Vancouver-based artist Camilla D’Errico is known for her beautiful, pop surrealist art, usually centered around female characters with expressive eyes and large headdresses made up of gear-based helmets or sometimes animals. While manga and anime seem to be an influence on her style, she definitely has an aesthetic that is all her own and which makes her work stand out from other artists. It’s a style that has lent itself well to not only paintings, prints, and comic books, but a slew of merchandise including custom vinyl toys, t-shirts and leggings, scarves and glasses, art books, and more. Camilla was kind enough to sit down with me at Emerald City Comicon last weekend to talk about painting, conventions, anime, and Captain Jean Luc Picard.
Who are some of your biggest artistic influences?
Well I’m not so much influenced by artists anymore at this point. I follow artists because I love them, I’m friends with them. Greg Simkins is one of my favorite artists, he’s the sweetest man and one of the most talented artists I’ve ever seen. Also James Jean, he’s my art god, I love his artwork, every time I see it it’s so different and innovative and so bold, you know? I really love what these artists are doing with their art.
I know you got your start at SDCC in 1998. Do you think continuing to come to conventions and talking with your fans and doing conventions like this has really pushed your career forward or do you think it’s kind of taken off on it’s own?
I think it’s helped, because whenever I go to a show it’s definitely, um, marketing, and I put myself out there. Some people are going to like my artwork, they know who I am, but I’m also out there in front of thousands of people who have never seen me before, so it’s really good because I make friends every time I do the shows. They’re exhausting, I’ll say this. Last year I did 18 conventions on top of my art that I was doing at home. It was a lot but I do it because it’s so good for me to connect with people. Sometimes I’m at home and I’m working and I don’t really understand the impact my art has on people until I go to a show and talk to people. Because my art is so emotional and they come up and tell me how it got them through rough periods and how it got them drawing again and if I didn’t go to shows I wouldn’t know that, I’d just be at home painting in my little artist’s cave without a connection to the world. So for me coming to a convention is not just about making new fans it’s about talking to the ones that already love my art and just seeing the impact my art has on them.
I love the way you integrate literature with art. Has that always been something that helps inspire you?
Yeah, I just recently answered this same question, which is weird cause no one’s asked me that before. In high school I had this amazing literature teacher, Mrs Brown, and we had a project where we were to interpret our favorite Shakespearean play in a contemporary way and I chose Hamlet. I loved it, I think every teenager relates to emo-Hamlet. I turned Hamlet into a gangster and it was him and his mob boss father and I created it as a comic book. So I think since I was around 15 I’ve had the ability to see literature and be able to translate it into something different and something unique and mix the manga aspect of my artwork with it.
Like Tanpopo (Camilla’s comic series) with the different literature elements, which is interesting to see because not a lot of artists do it that way.
No, I don’t think so, I know there’s works such as Kill Shakespeare, for example, that take its inspiration from Shakespeare but doesn’t use the passages, it just uses the characters, where as I’m taking the writing and remaking it into a narrative about Tanpopo and Kuro. So with each book I kind of let the story form organically because I’m inspired by the literature, so if in the story of Tanpopo I use the stories of the Pit and the Pendulum and the Masque of the Red Death, I actually put Tanpopo in the pit with the pendulum. When I first started the series I didn’t know I would do that so every chapter is new to me and it’s exciting because it’s as if I’m actually collaborating with these authors.
I was gonna ask if you map out stories or kinda just let it flow.
I do, I try!
Do you kind of prefer to do it that way: that even if you have an idea if it decides it needs to be changed you just go ahead and change it?
I do, yeah, I mean I definitely have plot points, so I know what I want Tanpopo to experience, in terms of like, she’s going to feel fear so it’s a matter of me finding literature that will fit that. I know how I want the series to end so I found literature that helped me flesh that out in a really natural and satisfying conclusion, and that hasn’t been released yet but it’s coming up!
Is there anything else coming up that you are really excited about that you can talk about?
Yeah, absolutely, I was just told I can talk about my new adult coloring book. This one’s an 80 page coloring book. I made a bunch of new art for it as well as taking previous artwork and modifying it and making it into patterns so it’s going to be really intricate and fun to color and it comes out in July from Random House.
You’re doing a couple panels here (at ECCC). Do you want to tell me a bit about each panel?
I’m doing a panel with Ben Templesmith and Jim Mahfood, and we’re talking about being traditional artists in the comic book industry. A lot of artists now are working digitally. We’re all painters but we all also do graphic novels so we’re going to talk about our process and show some of our artwork and answer questions that aspiring artists have for us because we’ve been professionals in the industry for a long time so we’ve got a lot of knowledge to impart.
For Saturday’s the Live Stage can you tell us about what you’re going to paint?
Yeah, I’m actually super nervous about that. I’ve never painted on a stage before. I’ve painted in front of people but the pressure is on. I’m excited, I’ve got this one painting that I’m almost done. It’s gonna be cool for people to see me adding the eyes. I left the eyes specifically because I know that’s the most striking feature of my paintings so I’m really excited to show people how I create them.
You use oils a lot in your work. What other mediums do you like to use?
The oils that I use are very specific. They’re called Holbein Duos, they’re oils you blend with water. It’s a new medium that came from Japan. The reason I’m so excited about them is they’re not toxic like traditional oils where you need thinners and solvents, these ones you just thin with water, so they’re much easier on the environment and they dry faster too. I’m a very impatient person, when painting I just want to get to the next level super fast and the paints are really great for that. I also really enjoy just graphite drawings. I’ll sit and watch Supernatural or Doctor Who and I’ll be sketching with just mechanical pencils and that’s the best time for me.
Can you talk about your experience with your work in digital format?
Yeah, with Tanpopo I do all of my lettering and layouts and coloring digitally. It definitely has it’s place, I do enjoy digitally coloring, but I find it to be much more technical. It actually spoils me cause there’s a command-z, like an Undo button, so if I make a mistake I can just change it forever. Whereas with painting it’s really hard to change your mistakes, so I try not to do too much digital nowadays just because I feel it’s really hard to balance digital and traditional at the same time. I definitely lean more toward traditional for sure.
It’s kind of nice to see, too, because it’s so much easier for everyone to get into the digital stuff and stuff starts to look similar.
There is a certain aesthetic, I think, and I really like hearing comments when people walk by my booth and see my art and say “whoa, that’s really different!” And I tell them they’re oil paintings and their eyes get really wide like Puss n Boots giant eyes, and I’ll tell them “it’s all traditional” and then people get to see all the nuances, such as the wood grain and the different textures that I’ve used.
Are there certain anime and manga that you watch a lot and influence you?
I used to watch so much anime and now I don’t have a lot of time anymore to watch it. Some of my favorites include Natsume Yuujinchou, and it’s maybe one of the saddest anime I’ve ever seen and I can’t help it. It’s just so good and so sad. It’s adorable. And I really like Hatsukoi Limited, it’s about these girls in high school and their love lives. I love the aesthetic of it. That artist is so talented. And I really love certain movies. I love Summer Wars. I thought it was one of the best animes, it was so funny. I just love to laugh. Natsume makes me cry, so I need other fun animes. Summer Wars is fantastic. I really enjoyed Blue Exorcist, that was a popular one. And then Noragami. I love Noragami. There’s nothing as goofy as a goofy god. Those are my favorites for sure.
Do you find yourself watching for the story or more for the art, or is it a combination of both?
I definitely start an anime based on the art style. With manga or North American comics, if it’s not my type of artwork I’m not gonna be pulled into the story. I definitely enjoy a story just as much as the art. Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of those just crazy stories that had me thinking the entire time and had me on the edge of my seat and I’ve never forgotten it even though I don’t understand it at the end. In that sense I like an ambiguous ending and the Japanese do it better than anyone. The Japanese and the French. French movies are alot of “what just happened?” And with some animes I get that. For sure those ones impact me the most because I can’t stop thinking about them. Ten years later I’m still thinking about Neon Genesis.
One final question, since we’re here and it seems fitting – Star Wars or Star Trek?
I’m a Star Trek fan. I gotta say. I love drawing Star Wars, but Jean-Luc Picard is my second husband. I mean, hands down, he’s a hottie. And Data, I mean, come on! I think I’m definitely more about Star Trek, I grew up with it as a kid, my parents weren’t big Star Wars fans, they were Trekkies. Once Next Gen happened I’d hit puberty and Riker was such a babe. Now I’m older and I’m like, ah Picard. There’s just something for every version of myself in Star Trek. And you know what it is too? I realized after re-watching all of Next Gen, that every episode is so positive, it always ends on a positive note. It has a version of humanity that you don’t see often which is actually a good one. In the future most stories have humanity doomed. There’s an apocalypse or we’ve blown each other up or there’s zombies or something. But in Star Trek we actually did good. Humanity survived and flourished and I like that hopefulness that Star Trek has.