balaa has been a favorite Anthro artist of mine ever sense I discovered her a while ago on DeviantART. Her work is breathtaking and really shows what time, effort and amazing skill can conjure when put together with nothing but imagination fueling it. The amount of details in everything she puts into her pieces is so inspiring and worthy of such great praise! So without further adue, I would like to introduce the amazing balaa! Thank you balaa for allowing me to feature you!
Tell us a little bit about yourself! What first perked your interest in the Anthro community and Anthro art itself?
It comes as no surprise when an anthro artist says they have loved animals and drawing animals for as long as they can remember but that is just the case for me! The exploration of anthro art was a further tangent along the same vein, though I have to admit my purpose was more deliberate than "Oh man animal people are cool!". Which, heck they are, but I think when I discovered anthro for me it was a bit of an eye opener. I realized this was a niche with a great deal of potential to reach the world at large beyond the small community of anthro themed artists and it's fans. Not only has anthropomorphism been popular throughout history from use in religion or writings of fiction, I believe there is something of an instinctual fascination with animal people that is deeply seated in our psyche. For this reason I believe that depictions of animals with human characteristics, ie anthros, can help in reshaping our perceptions of animals and removing the 'us versus them' mentality. I think it is my desire to, even in a small way, change the belief that we as humans are unique in our capacities to experience the world; that such feelings as love, sorrow, pain, compassion, and longing are not unique to us alone. But most of all to see that animals are not merely machines that act and live by the insistence of their genetic programming or instinct alone, that like us, they can break free of the bindings of instinct and exhibit what we have long coveted as being our prize alone, the essence of free will. I realize one artist, one painting, cannot accomplish such a thing but in small strides perhaps a dent in perception can be made. I feel this is happening already with small projects I see taking root in the community and slowly reaching beyond it. I am a happy advocate for any such project and am also a participant in several as well!
I feel the Anthro Art Community is a wonderful launching point for any artist who has discovered this genre and like me instinctively gravitated towards it. I enjoy seeing a community that sheds positive light on anthro art and takes away some of the stigma and misconception that has been associated with it.
You bring such breath-taking detail, amazing color and inspiration to the community of Anthro art. What is your favorite medium to work with? Why?
At the moment I feel I have to say Digital is my medium of choice. While I would love nothing more than to return to traditional media (acrylic and perhaps delve into oil), my space and budget is heavily restricted. The cost of supplies, space needed and the setup/breakdown time are truly what keeps me from real media. And while I know many in the art world view digital art as intrinsically less valuable, I believe it is a very liberating medium and one that requires diligence, patience and a great deal of time to master...just as with any other medium. That is why I choose it, but I absolutely advocate artists not to limit themselves to one medium. Learning real media first gave me a fantastic start in digital painting and I feel going back and forth between the two just arms you with a wider skillset that will benefit whatever medium you choose to work in.
What is your favorite piece from your gallery? Why?
That is hard to say as I typically am unsatisfied with all my work given long enough! But some pieces do hold a soft spot and 'Dive' is one such piece.
I think the main reason is because at the time it was painted I was dealing with an art block and the accompanying battle with my self esteem that invariably goes with it. It was a piece I did not plan and painted without laying down any sort of sketch or foundation. I started with a flat colored canvas, some good music and just let myself go. There was no end goal, no expectation that it should turn out or how it should turn out...there was only me and the movement of the brush. The painting rejuvenated my spirit and bolstered my confidence to paint more! I challenge every artist to, at least from time to time, not plan the piece of art..but let it take form on it's own. Your subconscious is a fantastic playground and our minds are hard wired to look for patterns. So throwing around a bunch of colors with random brushes can reveal a world of possible subjects! And sometimes..it's more fun not to know what will happen and just go for the ride.
The Anthro Community and art in general is such a misunderstood medium in many senses. What do you find to be the most challenging thing to over come when trying to bring your own unique pallet to the table?
I think the most challenging thing to overcome is that mindset of 'what can I do that is unique and has not been done before?". I believe that is one of the single most harmful things to an artist, ie chasing the picture out of the box, because in trying so hard to be unique, to find a formula that has not been used before, you end up falling into the formula all the more. I think you should create genuinely, what feels best..what makes your heart stir and soar and you simply can't go wrong. Think first about what would make you happy to see in your art and a distant second (if even that) what someone else will think of it. If your style resembles another style for a while, that's ok! Part of growing up, as a person and an artist, is emulating the things we like. In doing so we discover ourselves and make the imitation into something that more uniquely resembles ourselves.
I also believe most people who simply mimic other artists do it out of insecurity, uncertainty of who they themselves are as an artist. I believe they do this because, as mentioned above, they are creating art out of the wrong motivations. But to those that are inspired when they see a piece of art they love and simply must understand the process or capture a similar feeling because they just desire it, those are the folks that are going places imho!
Your art holds such amazing detail and unique portraits. Each one conveys such a strong and powerful message that really makes you humbled. Where do you get the inspiration for your work?
Inspiration is absolutely everywhere for me. There is not a place or moment that isn't laced with inspiration, you need only be open to it. No moment should feel dull, not a single one! If it does, then you are doing something wrong ! Even standing at a busstop can yield inspiration in watching the colors the sidewalk is as the shadows of a tree play off it. That's just one example but you get the idea. Don't look too hard to find inspiration, just be open enough for it to find you. Don't guard yourself or block out the world, let it encase you. I love collecting photos that have lighting/colors/scenery/animals that stirs something in me or makes me want to draw. I also like taking pictures of peculiar things or just watching animals and people. I also collect art, books, rocks , seashells, driftwood, dried flowers, music and movies...anything that makes me feel is inspiration I use to fuel my art!
Because of the misconceptions of Anthro art, do you ever feel pressured to alter your style or adhere to a specific style because of it?
Absolutely not and when I do, I resist. Upon deciding to work in the commercial illustration industry several good friends advised I leave all anthro themed art out of my portfolio because it would be frowned upon by companies who were almost all aware of the 'furry' subculture. I did not feel these pieces reflected poorly on my capacities as an artist and felt they represented my desires and passions and so I stubbornly left them in. I have seldom received any sort of depreciating remarks from people unfamiliar with anthro art and those I have received have been few and far in between.
Are there any artists off/on DeviantART you find inspiration from?
SO many it would take days to list! I will skip all the artists outside of DA that inspire me for now as that list will be just as long as the DA List, but I definitely recommend aspiring artists cultivate a love of classic art and especially art that is outside their immediate taste (schools of style, subject matter etc) as it will make you a much more diverse artist yourself if you can draw inspiration from and stand on the shoulders of the greats! Plus, why would you willingly put on blinders and miss out on all that beauty everywhere around you just because it isn't a painting of..say a tiger? A small list of artists on DA who inspire and motivate me are: Alector Fencer, Shadow Umbre, vantid, Nambroth, Goldenwolf, Kyoht, Kenket,Dark Natasha, Khaosdog, Janaschi, Raipun, Ailah, Hibbary, Kamui, Wolf-nymph, Arcipello, and Akreon but I truly feel it unfair to even make such a short list. My watchlist numbers over 500 people and every single one of those has brought into my days a sense of wonder or inspiration and continue to do so.
You bring such breath-taking detail, amazing color and inspiration to the community of Anthro art. What is your favorite medium to work with? Why?
I started tinkering with anthro art in 2005 I believe and have not done nearly as much with the genre as I have hoped but I plan to keep trying. The many other anthro artists I had the astounding pleasure to meet over the years, online and in person, all influenced and shaped my passions and visions; each artist going far to infuse something new into my own vision of the world. I am continuously grateful for the unique opportunity to know so many astoundingly talented people and to share with them in the journey of creation and dreaming.
Is there anything that you are working on, project wise / art wise, that you want to share with the community?
At this very moment I am writing an article for the lovely magazine 'Digital Artist Magazine' so if any of you folks want to see me stumble and mumble my way through what I will fathom to call a 'tutorial' you can join me for the issue in May(Might be the June issue for the US, I'm not sure how that works!)! I can't say yet what the piece will be, mostly because I'm still figuring it out for myself...but hopefully it won't be terribly shabby eep! This same magazine also has a feature of 'Divine Cradle' in the April issue, I believe (I haven't picked up a copy because I have been tethered to my computer and tablet for the past..forever ;]!). For those of you interested in Corel painter but feeling as clueless as I do when I launch the program, you can also get amazing tutorials from Vantid in the magazine in almost every issue.
But for a sneak peek at something I have not begun to release: i8.photobucket.com/albums/a45/… still a wip but a start!
Do you have any advice to offer future / current / aspiring Anthro artists?
1. PRACTICE! I know I know everyone says that but dang if it ain't true ..might as well accept it!
2. Sketch loads: I wasted a lot of time not sketching anything and it really put me behind. I played a lot of catchup because I simply did not sketch enough. Sketch everything...do quick gesture sketches. If you are worried about people laughing at your sketches, have a private sketchbook that is for your eyes only..don't rip pages out...you can come back later and smile or giggle from how much you improved since those first pages. Or if you just feel intimidated by that first page...go to the middle of the sketchbook instead!
3. Reference and reference lots. This is especially necessary for artists portraying animals or people....or animal people..but really just about anything you are trying to portray convincingly. Anthros are an especially tricky thing because human anatomy flaws are easiest for us to spot as we spend most time looking at other humans. Second are common animal anatomy mistakes because most of us also have a fair amount of exposure to animals, if only domestic animals. So it is important to study anatomy, to reference reality to make the fantasy believable. Unless you have a photographic memory you will have to rely on the real thing. Real models are best but when you can't get those, photos are ok, but do not just copy photos unless it is for practice only. Photos, like many tools, can become an artistic crutch and inhibit growth instead of encouraging it. Learn how to use photos to help fill in the blanks..ie refining anatomy, helping you understand color, light , composition, and atmosphere.
4. Don't get discouraged comparing yourself to other artists who are either much older or more experienced than you. Let them inspire you, but don't let their accomplishments make you feel like you will never reach their level. It takes persistence and a ceaseless desire to improve to get there and if creating is akin to breathing to you...you can make it! I leave my old art up not because I enjoy looking at it, but because I am happy to share my journey of improvement. I have a long way still to go and many artists make me feel dwarfed by their talents..but the desire to keep moving forward only grows with each new inspiration!
5. Draw out of your comfort zone. Working in commercial illustration has taught me one thing, you will draw EVERYTHING! With just about every new project I accept, I am faced with something I have never drawn. Im intimidated, uncertain how the heck I'll do it..but somehow..I always do! You just have to approach everything you do with a positive attitude. Don't tell yourself you will fail before you even tried. For me, it's been a fantastic learning experience, just learning how much more I can do that I never thought I could. I still get too comfortable, draw things Im already too familiar with...so now and then I have to smack myself silly and try something dang hard or new to me! If anything, I should do that more :C.
6. Don't be afraid to reach out to big artists. Not all of them will reply but some of them will and a lot of artists love to help other artists. We all know what a struggle it is learning and just creating and most artists, I'd like to think, love to encourage inspiration and growth in others. I know I do.
7. Be a silly day dreamer. Dream..and dream big. Only if you dream big can you achieve big!