At this year’s Designer-Con, it was PopLurker’s honor to have the pleasure of sitting down with pop surrealist artist Camilla d’Errico for a one-on-one exclusive interview. Camilla’s style and sensibilities are exactly the sort of art that gets me going. From her brand new coloring book that’s all about mermaids, to her original toy designs from a collaboration with Kidrobot, there seems to be no medium that Camilla d’Errico hasn’t mastered.
I hung out with her for a chat and was delighted to find that not only her art was amazing, but her taste in cartoons and anime were impeccable as well! We had such a good time talking; and if you weren’t a fan of her work before, you without a doubt will be obsessed before this interview is done!
Hey Camilla! Happy Designer-Con to us both! Thank you so much for giving PopLurker this interview. So, how are you enjoying the convention so far?
So far, it’s been great! This year is the first year that they’ve actually had a preview night, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but it was really good! My collectors found me and I got to catch up with a lot of my artist friends. Designer-Con is really the place where I get to see everybody; it’s like a family reunion. This is my Comic-Con! It’s the place where I’m just so freaking excited to see everything. I was just wandering around yesterday, enjoying my time.
I completely agree with that! I typically cover more comic book and anime conventions. Designer-Con is a newer show for me. And when I found out there was an expo dedicated to toy design and legitimate art and cosplayers aren’t the focus because everyone is quirky…yeah…it’s just a totally exciting experience.
It really is!
How many Designer-Cons have you done total at this point?
I think this is my fourth one.
I’m sure that with each Designer-Con appearance you’re highlighting or focusing on a specific project you’ve completed. Can we talk about this year’s project?
Yeah, totally! My “Pop Manga Mermaids” coloring book came out this year, and I really want to get the word out because—come on—it’s eighty pages of mermaids! Who doesn’t love mermaids?! I fell in love with The Little Mermaid, and the characters from the movie, Ariel and Eric, when I was a kid. Ever since then, I wanted to be an animator. So, making a book that’s all mermaids really goes back to my childhood and it’s the thing that made me want to be a professional artist. Now, I have this book that’s basically my childhood dream come true.
If your Mermaid book was your childhood dream come true, what projects have you been more actively working on while your passion project was on the back burner?
Before the mermaids, I released a ‘how to paint’ book with Random House and that was really an amazing project. It’s one of those projects I did because I really wanted to help artists, and I wanted to create a book that inspired the next generation and wasn’t based on traditional, classic art. Usually, teachers teach about things that happened in the past. They don’t teach current art movements. We’re experiencing a new art movement with Pop Surrealism. We’re living it. In one hundred years, people might be talking about some of the artists right here and how they revolutionized art. This is what’s going to be taught in colleges, but, right now, this generation growing up doesn’t have that opportunity.
When I was in college, I was told that my style “wasn’t really art” because it’s based on Japanese anime. They told me I had to do art that was more “traditional,” but I’m very stubborn and I said: “No, no, I’m going to do my style.” So, the ‘how to’ book I did really teaches people that they can learn techniques, AND they can implement it in their own styles. They don’t have to paint bowls of fruit! I mean, I had to, but they don’t have to with this book.
I also had Femina and Fauna come out, which is one of my most recent artbooks that was published by Dark Horse Comics last year. It was really nice having a collection of my art for people to enjoy as a nice hardcover coffee table book.
How did you feel when you got that original first book deal?
(laughing) I asked ‘Are you sure? Me?’ But no, I was blown away. The first time I got to work with Dark Horse, I was just super excited. I come from a comic book background and I started doing comics back in 1998. So, to work with one of the biggest publishers in the industry was freakin’ amazing. It was jaw dropping! And when they wanted to do my artbook…wow. You know, when a company believes in you enough to do a run of thousands of hardcover books, you really start to feel and believe yourself that you can do it, too.
What college did you go to?
I went to Capilano University in Vancouver, BC. I do go back now as an Alumni. I’m on the board for the Idea Program, which is the program I graduated from, and I help write their curriculum and do talks and presentations. Because after me, they learned that yes, this is an art style. And yes, you can be successful at it! First you have to learn the techniques, and then you learn how to break them. You just do your style.
I’d like to talk a little about your involvement with the toy design industry. I was informed that you had a collaboration with Kid Robot, correct?
Yeah, that’s right! I’m involved with the Arcane Divination series with Kidrobot. It’s my first series with them. Right now, we’re launching series two, so the second one is about to come out. I got to design my own tarot card for that series. There will be a panel about it today here at Designer-Con, so I’m very excited about that. I also did a toy for Huck Gee with SuperPlastic. I have here, today, APs of my Tentaclanky Tears.
I also heard that you have ties to TOKYOPOP’s Nightmare Before Christmas graphic novel, ‘Zero’s Journey’. I did a review of that one and thought it was just awesome. What was your involvement?
I designed the variant cover for the FYE exclusive release. When Stu Levy asked me to do it, I was so excited because The Nightmare Before Christmas is literally one of my favorite movies. My husband and I played the soundtrack at our wedding. So, for me to be able to do the cover and work with Disney, who I’ve worked with in the past, and knowing how protective they are of their characters, being able to use my off-brand style and apply it to their characters with Tim Burton’s approval, was pretty exciting.
I have no doubt in my mind that everyone who worked on that graphic novel had the utmost love and respect for the franchise. It very clearly showed in everyone’s work.
Absolutely! And I’ve been talking to Stu and I’m really hopeful that I’ll get to come back and do more work for it. That whole childhood thing coming back, it’s really amazing. If I ever get to do a cover for She-Ra, I’ll just die.
Are you going to watch the new cartoon?
I’m kind of an 80s purist, to be honest.
That perfectly segues into a question I love asking people. What franchises, fandoms, or hobbies do you have other than the ones we discussed that helped form your artwork and what inspires you today?
When I was in high school, I started reading Top Cow books, specifically, The Darkness and Witchblade, and all of those characters are antiheroes. They’re the protagonists, but they’re not good people. You always had the super good guys, like Spider-Man and Superman and stuff, but these were villains as the protagonists and I loved it. Those stories really inspired me to want to get into comics professionally and even work for Top Cow. As I was doing this North American style, the anime wave really hit Canada big. I started to really pay attention to that while I was doing comics. In fact, I took a whole year off from doing comics because I really fell in love with that Japanese style. Not just the art style, but the way they tell stories, too. It’s a complete character arc. The stories end; they end their series, which is really just so important to have this fleshed out character and narrative. It’s really just so beautiful.
Oh, believe me, I know. I’ve seen the end of Sailor Stars.
Oh my god, it’s so sad! It just murders you. And even with that show, looking at Sailor Moon, they had androgynous characters, they had a lesbian couple, they had trans characters. And I couldn’t believe everything they were doing in that show once I abandoned the dub and watched only the original Japanese version. As soon as I watched the subs, that’s when my style started to change. Because so much had been changed in the dub! Characters became…
Yes! (laughing) Characters like Zoisite became female…you know how all of that went down…so, again, that’s when I really started paying attention. I switched my style from North American and blended it with something I was really passionate about. I developed my style from there and started working with lots of different companies. I got to do a story for Buffy with my own character Burn. I built up my manga and graphic novel background. And then I became a painter, which happened by accident.
That’s a pretty intense skill to happen by accident! Can you elaborate please? Because I can barely figure out how to put makeup on my face!
When I was in college, I was in the illustration program to strengthen my skills as a cover artist and cartoonist. They taught me how to paint, but I was still bumping heads with that whole thing that my style wasn’t art. I didn’t want to be a painter, so I didn’t listen to them, but I knew I wanted to be a comic book artist. I was working for several different companies and did a line of snowboards for Ride and, then, this gallery in Vancouver was having a snowboard show. That’s what I love about the universe. You never know what’s going to happen to you and you never know how your life is going to diverge.
I went into this gallery and I was like, “Oh! I have snowboards! Do you want to sell them?” because Ride had sent me comps. At that time I lived in a studio apartment, something like three hundred square feet, and they sent me eight snowboards! I thought, “What am I supposed to do with these? I could slat them on the floor and they’re my new bed! “
The gallery told me that they didn’t want to sell the snowboards, and asked if I had the original art, which I did. Back then, original art to me meant nothing because I was so used to the world of comic books where the printed version was the coveted thing — that is what had value. I just didn’t realize that original art was worth anything. They sold the art before the show even opened. It sold out, and the gallery owner asked me to do what I’d done on the snowboards, but instead of on paper. He wanted me to do them on canvas.
I said sure, I’d try. And I did! I took my style and then applied it with acrylic paint and my show sold out. It was incredible because I realized that every single piece I did had its own singular narrative, and it was all the same image. That allowed me to express a different side of my artistic self that I didn’t know I had, in an individual piece that spoke volumes.
Now, before we wrap up because I don’t want to take up too much of your time, I have to know. What are some of your secret hobbies or fandoms that your friends and fans might not know about?
Yeah…I recently started sharing my fan fictions.
I am such a nerd! I love and hate shows. I love The Vampire Diaries, but then I hated it, and so I started hate-watching it. The same thing happened with The Walking Dead, so now I have fan fictions of both of those. And I started sharing my Walking Dead one with Beth and Darryl. I literally rewrote season five. I’m obsessed with Beta Fish. I have five of them.
Is there anything in the pipeline coming up that you want to discuss? Where can PopLurker readers find you?
Next year, I have a new ‘how to draw’ pop manga book coming out with Random House Books/Watson-Guptill. It’s a follow up to my last one and it’s called “Pop Manga Drawing.” It’ll debut at San Diego Comic Con. It teaches people how to draw using graphite in that pop surrealist style, combined with that manga flare. I’m really excited about that one. I’m also working on a Helmet Girls graphic novel so, hopefully, that will be all locked in for next year. I also have a beehive book I self-published because I love my little ‘Fuzzbutts.’ I’m trying to raise money for Planet Bee Foundation to help build hives and educate children, so every time I paint bees, I’m trying to save them a little bit.
Loryn is hanging out on Twitter.