In­ter­view: Valentina Re­me­nar

The Croa­t­ian artists tells Gary Evans why great art is about much more than putting tech­ni­cal skills into prac­tice

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Great art is about much more than putting tech­ni­cal skills into prac­tice, be­lieves this Croa­t­ian artist.

Valentina Re­me­nar is think­ing over a big ques­tion: what sep­a­rates good art from great art? It’s some­thing that the Croa­t­ian has spent years try­ing to work out. A paint­ing can look pretty, be full of de­tail and tech­ni­cally flaw­less, but still not be great. She’ll of­ten scrap a piece com­pletely – no mat­ter how much work she’s put into it. Whether’s she’s work­ing on illustration, con­cept art or graphic de­sign, Valentina will start over as many times as it takes to get the story right. Story, she says, makes great art.

“I’ll lit­er­ally start the paint­ing from scratch sev­eral times un­til I’m sat­is­fied with it,” the artist says. “I al­ways find it hard to por­tray a story as I pic­tured it.”

So to make great art you need to know how to get that story out of your head and on to the page with­out los­ing any of its essence in the process. But how’s it done?

The doo­dler

Valentina al­ways doo­dled. Early on, she drew fan­tasy stuff, the sur­real, lots of mon­sters, but also real-world an­i­mals and nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ments. “I en­joyed draw­ing mostly things that didn’t ex­ist in the real world. Now I’m older, I still keep draw­ing darker themes or pic­tures in­spired by nature, so that part of me hasn’t change much.”

Valentina went to art school in Slove­nia and stud­ied graphic de­sign. “I was al­ways the stu­dent who had a sketch­book dur­ing lec­tures and kept draw­ing while try­ing to lis­ten at the same time. It was lucky that my

lec­tur­ers weren’t both­ered by it.” She didn’t com­plete the course be­cause of bad health. She needed surgery. It could have ended her art ca­reer be­fore it started. But while she was laid up Valentina kept draw­ing. Six years ago she made the move from hob­by­ist to full-time pro­fes­sional artist.

“I didn’t think much about draw­ing for money, so I lived a sim­ple life with not much money in my pocket. As a kid I lacked self-es­teem. I never felt that my art was good enough, so it was my dad who ac­tu­ally pushed me to­wards free­lanc­ing ca­reer and gave me more con­fi­dence.”

All kinds of gen­res

For her first free­lance job, she de­signed play­ing cards for West Stu­dio, a vis­ual development com­pany. “It was a new ex­pe­ri­ence for me be­cause the card styles were dif­fer­ent from what I was used to paint­ing, but I had a great time and learnt a lot.” She’s gone on to work on posters and book cov­ers, in char­ac­ter de­sign and game con­cepts. Her clients in­clude paint­ing soft­ware com­pany Cel­sys, char­ity Amnesty In­ter­na­tional and 3D To­tal.

Valentina’s per­sonal work tends to be darker. She likes mys­tery. Projects done in her own time are ideal for ex­per­i­ment­ing with con­cepts and char­ac­ters, but also to keep her eye sharp and – con­versely – to re­lax from the pres­sure of dead­lines.

To get away from work, she works. Had she not made it as a pro­fes­sional artist, she’d still be draw­ing ev­ery sin­gle day as a hob­by­ist, cre­at­ing things that don’t ex­ist in the real world. Look at her port­fo­lio and you’ll see she’s now very com­fort­able work­ing in count­less dif­fer­ent styles: sci-fi, fan­tasy, re­al­ism, tonal draw­ings, matte paint­ings and more. (For fur­ther proof of her skills as a poly­math,

As a kid I lacked self­es­teem. I never felt that my art was good enough

note that Valentina’s also flu­ent in English, Slove­nian, Croa­t­ian, and related lan­guages such as Ser­bian and Bos­nian.)

“I’m a per­son who likes to draw all kinds of gen­res, so I usu­ally keep prac­tis­ing all of them ev­ery now and then, or I com­bine them. Tech­ni­cally, I do them al­most iden­ti­cally, and per­haps only hyper-re­al­ism would stand out be­cause then I try to por­tray some­thing as life­like as pos­si­ble. But I paint all other gen­res in a sim­i­lar style.”

hatch­ing a plan

Work­ing in Pho­to­shop, to cre­ate a tex­ture sim­i­lar to tra­di­tional pen­cil or ink draw­ings, Valentina uses hatch­ing: shad­ing with closely spaced par­al­lel lines. What dif­fers from one style to the next is the amount of de­tail and colour. She might do sim­ple anime draw­ings in two tones, but de­tailed il­lus­tra­tions with var­ied pal­ette and lots of light so the lines be­come less vis­i­ble.

She likes to vary the amount of de­tail within a sin­gle im­age. This brings fo­cus to cer­tain parts of the draw­ing, such as a par­tic­u­lar fea­ture on a char­ac­ter. “If I’m work­ing in the sci-fi genre for ex­am­ple, I’ll place the fo­cus on the ro­botic parts of their body. If it’s fan­tasy, I’ll make their out­fits and ar­mour de­tailed to re­flect the en­vi­ron­ment that the char­ac­ter lives in, and what sta­tus they have.”

Be­fore Valentina paints, she ti­dies. She cleans her room and clears her desk ev­ery day to make sure she’s not dis­tracted in any way. Her workspace is min­i­mal­ist. Ev­ery­thing is there for a rea­son: a desk lamp for work­ing late, art books and mag­a­zines for in­spi­ra­tion, a male anatomy fig­urine for get­ting early char­ac­ters sketches look­ing right. She uses a PC with an over­clocked In­tel Core i7-3770K

I like to draw all kinds of gen­res, so I’ll prac­tise all of them ev­ery now and then

CPU with 32GB of RAM, a Wa­com Cin­tiq 27QHD, a sec­ond mon­i­tor for ref­er­ences, and four 2TB hard drives, so she can back up her work.

She re­cently drew the cover art­work for Slove­nian mag­a­zine MAG­net – see page 43 – mix­ing mod­ern and an­cient Ja­panese cul­ture in a sin­gle im­age. It shows a man with bright hair dressed in mod­ern clothes. But in­stead of a gun, he car­ries a tra­di­tional sword.

Valentina usu­ally be­gins in mono­chrome. “I’m more used to paint­ing with black and white at the start and play­ing a lot with the im­age at this stage, mostly be­cause I want it to look good when it’s printed in CMYK.” But for this piece she went straight to colour af­ter get­ting the lines down. She used her twin sis­ter for ref­er­ence – par­tic­u­larly when it came to the hands. Valentina also used her­self as a sec­ond

A care­fully se­lected colour pal­ette that por­trays a con­cept clearly is what ties my work to­gether

An­other big ques­tion

ref­er­ence with a rough im­age made in DAZ Stu­dio. Work­ing over two days, she put about 25 hours into the piece. con­cept for a piece, Valentina picks out a colour pal­ette to match. If the im­age is, say, cheer­ful or ro­man­tic, she’ll go for light, more vi­brant colours. The op­po­site for some­thing more sin­is­ter.

Colour unites the work she does com­mer­cially and per­son­ally. It bridges the gap be­tween the story in her head and the pic­ture on the page. It can make good art great. Valentina Re­me­nar is think­ing over an­other big ques­tion: work­ing in so many dif­fer­ent gen­res, what ties her work to­gether? She has an an­swer for this straight away. Once she’s got the

“At­mos­phere and the colour pal­ette that I de­cide to use is usu­ally based on the art­work’s con­cept. A care­fully se­lected colour pal­ette that por­trays this con­cept clearly is what ties my work to­gether.

“And when sto­ry­telling and tech­ni­cal skill com­bine – when those two things come to­gether – art can be more than great.”

Bang “Here’s my char­ac­ter Jar­rett – I ex­per­i­mented with a cy­ber­punk look as I painted him. I es­pe­cially had a lot of fun de­sign­ing his ro­botic leg.”

El­ven Prince “I got the urge to de­sign a re­gal elf char­ac­ter. His hel­met re­flects his high-rank­ing sta­tus and is in­spired by nature.” Mem­o­ries “This is con­cept work that looks very dif­fer­ent from what I usu­ally pro­duce. I’m happy with the re­sults be­cause I man­aged to paint a dark and mys­te­ri­ous at­mos­phere, as well to rep­re­sent the char­ac­ter as I imag­ined him.”

Im­per­fect Me “This one was an ex­per­i­ment where I com­bined my ink­ing style with a greater amount of de­tail­ing, which I use for my il­lus­tra­tions.”

Old and new “A re­cent piece for Slove­nian mag­a­zine MAG­net. I wanted to por­tray con­tem­po­rary and tra­di­tional Ja­panese cul­ture in a sin­gle im­age.” Dance With The Devil “This piece is an older work from 2014, but I still love it. It al­ways re­minds me to do larger, more com­plex il­lus­tra­tions, al­though more re­cently I’ve not had much time to paint.”

holy panda Bliz­zard worked with De­viantART to com­mis­sion artists to paint char­ac­ters from World of Warcraft. Valentina’s ver­sion of a Pan­daren Monk gar­nered her a great re­sponse from her fel­low artists.

Van­quish “This is an­other one of my re­cent works for pro pho­tog­ra­pher Vamp­tas­tic, fea­tur­ing her char­ac­ter Van­quish. Dra­matic at­mos­phere is some­thing I love to paint.” The Kiss “This is one of my sur­real con­cepts where I tried to por­tray the emotions that arise dur­ing a kiss.” Teenager Prob­lems “This is the type of sketch I pro­duce when I’m busy with other projects. They don’t take up too much of my time and en­able me to prac­tise draw­ing fa­cial ex­pres­sions.” Tr ou­ble­maker “This brush ex­per­i­ment turned into a por­trait of my char­ac­ter Jar­rett, who’s prob­a­bly con­tem­plat­ing some­thing bad.”

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