Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Conversation With Camilla d'Errico

"Butterfly Pie in the Sky" 2008
Don't let looks be deceptive, Camilla d'Errico's female figures may look like sweet and girly images of femininity, but there is something else going on behind their large, pretty eyes. An artist from Vancouver, British Columbia, d'Errico's art is a mixture of strong female figures juxtaposed with mechanical elements, themes dealing with beauty and symbolism,  and manga- and comic book-influenced stylistic components. Camilla took time out of her busy schedule to talk to ArtSeen about her artwork and her many influences.

Can you tell us a little about your artwork and your artistic process?

My work is something I've spent some time developing. I began by drawing inspiration from different forms of art and life. I spent a lot of time in my younger and teenage years watching animated TV shows and cartoons, reading comics and graphic novels, and adventure and fantasy books. These filled me with ideas and creativity that I began to emulate; especially Japanese animated series and comics - called manga in Japanese. I grew up in an Italian-Canadian family though, and our cultural heritage and art history was also important to me. Both of these came together in a process of a type of fusion; building on the use of classical media and painting technique with the youth-culture appeal of graphic illustration and character building.

I enjoy painting in both illustrative forms, with predominantly black & white paintings that look like illustrated line-art, and in a more traditional form layering oil paint on canvas or wood. My artwork, I hope, reflects different parts of my cultural and creative influences. Much of what I paint often falls within the overarching category of Pop-Surrealism; Surrealism, of which, I'm very inspired by as a historical movement.

What inspires you as an artist? Why do you 

create art? 

"Loveless Bird" 2009
I'm inspired by a lot of things. I draw inspiration from my Italian culture and classical art history, and also forms of Japanese culture and art. As I mentioned, one of my favourite historical art movements is Surrealism; I love how ideas, feelings and messages are encoded and symbolized, sometimes to the degree where the viewer needs to create their own interpretation, reading or narrative. Stories/Folk or Fairytales also inspire me - I think the past has a lot to impart on us in terms of lessons but also creativity, and the opportunity to re-interpret. I'm also inspired by smaller things in everyday life; colours, or interesting words or phrases that create an image or an idea in my head. Even textures or patterns in fabric can fill me with ideas.

I like to paint to express a feeling, or an idea. Sometimes I imagine a detail, and build a piece around a seemingly small element. Other times I see colours in my mind, and want to make a piece that expresses the feeling or the mood of the colours I see. I create because I feel creativity and emotion that I want to offer to other people to share. Not even specifically; because I think that individual readings and interpretations are an important part of the process. There really isn't a 'right' way to interpret or experience my work; I want it to be a mirror or a reflection for what other people want to see.

What types of themes, ideas, or concepts do you explore within in your artwork?

"Broken" 2011
I explore lots of different things with my work, some of which run parallel to different parts of my life or experiences. One of the themes that reappears in my work is love...but not just one form. I think when work takes on exploring or expressing ideas about love, it's a complicated and multi-faceted thing that requires the viewer's participation. Sometimes my work looks at longing, or desire.

As a female artist, I find it important to give female voice and agency in my paintings. Sometimes I paint figures with some nudity because the female body is beautiful, and celebrating that is 

an exercise of our right to be empowered.
I'm also very interested in symbolism, and incorporating elements that tell a story or that can be unpacked. I love painting butterflies; I think there's something significant they have to share, conceptually, about transformation...persevering through times of hardship (metamorphosing), and then living beautiful but tragically short moments. I often draw and paint things like butterflies or birds in figure's mouths...lots of viewers wonder why. I like to let others interpret for themselves, but I'm also interested in the idea that there's something alluring and dangerous taking place; that we can communicate, but also hurt people (verbally and literally). Lips are beautiful, and smiles are expressive, so mouths are an important part of reading a facial expression. A painting with a girl with a bird in her mouth need only bite down...this creates a lot of tension, a lot of possibility and that moment is really interesting.

Another element I really love that reoccurs in my works is to position female figures with mechanical or industrial elements - namely helmets. I'm working on these characters, and a whole story, for these Helmetgirls, which will soon be published as a graphic novel. I think the juxtaposition of a beautiful and elegant female figure with such a non-feminine component is really empowering. That I can paint girls in helmets, with rocketpacks, or on machines and make them beautiful. The helmets are a little funny, too, because sometimes they'll have elements that look like they should be functional - but there's no real way to make sense of them. There will be wires, gears and components that should do something, but only the girl wearing them would know how it works. When I draw and paint Helmetgirls they're often sassy, fun, quiet and introspective, or they have attitude and personality that are different from my other figures where I paint girls with animals.

Are there any artists that inspire you ? If so who would they be and why?

"Black Rabbit Kaleidoscope" 2011
 I'm inspired by and appreciate lots of artists.   One of the most significant influences for me as  a female artist drawing and painting in the contemporary-graphic style that I do is the Japanese manga-group Clamp. Clamp is a small group of all-female artists, one of the single most successful, well-known and highly acclaimed manga producing groups in Japan. They built themselves from the ground up, and have worked together for what must be nearly 20 years. This is hugely empowering for me as a female artist, seeing what they've achieved and loving their stories and art the way I do.

For you, what do you think the role of the artist is?

I think artists have different roles; sometimes to educate and teach by example - by which I mean to inspire others, to test boundaries and develop things nobody thought possible before. Artists help to communicate their ideas, thoughts, messages and influences through their work. I don't know that I have a role, specifically, but I think of it more as an opportunity to share my emotions and experiences with other people through my work - in ways they can interpret for themselves.

What’s the best and worst part about being an artist? As an artist, how do you stay motivated?

"Little Pink Ink Monsters" 2007
I think some of the best parts about being an artist would be having developed a new and different way to communicate with other people. When I'm able to see how my work has inspired, or made a positive impact on someone, that's really gratifying for me. Being an artist also helps me discover more about myself and be able to reflect on what I feel, experience, and how I want to grow and develop as a person.

One of the worst parts might be that when being an artist is your job you need other people's approval sometimes. It can be discouraging to work on something really hard, and then someone doesn't like it, or it didn't come together the way you had hoped. This was especially difficult when I was just starting out, and other people's approval meant the difference between being able to participate in a project or not, or being accepted into a show. Rejection hurts, and it's discouraging. Lots of young artists take it personally or give up, and that's really unfortunate. It took a lot of practice, and a lot of support from family and friends to help me feel the level of confidence I have in my work now.

And finally, what advice would you give to 
emerging artists?  

"Zebramilk" 2010

My advice to emerging artists would be to keep trying, practice, and persevere. Mistakes and things that didn't turn out the way you wanted are valuable learning experiences - don't give up. Everyone has a reason for making art, and things they want to communicate. If you have passion, let it out, and share it with other people.

For more information about Camilla d'Errico's artwork you can visit her website and Facebook page for more details. Here is a list of additional links where you find more information about her work. 

All photography provided by Camilla d'Errico. 

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