torstai 23. elokuuta 2012

Artist of the Month: Victoria Francés

Huida 2003.

Wow, I was checking out my statistics and my Tove Jansson entry has had more readers in two weeks than what Luis Royo had after two weeks of its realease. Evidently Royo arouses interest in all kinds of people, but it seems to me that Tove is soon going to be my new number one =) And no wonder, she was extremely talented.

August's artist is (once again) coming from Spain. Luis Royo is Spanish and I dare to say, really famous there. However, right behind him comes an artist who, do I dare to say, has a big boner for everything gothic-romantic.

Victoria Francés was born in Valencia, but was practically raised in Galicia (Northwest of Spain). It's said that she spend a lot of time in the forests of Galicia and in one of her interviews Francés says that she still keeps drawing inspiration from Galicia's woods. 
Not much is said about her art education, exept that she studied at the Polytechnic University of Valencia majoring in Fine Art. Apparently there was a department or other branch of the University called The Faculty of Fine Arts of San Carlos (Facultad de Bellas Artes de San Carlos) where Francés worked as an illustrator. It's rather impressive that she got a real job that had something to do with her degree, most art students get to wait on tables or serve drinks in a bar. (me? I'm still waiting tables to safe money for makeup school..Although I do have 2 art shows under my belt). But Francés was lucky, she got to design book covers and work on commission pieces. It's really impressive if an art student can make money on her/his art.

One could say that San Carlos gave her a little push to really start her career. Her first illustrated book Favole was published in 2003. The book consists of illustrations inspired by Verona, Venice and Genova. Favole enjoyed moderate success (which I think is good from a young and upcoming artist) in Spain and in other countries where it was published.
Even if you aren't familiar with Francés' work, this books literally tells everything Francés is all about: romance, gothic and victorian clothes (and vampires). And I do not mean 'gothic' as people dressed in all black and wear heavy black eyeliner, I mean gothic as in art history gothic.
Francés has said that she is immensely inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite paintings. Well duh, that is a given. However as much as Francés is trying to achieve that Pre-Raphaelite look I think her style is more stylised compared to the Pre-Raphs. As much as I like her work and really admire her style, I still think that that gothic-big-dresses-grave-yard-girls-castles is rather kitsch. To be perfectly honest, I think her work is really-really kitsch. I can understand that she is inspired by the gothic era and the Pre-Raphaelite group, but I personally think that artist's job is not to copy others, but to make their own stuff. It's clear that Francés adores this stuff since she dresses the part (I hope it's not a publicity stunt) and it's ok that she is doing what she loves. I just wish that she'd try to do something different than gothic girls at grave yards because she could adapt her style in to so many subjects! But just because I'm saying her art is kitsch doesn't change the fact that she is a very talented artist. I had a mini poster of one of her illustrations plus I buy her calendar every other year because I think her illustrations are stunning.
Libera me 2004

Favole was followed by Favole II which showed Francés interested in Venice and particularly in masquerades. It's a kind of mixture of Venice and central Europe featuring witch girls and vampires. I say central Europe because the landscapes remind me of Germany. The castles reminded me of England at first, but then I starting thinking that if Francés was telling stories with her illustrations, they'd probably be better situated in Germany rather than in England or Scotland. Favole II was published in 2004 and Francés made her first public appearance at the 22dn International Comic Fair in Barcelona. I read that she wore the similar gothic clothes to the fair as her characters wear in her illustrations. It seems that she prefers gothic/gothic lolita clothing. I read that Francés was very shy when she went to the fair, but to her delight there were many people to meet and greed her. She became a star of the book signing session and she even drew small illustrations for her fans. Not to mention she turned out to be a natural in answering questions and posing for photos. And there, at the fair, she got to fulfil a dream of hers, she met Luis Royo, her favourite illustrator. Francés has named Royo as one her idols and trendsetters.
Favole II was followed by Favole III in 2005 followed by an opportunity to travel to the States for Comic Con in San Diego. 

El hada de Venecia 2004
With Heart of Arlene (El Corazón de Arlene 2005) Francés decided to step a way from her usual gothic-romantic theme and play with the idea of gender and dolls and social reality. The Heart of Arlene is a mixture of contemporary Francés and classic Francés. She delights us with new themes such as Arlene herself, and treats the die-hard fans with a couple of classic illustrations, some of which have been sexed up. I personally really like Francés' angle on Hada transgénero - El nacimiento de Venus (2006) of a butterfly girl wearing a seethrough dress. Because I happen to like sexy art, I think this is a theme Francés should explore more. That illustration looks so naughty, but so sensitive and eerie at the same time. This illustration is done in her usual style whilst many of the others in Arlene seem like they were done in mixed media. You'll find the Heart of Arlene so different from the Favole trilogy. Arlene is more of a collection extreme characters, people who are more-or-less damaged. The illustrations remind me faintly of the seven deadly sins. The butterfly Venus is Lust, Lluminada girl is Pride, Rojo is Wrath, Arlene is Sloth (the old Sloth, from the Bible, not the new binging Sloth) and so on. Even though the illustrations in Arlene are not as detailed as Francés' other illustrations, they are still worth checking out.

Violin herido 2005.
In 2009 Francés published the first volume of Misty Circus which she presented in the Barcelona Comic Fair. This volume adds another new aspect to Francés collection of illustrations, (but it's not as exciting as the others). Misty Circus tells of Sasha, a child pierrot who travels with the Misty Circus. One review called it 'an ingenuity on the decadent'. Well....uumm.. ingenuity and decadent to me sound like a bunch of buzz words stupid people use to make themselves sound smart. Personally I think Misty Circus is rather dull compared to Francés other published works such as the Favole trilogy or Heart of Arlene. Misty Circus is melancholic and the Indian browns and faded grey's give the series a timeless look. I wouldn't call it decadent by a long shot, comme ci comme ca sounds about right. Even though the concept is interesting Francés isn't pushing it nearly as far as it could (and should) be pushed. Perhaps Circus theme was very popular in 2009 that she chose to leave Misty Circus like that, to avoid copying other people.  And it clearly shows that Francés hasn't given this concept as much thought as she has given to her previous concepts. Above is a stunnig illustration of the Vampire Lestat from Favole III. Misty Circus shows a small change in Francés routine and when I first saw the Misty Circus illustrations, I was surprised that she was stepping out of her gothic-masquerade routine to tackle a very different theme. Even though everyone wears costumes and masks in Circus, Francés hasn't incorporated this to her Misty Circus. Misty Circus is more like 'a short story' of a circus long time ago.

Velos 2001.
With Dark Sanctuary (2008) Francés returns to her more familiar concept. This new book of illustrations mixes music and portraits. I get it that there is a hint of music in the air (I mean hint of music in the illustrations) but otherwise this series is not as impressive as the Favole trilogy or Heart of Arlene. It's beautiful series and I guess it's suppose to relay the message of beauty and aging and music's immortality, buut it's still very boring. I personally don't do the deep symbolism thing (and I do not care for poetry) so perhaps this series is too skin deep for me aka I don't get it nor care for it. 

In 2009 the second volume of Misty Circus came out. Night of the Witches is a continuation of a story about witches who supposedly travel with the Misty Circus. In Misty Circus we follow the story of Sasha, the child pierrot, in Night of the Witches we meet Madame Chloë, a child witch/fortune-teller. She looks similar to Sasha, with her large reddish eyes and almost-anime head. Sasha's and Cloë's character designs are very unexpected, and very different from Francés' usual designs. I know that Francés doesn't have many child characters, but I'm just wondering what possed her to make Cloë look like that. She looks interesting without a doubt, but compared to Francés' usual stuff, she looks very unhuman. Perhaps it's Francés' personal joke that circus folks aren't human. 
I have to say the colours in this series are b-e-a-utiful! For once Francés is not afraid to use bold, strong colours. Even though most of the colours are sort of faded out, the purples, greens and reds pop out real nicely. Especially that horse carriage illustration and that Wizard/magician illustration have beautiful bold colours. Yes, magic is about bold colours! I wish Francés would introduce bold colours to her other works as well. Night of the Witches is a nice series and fits in to Misty Circus. Personally I'd like to see more of these Misty Circus 'episodes'. Maybe next time Francés will introduce us the 'Black Swan', trapeze artist, she is as graceful as a swan and flies higher!

Her latest publication, Integral Favole came out in 2011. This series gives yet another spin to Francés' CV. And personally, I think some of the illustrations in this series could be Francés' best work. I adore her detailed works in the Favole trilogy which she continues to show in Integral Favole yet it is a little different from the others. The colours for example are really faded out. Perhaps 2011 was a Grey Season for Francés since most of the illustrations in Integral Favole are mostly different shade of grey and taupe. I don't recall seeing anyone use taupe so beautifully as Francés does in this series. Personally I'd like to think I.F is independent from the other Favole's because the colour scheme is so, so different from the other 3. Even though each Favole has a theme she doesn't decribe them too literally. However this time I find that there is a real story in I.F. In my mind I.F is a tale of a family who lives in a castle in...the outskirts of Venice (really? Because there is like a forest and a pond near a castle...), but it's not a normal family at all, it's a vampire family. They are aristocratics who indulge themselves in Venice's night life. Yet the women are saddened by their immortal existense and the crimes they have to commit to survive. Expect the one, the teenage looking girl who seems to be embracing her inner vampire. The men in the family are 50/50, the other one is like the mopey Lestat, locked away in his room because he doesn't want anything to do with the world anymore. And the other guy who uses his good looks and charm to hunt down the ladies of Venice by night. Even though I'm drawing you this picture of a cliché vampire family, I was not dissapointed with this Favole.

Velo Nupcial 2011
The reason Francés is one of my favourite illustrators is clear when you look at her unique colour palette. Seriously, when have you seen an artist use earth tones so beautifully and as often as Francés does? Her palette, painting style and themes are gorgeous! I wish I could paint as well as she does (I have tried, skin is rather difficult to paint realistically, but she nails it!). Talking about her colour palette, it's the different grey's and taupes that give it that gothic touch. And it's actually really romantic too. When you think about it, the palette in Velo Nupcial for example is very romantic. I wouldn't exactly call it gothic because to me gothic means a lot of pointy towers and lace decorations and black. But that's the cliché with gothic, everybody thinks it has to be black (but it doesn't, especially when it comes to art). Couple of sources have called Francés' art Gothic Romantic, which is right I guess...exept Gothic Romance refers to the late 18th century literature. You can of course say that her illustrations most definately have a story behind them, but in terms of art and art genre, Gothic Romantic is not a correct term for Francés' style. I'd just call it fantasy art. But that doesn't mean I don't find her art romantic. I think Velo Nupcial is a very romantic illustration. This girl is part of the vampire family in Integral Favole. She is purifying herself from the sorrows immortality has brought her. Perhaps she was a bride to be, but accidentally killed her groom, or the crazy teen vampire killed him. And now the young ex-bride is left to mourn for her lost love. Or perhaps she is a ghost-water-spirit who is unable to move on. Most of Francés' illustrations convey melancholy and deep saddness...and so does Velo Nupcial. Subject wise I don't see any other meaning to this illustrations exept that she is very very sad. The paint job is a-may-zaah though! Francés blends all those taupes and browns and grey-blues with confidence, and she was very smart to leave the white bits very very white. That way all the colours really compliment each other. Although there is not much bright or cute colours for me to gush about, I really really like this illustrations because it's so well made. The light yet broken down colour imply that there is a story 'as old as time' behind this scene, but she conveniently leaves it for the viewer to decide what's going on in the illustration.

Like some other artists, Francés has created a world of her own. As I said before, the broken down and blended colours suggest that Francés' world is perhaps Victorian because all the people are wearing like long dresses and puffy shirts and tight pants etc. And that is OK, exept, if you take away her unique style, what else is there? Then she'd be just another fantasy artist, painting girls in long dresses, lying in snow or posing in front of a window. It'd be really boring I know. Perhaps some of you find her art boring regardless because it's just about fancy people posing in odd locations. Francés' art is very commercial because her subject is very popular among certain age groups. I can see why so many people like her illustrations. And they don't even have to be interested in art because Francés has gained a steady fanbase just with her illustrations-turned-into calendars, and duvet sets, and posters. I buy her calendar every other year and I had the Libera me poster (I lost it. Iii lost my poster, rippito flippito sippi slow motion!). I don't mind that she has gone commercial. I'm just saying that because her subject is commercial, it's a tad hard to take her for a serious fine artist. After all, fine artists or even fashion designers dread to go commercial because it might dock down their 'value' and make them 'those' kind of artists.

I had the Libera me poster and it's actually one of my favourite illustrations from Francés. It's incredibly detailed. I can only imagine the time and effort she spend making this illustration. That dress is exeptionally well depicted. The folds look accurate and there are no bizarre shadows or tone changes. Her skin looks a bit matte, but otherwise she looks very realistic. As a matter of fact the whole image looks very matte, as if it was done with colour pencils. I'm not sure if Francés uses water colours or acrylics (or colour pencils?) but I got the impression she mostly uses acrylics. Though Libera me doesn't look like it was made with acrylics. It's a somewhat romantic scene and even though I have a slight problem with the perspective and depth of this image it's really not as bad as Huida (seriously, it's a pretty illustration but my gawd, is the composition in that image really awful. That well in the middle and that girl in the white dress running to the right, it makes a really awkward scene *shudder*). Because the trees are so damn small in Libera me, we can choose to think that the vampire girl is either monsterous big, or this is just awkward composition on Francés' part. However don't be mad at me, I still like this illustration very very much. It's beautiful to look at, it has drama and mystery to it plus I love love looove her rose crown and her hair! I so want that hair ;)  

Even though I'm not that gothic, I still enjoy France´s work very much. I can totally imagine myself as that girl in Huida. I have finally managed to escape the evil overlord's (he is mostly likely a vampire) grip and am now running to my freedom. But first I need to pass this omnious forest.
I can also imagine that I'm one of those fancy ladies living in Venice. I go to a masquarade ball every night and wear gorgeous dresses. I can see that her art is especially appealing to girls ;D
I hear Francés poses for her illustrations, or rather she makes illustrations on the bases of her photo shoots. So perhaps we can assume that Francés' illustrations are partly self-portraiture hence quite personal. Her style interests me and in fact her illustrations give me this image of old yellow-ish paintings from the past. And as we know, when it comes to old yellow-ish paintings or letters, there is always a story there.
These photos are just a glimpse of what Francés can do with her talent and subject. She is indeed a very talented artist. I'm looking forward to see what she does next.

Remember to check out Francés' unique website. Seriously, it's very nicely done. Sadly it's only in Spanish, but you get to see her illustrations.

I hope you enjoyed my review on Victoria Francés and I'll see you next month!



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