Interview with Cover Artist Tangmo Cecchini

The work of freelance illustrator and fine artist Tangmo Cecchini graces the cover of Apex Magazine this month. Her work blends the influences of pop surrealism, fantasy, and a touch of horror.

APEX MAGAZINE: Your cover art for this month’s issue, “Pensive,” offers dreamlike and surreal symbolism. Do you find that there are different audience interpretations than you would have expected? Have any interpretations changed what you originally saw in the painting’s concept?

TANGMO CECCHINI: Yes, and it usually surprises me. My work explores complex emotions, collapsed into a single moment, with a simple title, and to see another person dissect my illustration using their life experiences yields interesting results.

The audience’s reaction and thoughts fuel the original intention of the piece, and while it didn’t change how I thought of the concept, it made me realize how people view themselves in deep thought. For some it’s more melancholic; for others, it’s peaceful.

AM: When you are working on a piece of art on your Twitch channel, or live in person, how does an audience affect what you are doing? Does it change where at in a piece you might be working? Say, starting with sketches or a concept versus only adding final touches here and there?

TC: I’ve streamed some sketches in the past, but for time-consuming illustrations, I prefer streaming after the drawing and color study stage. I haven’t quite made the leap of creating a piece from conception to completion live, yet, and I’m not sure that I will. Having an audience does affect my process: it makes me hyper-aware of what I’m doing. I like this effect when rendering because it avoids tunnel-vision, but not when I need to make creative decisions in the early stages. I prefer being spontaneous and unattached when figuring out the design of the piece and being watched at that stage would stifle some of the creative meandering I rely on.

AM: On your Instagram feed, you mentioned “notan studies” and feature a few examples. What are the difficulties in creating a blockier, black-and-white-only piece, versus a fully detailed image? How do those studies, or other sketch techniques, influence your art?

TC: Notan is a Japanese word that means dark-light, and many painters do these studies in pure black and white to sharpen their sense of value and shape. The challenge is to make it readable but not rely on lines and mid-tones, something that’s essential in my own paintings.

I love making art that looks different from my base style, whether it’s a study or more polished piece. I think it’s quite important to vary what kind of art you consume, or your own art will feel “in-bred,” of some sorts. Doing these experiments lets me know if I want to push my art in that direction, or just explore it a few times.

AM: You feature your work through Patreon, a system that has become very popular among creatives. What opportunities does Patreon provide that are different from support through traditional gallery sales, conventions, and standard online sales galleries? Are there challenges that other creatives might run into, which you have had to work through?

TC: I support some creators on Patreon, and it’s a good way to see how they work instead of just buying a single piece from them. Traditional venues of art sales don’t really let you connect with an artist’s work over a longer period of time, and that’s why Patreon is an important addition to the field.

Currently, I keep my Patreon set-up pretty casual, since I’m just interested in sharing my process. In the future, it could be a significant part of my income, but as of now, I just want to keep adding content on there for future patrons to look back on. Converting followers to patrons is definitely hard, but that’s the same kind of struggle with selling artwork in general. I have small followings on all of my social media, and this is a good way for me to gauge who my customers are within my audience.

AM: On your Twitter feed, you talked briefly about art school versus online learning. As people gravitate towards online learning, do you find it impacts the techniques or styles of art, or particular visions, that you see now versus a few years ago? Have those visions become broader and more creative, or more similar and constrained over time?

TC: Online classes focus a lot more on technical skill, so I can’t really say if they impact artists creatively at all. I think there is a lot more creative, imaginative work currently. But it didn’t come from online classes, it came from artist communities we formed on social media. We are able to apply our skills, share knowledge, and find at least twenty different artists a day. That is an incredible difference, even from ten years ago.

AM: Thank you to Tangmo Cecchini for the interview, and for the great cover to start off 2019. Find more of her work by following @artoftangmo on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, and through her website at www.artoftangmo.com.

Russell Dickerson has been a published illustrator and designer since the previous millennium, creating works for many genre publications and authors. He has also written many articles for various organizations in that time, including Apex, and his work can be found on his website at darkstormcreative.com.

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