Interview: Valentina Remenar
The Croatian artists tells Gary Evans why great art is about much more than putting technical skills into practice
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?
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.”