own output and we should exercise that power when the circumstance arises.”
Certainly words to live by; artists first and foremost have to be their own biggest fans.
I absolutely enjoyed my talk with Peter Mohrbacher who's favorite anime include Evangelion, FLCL, and Samurai Champloo. Do check out the complete Angelarium collection at http://www.angelarium.net where you can pick up prints and even an art book (already pre-ordered mine!). You can also follow him on Instagram at @bugmeyer. We wish Peter and all independent artists the best, and cannot overstate how much their work is needed and appreciated.
Just recently watched the Puella Madoka Magica movie Rebellion and was inspired to do some rare fan art ^_^.
I absolutely loved the movie! The art and animation were simply stunning, the brief combat scene between Akemi & Tomoe gave me shivers. If you are a fan of the series and haven't seen the movie I highly recommend it.
I also want to take this opportunity to highlight something I found rather troubling recently. It's regarding a proposed international trade agreement that could have some drastic implications on the anime industry. I will not go into great detail about the proposed agreement but the most controversial aspect of it could be the intellectual property provisions that could criminalize such things as fan art to cosplay that were not done with the creators consent.
After a one year absence, we made it back to the notorious Anime Expo! Going to the largest con in North America was going to need all the preparation in the world to ensure that we made the most of it. Well we missed that memo :p. We didn't bring even half the inventory worthy of AX, and we started selling out of stuff on Thursday!!! It's all good though. We have learned our lesson, and our con game will be so strong next year you'll barely recognize it!
This year I was on a personal mission to hunt down some new prints to put on my walls. It was all about originals, no fanart! Mind you there was a lot of awesome fanart (I had to tear myself away from a beautiful Ah My Goddess wallscroll). Nevertheless, we at Boomslank have a soft-spot for artists that "come original" to the con for obvious reasons.
So without further hesitation, here is my AX 2015 loot. I encourage you to look up these artists and show your appreciation for their skill and courage in bringing their original work to a con where fanart traditionally is king!
P.S. Sorry for the picture quality. I took them on my phone :P
Artist: Allison Stanley, www.allisonstanleyart.com
Artist - Camilla D'Erico, http://camilladerrico.com/
Artist: Sarah René Straub, www.sketchystraub.etsy.com
Artist: Patara, www.vuduberi.com
Imagine if you could, a trip to a convention. Ah yes when you woke up this morning you figured it would be just another con, probably like many you have attended before. You jump out of your mom’s minivan, grab your pre-ordered badge, walk through the doors to find…..everyone in normal clothes. That’s right, a con without cosplay. If you are anything like me that exercise probably hurt your head. Cosplay is so integral to cons, that a complete con day could consist of taking pictures of cosplayers, and nothing more. For this edition of the Boomslank Artist Spotlight, I had the privilege of speaking with a young lady whose passion it is to keep this tradition alive and well.
Photo by Henry Kwong (Henrickson)
Kristen Lowe is a talented 21 year old currently pursuing an illustration major at the Ontario College of Art and Design. As you can see in this sample of her work, she has quite the dexterity for art, be it cosplay or illustration. Being naive, I naturally expected her illustrations to reflect her love of anime as well. After she educated me in the nature of university art programs, and what is expected in one’s portfolio, I asked her if more programs should do more to cater to the growing anime art landscape.
“I think that schools should definitely do more to include anime culture in art education. It's so hugely influential in the illustration scene, I think it would be great to have a course available as an elective for interested students! As far as I'm aware most big art universities are lacking in that aspect…”
When I asked Kristen why she believed cosplay was very vital to the anime community, she took a brief pause and then….
“The way that I see cosplay is, that it’s a testament of love or passion for a certain character or series. I feel like when I dress up in cosplay and go to a convention that I am sharing that passion with others… I also feel privileged to get to see everyone else in their cosplays.”
A fitting response from someone who has been living the cosplay life from the young age of 14. After a good friend introduced her to anime and she made a trip to her first convention, the rest as they say, is history.
Though her passion is for cosplay, she has found herself unable to put as much time into it due to a heavy school load. As a result she is only able to take on commissions without actually getting to cosplay herself.
“I love making cosplays for other people and living vicariously through that, but I really miss out on the social aspect of cosplaying, which I would say is one of the most important and rewarding parts.”
As a true cosplayer, Kristen continually stresses that cosplay also defines a community of people with a true love for what they do. It is not enough to put together a brilliant piece, you have to share it with others to make the cosplay complete.
On what the cosplay game has become over the years, Kristen accepts that doing well at a con contest (say that twice as fast!) is not just about having a good looking cosplay, but also about putting on a good performance on stage. That said, contestants can do more to keep their performance true to the characters they are representing. I personally would like to see masquerade contest be more like fashion shows, but I can abide the skits if they are relevant.
While Kristen continues work on completing her degree, she is already looking forward to getting back in the game. She currently has her eyes set on Princess Midna of Legend of Zelda, Twilight Princess, Ryuko Matoi of Kill La Kill, and Sayaka from Madoka Magica.
It was a pleasure speaking with Kristen, as it is with all the artists out there that proudly live their passion for anime. The industry certainly wouldn’t be the same without you. We hope Kristen and all other artists continue to provide us with the fuel we need to keep our Otaku motors running. You are strongly encouraged to keep tabs on her in the links below.
Deviant Art - http://kaizenian.deviantart.com
Photo by Henry Kwong (Henrickson)
If you troll around Deviant Art as much as I do, and have over the last half a year or so, you probably recognize this piece.
It was a daily deviation all those times ago, and being a DBZ fan, I was impressed by this playful take on Goku’s interactions with the mighty dragon. Fast forward to Animazement 2014, and what should I see on an artist alley table? You guessed it, Good Morning Shenron! What are the chances that the artist responsible for that, and as it turns out, so many other beautiful pieces would be in my backyard? On this edition of the Artist Spotlight, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Zach Smithson, artist extraordinaire and all round cool dude.
Zach is a North Carolina, USA native with a degree in Illustration from East Carolina University. Till now I have always assumed that a formal education setting was not helpful in developing artists (a narrow minded view in retrospect), but Zach has very fond memories of his education in the university, and set me straight.
“It is all about the environment you learn in. If the environment promotes expanding your views towards art, and you have professors that tell you what you are doing wrong, and you have peers you can work with, then it can be great. I know I definitely would not have improved as much without my college experience.”
According to Zach, one should not write off a formal educational setting as harmful to developing as an artist. A good program can be invaluable. I guess I should start giving art schools more credit.
Art has been in Zach’s blood for as long as he can remember. From an early age, he seemed to take any opportunity to practice. From posing and drawing his action figures, to doodling on napkins at restaurants, and copying the images off Pokemon cards, his mind has always been set on a future as an illustrator. In every one of his works, you can see evidence of this dedication. When asked from where he draws inspiration, Zach points to the importance of studying other artists while trying to maintain originality.
“I can see some amazing painter ……. and it makes me want to be as good or better than they are. Of course with a lot of painters that won't happen, but it is a drive to keep pushing and getting better, and to come up with better ideas and concepts. I always want to improve. And inspiration can come from anywhere really. Most of the time its just an idea that pops into my head from something completely random, and then I just work from there.”
One cannot help but also admire his humility in pointing out how difficult it is to emulate another artist. The best you can hope for is to improve on yourself. That said, just like with anything else, you have to be serious.
“Well it takes dedication. If you like it as a hobby, then it needs to stay as a hobby. To do it professionally, you really have to have a drive for it. But part of it is mental, I am not as good as I want to be. I look at stuff I did a week ago and I'm already not happy with it. You just have to keep going, keep pushing to improve. Find new artists, find new styles and influences. You can always get better and know more.”
I’ll say that is some sage advice for anyone considering art as a career path.
Zach is of course and anime fan of the Toonami generation. A huge Dragonball fan. Other favorites include Outlaw Star, Attack on Titan, and Cowboy Bebop. Animazement 2014 was his first experience as an artist in Artist Alley table, but he thoroughly enjoyed it, and hopes to be back next year. I personally look forward to see his table.
We invite you to keep track of Zach either on Behance (https://www.behance.net/zachsmithson) or on his Deviant Art page (http://zachsmithson.deviantart.com/). It was a pleasure talking with this young talented artist, and wish him and all the other artists out there the best and all the encouragement in the world.
Being still relatively young, Boomslank is still learning and growing a lot with every new endeavour. One of the things we have been fortunate to pick up is a stronger appreciation for artists, and the passion they put into their work. There aren’t many better places to see this on display than the artist alley. The alley is great not just because of the work that is on display, but also because of the fascinating individuals from whom’s mind those creations sprung. This past week I had the privilege of speaking with one such artist.
I met Iris Chen, aka Deathful, at the 2013 Anime Expo in Los Angeles, CA, where I purchased the print below.
Her day job is graphic design for a large corporation, but her passion is for art. Though she is very versatile, her art is often identified by original characters in dynamic poses and elaborate costume design. Every piece seemed to jump off the page in the way they seemed to draw one into the scene. When asked to describe her style….
“....from the beginning, I wanted to take what we consider to be an "anime style" and lift it to something even more ephemeral and influenced by fashion and design. I can't say I feel like it's always been one thing- but it's a culmination of everything I love and admire in other artists, stories, film, and life.”
Having studied in the design school at North Carolina State University, she was exposed to many art forms. She was able to benefit from the structure of a formal education, while still preserving and cultivating her own identity.
“It's hard to maintain your own style in school, because they are holding you to a standard that is completely decided by each teacher. That can unfortunately crush your style a bit- but I always sketched and did my own work on the side…..Splitting up what I learn in school versus out is a bit difficult. But I would say that the one thing school really teaches you is to meet a deadline.”
I couldn’t agree more with that statement.
With the obligations of life, Iris has not been able to get to as many Artist Alleys as she would have probably liked, but don’t let that fool you. She got her first artist alley table in Animazement in Raleigh, NC when she was 14. She also worked with Animazement to organize their artist alleys for years before she moved to California. That said, she has some strong opinions about what artist alley was, what it is now, and what it should be.
“I think Artists Alley, at the root, should be for the artists. To promote and expose new talent and be a medium for change and to be a real art movement. Currently, it is definitely a market place. It's closer to what a dealers room is than what it started as. I think the problem isn't just with the artists though, it's with the consumers. If consumers ONLY support those who do fanart, then you have artists (suppliers) who have to make fanart to break even or make a profit. But if we took out the promise of high profits from Artists Alley, I think we'd get back to that pure and ideal state of what it would have been and could be. The promise of profit and money has brought in a lot of people who are there to make money and the art is secondary.”
As you have probably already gleaned, Iris has a strong preference for original over fanart. For obvious reasons, we at Boomslank really like that about her.
“Fanart has a lot of pre-set boundaries. You have to make the characters recognizable, you already have things that you can work with and mold or tweak to your own style.... For me, that's too limiting. It's just not as exciting as doing my own thing, because I never know how a drawing I start will turn out. But with fanart, if I choose to actually do it, I want to do the best job I can. If I don't think I can do it justice, I won't do it.”
Having been doing the artist alley for 3 years now with, we understand the pressure that is on artists to create fanart for popular series. Iris believes the consumers are equally as responsible for the direction the artist alley has headed.
You can learn more about Iris on her personal page http://deathful.net/about/, where you can also see an extensive gallery, and purchase her work. You can also follow her on Instagram at http://instagram.com/deathfulghost , where you can find her daily sketches. It was an absolute pleasure to talk to this very talented artist, and fellow anime fan (her favorites include Cowboy Bebop, Tekkonkinkreet, Mononoke (not Mononoke Hime), Shin Sekai Yori, Mushishi, Aoi Bungaku, Gankutsuou, House of Five Leaves, Guilty Crown, Iria, Petshop of Horrors and more). We hope to continue to enjoy her brilliance for years to come.