Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 18, 2019

Illustrator Saturday – Romina Galotta

Romina lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She graduated in Graphic Design from the University of Buenos Aires but her artistic inclinations led her to become a fruitful scenery and set designer for several local theater companies.

She works both with traditional and digital mediums. Is an ardent animal lover, a passionate foodie; and is happy to have family and friends scattered across the globe which is the perfect excuse to fulfill her forever traveling dreams.

HERE’S ROMINA DISCUSSING HER PROCESS:

1- I begin by tracing the image with a 0.3mm mechanical pencil, very lightly.

2- My first layer is always a soft wash of watecolors that helps me define the areas and overall mood and color palette. I then follow with a second layer of watercolors to accentuate certain areas or (as in the case of this illustration) I need to create a special effect on the background for the stormy sky.

3- Then I go in with graphite. I use Creacolor Monolith woodless graphite in 9B, 6B and 2B. With these I usually create shadows or dark masses that I then smooth with a stump.

4- I then use a Tombow Mono eraser pencil to “carve” leaves and foliage. I really love to play wih positives and negatives with graphite. It helps me to add depth to the scene.

5- This time I had to go in again with watercolors because I felt the dog house and plate were too soft. At this point I’ve also started to add details with a graphite pencil in 2B (the branches, the cat, the dog house).

6- I use a Uniball Signo or gouache to add snow details or any white accent (like the cat’s face features). These sometimes need a bit of a re-touch later in Photoshop.

7 and 8- My final touches are with color pencils. This helps me add textures or accents to the color parts of the illustration. I like to add expressive lines with them or with Neocolor crayons.

9- This is the scanned illustration without any editing. As you can see, when you scan watercolors you have to tweak a bit the levels and contrasts to make it come to life.

10- In Photoshop, I then tweak the image (levels, contrast, color balance) and repaint some details, like the cat’s face that got a bit muddy and needs more defining in the eyes and ears.

11- I add special effects, like the snowy wind with a “gouache” brush and finish the piece.

Finish Piece.

Interview Questions for Romina GalottaKelsey Garrity-Riley

How long have you been illustrating?

I guess I’ve been illustrating since high school to be honest, I was always the one in charge of making the school play poster or drawings for special occasions. Drawing and painting has always been a constant in my life and in my family, and it’s been something I’ve always done in one way or another since childhood.

What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

The first real paid gig was a poster for a children’s theatre company here in Buenos Aires. The play was an original: “The Young Einstein”. This opened the door to other endeavors in theatre later.

Have you always lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina?

Yes, born and raised in Buenos Aires. Argentina may be a bit unstable economic-wise, but life here is relatively cheap and I’m fortunate to have a steady income, so it is quite comfortable.

How did you choose the University of Buenos Aires for Graphic Design?

I chose University of Buenos Aires because although it is a government funded school and has free tuition for everybody, it also had the best teachers and reputation in regards to all the design oriented academic subjects. Unfortunately I had a horrible experience by the end of my freshman year, when my drawing professor (from my then favorite subject, you can imagine) flat out told me I wasn’t good enough and should seek another career. I was way too young and that was a deadly blow to my self-esteem. I ended up changing majors to cinema in the same university because it had a lot of the same courses (art history, drawing, literature, etc). It was a very interesting experience. Only a couple of years after graduating from thereI felt compelled and confident enough to go back a get my degree in graphic design.

What type of classes were your favorites?

My favorite classes were Typography 1 and 2. I geeked out about typography during that time and I happened to be surrounded by excellent teachers and peers so my overall experience was lovely. I also particularly enjoyed Art History, and to this day I try to revisit and study art, architecture and sculpture to re-inspire myself.

Did art school help you get illustrating work when you graduated?

I feel the degree was very editorial oriented, so it focused mostly on book layouts and texts. At that time I was already working for a company here in Argentina that published japanese manga, so my job was adapting all the sound effects in roman letters but in the style of the original japanese artists (also doing the lettering and overall layout). It was a little bit menial and repetitive, but It was a steady job and gave me the added opportunity to travel to Japan a couple of times.

What type of illustrating did you do first starting out?

While working with de manga publisher, I continued doing the posters for the children’s theatre companies, providing them with posters and all their graphic materials (this also included activity workbooks and songbooks which required a lot of smaller inner illustrations too).

How did you get involved in working on scenery and set designer for local theater companies?

I was already doing work for them and occasionally getting my hands dirty with paint when they needed an extra hand, painting a backdrop or two. Eventually, they decided to start printing the backdrops, so I got the job providing them with digital artwork for printing. Word of mouth led me to other companies with similar type of work and that’s how I became a scenery and set designer, which turned out to be so much more than just backdrops, it was whole concepts, visuals and even costume designs for each of the plays. It didn’t represent a steady income, but it was more fulfilling artistic-wise.

When did you decide to illustrate children’s books?

For a couple of years now, the idea had been playing around in my head. Especially because the illustration work I was doing eventually started to feel a bit stagnant, being mostly educational pieces and backdrops. Backdrops although challenging technically, can feel very repetitive and somehow flat after doing so many. I felt I had more in me to express through painting or drawings. I wanted to take a leap of faith into making a living as an illustrato and children’s books have always been a constant love of mine.

Have you had an opportunity to illustrate a picture book?

Not yet, I am impatiently and eagerly waiting for my chance!

I see The CatAgency represents you. How long have you been with them and how did they find you?

I’ve only been added to the family this month, I’m the newbie! When I decided to faze-out my current job (more on that later!) and try to become a professional illustrator, I sent a portfolio to them back in January of this year. They didn’t sign me up then a there, but showed a lot of interest and were very encouraging, so far as giving me a couple of pointers in terms of what to fine tune. After developing some new pieces and honing in my style for a few months I finally got in!

Does the SCBWI have a chapter in Buenos Aires?

No, there isn’t. We have several groups and societies for argentinean illustrators.

What do you feel influenced your illustrating style?

This one is really hard to answer in a small paragraph, because I feel it has been a plethora of things, from books to films, nature, and specially travelling. But to keep it short and simple, my favorite contemporary illustrators are: Isabelle Arsenault, Felicita Sala and Rebecca Green. My favorite artists are: Rodin, Mucha, Klimt, Van Gogh, Degas and Hokusai. My favorite filmmakers are: Wes Anderson and Hayao Miyazaki.

I feel much influenced by what I experience in my travels, nature walks and my everyday life with my husband and dogs.

Do you work full time as a free-lance illustrator?

This one is going to be a weird response… I do work full time as an independent, but I juggle between free-lance drawing (scenery and illustrations) with a career as a doll fashion designer and toy-maker. It sounds insane but hear me out!! As I mentioned, I travelled to Japan a couple of times and became interested in japanese toy customization and design. Especially a re-issue of a ’70 american doll called Blythe, which by then (2004) had become a sort of fetish inside the photography, art and fashion-design community internationally. I began making pieces for them just as a hobby, but I ended up winning a contest created by the official company and things just snowballed from there. My dresses and custom dolls began selling well enough around the world to make a modest but pretty comfortable living with the added bonus of getting to travel to different cities (New York, Paris, Milan, Shanghai, Tokyo, etc.) every year for conventions and events. Working free-lance also brought the liberty to expand those outings to usually a full month of exploration of those countries, which is the thing I love to do most. It’s a very eccentric line of work, but I feel it has enabled me to express artistically in ways I didn’t know possible and absorb a lot of culture from around the world I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. It’s been an incredible experience, and I don’t think I’ll ever leave it completely behind, but now I’m hoping to transition to my original passion.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate a book?

Yes, I am working on my first book right now. It is a very personal project to me, and I plan to bring it to life even if I have to self publish it. I also have some ideas in my notebook for several other future projects.

Do you exhibit your art in galleries?

Insofar as art galleries go, I’ve exhibited only my work on dolls and toys in a couple of art galleries in Japan and Australia.

Have you ever illustrated a book cover?

No, I’ve only done posters, and workbook covers.

Do you have a studio in your house?

Yes, I am blessed to have a whole room to myself in our house that is “the atelier”. I am also really lucky that it has huge windows and it leads to the terrace garden. I also recently converted a second separate room into a tattooing studio, which is something I’m only just starting to get good at. For now I’m seeing it just as a hobby, something to have fun with and experiment without pressure!

Would you illustrate a book for an author who wants to self-publish?

Now that I’m trying to succeed in this professionally, I think I would like to give priority to publishers over independent projects. But I would consider it if the project is interesting and the terms are enticing. I am open to working with everybody as long as I am able to have some artistic freedom or voice.

Have you worked with educational publishers? Which ones?

No, not yet I haven’t.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines? Which ones?

Sadly, not yet, but I’m hoping that will change soon.

Have you ever thought about illustrating a wordless picture book?

I have been wondering about that type of narrative and thinking what an amazing challenge it must present. I think it would be fairly difficult, but I always love a good challenge.

What do you think is your biggest success?

I think the fact that so far I’ve been able to find happiness and motivation throughout my many different jobs. Since my initial blowback as a young student in college, I’ve learned to never give up on my passions and luckily I’ve rarely had bad experiences with clients. I know I’m fortunate and privileged to be able to do what love and make an honest living, and on top of that to have the freedom to always keep searching and experimenting with new things.

What is your favorite medium to use?

My ultimate favorite medium is watercolors.

Has that changed over time?

I used them on their own or with ink outlines, but now I love to mix them with graphite, color pencils and pastels. I am also experimenting with gouache.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

Absolutely, I make a point to draw and create pieces every day, for as much time as I can allot for it. I’ve attended several workshops to hone specific areas that I found myself lacking a bit (animal anatomy, hands etc.). Not everybody has the liberty to put off paying work to devote to pursuing one’s dreams, so I know I have throw myself completely at it since I have the opportunity to do so. Since starting to get in contact with agencies about representation, I made a point of paying special attention to all their replies and criticisms. The CatAgency was especially helpful with their remarks, and I tried to evolve and develop my portfolio accordingly. It seems it paid off well, but I don’t want to be complacent. I know I’ll have to prove myself now that they’ve signed me in.

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

Yes, I love photography since my early days in film school; it later became a sort of second job to create the best possible pictures of my dolls and creations, as a means of promotion. It is something I do in my everyday life, especially when I’m travelling and discovering new locations. I think of it as a library of details and colors I want to keep for later use. I love to research a lot before a project and get soaked in it. I am also not against using reference images, I think they help a lot, but you have to know when to put them away, and let your creative memory do the rest, lest you become obsessed with photorealism and end up stifling your artistic impulse.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes! Absolutely! It has also put me in contact with other illustrators around the world, and they have become a source of inspiration and motivation to be better and keep growing. There is a dark side to it: having so many windows to the curated lives of such talented people can easily make you fall into a comparison game and that can be lethal to your confidence as an artist; but if you can keep it in perspective, it can be very rewarding, especially when you build a community of peers.

Do you use Photoshop or Painter with your illustrations?

Yes, I use Photoshop. I always finish up my illustrations digitally, whether it is fixing a mistake, adding tiny details or correcting a color, I think it is super useful to have these tools at hand. They save a lot of time!

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

Yes, ever since my first job as a comics soundeffect artist I’ve been working with ever-evolving Wacom tablets. It had become almost second-nature until I recently changed to a big monitor tablet display, which makes it even more intuitive to work digitally. I still prefer to work on analog mediums though, especially at the beginning of a project.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

My goal right now is to be able to work full-time as an illustrator; and if I can really dream big, to be able to write and illustrate my own books for widespread publication.

What are you working on now?

As I said before, nowadays I’m working on expanding my portfolio as much as I can, trying to add more pieces that reflect my current level of capacity while waiting for my opportunity. I’m also also working on my own book that I hope will be finished soon.

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

Well, if you are like me and gravitate towards watercolors mixed with pencils, I can recommend the Fabriano Artistico Watercolor paper with smooth finish. It has the weight of a good watercolor paper but no texture and it allows playing with graphite and color pencils, while also adding the tiniest of details to the image. I’ve recently found it in an art shop here in Buenos Aires that imports it and has changed my life! Also, I am in love with Neocolor II pastel/crayons; they add such a rich color and texture. I’ve been experimenting with inks and pens, and I have discovered my favorite pen is the Kaweco Sport and my ideal inks are the Rohrer & Klingner Sketch Ink. Finally, if you don’t have a light tracing pad, you should seriously invest in one. They are pretty affordable nowadays, and the led lights make them super lightweight and thin, they are lifesavers!

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

I would say dedicate yourself as much as you can afford to, don’t lose confidence, always keep learning and keep your mind open to new disciplines. People usually say you have to put a lot of hours, draw a lot and acquire skills; but I would personally add this: try to develop your sensibility and taste too. I firmly believe that if you have great taste and a good eye, you can make up for a not-so-perfect perspective or a not-so-fabulous anatomy pose, not the other way around!

Thank you Romina for sharing your talent and expertise with us. Make sure you share you future successes with us. To see more of Romina’s work, you can visit her at:

WEBSITE: https://www.rominagalotta.com/

AGENT PAGE: http://www.catugeau.com/romina-galotta-1

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/rominaillustrations/

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Maryann. I am sure she’d love to hear from you and I enjoy reading them, too.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Great interview, Kathy and Romina’s illustrations are wonderful! Beautiful work. Thank you both!

    Like

  2. I love your work, Romina! Thanks for sharing it with us, Kathy. 🙂

    Like

  3. This is just beautiful work. I especially like the Queen Bee. So clever. Thanks for another beautiful and interesting post.

    Like

  4. Love your style! Great illustrations! Best wishes. 🙂

    Like


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