Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Armitage as Art: An Interview with ZeldaT!

 I first discovered the talent of Zelda T when I was looking for fan art to display for my art gallery post during the FanstRAvaganza.  Her portrait of Guy of Gisborne (as portrayed by Richard Armitage) was amazingly realistic.  She has since begun a blog called ZeldaT : Paint and Suffering and even made a video about her art.

 Here is Zelda's video which is provides an excellent sampling of her work.

Have you always been an artist?  Which artists have most influenced you?
Claude Monet Painting on the Edge of a Wood
(1885) by John Singer Sargent

I think I always have been an artist, or been interested in art. I started drawing seriously when I was a young teenager.

A lot of illustrators influenced me, like the artists you see who create book covers and movie posters. Two favorite illustrators are Bob Peak and Drew Struzan. I admire many classic artists as well, including Monet, Degas, and John Singer Sargent

What materials do you prefer to work with: pencils, charcoal, chalk, pen and ink, watercolour, oils, etc.?

I’ve used almost everything. In the past I’ve had an infatuation with pen and ink, colored pencils, watercolors, pastels, even airbrush! But the mediums I’ve worked with the most often are oils, acrylics, occasionally watercolors, and pencil. 

How do you organize your art supplies? Do you have a special case, or even a room?

My “painting table” is a lawn chair with a towel draped over it! ;) My “studio” is the corner of a larger room, which was chosen because it has fairly good lighting and adequate ventilation.

Because most of my paintings right now are so small (8x10 inches or smaller), I’ve been getting away with not using an easel. But recently I finally invested in one. I haven’t set it up yet.

I store my paints and supplies in several plastic totes, especially designed for artists. Since I have a serious paint addiction, I’ve got different totes for different kinds of paints. Like one for oils, one for acrylics, and another for alkyds, and so on. It’s getting out of control!

We painters get very invested in all our materials. With oil painting, there is the concern about being “archival.” (Something I’m still learning about.) We don’t want our paintings to fall apart in a few decades. With oil paints, if you do some things wrong, that can happen. But at the same time, if you do things right, your paintings can last centuries, as we’ve seen with many of the Old Master paintings hanging in museums. So there’s a whole science to using the right methods, the right painting mediums, the right kind of painting surfaces, to ensure longevity. In a way I feel a little silly, because I don’t believe my paintings will hang in museums in a hundred years. But at the same time, it doesn’t usually cost that much more to use the right archival methods, so why not?

Do you prefer realistic art like portraiture, still life or landscapes?  Have you also tried impressionism, cubism or other art styles?

I’ve always been a realist artist. One of my favorite art teachers called herself an “Impressionist,” so I think that rubbed off on me as well. Probably how I’d describe myself is a representational artist, which I think means that I paint recognizable images (recognizable as a cat, a horse, a person, a mountain).

Do you ever draw from real life, or do you use photographs?

I do both, and prefer to paint and draw more from life. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to get Richard Armitage to pose for a portrait! ;)

When I started out, I mostly drew from photographs, but later took some life drawing classes (drawing the nude figure). Drawing from life can be considerably harder than using photos all the time. It was tough at first to study from life, but I know it was one of the best things I could have done for myself. There’s a big difference between drawing from life and drawing from photos.

Zelda Thornton, can we assume from your pseudonym that the character John Thornton is very important to you?
I didn’t put a tremendous amount of thought into choosing the last name. I knew I wanted “Zelda” as my first name! I liked that it started with a Z! ;)
Indeed yes, John Thornton is a favorite character. I first fell in love with him thanks to the BBC miniseries, but since he is also a character in a classic piece of literature, I liked the idea of using his name, so it didn’t take me too long to decide to use it as my pseudonym. 

Would you tell us a bit more about how you came to “fall in love” with this character? How long ago is it since you saw this miniseries (North and South)? Did this interest draw you into finding out more about the actor who plays him? Are you a fan, and if so, what does that mean for you?

I’ve always liked romantic characters, like Mr. Darcy and Mr. Rochester. With North & South, I think I was looking for new period dramas to watch, and there it was. It was a few years ago. I had read the reviews for it and heard that Mr. Thornton was very special.

When I started to watch N&S, I couldn’t see what was causing all the swooning, because to me he appeared to be an average-looking guy with a big nose. (I’m sorry!) But about half way through the series, I started to fall under his spell. Suddenly he started to look a lot better. I first realized his true beauty in that scene where he’s going into the bad part of Milton to see Higgins. What a lovely jawline he has! ;)

I looked North & South up on IMDb and found that other fans were discussing the actor, Richard Armitage. I learned about his other shows, like The Impressionists (which of course I loved) and Robin Hood. After that there was no going back!

I’ve been a fan of many actors over the years. Once I’m a fan of someone, I usually remain a fan for a long time. But usually there are one or two guys at the top of my mental list of favorites, and for a while now, Richard Armitage has been at the top!

How much of a fan I am of an actor will depend on what kind of person they are, and what kind of work they’re doing. Another thing that can fuel my interest is being around fellow addicts. I hit the motherlode with Richard Armitage! There are so many blogs and the fan sites about him! It’s easy to get caught up in all of that. In addition, Richard Armitage seems like such a nice guy, and is doing exciting work. I loved North and South, but I didn’t expect to get so hooked on Robin Hood, but he was *that* good in it. And now we have The Hobbit to look forward to!

I first discovered you on DeviantArt. How long have you been using your account there and what is it you like about it?

Since the beginning of this year (2011). I’ve known about DeviantArt for years, but never have been active on it. I decided that it was finally time. I felt that DeviantArt was especially suited for showcasing fan art. Not all art communities as accepting. They either talk about how it is a copyright violation (which is technically true, of course) or they treat you like you are not a “real” artist. I felt that DeviantART was the best place for me to show my fan art as well as my “fine art” and not be unfairly pigeonholed because of it.

Could you tell us something about yourself? ie. Are you married, have any children? Any pets? Perhaps you could tell us also about a typical day in your life.

Not married, no children. I am a cat person and will sometimes do sketches of my cats. I have a few “cat studies” up on DeviantArt right now.

My typical day is very ordinary and I consider myself very average in many ways! But one thing that I am grateful for was that I was raised in a family that valued the arts and creativity. My interest in art started when I was a child. I was able to take art lessons when I was fairly young, and took some excellent art classes as an adult. I feel in some ways that I am “self taught,” but that isn’t really true, since I took all those classes. But I’m sure any artist will tell you, an education in art is what you put into it.

As I say in the “About Me” page on my blog, there are people with extensive formal education, but who came away from that education with very little actual artistic skill. So either they didn’t put their heart into their education, or the quality of the education was poor. (Sadly, these days, it’s often the latter.) Then there are those who are strictly “self-taught,” but because they were so dedicated and passionate, they have learned much and improved a lot. Perhaps more than some artists with the superior education.

Maybe that’s part of the reason I started the blog, is because I know there are a lot of dedicated self-taught artists out there, and even though I’m not technically one of them, I feel like I am in spirit, because I had to do a lot of self-study and exploration on my own. I know what it’s like to be searching for help and answers, and the feeling of frustration at not finding them easily. So I want to help others find answers, while at the same time, I’M still searching for answers. A lot of my blog is whining and self-discovery, as I learn that I suck at this or struggle at that! We never stop learning and we should never stop trying to improving ourselves.

Would you describe yourself as an extrovert or an introvert? (As a cat lover, most people would guess you might be slightly introverted?)

I’m probably introverted, but not completely. I’m not really sure how to explain it. If I were completely introverted, I probably wouldn’t have a blog or show off my artwork. But being anonymous on the Internet makes that easier.

This is a photo taken up the California
coast, north of San Francisco. I’d love to
do a painting from this photo someday!
Do you like to travel? If so, where are your favourite places to visit? Do you like to sketch when you are on holidays?

I love to travel, but don’t get to do as much of it as I’d like. My favorite vacation spots are out in nature, wherever there are trees, mountains, lakes, or the beach. I enjoy painting when I’m on vacation. As far as I’m concerned, the best part of travelling is being able to paint all the beautiful scenery.   I’m a city girl who loves to get out in the country to take photos and paint. I’ve always lived in a bigger city and probably wouldn’t be happy living in a completely rural setting.

What other hobbies do you have?

I have several hobbies. I like to dabble with making music on my computer, but I’m not very good at it. I also love to read, mostly classics and romance novels. When I was a girl I dreamt of painting bodice ripper book cover art!

Ooo! I do love a good bodice ripper!  I would love to see Mr. Armitage model for a book cover like that!  Could we persuade you to do one for fun? Pretty please?

LOL! It’s crossed my mind! I’ll have to think on that some more. If I do a bodice ripper type cover, it would either be for North & South or Robin Hood. 

I am excited!  No pressure, but if we could have it in this interview -- that would be awesome! There is no time limit for this interview ….

I don’t think I’d have it ready in time. I would want to do an oil painting, and it can take days or weeks, because of the drying time between layers of paint.
I love that you do tutorials on your blog. Are you interested in teaching an art class in real life, or have you already?

Thanks! No, I don’t teach and have no plans to start. The tutorials are enough for me. Part of the reason I wanted to write them was because I see a lot of fan art tutorials which show how to do fan art digitally, or in pencil. So, I thought I’d try to give fan art a “fine art” slant with oil paints and some acrylics, as well as cover other things that I didn’t see mentioned in other fan art tutorials. It sounded like fun at the time, anyway.

I also thought I should ask you..... What compels you to use Richard Armitage as a subject of your art?   Is there a particular feature of his you enjoy trying to capture? Is there one most difficult or easier?

He’s simply so beautiful. That sounds so dorky, so I should explain that I think a lot of people are beautiful. But his beauty isn’t that superficial kind. After all, John Standring (the less-than-glamorous scruffy farmer from “Sparkhouse”) is beautiful, but not in an obvious way. He becomes beautiful the more we get to know him. That’s real beauty.

I’ve been watching his shows for a while now, all the time thinking how lovely he was in this shot, how great he looked there, how expressive he was as Guy of Gisborne or Lucas North, but I wasn’t at the time able to do any portraits. So when I did start doing some fan art, I had all these ideas for portraits almost bursting to come out of me!

Of his features, I love his mouth the best, and then I think his jawline. But it’s the whole package. So expressive. A great subject to draw, and with so many “looks.” I can see myself extending my “Richard Series” of portraits for quite a while, though I do plan on doing portraits of other actors (and actresses) along the way.

And finally, I’ll admit that I knew that with all the fans out there and the bloggers, that there would be an audience for portraits of Richard Armitage. LOL! Of course I wouldn’t (couldn’t, really) do this many portraits of him if I didn’t truly find him fascinating, but it’s rather boring to do a portrait of a celebrity that is a super-popular among fan artists. (Like Angelina Jolie. Or Jack Sparrow from “Pirates.” I feel they have been done quite enough.) But there aren’t enough portraits of John Thornton and Guy of Gisborne yet, so I felt the need to do some! :)

So true! His expressions are so varied for each role, he is like a chameleon in how he can change his “looks” as you say.  There are certainly not too many portraits of Richard Armitage out there and we are very grateful for your work! 


Anonymous said...

"But there aren’t enough portraits of John Thornton and Guy of Gisborne yet"


Really lovely interview - love Zeldas work. (and that bodice ripper cover *SIGH* That we all want;-))

judiang said...

Wonderful interview! I too love Zelda's work; she inspired me to return to drawing. A bodice ripper cover of Guy? Oh yes please!

RAFrenzy said...

What a pleasant surprise for my first day back into RA Universe. Fantastic interview! Zelda, I love you! and you are too modest. Phylly, I love you too. :D

NovemberBride said...

I've been a Zelda fan for quite a while now! Love love your work and love this interview! Very interesting to get inside an artist's mind and this wasn't dissapointing at ALL! Thanks to both of you.

Anonymous said...

My goodnes, Zelda is super-talented! Zelda, you have Mr. Armitage to perfection.

Thank you for interviewing this artist, Phylly.


bccmee said...

If Richard Armitage ever posed for an art class, I suspect it would be very much like a reenactment of that scene in The Vicar of Dibley when none of the budding artists wanted to spend their time PAINTING when there was a beautiful person in front of the room!

Thanks for the lovely in-depth interview. It's very inspiring. I'm already a big fan of ZeldaT's works and am eager for more!

Faboamanto said...

What an informative interview! Thank you Zelda and Phylly. I am in awe of Zelda's work and her talent and how beautifully she captures RA's features and his emotions.

Anonymous said...

This is a marvelous interview!! I had seen the b/w pic of Guy a few years ago via (and loved it) but did not know there was more of Zelda's work, or a whole blog to read. I will definitely check it out!

Zelda said...

Thanks to everyone for your lovely, supportive comments! And thank you Phylly for making getting interviewed so fun! :)

Some of you ladies I already know! judiang, so nice to see you, and you can't know how thrilling and gratifying it is for me to know that my blog in some small way encouraged you to start drawing again. You have a ton of talent and potential and we're all excited to see where you're going with it! :D

RAfrenzy, thanks for your lovely comments and so nice to see you around here again and to see you working on your blog. ;D

bccmee, so nice to see you here! I do want to disagree with you on something, though... If Richard Armitage ever posed for an art class, I know I would be drawing fast and furious, to try to capture as much of him on paper as I could! lol. While I think *all* models are beautiful, if someone has an especially striking look, I always try to do a detailed portrait and as many studies of them as possible, to refer to later!

NovemberBride, thanks, and so nice to see you here too! I'm glad you found the interview interesting.

alfie, thanks! I would love to do a bodice-ripper type painting featuring RA someday!

fitzg, thank you so much. One of the things I always try to do is to get a good likeness of Mr. Armitage. He deserves nothing less. :)

Faboamanto, I appreciate your lovely comments. It's wonderful to hear that RA's fans feel that I've captured him well. You all are the best judges of this, I feel!

dark-jackal32, thanks! I hope you like the blog; I need to update it soon, and I have several more RA portraits that need to be finished up. :)

Anonymous said...

Great interview @Phylly!

@Zelda - amazing talent! LOVE your Lucas! And I love discovering new blogs to go visit!

Well done ladies!

Phylly3 said...

I am so happy that Zelda agreed to do an interview with me. It is fascinating to learn more about so many talented fans of Richard Armitage. You can tell that Zelda is a professional artist from the high quality of her work. She is very diligent and tough on herself!
Thank you so much to everyone who commented here. I look forward to seeing more portraits of our favourite chaRActers from Zelda and all the other artists out there.
@dark-jackal32 -- Love your work too!
@bccmee - I almost put in a screencap from VoD from the art class!
@alfie - Let's keep the pressure up on Zelda for that book cover!
@judiang - She (and you) also inspired me to buy some good quality pencils and a sketch book and start trying to draw again.
@RAfrenzy - Yes, I agree - Zelda is far too modest! And I love you right back!
@NovemberBride - Thanks for stopping by - Zelda has a lot of admirers!
@fitzg - The interview was my pleasure. Thanks!
@Faboamanto - Yes, she does more than capture the look of him - his emotions as well! Absolutely right!
@tyme4t - Thanks! Zelda's blog is a real treat for any art or RA lover - and if you are both - well, then it is simply divine!

bccmee said...

@Zelda: Ah you are a true artiste whereas I am as shallow as a Dibley villager. I would stare and drool and probably take a couple of snapshots for later "study" but no drawing would take place because I would not want to take my eyes off the subject.

@phylly3: Would've been funny if you *had* used that screencap from the VoD! Great minds think alike! :)

Servetus said...

@Zelda -- any chance you can say more about the difference between drawing from photos and drawing from life?

Traxy said...

Great interview and FAN-TAS-TIC paintings/drawings! Such incredible likeness they could have been photographed and you couldn't tell the difference! Amazingly done, Zelda! :)

On a side note, you're confusing introversion with shyness. You can still be introverted and blog and show off your work (I'm a case in point), no problem. That's not what defines a person as introverted or not. If you were shy on the other hand, then yes, you might have issues showing off your work unless you had the comfort of the internet's relative anonymity. So there's a significant difference between the two. :) (Also, there's nothing to be ashamed of if you are an introvert, because there's nothing wrong with you. Sure, majority of people are extraverted and tend to hog the spotlight, but there's no disadvantage whatever you are. You can be a bit of both too. :))

Traxy said...

And that last smiley didn't come out right. It was a :) followed by a ). *gives commenting system a stern look*

Collar City Brownstone said...

This is a lovely interview. I enjoy Zelda's artwork, especially the one's of Richard Armitage. I agree with Zelda completely. I never heard of Richard Armitage before watching North & South this past January. At first I did not see Richard's beauty. It came out to me as I kept watching the movie. By the end I was enraptured by this talented British actor. Mr. Armitage has a presence that many people do not have. His facial expressions are deep and passionate. That makes him a very gifted actor. Now that he is filming The Hobbit his look is so different. It is as if he is a chameleon. The closely shaved head and beard shows no signs of Lucas North or any of the other characters he portrayed. Richard looks older now and even a bit reserved. I wonder if Mr. Armitage will keep this look once filming The Hobbit is complete this July. He looks great with the beard but I do prefer him clean shaven. I love his looks as John Thornton, Lucas North and Harry Jasper Kennedy the best. I even like his look as John Standring. I think he is very handsome in Sparkhopuse despite the scruffy look. It is the character's personality that makes him so beautiful in it. I like reading interviews on people who appreciate Richard Armitage the way I do. It is not just about him being sexy, handsome and having a great body. To me, Richard Armitage is way beyond that. His acting is superb and he seems to be an intelligent and very nice person. I get the impression that outside of acting Mr. Armitage may be a loner and that may be a key reason why he has remained unmarried. He will be 41 this year and I do hope that he is able to find true love; not someone who just wants him because he is very sexy and handsome. Now that Mr. Armiatge is so much better known it must be difficult for him to meet women who are genuine. He probably has the added worry that if he gets married and it doesn't work out the woman will take him for all his money. Look what happened to Paul McCartney. Too many people out here do not know the true meaning of LOVE. I do hope that Mr. Armitage will one day pose for Zelda Thornton for a portrait painting. When you get a chance check out my Richard Armitage Pinterest board. I have lots of beautiful photos of him on it.

Phylly3 said...

Thanks so much for commenting. I am so happy to meet someone else who admires Mr. A as much as I do. I agree with everything you have said here! And thanks for the invite to Pinterest. I am now following more than one of your collections! We appear to have much more than just RA in common! :)