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July 27, 2018

Oooooh, we're about to take it back ... back ... waayyyyy back. Back to the summer of 2013, when Eagle Rock WERKSHOP was just a dream and I was living on sporadic 20 minute power naps and what might as well have been a nonstop caffeine drip. At the time, I was the Design Director for a Men's Denim Brand and was spending every (non-denim) waking moment engulfed in mission : create the perfect pair of capri-length performance leggings and get that sh!t on kickstarter, STAT!.

I had set some pretty ambitious goals for myself. I had about six months to illustrate/design every print, perfect the cut/fit of the leggings, test multiple fabric qualities, design my website, try to gain an audience on social media, prepare all the content for kickstarter and get all my future production ducks-in-a-row so that it would be smoooooooth sailing post-campaign ... all within the budget of my fancy eighteen-month no-interest credit card. wheeeeeewwwww it was a TON of stress (and  werk!). I remember those daze like they were yesterday: I was living in a state of constant delirium. My only method of telling time was realizing when my Spotify playlist had looped itself.  Oh snap... it's Rhianna again... I should probably try to get some sleep, eep!

At any given time, I was werking on at least three different illustrations ... either rough sketches by hand (or) perfecting the edits in photoshop. I would toggle back and forth as inspiration would strike and often look at other artists for reference/inspiration. ( 'cause that's what artists do >> they get inspired by and borrow from each other. and I will speak firm and clear when I say there is NOTHING wrong with being inspired by a fellow artists' work ... maliciously xerox'ing and/or counterfeiting it, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. I'm looking at YOU, Lotus Leggings. grrrrrrr.)

Anywhoo, yea! So a good example of finding images online for reference/inspiration would be  King Tut ... I wouldn't have been able to illustrate King Tut from memory (ummmm, hello, I was born in '83. as in 1983.); so I absolutely took it to the googles! I had at least a dozen images of King Tuts' tomb saved on my desktop while I was werking on that art. Another example of scouring the interwebs for references/inspiration brings me to the OG Sugar Skull. (and that is the whole reason for this blog post and design collaboration to begin with!) 

... so I really wanted to make a sugar skull design (mostly 'cause my friend, Eutimio, was like, "yo, you should make a sugar skull design" and I  was like, "yooooooo, dooood. I *should* make a sugar skull design!") ... but truth-be-told, skulls scare me. always have. always will. So I thought it would be awesome to take a more delicate/feminine approach to my sugar skull and illustrate a girl wearing Dia De Los Muertos makeup vs drawing an actual skull. I spent a lot of time looking at reference images online for inspiration and there was one digital painting in particular that really had an affect me.

and that is where this story begins ...

I remember when I first started illustrating the OG Sugar Skull, I stumbled onto this digital painting that totally took my breathe away. I will 100% fully admit to referencing it while rough-sketching the first draft of what was soon to become one of my flagship designs. By the time I took the pencil sketch into photoshop to digitally remaster and color it, I was no longer looking at the reference art ... but man, that digital painting made SUCH a huge impression on me that I somehow managed to accidentally/unconsciously use virtually the exact same color-scheme within the details I had "borrowed"! Bananas!! ... and I didn't realize it until AFTER my kickstarter campaign ended! I realized my mistake when I was cleaning up old files from my desktop and ... holy hell ... my heart. hit. the. floor. 

I felt HORRIBLE when I realized what I had done!! (just ask my friends Erica and Taylor ... they talked me off the ledge more than once. oof!) My residual Catholic Guilt went into overdrive. I lost sooo much sleep and spent countless hours trying to find the original artist for the reference painting. At the time, I had no clue it was Alix's work ... I had originally found the art on a Lotus-Leggings-Style website that was selling counterfeit mousepads and misc goods. There was no artists' credit published anywhere. I tried everything I could think of to find the name of the artist; including a reverse-google-image-search to no avail. Since I wasn't able to apologize to anyone for my mistake, I did the next best thing I could think of: DISCONTINUE the style ... and never make it again. 

Here is Alix's original artwork side-by-side with my OG Sugar Skull >>

Now, while no where near an exact replica, you can *totally* spot the bits and pieces that I borrowed ... and it was definitely enough to make me feel like a turbo douche. I let a few months go by after canceling the OG Sugarskull before I went back to try my luck at editing her into a new (and guilt-free) version of herself. And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is how REMIX was born. That's right! REMIX is the "remixed" version of the OG Sugar Skull: the version that I could be proud of.

And then came her edgy sister, Dark Sugar ...

I felt SO much better once I removed all the bits and pieces that looked tooooo similar to the original reference painting ... and just when I thought I had moved on from the ever-so-epic Sugar Skull Saga of 2014, an awesome member of #teamWERKSHOP tagged me in a facebook post to let me know that Lotus Leggings was stealing from me. They were apparently running an ad with my OG Sugar Skull and claiming my art as their own! Blasphemy!

I tried to contact them to see if they would remove post ... but all they did was delete my comments/messages and then block me. Matter of fact, they deleted and blocked EVERY person who tried to defend me. It didn't take me long to realize that Lotus Leggings were counterfeiting asshat con-artists with absolutely no regard for human decency. (they've repeatedly continued to steal my artwork since then). I tried so hard to get the fake leggings removed from their site, but truth-be-told, there is little-to-nothing a small business can do to combat the sh!t. It's nearly impossible for even the big-budget brands to fight untraceable ghost-like factories in Mainland China let alone an intimate little team of 6 peeps chillin' in Monrovia, CA. After speaking to a handful of attorneys, the best advice I received was to write a blog about what was happening and try to spread awareness.

So that's what I did. I wrote a blog post about the theft ... and then shared it as much as I possibly could. As The Imitation Game tumbled it's way through the interwebs, it somehow managed to find it's way to Alix's Branwyn's browser ... and let's just say that while she clicked on the blog in symphathy for a fellow artists' getting their work jacked, she ended up realizing that she, too, was unknowingly a part of the story. She immediately noticed the similarities between my OG Sugar Skull and a digital painting that she was commissioned to make by a former employer.

Soon after the blog was published, I received an email from Alix on facebook that basically called me out for copying her. She had never heard of WERKSHOP before and didn't know that I discontinued making the OG Sugar Skull immediately after kickstarter campaign. She also didn't know that I had already changed the Sugar Skull artwork out of regret for accidentally referencing her art too much. Crazy, right!? ... and I was SO stoked to have received a message from the very person who I tried so hard to find a few years earlier. It is a very small world out there, folks ...

Once I explained to Alix what had happened and how SORRY I was to have accidentally offended her, we got to chatting and realized that we had a lot in common! It's AMAZING how a little bit of communication and understanding can open doors ... and through all the weird twists of fate, I made a new friend! YAY! It didn't take long for me to invite Alix to be a Featured/Guest Artist for Eagle Rock WERKSHOP® ... I am obviously a HUGE fan of her work and couldn't wait to share her talents with the rest of my WERKSHOP Famdizzle!

So HERE IT IS!! Introducing the first ever Eagle Rock WERKSHOP® Featured Design Collab - HEXEN.

CLICK HERE  TO SHOP THE COLLECTION, YAY!

 

In celebration of this very special collab, I wanted to take a moment to properly introduce you to Alix through this little mini interview. I hope you enjoy learning about the design process, etc. And I cannot wait to hear what you think of the collection!! Please feel free to comment on this blog post... I'm sure I speak for both Alix and myself when I say we would love to hear from you! Ciaoooooo for meow. xoxoo, Tina Z // aka // Chriztina Marie.

 

Q & A with Alix Branwyn

1. What is the inspiration behind each piece in the Hexen Series?

The inspiration for the Hexen series as a whole has to do with my lifelong fascination with the occult (more as an interesting subject matter with aesthetics I appreciate, since I’m a non­believer) and my interest in what human beings are capable of doing to one another out of a fear of the “other”.

The piece Temptation in inspired by the biblical story of Eve and the serpent, as this was often used as a reason why women were the more likely sex to fall to the temptation of witchcraft. In the piece I’ve placed a few allusions to the story: the apple motif in her earring, the skeletal figures in the background and the skull in the snake’s scales to represent the start of death as a result of original sin. The snake whispers into her ear and her gaze is that of TV static, like an interrupted signal as she listens to his words.

Memento Mori, which literally means “remember that you die”, was inspired by the various methods of execution used on witches throughout time. The noose is probably the most apparent, the flames for the burning at the stake, and the blue halo around her head with the wave pattern represents drowning, though this method of death was the result of a “witch” passing the test to prove her innocence ­ if the devil did not come to her aid to make her float then she was not a witch, but she was certainly still dead.

Of the Fox is a collection of imagery from Japanese witchcraft lore, largely based around the death curse that receives a mention in the Kwaidan story “Of a Mirror and a Bell”. The idea of the curse is based around the concept of substituting one thing for another, so an effigy of a man nailed into a tree in a grove under an ox moon may result in his death. The practitioner is described as a woman with her hair let down, dressed in white

and wearing a crown of three candles that is made from an iron pot holder. Throughout the piece there are several nods to the story woven in: a hammer motif in the background interspersed with the straw effigies, the ox skull to represent the ox moon, a ring of nails around the central halo, and chrysanthemums and a skull hidden in the smoke to represent death. The fox serves as the more common familiar that witches employ in Japanese folklore.

2. Have you always been an artist? When did you first embrace your gift?

I feel like the answer is the same for most artists that I know, but I’ve been an artist for as long as I can remember (or could start forming memories, at least.) I’m not even sure that it’s a “gift” to be embraced as much as it is the passion and encouragement to put in the time to develop over the years. In my case, my parents were a huge help, my mother especially. I had a lot of support from them when it came to trying out new mediums (and dealing with the messes I often left behind in their wake) and their encouragement was a great motivator for viewing art as a viable path forward.

3. What's your favorite art medium? Digital, Oils, etc?

I honestly prefer digital, but I think traditional media like oils helps to mentally supplement the digital work in a way I hadn’t fully appreciated until recently. I had taken a period of about 10 years away from working traditionally with paints (I’ve always sketched over the years on paper, but paint is a different animal) and picked them up again maybe only about 3 years ago or so. The way that you apply the strokes and the level of “done” that you have to accept when you don’t have the ability to zoom in like in digital really helps to translate back into working in the computer on a tablet. There’s a danger of touching something too much, over rendering it, and I think the traditional work peppered in helps remind me to fight that urge.

4. Your imagery is so nuanced and detailed ... how long does it usually take you create a piece from concept to finished work?

On average it takes about 20 to 25 hours to complete an image from start to finish. I start by sketching out thumbnails, then I move on to finding or taking reference material that matches the ideas I put down on paper to make life a bit easier when moving on to drawing and painting. Good reference is really essential for getting all the little details down well. After I piece together my sketch in the full size I’ll be working at I get the colors down. This can often be pretty time consuming, with a lot of adjustment layers tweaking the way the colors play together until I feel like there is some good harmony going on as a base. After that it’s down to rendering and pushing and pulling areas along until they feel finished. I often jump around the piece a lot at this point and touch all the different things to keep from getting too bored handling only one texture for too long. At the end, I always try to set the piece aside and come back to it a day later to judge with fresh eyes if I feel like it’s really “done”, just to be sure.

5. How do you hope your art impacts your audience?

In general, I want to try to create pieces that people can spend a lot of time staring at, picking up new things within the image the longer they view it. I like to incorporate lots of little details and hidden elements to not only tell a story, but give the viewer a reason to spend more time looking. I always hope that even if people don’t have a particular interest in the stories behind the subject matter that it is still visually appealing enough for them to give it some time regardless.

7. Who was been your greatest creative influence growing up?

I would say my biggest creative influence growing up was probably Frank Frazetta. I think discovering his work when I was younger made me realize that there was a viable path moving forward making the kind of art that interested me, and that motivated me to keep working at it. Also, the fact that he continued creating after suffering a series of strokes that affected the use of his right hand by learning to use his left hand was really inspiring for me. I think there’s always a base level of anxiety for an artist of “what will I do if something goes wrong with my eyes or my hand” and seeing someone persevere through that was comforting in some ways.
______

Hexen: Temptation ­

Temptation in inspired by the biblical story of Eve and the serpent, as this was often used as a reason why women were the more likely sex to fall to the temptation of witchcraft. In the design there are allusions to the story: the apple motif in her earring, the skeletal figures in the background and the skull in the snake’s scales to represent the start of death as a result of original sin. The snake whispers into her ear and her gaze is that of TV static, like an interrupted signal as she listens to his words.

Hexen: Memento Mori ­

Memento Mori, which literally means “remember that you die”, was inspired by the various methods of execution used on witches throughout time. The noose is probably the most apparent, the flames for the burning at the stake, and the blue halo around her head with the wave pattern represents drowning, though this method of death was the result of a “witch” passing the test to prove her innocence ­ if the devil did not come to her aid to make her float then she was not a witch, but she was certainly still dead.

Hexen: Of the Fox

Of the Fox is a collection of imagery from Japanese witchcraft lore, largely based around the death curse that receives a mention in the Kwaidan story “Of a Mirror and a Bell”. The idea of the curse is based around the concept of substituting one thing for another, so an effigy of a man nailed into a tree in a grove under an ox moon may result in his death. There are little touches of motifs that call back to the story placed around the design, as well as the fox, which is a common witch’s familar in Japanese lore.

See more of Alix's work HERE


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