TerepaInterview51: Casting Greek mythology and fantasy world, interview with Spain Artist Léan!
ARTIST NAME : Léan ✵
COUNTRY : Spain
COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY: Universidad Rey Juan Carlos
MAJOR/CAREER : Graphic, Editorial, Product and Interior Design with a Masters degree in Concept Art
─── Please introduce yourself!
My name is Elena, I use Léan for short to avoid having people calling me “Ele”, which I don't like, haha! As for my twitter handle, I chose it when I was in High School. I was really invested in Japanese culture back then. I remember reading the line“I'm going to a party in Kyoto”in a book or a manga, and thinking of how beautiful it would look. Red rooftops illuminated by bright fireworks under a starry sky immediately came to my mind. I wanted my art to look like that, so I chose it as my artist name!
Right now, I'm a freelance illustrator working mainly in board games and book covers. I would love to illustrate a TTRPG manual some day as I really like playing roleplaying games with my friends. I also manage a little store where I sell my art in form of prints, keychains, bookmarks and t-shirts. I make a lot of art of my favorite shows, books and videogames, but I also have a line of original illustrations of the Olympian Gods!
I love Greek mythology, fashion history, medieval fantasy and flower language. I think those are things you can see reflected in my art, specially in the characters I design.
As for hobbies, I like sewing clothes for myself, writing stories, watching movies (mostly action movies like Die Hard, but there's nothing I wouldn't watch at least once) and working out. Well, the last thing is more like an activity I'm forcing myself to like.
If I had to pick a favorite thing to do it would be going on hikes and traveling around my country. In summary I'm the kind of person who wants to do everything and go everywhere! Maybe one day I'll go to a party in Kyoto.
─── How did you learn the art skill? Please tell us about your learning tips and experience?
My mom and grandma say that I've been drawing since the moment I was born. When I was in school I would draw on my text books and get scolded by the teachers. Art was, and still is, my favorite thing in the world. I learned to draw because I never stopped practicing. Basically, I was self-taught.
When I finished my degree I thought it would be good to go to an art school and learn from teachers who were artists themselves. My Masters degree was one year long, I learned a lot in my time there and left with an internship in a videogame art studio.
After that, I kept watching tutorials, practicing anatomy, learning to use color better... So the one thing I can say about art is that there's never a moment in time when you say “alright, I have learned everything there is to learn”. Artists are lifelong students.
My advice is to find something you're passionate about. It can be a concept like magic, a thing like flowers or animals or even people, an artist that you want to be like or even a book or a show that you really enjoy. Take that one thing you love and use it as fuel for your creativity. If you love what you do, you never stop doing it, and never stopping is what will make you a good artist.
Of course, you can't just blindly draw every waking hour. You need to observe too, look at things closely and figure out how they work. How does one muscle join the other? How does the sun reflect on the water? Luckily, you don't need to do it alone. There are so many artists out there who share their wisdom through videos, podcasts, pictures and even online classes. You could go to art school like I did, but it isn't necessary to become a skilled artist. For me, it was more like a shortcut. A way to improve faster than I would on my own.
─── Do you take drawing as a hobby or do you pursue a related career? How is the employment situation for illustrators in your country?
Drawing is both my hobby and my career, haha! The art field in Spain is growing with the creation of new videogame and animation studios. There are also many new indie book editorials willing to hire juniors for their covers. Board game companies are slowly appearing too, thanks to the rebirth of roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder.
I find it harder to get hired by Spanish clients so my collaborations tend to be with American companies. However, I've drawn a couple of book covers for a Spanish editorial. Since these studios, editorials and companies I mentioned are still very young they don't have big budgets and can't afford paying for professional artists. The big ones usually ask for full time employees and not freelancers, so there's that too.
Overall, I'm optimistic about the future of my country when it comes to creative job opportunities!
─── Your works has always been fantasy style, if you have the opportunity, what else would you like to try?
It's funny because I started drawing fantasy when I took my Masters degree. Before that, I hated that genre!
I know it isn't smart to put myself in a box when there's so much outside of it but in all honesty fantasy is my favorite thing to do. However, I also like history and historical fashion, so I would love to draw the different cultures around the world wearing their traditional clothes.
As I mentioned before, I like to try everything, so I would be happy doing whatever was requested of me. If I could choose, I would discard sci-fi, futuristic stuff, though.
─── You seem a FFXIV fan, Can you tell us what’s the point that attracts you?
I love the story! It is so tragic and heartbreaking but there's always hope at the end of it all. I also think the characters are very well written and charismatic, even the supposed villains. I love it when they give the 'bad guys' a reason to do what they do and when they almost convince you that they're actually doing the right thing.
Art-wise, I think the character design is gorgeous and some of the locations are breathtakingly beautiful. My favorite places are Il Mheg and Ishgard. The clothes are painfully detailed, though, they're so hard to draw...
─── Tell us about your most satisfied original works!
That would be my“Achilles & Patroclus”piece. I was so afraid because it was my first time making something original and not fandom-related and I didn't know if people were going to like it. When I started working on it I felt more focused than ever and my mind was filled with ideas. I wanted to make it resemble old greek vases but also hellenistic statues. I kept thinking of all the symbology I could add to the piece (Achilles' shield and spear, Troyan horses, the sea that represented Thetis, the mother of Achilles, the arrows pointing at his heels...)
I had spent so much time drawing other people's characters the way they were supposed to be drawn but this piece was only mine, I could do whatever I wanted. I can't describe the joy I felt as I was working on it. It changed the way I viewed art for the better.
─── How you tend to understand and accomplish what the client wants when you accept a commission? how do you find inspiration during the process?
I tell my clients to give me all the references they have and then I ask them questions about the characters. Sometimes I ask my client the question “If you were to dress as this character for a photoshoot, where would you take the pictures? What elements would you add? How would you set up the mood?” I think it helps them describe what they want more easily.
When it is my turn to draw I make a list of prompts like “dark forest, fog, evil” and gather my own references. They can be pictures I find online, paintings from other artists (usually old masters), statues or even pictures of myself posing in different ways. I use all that for inspiration for a first sketch and then I wait for the client to approve it. I usually come up with things to add as I go and I experiment a lot with adjustment layers to see if I accidentally bump into a nice mood or color palette.
─── Can you talk about an artist you respect? Where did he or she impresses you most?
My favorite artist is Botticelli, I don't know if that counts. His faces are always serene and delicate and yet they convey so much emotion. His colors are vibrant and bold, with all those pinks and blues and greens. I'm sure he really enjoyed painting and his joy gets to you when you look at his works.
─── Would mind share us about your favourite animation, manga and games?
My favorite anime is Neon Genesis Evangelion and my favorite manga is and will always be D.Gray-Man! I think I like them for the same reasons I like FFXIV. The stories are so tragic and the characters suffer so much but they always keep going. The characters feel alive and real and you can easily relate to them, so when things go bad for them you feel their sadness and you get so happy when they finally win.
My favorite videogame is probably... Hamtaro Ham-ham Hearbreak, because I got it as a kid and I gave my heart to it. But my current favorite is Hades, from Supergiant Games. The art is amazing, the main character is very good and the game mechanics make it very fun and exciting. Even if you lose, you have so much fun!
─── We see that you have actually launched quite a few merch products. Please tell us what other forms you would like to try in the future?
I'm working on new designs for sweatshirts that I think are going to be very cool. I've always wanted to make sweatshirts with drawings on their sleeves!
For the future, I'd love to make my own artbook with my mythology illustrations and, well, more original merchandising in general. I see other artists making purses and bags and I think I would enjoy designing that kind of thing too. That will have to wait until I have more storage room, though!
─── Could you please introduce your ongoing commercial projects and future creative plans?
Sadly, the commercial projects I had for the end of the year have been delayed because of reasons I don't think I'm allowed to share.
I can tell you about my own plans, though. I'm going to finish the commissions I have for this month and spend December working on new merchandising for my store that I will hopefully update in January. After that, I'll go to a convention here in Spain and I hope to book another one for the middle of 2023 in France. I would like to travel more and introduce my art to the people in other countries, so maybe that will be my new year's resolution.
I don't know what the new year has in store for me, but if you want to discover it with me you can follow me on twitter, instagram or tumblr where post my updates.
─── Thank you for to be interviewed, is there any words like to say to fans?
I'm still surprised that someone decided to interview me! I don't think of myself as a 'famous' person, I'm just very stubborn and passionate about what I do. I guess if you want to know more about me it is because you share my passion, so I'm grateful. I hope you find my answers interesting and above all I hope I made someone out there want to pick up a pencil and draw.
Thank you for everything!
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