The Artist's Canvas
Stephanie Pui-Min Law
TWPT: Was art something you always wanted to pursue, or was it something that developed from another area of interest?
SL: It was always art. One of my uncles is a fine artist, and when I was young, he used to babysit me. To keep me occupied, he would just put a paper and pencil in front of me, and that would keep me busy for hours at a time. So...I've been drawing as long as I can remember.
TWPT: Do you have any formal training?
SL: I've gone through many teachers.... I think in elementary school, my mother used to take me and my brother to this Chinese woman's house. She taught private art classes for little kids. So after going through all her books and thoroughly tiring of pencil, she started me on watercolor, Chinese style. It's probably one of the hardest styles I've tried -- you basically use minimal brush strokes, vary the paint that you place on the tip, and use different brushstroke techniques to create the images. Then I did oil painting at another private studio, "Young at Art", classes of about 10-20 people.
It was mostly an open studio kind of thing, and when she deemed you experienced enough, often invited you to "teach" (which involved sitting around, mixing colors for kids, and directing them what to do next on the current picture they were copying). So I did end up teaching there for a while. Took art classes all through high school. In college did a double major with fine arts and computer science. Berkeley's fine art program was what I call "conservatively modern". In that the professors were so adament about what could qualify as "Art", that they rejected anything that was remotely illustrative or realistic. I had a tough time there, but eventually made it through. And I think it helped me tremendously to really be pushed to try styles and techniques that I would never think twice about otherwise.
TWPT: Were there any teachers who had an influence or encouraged you that you want to share?
SL: I've had teachers praise my work (all the way up to college) and yawn at my work (probably a large portion of those at college), but I don't think any of them really motivated me that much. I mean, praise is all good, but after a while, it makes you so sure of yourself that you don't work as much as you could to really become better. Probably my greatest influence would be that of my peers, and more recently artists that I have met on the web.
TWPT: I see you use charcoal sketches and computers to do your art. Is this your preferred medium or do you prefer to work in other mediums?
SL: It varies. I go through "phases" of being totally immersed in one artistic interest or another (This happens not just with visual arts -- but my dancing, music, writing, and painting....) Anyway, when I first started finding my own style, I began with acrylic. It was familiar to me because I had taken oil painting classes for a couple years before that. Acrylic was less messy, less smelly, and I could do it at home. Then in college someone introduced me to Photoshop (because he saw a drawing I had done with Window's Paint, pixel by agonizing pixel!), and for about 5 years I used Photoshop as my preferred painting medium. I loved it because I could get such brilliant colors.... Lately the new love seems to be watercolor. So...in answer to your question, yes I work with many mediums. Whatever the inspiration takes me with.
TWPT: Many of the images on your site are from myths or fantasy. Is this the material your inspiration comes from or do you derive inspiration from other sources as well, which you would like to expand on? Have you other preferences for subject matter?
SL: Most of the inspiration for my personal art comes mythology, legends, and folklore. Every once in a while, I'll read a story, and some passage will really inspire me to paint something. I'm not quite sure what it is I am chasing after with my art, but it is an elusive feeling.... It is for the mystical, otherwordly...for the feeling that you are confronted with something that underlies your existance, but at the same time is otherworldly. Sacred. Mythology seems to be a natural starting point for that. Folklore -- stories that have been passed down for centuries because -something- in them has managed to move men and women at a base level.
TWPT: I see you have done allot of work for RPG companies and customer work for RPG players. Could you tell us how you became involved working on these various projects?
SL: I used to be (still am, but not so much due to time restrictions) a bookworm. From the first instant my father took me to the Science Fiction and Fantasy section of the library one day, I was in love with those imaginary worlds. I've played RPGs a bit myself. Did quite a bit of free form RPG story-writing type of things as well. I used to sketch my friends' and my own characters all the time. So going from that to the characters of other people is not that hard to imagine. Actually I noticed that when taking on thse types of projects, I'm a bit different from other artists. I had a conversation with a fellow artist at a fantasy convention recently, and she was complaining, "WHY do people always tell me things that I can't draw? I don't want to know what the personality is like, or the history of a pendant!" While myself...I can't get enough descriptions from people. I suppose the reason is that I want to really feel with that character that I'm drawing. I want to be able to draw their personality, their feeling, their motivations...to be able to create a story with a single image.
TWPT: In these days of Web Sites and Web Commerce, allot of artists, and literary people, are taking their material to the web for exposure. Do you find Web site building and the web in general gives you the same feel and exposure as, say, having a Gallery viewing or magazine exposure?
SL: Well, having never had my art displayed in a gallery or magazine, I can't really say for sure. Currently I get -all- my exposure through my website and various other galleries on line that host my art. I think the web is wonderful, and that it would have taken me many times longer to get this far were it not for the web. I don't think it could really match a live exhibit or printed exposure. The web has been wonderful for inspiration and finding communities of artists with similar intersts though.
TWPT: Do you think, as you have received so much exposure through the web, that this is going to be "The" gallery of choice for future new artists? Is this the way to go for exposure of new material, new artists to the public?
SL: It really depends on your subject matter, I think. Fantasy is such a specific genre, and so many fantasy fans -are- on the web, it makes it a much easier audience to target than say for an abstract artist. For an illustrator, the web is wonderful. It's an inexpensive way to start getting your name out. That's the hardest part of getting started as an artist -- putting your foot in the door. I'm still working at it, but I think the web has given me a chance. Even so, as a replacement for a real gallery? I don't think so...digital reproductions are nothing to the real thing. You lose so much of the full sense of a painting when all you see is a 400x500 pixel image. You lose a lot of the luminous quality oils, acrylics, and watercolors have. So much of the subtle layers and colors just look black in a scan.
TWPT: I like your blackbirds story board, and the idea and graphics behind > a children's book for this. Do you have interest in pursuing children's books? Is this a branch off for you in the future?
SL: Yes, I think it's something that has been interesting me for a while now. I plan to sometime in the future submit samples to children's book publishers; however at the present I don't have quite enough of a portfolio for that type of material. So it's a side project that I pick up every once in a while.
TWPT: Where are you going to take your work next? What would you like to pursue in regards to your art?
SL: Hm...next? I guess about two years ago, just before I was about to graduate, I started looking for jobs. My other degree is in Computer Science...so I was looking to be a programmer. It had been pretty much hammered into me that to even think of making a living as an artist would be hopeless. So I was resigned to leaving it as a hobby. But while walking around a career fair, handing out my resume to dozens of computer companies, it really hit me that that was -not- what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I made the choice that day to really begin to put a full time effort into building up my portfolio to create something that I could present to art directors. The goal being to be able to do illustration and freelance art full time. For fantasy, or perhaps childrens' books, magazines, rpg's.... Anything that would let me create the stuff I loved. 90 % of what you see in my web galleries is from that decision onward. So, that is the short term goal. I don't know what else aside that...beyond never letting myself forget that this is something I love to do.