Meet Celia, a New York-based illustrator, who recently graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2016 with a degree in Illustration and a minor in Literary Studies. Last year, she was also the recipient of the 2015 Will Eisner Scholarship Award from the Society of Illustrators.
Celia's work is characterized by her incredible use of color, and her ability to make overwhelmingly believable settings and narratives. Her work stems from her interests in history, ancient literature, mythology, folklore, textiles, and costumes. We've had the pleasure of working with her in our current exhibition Tiny Homes, and also in our upcoming exhibition Midnight! Below, you'll receive a small peek into her practice, inspirations, references, and processes. For more of her work, check out her website here, or her other links below the interview!
Take a look and enjoy!
What does your studio/workspace consist of? Do you have any objects or collections that are always close by wherever you’re working?
My studio is a desk and some storage in a shared space! It's nothing fancy; this is the first real studio I've had and I'm still decorating! I work at home a lot too, so my art and costume books are staying at home for the time being.
I'm not much for
Your works always seems grounded in a tangible historical setting (both in setting and narrative), what is your favorite time period(s) to ground your work in? What are your favorite resources for researching those historical periods? Do the narratives in your work come from the setting or vice versa?
I love this question, but honestly, I don't know if I can pick a favorite! I had not expected to associate time periods with children, but there you go. Clothing-wise, Northern Renaissance after Lucas Cranach the Elder may be my favorite, but in terms of setting I think I like late medieval/early Renaissance heraldry and armor best. I love the trappings of tournaments; one of my favorite references is the Nuremberg Tournament book, which is conveniently available to view in its entirety on the Met Museum website! Most of my reference research happens on museum websites or WikiArt.
Usually, the setting is either a) not my invention but rather the setting of the source material or b) a choice I make part way through planning a piece, provided that I am the source material myself. When it's a narrative piece I'm doing from scratch, I usually start with a vague idea for a setting, but it's not the picture's backbone so to speak. It'll often change and is usually just decided by whatever I'm feeling like drawing at the time. So while thumbnailing on Tuesday I may be in a surcoat mood, but on Thursday doing the lineart I might be jonesing for some dagged sleeves instead!
Can you walk us through your process for creating? What does your typical workflow look like in regards to creating artwork?
Everything I do starts as a scribbly thumbnail in my sketchbook. Some pictures I have a very clear mental image of and the thumbnail is just a record of it; some pictures are only discovered in the thumbnail phase. From there I take the thumbnail into Photoshop, blow it up, and do a sketch on top of it. I'll then either start doing line-work right there if it's a digital piece, or I'll print the sketch out and transfer it to watercolor paper with my Lightbox if it's not. Watercolor pieces I usually do in black and white and add color digitally, because I tend to fiddle with colors a lot!
Can you tell us more about your piece for the Tiny Homes Exhibition? What was the story that inspired it? Why did it stand out to you?
The story behind my piece is pretty mundane; I just moved out of my first apartment on August 1st, and it was very emotional. I'd lived in plenty of dorms before that, and so I was really wondering why this experience was so different, and why this apartment felt so much more like 'home' than those dorms. Someone else has probably moved into it by now and that kind of spooks me, to be honest!
I wanted to make something that sort of visualized the process of tenants coming and going in the life-cycle of an apartment. I both feel haunted by the apartment that was, and also like I haunt it myself, now, probably to the extreme consternation of the current tenants: this is how the visual of a haunting ghost came in! In this case, it may be the 'home' that died, rather than the inhabitant. Or maybe, a new and unrecognizable 'home' lives there under the care of its new occupants!
Were there any significant moments while creating the piece for the show?
The movers delivered my furniture? That was a little surreal, making a piece that was about this move out of Baltimore and receiving all my stuff in the middle of it! It added further to the catharsis. The desk now in my studio is actually two desks from my old apartment put next to one another: I had used one, and my roommate used the other! You can tell which was mine from all the teacup rings.
Do you have any exciting projects you can tell us about?
I've got some comics stuff that it's maybe too early to talk about, and something related to Icelandic sagas that I'm super stoked for! On my own time, I'm working on beefing up my portfolio/print shop and planning a couple of short comics I want to do for the small press circuit. I'm still trying to figure out my illustration practice in my new and strange post-college life!
What are some of your favorite hobbies outside of art making? Do they influence your artistic practice? What is your artistic community like?
This will sound bad, but I didn't pursue my hobbies that much while I was in college? I honestly never had time during the school year, and of course during breaks I would be too tired. Now that I've graduated I'm trying to get back into reading for fun -- lately, I've been reading 'Egil's Saga' and Dostoevsky's 'Devils' -- and learning embroidery, but I'm a huge workaholic so taking time off still feels kind of unnatural to me.
My artistic community is mostly my friends from MICA, who have all dispersed (tragically) since graduation. It's great to have other young artists for friends; you're all in the same uncertain freelance boat together, and you're all still game to get sent WIPs over Facebook Messenger and give crit every once in a while. Sometimes I even send WIPs over Snapchat! What a time to be alive.
What's your favorite project that you've had the chance to be a part of?
This isn't quite a project, but I had a really interesting and formative experience at Konstfack during my study abroad. It was a very small class and a tight-knit group, but the Swedish students were super welcoming and all the work felt really collaborative. I got to do some things I would never have done at MICA and I learned a lot: it really broadened my perspective and changed some critical things about what I thought I wanted to do in illustration. It was one of those milestone moments that I'll look fondly back on in sixty years, presumably in a rocking chair, and wax poetic about in my lengthy memoirs.
Thanks a ton for sharing, Celia!