Interviewed by Peter Tennant
Whisperdom got its first experience of the artwork of Chris Cartwright in February 2005 with her eerie illustration for Dustin La Valleys story The Angel Ripper. Since then Chris has become a regular, providing some memorable artwork for a host of stories on the Whispers website and in the magazine, and also joining our review team to give her own, unique, slant on some of the publications that come our way. Blue Love Maria, Suicidal Daze and Feeding Death are just some of the stories to have benefited from her talent, while elsewhere shes broadened her horizons with artwork appearing in many other publications, including Midnight Street and Insidious Reflections. Those wishing to employ Chris skills to help promote their books, CDs etc, can find her work showcased at Digitell Design and those with an hour to kill (make it two, if youre a guy) should check out her personal creations here.
PT: Okay, Chris, now for the benefit of those too lazy to go and check out the About Me page on your website or the Chris Cartwright page on Whispers itself, could you tell us a bit about your background and how you got into illustration?
CC: My grandma was an artist and when I used to visit her she would let me do my own oil paintings which I really thought was fun at the time. When I got to be a big person and got my first computer I thought it would be neat to design websites and so I enrolled in multi media classes. I was required to take some art classes and was introduced to Photoshop and 3D programs and my interest took another path.so here I am. I still enjoy messing about with websites too.
PT: Now if Im reading you right there, it seems to me that you came to the technology first and the art second, and I know from the Digital Art Club of Evansville link on your website that youre an enthusiastic champion of computer generated artwork. So, a three part question, because I like making things difficult: what is it that appeals to you about using the computer to create art, instead of more conventional methods (e.g. paint and pen), and what would you say are the advantages and disadvantages of using technology in this way? Also, why do you feel people are so resistant to artwork produced in this way?
CC: 1. I love creating art on the computer more so than the traditional way because the possibilities are endless! The results you can get with what you create are amazing! For example, I can take a common portrait I created and apply a filter to it and create a monster. I can manually stretch a face, warp a nose, and try several different effects to achieve my final product. There are so many programs to choose from and so much to learn! I so wish I had these tools when I was younger!! I would not have ended up in trouble as much as I did because I would have been way too busy!
Computer art is just plain funis like TOYS! Toys you can have fun with and make money at the same time! Now THAT is living!
2. The advantages of using computer art rather than traditionally are obvious. Time and resources. You can save so much time creating in this way. If you make a mistake or are not happy with what you have done, you can undo it and be back to where you started before you made your mistake! You cant do that with oil paint or watercolour. You have to spend so much time fixing your mistake or even start all over, which can be costly considering you may have to use a new canvas/paper and additional paint. It may take a day or more to fix itwith computers it takes only a second to get it back to before! And you can save your work in different versions tooyou can have one version darker than anotherhave a certain element in one version and not in another and compare each one side by side to see which looks better.
As for the disadvantages, it does take time to learn how to use the programs and some programs can be very expensive. And, sadly, there are some folks who look down on us computer artists.
Which comes to question #3 (Dont get me started!!).
3. There are certain areas where computer artists are shunned because they do not create art the traditional way. I think that maybe some traditional artists are threatened by us, because our work can sometimes look almost perfect, as close to being a photograph. Also, because it is so easy to correct mistakes, they accuse us of cheating. I wonder if they think writers should use quill and ink??
PT: Now if you would Chris, Id like to move from general to specific and have you discuss a particular piece of artwork and whats involved in its creation. I thought wed focus on the cover you did for Matthew S. Bathams book Lightsleep (available through Amazon), as we might as well keep it within the Whispers family. Perhaps you could talk us through the assignment, what made you come up with that particular image and how it was created, filling in some more detail about the programmes you used and how, for the benefit of old fogies like me who cant get our heads round this technology stuff.
CC: Matthew sent me a short section of the book and I based the image on that. That is how I get my ideas for the cover. Most of the time the author lets me know what they would like to see on the cover. So to create my image I used Poser6, Photoshop and Vue.
I first create the characters. I created the gargoyle first. I used a female model and morphed the head and body to make it look the way I wanted to. I used the legs of an eagle for the front legs of the creature. Then I had to add the wings. After all that I have to create a texture to add to the model then pose the creature then render it. Then I went on to creating the boy and the girl using the same procedures. I paint on the hair and clothing in Photoshop. I create the background using VUE which is a program for creating vegetation, oceans, mountains and space. You can also do other things in it but I just use it for my outdoor scenes. I place my finished images of the characters and tower onto the background in the Photoshop program then add any finishing touches that need adding and add the title and all the other text.
Then after I feel I have finished I submit it to the author and they then let me know what changes they would like to see if any. So then I make the changes and resubmit. Thats about how it goes. Sometimes it can be frustratingbut I do love the work!
PT: Now, looking at your artwork, on both Digitell and your own website, one of the things that struck me is the sheer variety of work thats on show, with echoes of traditional fantasy artists such as Frazetta and Vallejo, hints of the old EC Horror Comics, other stuff thats rendered in an almost cartoon style, and elsewhere touches of surrealism. You seem to be constantly experimenting, rather than an artist whos found her niche and is happy staying there. Is that something youre conscious of when you work, of wanting to produce art thats different each time rather than conforming to a Chris Cartwright style as such, or is the variety simply a by-product of the different assignments you undertake? And perhaps also you could tell us a bit about your influences, the artists you admire and why?
CC: A little bit of both. At first I started out wanting to do something different each time, depending on my mood, which really paid off because I was able to showcase a variety of styles so anyone who visits my website in need of a certain type of image will see that I can do the type they want.
Your next question is a very difficult one as there are so many different artist that I admire. One in particular who comes to mind is Salvador Dali...now there was an amazing mind!! He too would do a variety of stylessuch as Figure Standing at a Window which is a more traditional style of art, compared to Autumnal Cannibalism which is way out there!!
Another one of my favourite artists is Anne Sudworth. She is a fantasy artist whose work is remarkably stunning. She does very well with light, which is an element I have been struggling with for some time! Her treesyou should see her treesbeautiful!
Then there is J. K. Potter. He creates his work digitally using photographs, and WOW! His work is dark and twisted, to say the least. He reminds me of Dali somewhat, but in a more realistic sense because of his use of photographs instead of paint.
Shall I go on??
PT: Now as I said before, theres a wealth of eye dropping artwork on both your personal website and at Digitell, but one thing that struck me is that there are rather a lot of scantily clad women on display. Of course this might just be because Im a dirty old man with a skewed perspective. There are typical male fantasy figures such as The Pole Dancer and Lady with Snake (actually, she might not be a fantasy figure at all), alongside the somewhat more minatory ladies with big choppers (sorry, couldnt resist) of Danger Zone and WhoopAss, all of which bring to mind the work of male artists such as Vallejo and Frazetta. And yet, for all that these women are highly desirable, I dont get any sense that they are sex objects as such, or simply fantasy commodities. They seem entirely independent, women who will do things on their own terms or not at all.
And so, my question is (yes, there is a question), how do you feel about the way women are portrayed in the media in general and art in particular? Do artists have a duty to veer away from the stereotypical images were offered? And, on a more personal note, have you ever felt that you were being taken less seriously as an artist simply because you were a woman?
CC: This is a difficult question to answer without giving one the wrong impression of mebut here goes. I find women fantasy figures to be very beautiful and I enjoy creating beautiful fantasy women. I love to portray them as strong and gorgeous. So I really do not object to how women are portrayed in art. The facts are sex sells plain and simple. I find fantasy men very beautiful also, but in all honest truth, I think the female gets the most attentionthat is just the way it is. I do not think that artists have a duty to veer away from the stereotype imagesartists have a duty to create their passion that is what art is.
As far as if I am taken less seriously as an artist because I am a womanyesthat is sadly true. This is why I call myself Chris most of the timeso potential clients wont know I am a woman. One time I had a potential client call to discuss a project with me. He was from India. When he heard my voice he said by the sound of my voice I was either a child or a woman. When I told him I was a woman, he asked me if I was sure I could handle this project! I was offended of course, but I talked to him politely and assured him I could handle it.
PT: As I said in my introduction above, you seem keen to turn your hand to new things such as reviewing, and theres a wealth of diverse material on your website, so Im wondering if there are any projects you have on the go at the moment that you can tell us about? And also if you have any ambitions in areas you havent tried as yet, such as doing a graphic novel or comic strip, or maybe working as a cartoonist (I note on your website that theres a lot of illustration heading in that direction and humour seems an important part of your work)?
CC: OMG!! I am soooo amazed that you have asked me this question!! Unbelievable! As a matter of fact I am just about to sign a contract to do a comic book for Spencer Steele. It is a story about evil against eviler in modern day. This will be the first one (actually there are 3 in the series), I have ever done and I am not ashamed to admit I am a bit nervous about itbut I have all the confidence in the world that I will be able to do a wonderful job on it. I really like funny stuff and the way cartoon art looks so I have been practicing that style of art a lot. I have just finished illustrating a childrens book titled My Baby's Daddy by Dr. Phyllis L. Tucker -Wicks, which is on the market now. It was my first childrens book and the author has discussed me doing a comic book for her as well. I do enjoy trying new things.now if I could only write!!
PT: One last question Chris. Now when I visit your site, after Ive finished eying up all the good looking women, I notice that there also seem to be quite a few pictures of dragons. Theres even a photograph of a young lady (you?) posing with a dragon. As a teddy bear aficionado I have to admit complete bemusement at this predisposition for scaly, fire-breathing monstrosities, something thats common to many fantasy artists and writers (e.g. Michael Whelan, Anne McCaffrey), so you want to take a shot at explaining their appeal?
CC: Ahhh the beloved dragon. Dragons have always fascinated me. They are so majestic and magical and at the same time kind and gentle. They can be comical too. Dragons have always gotten a bad rap. I always try to portray the dragon in a positive way. Dragons are good creatures you know who have always tried to be protectors of mankind. Humans in their ignorance of the dragon have tried to destroy them, forcing them into secrecy, and sadly there are very few left. Hopefully someday soon mankind will become educated and will see the creature for what it really is and embrace and protect it which will put a stop to its extinction.
PT: Chris, many thanks for doing this interview and giving us a peek into your work and influences.
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