Meet the Artist!

Our second Q&A features our artist, Candice Broersma. You can also get to know our composer here and our writer here.


What are your aspirations?

There’s an endless jumble of ideas floating around in my brain. Sharing as many of those ideas (the good ones, at least) as possible is a start.

Career-wise, I want to illustrate and the more fantastical, the better. We’re talking anthropomorphic insect people, flying eel-beasts, and re-imagined myths. I thoroughly enjoy inventing worlds and the process behind bringing them to life. This type of content leads me to the realm of fiction literature with its many opportunities for world-building.

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The most dapper of anthropomorphic insects, my character Monocle Mantis.

Book covers and narrative spot illustration are specific areas of interest for me. I also love to apply whimsical illustration to other areas of commercial art, including advertisement and visual development for entertainment.

Another aspiration for me is connecting with my audience and other creative minds. I want my work to make them feel the same feels I have when I find a piece of music, a painting, or a book that blows my mind. Not being able to see (most of the time) how people respond to my work makes it even more special when I successfully complete a client commission and get to witness their delight. Illustration is a form of communication to me, so I am on a constant quest to improve how I “speak” to people.

What inspires you?

People, carnivorous plants, the latest deep-sea discovery, hazelnut spread, the Word, Victorian fashion, Hayao Miyazaki, automatons, clouds, Cirque du Soleil, John Williams’ theme for Hook, hobbits, Gustavo Dudamel’s hair…

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Gustavo’s hair. Every follicle on fleek.

WIP: The Path Witch

In the world of fairytales, every single person, even the most skeptical, is susceptible to the lure of magic. The most talented practitioners of magical arts are not only able to channel the power through their bodies or an object. They also have the ability to intuit the innermost desires of the people they encounter. They have an intimate understanding of each human emotion. Longing, jealousy, bitterness, loneliness, hope, despair–an incredible depth of empathy to use as they will. These practitioners know that the strongest magic, the magic hardest to resist, is that which taps into those wishes speaking within us, at times clamoring, deafening, at others murmuring, nearly inaudible. Our wishes that we can never fully silence.

The Path Witch is one such practitioner. In her world, like ours, there are those people constantly hungry for more, for greater imagined circumstances or simply something new. There are people who leave home to seek their fortune and those who are tied to where they are and long for independence. It said that these hungering souls have been visited by the Path Witch. The Path Witch and her knobby broom, sweeping winding paths through the countryside when no one sees, luring travelers from the road. It is to this world that you’ll be taken soon, starting with the words you’ve heard as a child, the words you will hear countless times again.

Once upon a time…

Tumtum Trees and Other Uffish Thoughts

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
      Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
      And stood awhile in thought.
And, as in uffish thought he stood,
      The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
      And burbled as it came!

Jabberwocky, Lewis Carroll

My first thought upon seeing Candice’s initial art draft of Beneath the Tumtum Tree was: Sir Knight, should you be staring at that Bread-and-Butterfly? My second was: NO REALLY, LOOK BEHIND YOU.

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Candice’s first draft of the knight. (Get your act together, sir, there’s a Jabberwock afoot!)

I wonder how things worked out for the aspiring hero in our Jabberwocky-inspired triptych? I guess we’ll never know… What I do know is that musical ideas immediately began flowing after I viewed the original artwork, and that is one of the main reasons I love collaboration. You’re not starting with a blank slate1; you’re building on the foundation laid by your fellow artists.

It’s no surprise that the impulse to incorporate contrabassoon immediately sprung to mind. Candice’s Jabberwock is towering and fearsome, but at the same time its gait feels somewhat lumbering and the weight of its armor cumbersome, just like a–erm, sorry–contrabassoon. But in fairness to this low, surly brother of the bassoon, I had just seen Quentin Tarantino’s new movie The Hateful Eight the previous day, and Ennio Morricone’s score blazed fresh in my mind. If you haven’t seen it or for some reason the music did not leave such an imprint in your memory, the opening track L’ultima diligenza di Red Rock features, among many other fantastic elements, an interplay of bassoon, contrabassoon, and tuba.

While Morricone had a contingent of professional and virtuosic musicians to record his score, I, alas, did not. Instead, I own a bundle of EastWest‘s sample libraries, or “virtual instruments.” It’s like working with MIDI, but it sounds a thousand times better–and yet still doesn’t rival collaborating with living, breathing people. Sample libraries are an invaluable tool though, especially if you’re working on projects that don’t have a budget for hiring those living, breathing people.2 That’s why one of my goals for Triptych is to hone my skills with them and Logic Pro, a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) that allows you to manipulate those samples through MIDI. Despite having owned the libraries for several years now, and having utilized them on multiple film/interdisciplinary projects, I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what they’re truly capable of. And I am by no means an expert at Logic. Sometimes I still feel like we’re in the getting-to-know-each-other phase, and our encounters are not always pretty. I have so much to learn, but each project brings me one tiny step closer to fluency in this digital language. I’d hazard it’s comparable to an artist who has trained for years in traditional media but is now moving into the digital realm.

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Once upon a time this looked like complete gibberish to me. The piano roll still does sometimes. Progress?

Beneath the Tumtum Tree

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Once, I could choose…Some part of me remembers that.

Now the Hunt pulls me…through these gnarling Tumtum trees…the Hunger leads. And I cannot choose who I will eat. Who is next? Who crosses my path…I crawl, I smell, I smell, I smell…

A youth…unaware, unsuspecting…His mind’s footsteps, his feelings’ trail…I smell them and hear them too. His wish to win an old fool’s favor. The bitterness and angst within…reeking like a rotten apple. To my tongue, he will be sweet…I can tell it by the smell.

Once, I knew a youth. My loving master. And we scouted these trees together, hunted just for sport. I look through these branches and the slithy toves…I can almost see him again. I can almost see…

This youth I smell…there’s something else…the musk of a will that’s strong. So very strong—I hope, one that’s strong enough…For our paths will cross. We have come to kill. As I have for him, he has for me. His mind, intentions, as clear as any other’s. His father’s warning, echoing…beware…beware of me…

The Jabberwock.

Meet the Composer!

As we kick off the Triptych project, we want to share a little more about ourselves. Today’s post features our composer, Natalie Moller. Check back for more interviews with our artist and writer!


 

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My cats like to “help” when composing.

What are your aspirations?

Two music degrees later and I’m still working this out! Through six years of studying contemporary classical music–a genre I’m not sure many people outside of the immediate music world understand or are even really aware of–it was easy to lose track of my original vision. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing; I think everyone entering music school at the collegiate level has no idea what they’re getting into, but if you persevere through the frequent occasional craziness, you get into some really awesome things. My original aspiration was to score video games. Do I still want to score video games? Most certainly. It’s near or at the top of my list.1 But I also love writing contemporary classical music. I want to continue writing for the concert hall. I want to write opera.2 Not stuffy old opera with degrading romantic storylines (sorry old opera), not over-the-top Wagneresque opera (sorry Wagner opera, but your vibrato is not for me), but contemporary opera. I want to write incidental music for theatre productions, and music for dancers–or music for a production uniting theatre, dance, performance, visual design… You get the picture. I love the art of collaboration.

Aside from all that, I’ve harbored a love for art and an even deeper love for writing ever since I was little. If you asked me back then what I would be when I grew up, author would have been my first answer. It’s not a dream I intend to abandon; it has just been nudged aside a little on my journey as a composer. One day I’ll pick up that pen again, and perhaps someday after that, for fun, I will dust off the old paintbrush as well.

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I sense a pattern…

What inspires you?

At the heart of almost all things I love lies the element of storytelling. Written word, visual art, music–all these forms invite the audience on a journey, be it an abstract emotional passage or a more literal sojourn. That’s the primary reason I put pen to paper. Collaborating with other artists and friends (like for this project!) is also a tremendous source of inspiration. It’s amazing to watch an idea grow organically through the contributions of multiple perspectives. Nature is also a recurring theme and muse in my musical work.

WIP: Beneath the Tumtum Tree

The impetus for this upcoming illustration was the poem “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll. I wanted to portray a moment of tension from the story, so I focused on the moment right before the protagonist discovers the presence of his manxome foe. I wanted to depict the Jabberwock in a unique, but “accurate” way, so I researched the possible meanings of the nonsensical words in the poem and made sure any clear descriptions of the beast were directly involved. The only literal lines refer to the Jabberwock’s formidable “claws”, “jaws”, and “eyes of flame”. The Jabberwock is often depicted as dragon-like, but it could be a kitten for all we know.

I focused on the “claws” aspect and thought of animals with the most terrifying claws: crustaceans. And “jaws”? Well, snapping turtles have a pretty terrifying maw. This is my slew of reference photos for the Jabberwock, which is an example of indirect reference. With this type of reference, only small aspects from each image, like underlying anatomy and surface texture are being utilized.

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These photos aided in the development of a 3D model, which I used for direct reference, right down to its neck wrinkles:JabberwockModelRef72

The 3D model was sculpted in a spiffy free program called Sculptris. I took some screenshots from different angles and set the model to a glossy material (in red) to see the specular highlights. On the right is a rendering from Blender. I imported my Sculptris model and rigged it into the exact pose I wanted in my illustration. This type of reference is the best; lighting, anatomy, and an accurate representation of form are rolled into one image.

My protagonist also went through some serious visual development. I started out with a 3D model, but wasn’t satisfied with what I had for clothing reference. Real clothing folds have an unpredictable nature that can be difficult to replicate if drawing from imagination or even when drawing from a decent 3D model. Enter Pablo:

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Pablo is my sixth-scale artists figure, which I recently purchased from Sideshow Collectibles. His only modeling fee is free room and board and he can stay in the same pose for hours on end!  He is dressed in crusader-inspired garb that I crafted out of foil and tape. The exposed foil areas have a layer of tape on one side for durability while other areas have an extra layer of tape. Some parts of the garment required hand-sewing in order to withstand the figure’s turning, but it didn’t require expert seamstress knowledge. In some areas like the head coif I hid my frankenstein seams completely with a layer of tape and another layer of silver spray paint.

The beauty of foil clothing is it can be “posed” into perfect wind-swept folds. This reference was the last bit of information I needed to continue painting “Beneath the Tumtum Tree”. Check back next week for the thrilling conclusion and remember to beware the Jabberwock!