Welcome to the Women in Fantasy Illustration interview series. I am interviewing prominent women who work in the Fantasy Illustration Industry. You will find the links to more interviews at the bottom of the page.
This week’s interview is with the lovely and charming children’s book illustrator Christiana Sandoval, whose work is as wonderfully bubbling and sweet as herself!
1. Please give a brief introduction of yourself, your career and your work.
I’m Christiana Sandoval (Woodard), and I am a children’s illustrator. My favorite things to draw are fairies, animals, flowers and other whimsical delights.
I went to Virginia Commonwealth University and received a bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts in 2011. Since then, I have won competitions across the globe and have been on the mountainous journey of becoming a reputable illustrator through plain old hard work and being in love with art. I have been on numerous trips across the country to different illustration conferences that would help me perfect my craft though critique and education. My art has been noted by hollywood celebrities and well respected artists . Currently I am working to create an audiobook children’s literature collection.
I’m not afraid to work hard to do this. If you ask me where I’ll be in five years, it will still be on this path to let my work shine for others to enjoy, and I do really hope you do enjoy my work.
“(…) I proceeded to explore what kinds of illustration there were out there. After years of exploring diverse genres, I came to love and respect each one, but children’s illustration seemed to be my favorite.”
2. When did realize you wanted to make a career out of illustrating?
During college I realized there were limitless possibilities of where I could to take my artwork. Illustration came the most naturally to me, so I proceeded to explore what kinds of illustration there were out there. After years of exploring diverse genres, I came to love and respect each one, but children’s illustration seemed to be my favorite. I love the idea of capturing the endless possibilities that the imagination of a child has.
3. What difficulties have you faced in transitioning into becoming a professional artist?
I found that there seemed to be a million ways to become an illustrator and new ones popping up everyday. You could start with postcards, conferences, emails, social networking, etc. It is quite overwhelming! Yet for as hard as I work, and as proud as I am of what I do, it felt like it wasn’t good enough for those who make children’s illustration happen.
“I found myself becoming bitter as I would watch other artists rise to to the top with what seemed no effort at all. When I would draw, I would be competing against myself and everyone on the planet, which would make me frustrated and burnt out. “
I found myself becoming bitter as I would watch other artists rise to to the top with what seemed no effort at all. When I would draw, I would be competing against myself and everyone on the planet, which would make me frustrated and burnt out. The self doubt monster would crawl up my shoulder making me think that I would never be good enough, and that I had wasted so much time and effort on goal that was nothing but a dream.
Then a while back I heard an extremely successful illustrator give a talk about his journey. He said that even with all of his success, it never seemed to quench the need to become even more acknowledged. That then made me realize, that I must do my artwork for me because it makes me happy and it is a part of who I am, just as much as my hands or feet. I now try to remember to find joy in this gift. The little self doubt monster does try to creep up from time to time, but I find that it is easier to flick him off my shoulder. Also the support of my friends and family are a huge reason for my ability to keep on going!
4. What do you like the most about illustrating?
I love the fact that I can always trust my hand when I put it to paper. I find it amazing being able to see things that don’t exist in reality and having the ability to bring them to life through images. I like that I can wake up each morning and create something that didn’t exist before. My life seems to always be full of colors and fantastical ideas through the experiences I have every day.
“I like that I can wake up each morning and create something that didn’t exist before.”
5. What do you like the least about it?
A piece is never really finished to me. I always find myself looking back at pieces and thinking that I could keep working on them forever to make them better.
6. What attracted you to children’s illustration?
When I was very young, my world was books. At night my mom would leave me in my bed with stacks of books that I would just stare at for hours. My favorites were the ones with detailed illustrations that I could just get lost in. One of my absolute favorite books was “Animalia” By: Graeme Base, where each page was filled to the edge with images that all started with the letter it featured. I also enjoyed all of the beauty that was captured in books done by Jan Brett, especially “Fritz and the Beautiful Horses”.
Still to this day, I enjoy escaping to these magical realms that exist in my mind because of the children’s books that I grew up with. I hope one day, my illustrations can let other children dream too.
“Still to this day, I enjoy escaping to these magical realms that exist in my mind because of the children’s books that I grew up with. I hope one day, my illustrations can let other children dream too.”
7. You work traditionally, which I think really adds to the charm of your artwork. Can you tell us about your process?
My process is always changing, but having strong rendered line work has always been the base of most of my art. Recently, I’ll start the sketch with light colored pencils (usually a light red). I find that this helps my work be lighter in the finished product rather than being weighed down with dark lines all around . After the colored pencil, I might darken some of the shadows with a 2b graphite pencil. After I am pleased with the line work, I will lay color down with watercolors, but I try to keep it light. Once all the watercolor has been applied I’ll go back lightly with my colored pencils and render out the image even more. The last step in the traditional portion of the piece is going back over some of those dark areas with a very sharp 4b graphite pencil. This allows me to get all of that great detail back in.
Then comes the digital part. I like my pieces to stay mostly traditional, but sometimes in a scan I tend to lose some of the strong colors and lines when it turns into a digital file. I’m still learning if there is just a better scanner out there that won’t lose so much information. Anyways, I’ll take it into photoshop and adjust some of the colors so that it is attractive to look at once more. I may also clean up any messy watercolors that I wasn’t able to salvage in the original. I may also make my whites, whiter and more sparkly because I like sparkles.
8. What are some of your goals for the future?
I want to create vivid detailed illustrations that make children and others happy. A few things that on that list would be:
- Getting a children’s book published by a publisher
- Finding an art agent (to help me get in touch with the publishers)
- Writing and illustrating my own book/books, whether they are picked up or self published
- Being able to illustrate a book in the fantasy genre!
- Getting my work out there for people to see and enjoy, no matter how small the project
9. What is the best advice you have ever received regarding your artwork and career?
Create art because it is what you love and who you are. Do it because it brings yourself joy. Do it because it is a rare gift that not everyone has, so you should share it so you can bring a bit more joy into the world. Every publisher has their own taste, and just because they don’t like yours doesn’t mean that your work is bad. This isn’t a career race, and with each year you keep working, your artwork grows and blossoms into something it wasn’t the year before. Sometimes these things take time, years even so enjoy every sketch you create. Being published or unpublished doesn’t define you as a “ professional artist” .
“Create art because it is what you love and who you are. Do it because it brings yourself joy. Do it because it is a rare gift that not everyone has, so you should share it so you can bring a bit more joy into the world. “
10. Do you have a philosophy behind your work?
I really try to illustrate characters and concepts from people of all different backgrounds. I believe that every culture and background has a rich story or idea to offer and they should all be illustrated! Traditional stories are nice, but lets try something new and include diverse people and ideas in our illustrations. I alsodon’t believe that artwork has to be really simple in order to fit into the children’s illustration genre ( look at Jan Brett and Beatrix Potter). Of course there is such a beauty in simplicity. They ability to be able to convey an idea through only simple shapes or colors is very powerful. But I do believe there is a difference between a “simplistic children’s style” and art being lazy and not drawn out.
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this interview with Christiana Sandoval, check out her website and social media for more!
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View all Women in Fantasy Illustration interviews here.
Christiana on Instagram