Congratulations on winning third place in the “Scared Stiff” contest for the new Mama film! Tell us a bit about the contest and what this achievement means to you.
Last month, DeviantART and Guillermo del Toro and filmmakers Andy and Barbara Muschietti hosted a contest called “Scared Stiff” where, in the spirit of their new movie, MAMA, artists had to recreate their childhood nightmares. Hundreds of entries were submitted and the DA staff chose 25, which would then be judged personally by del Toro and the Muschiettis.
I was very excited about entering the contest because Guillermo del Toro is one of my top favorite directors and just having the opportunity of him looking at my artwork would make my day. But actually having my piece seen and picked by him is something I never expected! When I graduated from college in 2011, it was months before I started making any kind of money off my work. This achievement helped revitalize me and gave me some much needed confidence to keep doing what I love.
Your illustration, The Owl Princess and Her Night Terrors, is a vibrant depiction of a young girl and otherworldly creatures looming over. What scary childhood memory inspired your piece?
When I was a kid, I spent most of my time alone in my room playing with a combination of toys. I loved making up stories and characters, and I had weird tastes, so I’d have my Godzillas wage war against my Barbies or have my Polly Pockets fight off dinosaurs. At night my imagination still ran wild, and seeing these shapes scattered across the floor in the dark would creep me out a little. I would be too afraid to walk across the floor in the dark at night, thinking maybe one would come alive and bite me, or the real thing were under my bed.
Are you a big fan of thriller films or Guillermo del Toro?
I appreciate horror and thriller movies a lot. I like supernatural movies no matter how cheesy they can be. But I’m an even bigger fan of del Toro’s movies! Watching them is pure eye candy and the stories aren’t conventional, so you’re not sure what to expect. His work has best been described as fairytales for adults, and that’s what I am aiming for in my own work.
Did you find your style, subject matter or themes you usually use in your work fit with the film?
I didn’t get to see MAMA until after the contest deadline so I was just doing my own thing. Then I got to see the movie and noticed the reoccurring images of moths, and a lot of nature imagery. But in MAMA the supernatural entity was like a guardian, while in my piece they are tormentors. In Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, and others, a lot of his monsters are scary but have good intentions or act like us, where in my pieces the scary monsters aren’t normally nice.
What were some of your favorite courses at FIT?
Book Illustration I and II by Eric Velasquez are definitely at the top of the list. I really enjoyed illustrating narratives and stories and creating bodies of work that were pure me. Eric also helped me focus my portfolio into consistent work and his advice pushed me onto the path I wanted to take, even if my portfolio was full of birds and folky monsters at the time.
I also enjoyed William Low’s Digital Painting course. every week he would start the class off with an hour demo, visually showing us what to do. Then he would go around to each of us in case we needed personal work. At the time I was somewhat clueless about working in Photoshop, and his way of teaching made it less intimidating. Other favorites were Pre-Columbian Art, Essence of Comic Art, Art in NYC, and the Scifi/Fantasy course.
Do you have any other upcoming projects?
I want to start a Kickstarter to fund and publish my first children’s book. I had the idea my senior year to make a richly drawn alphabet book of endangered species of animals. I wouldn’t stick with the usual species like tigers or pandas; in this one I would raise awareness about lesser known and beautifully strange species like The Kakapo or Urial.
What advice would you like to share with peers and current students?
I found that, during my first three years, I would draw what my teachers expected of me, and in the end my portfolio looked like it was done by 5 different people and a lot of it was boring. It was just so basic and the subject matter didn’t thrill me. Then my last year I took more chances, conceptualized more and included things I loved into every piece, and the work began to stand out and become my own.
Also, don’t wait for a job to come to you. Start producing your own work and start selling it out of college. I began selling prints through Etsy and a majority of my early income came through that.
Visit Angela Rizza’s blog http://angelarizza.tumblr.com/