Interview with Anaïs
I thought it would be interesting (and hopefully you do too!) to conduct some interviews with others associated with the folk metal community other than the musicians. My first interview is a bonus as you get both musician included with one of my favorites….musician and artist, Anais Mulgrew. You would know her from her epic work behind the kit in Celtachor whose latest album “Fiannaiocht” is a top 10 for sure this year for me. She is also an amazing artist in a multitude of mediums and I am sure you have enjoyed her work, whether you knew it or not. She answered some questions for us regarding her art, her influences and some of her projects…..check it out…..
Becoming an Artist
Could you tell us a little about how you became an artist? Were you always artistically inclined?
“I was always artistically inclined indeed. My grand-mother looked after me most of my childhood as my parents worked a lot, she taught me drawing and oil painting since a young age, often bringing me to her own art teacher in Marseille. She kept every single drawing I made, mountains of it. I was also a very shy kid at school, terrified of other kids and I would rather stay in my corner and draw instead of socializing. I soon realized the only way I could get other kids to notice me was with my drawings.”
What sort of formal training have you had (if any)? What schools or classes did you attend?
“After the Baccalauréat (French general education diploma), I went for a Graphic and Concept art school in Marseille called Axe Sud. I have learnt a lot there, especially about some illustration techniques I had never tried before, like colored inks and charcoal, or vector software. Back then there wasn’t a huge amount of choice for schools in my area, and I was too scared to move to a new city by myself to fulfill my real dream: learning 3D and work on video games.”
Make a living
When/how did you realize that you could make a living as an artist?
“It was just in 2013, I had been working full time for different companies for the past 6 years as graphic designer, and I had moved to Ireland. I was getting bored with marketing/business led designs. Designs empty of any emotions, prices, sales, vouchers… (I would vomit if I had to do this again!) I had decided to go freelance soon, but not once did I hope to be able to make a living by making the kind of art I love. I thought I was simply going to keep working for the same kind of companies, but at least I was going to have more time to make music and practice drums. And then one night, as I came back from Roger Waters “The Wall” show in Dublin, my head full of images, and utterly motivated to leave my boring job, I got the call. I was asked to send a portfolio to possibly work for a big new TV series, called Penny Dreadful. I sent it immediately and went to the immense Ardmore Studios to meet the crew the next day and got hired. I was never this scared in my entire life. I sent an email to my old job to tell them I was leaving, knowing well I was not allowed to do this without giving them 2 months’ notice. I could have gotten sued for this. I didn’t answer my job’s numerous phone calls and I was tetanized. One detail to mention: back then, I was also just after purchasing my first house ever, by myself, in Dublin, in the middle of the recession. I was taking a huge risk. But I got the job done, I worked with the famous writer/director John Logan, which I have so much respect and love for, and I created the very featured Tarot cards of the main character Vanessa (the wonderful Eva Green). After this, work just kept coming, new films, new TV shows, more Penny Dreadful seasons, and more and more artworks for bands. Getting contacted by bands I am a fan of, like Saor and Sojourner, was really a huge joy! “
Piece of Art
What mediums do you typically work with? What do you prefer to work with the most and why?
“I change mediums all the time depending on what I picture for the artwork. Graphite, painting, digital painting, 3D, ink, etching, photography, a mix of everything… I keep digging and discover new result every time. At the moment I like to work with graphite and charcoal, I like the general texture, along with the precise details you can get.”
How much time does a piece take from start to finish?
“That would usually depend on the technique, the slowest is probably etching with ink for me, as it leaves nearly no space for mistakes and it is a slow process anyway. For a full-size detailed artwork, it probably takes me a week and a half. But some graphite drawing can take me one or two days.”
How does a piece of artwork come about for you? Do you have an idea in your head and try to capture it or do things just start happening when you start working?
“If the artwork is for a band, I need to hear the music they make, and talk with them about their concept if they have one. I let myself drown in these provided elements and let my imagination work, I get some ideas that I scribble and sketch, until I find THE one. But I keep open all the way during the creation process, I have no trouble erasing everything and start again until I get it right.”
Folk-metal so far
Who are some of your biggest influences as far as your art is concerned?
“Oh dear… I have so many. A great source of inspiration to me is DeviantArt, I have been watching artists from this community for 14 years and I keep finding mind blowing artists there! But in no specific order: Alan Lee, Aaron Horkey, Jim Fitzpatrick, John Fay, Lauren Marx, Bielak, Fursy Tessier, Dan Luvisi, Peter Gric, Peter Mohrbacher, Wang Ling, and as cheesy as this can sound: nature itself.”
Who/what bands have you done work for that we would be familiar with in the folk metal world as far as album covers/music releases?
“Saor and Sojourner which I mentioned earlier, are my biggest pride! I have made many tee-shirts/patches and gig poster artworks for Saor, and two tee-shirts for Sojourner, one still to be revealed. Of course, there is my band Celtachor, but hey, that was an easy client to get! Lately I also did Darkest Era new logo which I am very proud of. You could think it was an easy client also, as we have been friends for so long, and well, I did marry Ade earlier this year, but I know that him and the rest of the band would not have asked me to do it just for friendship sake. Their band matters to them and the logo is a hugely important element. I believe that’s it in the folk metal world so far!”
You also do other music connected art for festivals and clothing… could you tell us a little about that?
“I enjoy working for festivals in a different way, there is no actual music to get inspiration from, but they usually give me more freedom. One of my favorite personal artwork would be the one I made for the 5th edition of Dublin Doom Day. I created a good bit for Cernunnos Festival in Paris (an amazing folk metal festival), many edition posters and their current logo, as well as a t-shirt design for the next edition. I also work for North of the Wall in UK, which had such a fantastic line-up!”
When a band comes to you to have something done, do they give you specific direction on what they are looking for or do you have free reign to do what you want?
“Each band is different, I can get full freedom or very little. Most of the time it’s half way, the band would have an idea/concept to present, and I kind of like that, it means to me that there is a deeper meaning to their music, and they have thought about it. At the moment I am working on an artwork that was very specifically described to me by the band, which can be risky. I will always bring my opinion and advice forward to the band if I believe something in their idea is wrong. I have had no problem before, but I reckon I could refuse to do an artwork if I didn’t believe in it. I put my name and my passion in each and every artwork I make, I could not create something I don’t agree with.”
Do you have a particular favorite work that you have done and why?
“It’s hard to pick a favorite, but there are a couple of artworks that are still very connected to my life. For example, a digital painting I made years ago, for myself, called “the fear of yourself”. It’s not my best artwork, I have improved in drawing and shadowing technique since I made it, but it is probably the most meaningful scene I have ever represented. Amongst my favorite I would also add the first artwork I have done for Saor, the circular one which got sold out so fast, and my very last piece, a gig poster I made for my band’s next show in Belfast this November.”
How do your musical endeavors influence your artwork if at all?
“It’s intricately linked but hard to explain. Good music brings a landscape, a scenery, colors, a scent sometimes even. Rhythms brings a composition, a movement, a depth, it changes the way your heart beats and the way you breathe. It all marries into one emotion but composed of those elements that you can play with. In a nutshell, listening to music does not bring me an image, it brings me an animation, a film, and I take screenshots of it. I think playing drums developed my imagination. I felt a difference over the years, both in the way I would compose music, would bring suggestions to my band, and in the way, I compose my artworks.”
Could you tell us what you are working on at the moment if possible?
“At the moment I am working on several things, but the biggest project is Saor’s first music video to be shot in Scotland this Autumn. I am working on the concept, story board, location, logistic and costumes. I am really excited about this, and really aiming to reflect the power of this new Saor track. I am also looking after the layout of Saor’s next release, and I am making an EP cover for a local Northern Irish band.”
How do you balance out the artwork, the music, the marriage etc?
“Art and music both are a lot of work I guess, along with sport, but keeping focused is not much of an effort since I enjoy every second of it, and I prefer a busy lifestyle anyway. My marriage does not need any special effort either, on the contrary I would not be able to do it all without my husband. We both encourage and help each other in our projects, it’s probably why we are such a good match! For example, years ago when I left my job to work for Penny Dreadful, I was stuck between two crowds: those who were trying to talk me out of it because of the financial risk, and those who were simply staying neutral (“whatever you decide to do we’ll support you”). Ade was the only one to push me towards this madness, he saw this was the chance of a lifetime. Without him, maybe I would still be miserable, wasting my life with my boring job to make sure I could pay for my mortgage, and regretting that time where I had a chance to change it all and did not grasp it.”
If anyone is interested in having art done by you, how does the process work and how do they contact you?
“They can simply contact me by email or on my Facebook page! We will talk about their project, expectations and concept if they have one. We can decide then which technique would suit the project best and I can give them a quote. After that I work on ideas and start sketching until I find something that works, and once we agree on the sketch I get working on the original. I keep sending sketches along the way until the final artwork is done.
So contact me anytime!”