Camilla d'Errico is part of a generation of artists whose work is as recognizable in art galleries as it is at fan conventions. Equally known as a painter and comic book creator (Tanpopo), d'Errico frequently depicts female characters that appear both hauntingly beautiful and fearless. Her new book Femina & Fauna, released by Dark Horse, focuses on her paintings of women with animals. It also includes a look at some of her recent pop culture-inspired pieces and glimpse into her painting process.
We recently caught up with the Vancouver-based artist to talk about her work, the influence of anime and manga, her convention appearances and how San Diego Comic-Con has changed over the years. L.A. readers, you will be able to see d'Errico's work in person on March 11 at Gallery 1988's show INLE and at Meltdown Comics on April 1 for Magical Girls: Art Inspired by Shojo Manga.
What do you see as the connection between women and animals in your work?
Each painting is a puzzle. I use the imagery of the animals to create a visual riddle, each animal representing a part of the girl's personality, her secrets, desires, and emotions. I've always had a fondness for nature since I was a child, my parents are great nature lovers and raised me to see the beauty in it. This is something that I wanted to translate into my work. Many times people have preconceived ideas, or fears, of certain animals, and in my paintings I want to dispel those, so that people can see the animal for its beauty without feeling afraid or squeamish.
One of the most interesting elements of Femina & Fauna is the section where you take readers through your painting process. What prompted your decision to include this?
I've always been a fan of seeing an artist's work in progress. I love seeing the “behind the scenes” of any process, from how you make candy corns to how an artist creates a painting. In the past two years I've begun to document my process and share it on my blog and Facebook. No matter how much I share online, I could never get across the step by step process, so when creating the design of the book that was an essential element! I was so happy at how well the section turned out, it really feels like the painting is coming to life on the pages.
The eyes in your paintings are always so expressive. Do you start a painting with an idea of an emotion that the eyes will convey, or does that come later for you?
A few years ago I could have told you that I would exclusively start with the eyes, but now I can't say the same. I've found that as I create the painting, the girls seem to appear on the wood canvas, its almost like seeing a photo develop, and it has a certain energy to it as I paint. Sometimes that energy comes from the eyes, striking and vivid, and others times, its the elements that I paint that dictate what expression is going to come out of the eyes. I can't help but feel several emotions when I'm painting, and those come through to the painting.
How influential has anime and manga been on your work?
I'd describe it as being a religious experience. There aren't many times in life when we are opened up to a completely new world, and resonate with it. My first introduction into anime was Astro Boy and Sailor Moon. I get a lot of laughs from that, but hey, I was a teenage girl at the time, but maybe even if I was to see it now that I'm 30, I'd still be awed. There are many facets of anime and manga and I'm not sure how many people see all of them. I very much envy the Japanese culture for how they've intergrated this into their everyday life. To us, cartoons are for kids, but any manga and anime fan knows different. Anime and manga are simply taking a story and visualizing it. This may have been the biggest influence to me. I was opened to a world of stories geared towards a more mature audience, not only in content but in emotions. I admit, I cried at Sailor Moon…like a baby…and here's a really big secret, I cried at the first Pokemon movie. Oh yes, it's silly to think it, but the way that I was drawn into the story and actually cared about the characters was overwhelming. I could read and watch an animated story and be moved so much, and this is what pushed me to want to do the same with my own art and stories. I wanted to express those feelings through my own art and have anime and manga to thank for it.
I saw the work-in-progress post for your Magical Girls piece. Could you share a bit about what you're doing for the show?
I love shojo, however I wanted to create a non-typical shojo piece that was maybe a bit more on the surreal side. This ink drawing is of a girl carrying a crocodile on her shoulder while waking through living toys. She's adorned with carp elements, this is an ode to the Japanese culture. She carries her crocodile like he was as light as a stuffed toy. I see magic in a lot of life, and this piece is how I see magic in a different world.
What convention appearances will you be making this year? How do you decide which cons you'll attend?
I've been expanding the number of conventions I go to each year. We are going to about 15. I don't go to all of them, but I have friends who man the booths for me. Even though I don't go, it's still great for making new fans and for existing fans to pick up merchandise. I will be at Emerald City Comiccon in Seattle – that is in two weeks– WonderCon in San Francisco in April, and this year I'll be at Anime Expo LA myself! I'm looking forward to that. Of course San Diego Comic-Con, Fan Expo in Toronto, Dragon*Con in Atlanta and New York Comic Con. I have been going to many of these conventions for years but each year I try to add one or two new cities or conventions to test them out and see the response. For example Anime Expo LA will be the second year but last year my colleague went for me. Fans are always suggesting conventions to go to as well 🙂 I wish I could go to all of them!
Could you tell us about your first trip to San Diego Comic-Con? How has the convention changed for you over the years?
I've attend SDCC for 12 years, this year being my 13th, for more than a decade I've seen how this has changed and grown, and it's incredible. The first years I went I could count on two hands how many girls I'd see there, I'm talking about girls fans on one hand and professionals on another. Now it seems like girls have invaded! There are so many women attending and it's fantastic to see, considering I used to walk the hall and men would turn and stare…as if they'd seen a real wookiee in the hall. There has also been a media and toy boom since '98. The designer toy culture seems to attract a huge amount of attention, bringing in a huge diversity of people. I'd say that SDCC has become the melting pot of pop culture. I really can't wait to see what it will be like ten years from now!