Friday, March 6, 2009

Artist Corner: Claudia Schmidt

For this week I have something different. Fantasy being as broad and undiscriminating to ideas has adopted a movement in art, which has been ridiculed and unjustly connected with profanity… People know it as furry art, I call it anthropomorphic art and in my opinion, if done right, it displays a mad set of skills behind the seemingly easy human/animal blend. With me I have artist Claudia Schmidt, who represents for me the top dog in the game and will throw some perspective on the matter.

Harry Markov: First, thank you very much for accepting my invitation. Anthropomorphic art is something I have always found interesting and it was high time I got myself an artist, an expert in the field and strap ‘em down to my virtual chair for some interrogation. But first things first, what attracted you to art? What was your first encounter with art for you to make the decision to become an artist?
Claudia Schmidt: My attraction to art has started in the very early stage of my life. When I was a child, I was a daydreamer and could hardly concentrate on things which weren't interesting to me or which couldn't make me fantasize about things.

As a very young girl I meticulously painted lines or swirls and tried to make everything look neat. One day, I started visualizing my day dreams and started drawing creatures and other fantasy themed pictures that arose from my head but I never took it too seriously. I saw it as a simple hobby at first. Two years ago, I started developing my own style more and more until today.

The last year especially was a big year full of artistic experiences and changes. I want it to go on because art has become a purpose in my life.

HM: Can you tell us about yourself a bit more? Who is AlectorFencer and why did you chose this particular nickname for your DA profile?

CS: My real name is Claudia Schmidt and I was born in March 28 in 1986 in Germany. I grew up near the Palatinate Forest, one of the vastest forests in Germany, where I enjoyed nature and the freedom that a child can have. One day I went back to my home town to study graphics design after realizing that art has become a stronger bond to my life and that the world is open for me.

The nickname Alector was more or less a coincidence because years ago I especially liked the boy's name "Alec" and also had a character for the stories I sometimes wrote. I added "tor" later as I found out that it looks more original and nicer. The last part "Fencer" occured from the storyline of Alector, which is now more than 9 years old.

HM: Which artist so far has had an exceptional influence on your work?

CS: Salvador Dalí was one of my main influences. Before my style changed and manifested, I dedicated my artistic skills to surrealism but I didn't find a constant satisfaction in it after a while. Since 2002, I drew a lot of inspiration and muse from various concept artists and creature designers as it was one of my passions to play around with shapes and colours.
Since a couple of years, the artist and designer Raymond Swanland has become one of my main influences and source of inspiration, even if my works are far away from his style.

HM: Though as much as hate putting a label, I see anthropomorphic art as a part from the fantasy family for the hybrid mixture between human and animal. What exactly attracted you to fantasy first and then to this particular movement?

CS: Fantasy is a great genre in which I can let myself and my daydreaming go. I can paint mushrooms which are bigger than myself and glowing spiders that can fly without being questioned about realism and possibility. I moved to anthropomorphic artwork because it is very fantasy based as well even though it is a completely different genre.

HM: Where do you search for ideas for new projects? For that matter what other art forms inspire your work: literature, music, dance, etc?

CS: Music is my biggest source of inspiration as it seems to support visualizing pictures and ideas in my head before and during working on pictures.

However, I mostly gain inspiration from my surrounding and from nature when being outside or when seeing simple photographs.

When I read a book, it's like a movie plays in my head and I can imagine every written sentence in colour. I guess that's what good books are for.

HM: How hard is it to draw a humanoid figure that has animal traits? To make it look realistic enough there has to be a sense, a fine line between human and animal. Is it generally hard to incorporate the animal and build it upon the human? Have you used anatomy books in some cases or have you always drawn by instinct?

CS: At first it was very difficult because the human and animal aspects have to be litrally merged together so that there won't be a loss of traits of both species. This style requires a lot of research for the animal you want to draw, a lot of practice and a basic knowledge of human anatomy.

I practiced a lot with drawing animals and humans and browsed through galleries of the furry fandom to get an idea how this genre actually works but I unconditionally wanted to develop my own personal style.

HM: From what I see in your gallery you draw on traditional support such as pencils and paper and everything looks hand drawn. Is that correct? What materials do you use and how long does it take for a piece usually?

CS: My gallery also has quite a bunch of digital pictures. Currently, I work a lot with traditional media because I can let out a lot of energy by splattering paint on paper and having dirty yet colourful fingers afterwards. The traditional pieces are mostly prepared with a layer of watercolours on which I add detail with coloured pencils. Mistakes and highlights are painted using acrylics. I want to go into painting a lot more such as acrylics and oil paintings but that will take a lot of overcoming first.

Depending on the size and details, a coloured picture can take me from 30 minutes up to 40 hours and longer.

HM: What do you think about digital art and are you generally tempted to expand into that direction as well?

CS: Digital art is a wonderful medium which is often enough underestimated. Since my gallery contains digital paintings as well I have a lot of experience with it and know that a digital painting can take as much time as a traditional piece. It is a challenge working digitally because it needs practice and a good understanding of the programs that are used as well. However, the possibilities of working with this medium are broad and awesome hence I definately want to expand more into that direction and challenge myself.

HM: Is there a certain technique or movement in art you would wish to experiment with?

CS: Yes. It's concept artwork. What fascinates me about concept painting is that the artists are able to create a nearly realistic image, a happening or a location by their clever way of using brush techniques and strong colours in such a short amount of time.
I am very tempted to combine conceptual artwork with my current detailed style of painting to see what happens.

HM: The most drawn animal so far in your whole portfolio is the wolf. What qualities do you find in this mammal to be featured in so many of your pieces?

CS: Ever since I saw pictures, read books or saw movies about wolves when I was younger, this canine fascinated me with it's mystical aura and deep fascinating eyes. I grew up with a dog which I loved above everything and which seemed to be an inner part of myself - we were something like inseparable friends and spent a lot of time together. Even dogs nowadays are far from their ancestors by look, they still have the social and instinctive features of a wolf.

The wolf also seems to embody freedom and spirituality to humans that's why I seem to be drawn to it in a special way.

HM: The most drawn character is the so called Nature Spirit, an endearing mixture of flora and a wolf. It is one of my personal favorites. How was this character born and why do you return to it so often?

Again I must refer to my childhood because that's where the inspiration and idea of the plant spirit litrally grew in my mind. My mother is a flourist so I was surrounded by plants all my childhood along. Ivy, vine and moss have always been my favourites because of their fast and swirly way of growing.

I wanted to combine nature and spirituality yet I also wanted to criticize the scheming of the humans towards nature and describe its diversity and beauty in combination with a fantastic creature.

It was born in 1998 when I first scribbled myself being able to grow plants faster because I was fascinated by my own first plant, a Sarracenia purpureal (carnivorous plant) which looked beautiful and haunting but I wanted it to grow faster - which it really did later.
Over the years, I started combining those features with animals until today.

I return to the Plant Spirit idea so often because I'm working on a storyline for it and plan to make a graphic novel.

HM: Is there an animal you would wish to try and draw as a humanoid, but so far have not tried to work with? And in your opinion is every animal possible to be used in anthropomorphic art?

CS: Oh, there are quite many. I would love to draw an anthropomorphic Elephant for example because of the awesome possibilities to play with facial expressions and folds of the skin.
In my opinion, every single animal can be drawn that way if you just know how to make it feasible. Soon, I will have to draw anthropomorphic worms for a commission. I'm quite excited about it as it seems to be a fun idea.

HM: How does art fit in your life? Are you a freelance artist or perhaps you have a day job? Have you found professional realization?

CS: My art is my daily bread and fits in my life wonderfully. I'm a freelance artist and enjoy my life style so far. One of my biggest goals is to work together with artists and to get commissioned by well known and professional companies or publishers.
HM: I also have to wonder what your current projects are. What can we expect?

CS: One of my current projects is still a secret but it will be revealed soon enough.
The other one is that I will start working on my graphic novel this summer and another one will be a collaboration with the fantastic musician and artist Blanka Münzberg, with whom I want to illustrate a book and present the pictures whilst she plays the harp and I sing the story along.

Other than that, I am very excited and open for new things to come.

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