Camilla d’Errico is a product of her split heritage, Italian and Canadian rolled into one: Italian fiestiness, Canadian politeness, and an early addiction to Saturday morning cartoons, comics and manga. Thanks to her relentless energy, dedication, and just enough sleep deprivation, she has followed her dream of working creatively for a living. Camilla’s unique style has put her talent in high demand and her client list includes Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics, Random House, Tokyopop, Hasbro, Disney, Sanrio, Neil Gaiman. Her own characters and properties, Tanpopo and Helmetgirls, are loved by fans and followers and now inspire Cosplay costumes. Learn more about Camilla at her website.
You’ve drawn from an early age. Do you remember when you first thought you might make a living being an artist?
The very first time I thought I would be an artist for a career was when I was about 6. I wanted to be a paleontologist. So did my sister. But she actually wanted to dig up dinosaur bones and archive them. I secretly wanted to draw dinosaurs!
When did you start painting?
I had to do some painting in high school, and that’s when I got my start – technically. Though back then my teachers told me I wasn’t a good painter. And I had to do painting studies during my illustration and design degree program. I thought some of these were pretty decent and I got good feedback from friends and family (again, not from teachers) so I took a chance in 2005 and brought some of my painting studies to a local gallery to see what the director thought of them. Then he invited me to do a piece for a group show.
Do you remember the first painting you completed? Could you tell us about that?
I think I’ll talk about my first Helmetgirl painting – Winking Girl. Because the ones before that are just studies. This is my first painting and significant because it’s also my first painted Helmetgirl, and the girl that got it all started. She is still a fan favorite, even after all these years.
Do you have a favorite painting of all time? What makes it special?
My favorite painting is No Ordinary Love (also the painting that Dark Horse is making a limited edition resin bust of). It is very significant to me emotionally, because I was going through a very tough time in love. When I finished the painting, only then did I realize what I had painted and what it meant. The story has a happy ending though, because my love did come to me and this painting embodies all of that.
When was your first experience with manga-style art?
I first started playing with manga style art when I got into comics in high school. I had always watched anime programs and the style came naturally. I took about a year off of everything art related or work related after college to really study manga and Japanese illustration in general, and develop my own style. It feels very natural to me and I find that this style can capture character emotions in a way that traditional comics can’t. And character development is extremely important.
What is your favorite project of all time?
There are so many projects that I’ve loved … I will say Tanpopo, because it is my own passion project, and it has grown into something I never imagined. I am still a little shocked by the response it has gotten and so excited that because it is so popular I get to continue the story!
You’ve said that one of your early interests was Saturday morning cartoons, and we see examples of that in your He-Man paintings. What is it about those old cartoons that still fascinates you?
I love the old cartoons! I am not a huge fan of CG and I prefer 2D animation. The old cartoons have a special place in my heart because I grew up with them and the feelings I got from them – and the inspiration to be a hero – are all tied to those old cartoons. There was something just epic about them. I’m sure kids today will tell you the same thing when they are 30. Our childhood influences stay with us. And I’m lucky enough to live out some of those childhood cartoon fantasies today because I am often invited to the Pop Culture Art Shows, Exhibitions and Exhibits connected to them.
In addition to your artwork, you produce your own graphic novel,
Tanpopo. What inspired you to start your own series?
was only supposed to be a one issue, closed story. In fact, the original was only 20 pages and at the end, Tanpopo died as the devil walked her away from her machine. But then everyone begged me to continue the story and so with my sister’s help we came up with the idea to use more literature and tell Tanpopo’s story using the emotional undertones of that literature. I have actually done a series before Tanpopo – BURN (Simon Pulse). I worked with writer, Scott Sanders, on this and I illustrated it. I love developing characters and telling their stories! And it won’t end with Tanpopo … Helmetgirls – the graphic novel – is on the horizon!
Is the creative method different when you’re working on Tanpopo than when you’re working with a separate writer? How is it different?
is a very different kind of story. What I do is read through the literature and find passages that inspire me and feel significant to the story I’m telling. Then I use those to create the narrative. Usually a writer will develop a script with dialogue, setting, etc. I have a rough idea of the setting and it really only comes together once I’ve pieced all the literature passages into place. It’s a very organic process, almost like I’m looking for the story within the literature, like when Michelangelo would say that he didn’t create the sculpture out of the block of marble – it was already in the block of marble and he was bringing it out. Not that I’m by any means Michelangelo!
When you’re not painting, writing, drawing or teaching, what other interests do you like to do?
I’m an avid reader. I’ve really gotten into audio books, which I listen to while I paint. I love to cook, so I do a lot of that, and of course I watch tons of anime and certain shows I am hooked on, like Vampire Diaries.
What advice would you give someone who is just starting out in your craft?
The industry is so different than when I started. Now artists understand that they have to do their own promotion and that no big publisher, gallery, studio or anyone else will ever “make you big” so you have to be smart about what you do. When you’re getting started also make sure you don’t get lost in all that hype and forget what you are really supposed to do – make art. The more you concentrate on becoming a better artist, the better your art will be, and the better the chance that people will appreciate it. And believe in yourself. Above all, if you don’t believe in yourself and take that leap of faith to ask for constructive feedback, and literally show your work, you will never “be discovered” by some random person that destiny is sending your way! If I hadn’t been bold enough to take one of those first paintings I did in college to that local gallery director, I wouldn’t be where I am today. So you never know. Trust that your art speaks for itself, but you have to put it on stage.
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