Welcome to the first of the Artist Spotlights series! Art has been, and always will be, a major part of my life. One of my absolute favorite parts of putting together the monthly themes for Unicorn Crate is finding and working with artists from all over the world and from all walks of life. It is my hope that within this series, I can shine the light on one or two artists each month so we can all learn more about these magical creators. First up, an artist that made the exclusive ‘Asha and Kozu’ artwork for the wall tapestry in the December 2018 ‘Rebellious Royals’ box.

Asha & Kozu – inspired by The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

Gina — who you may know from Instagram as Dark and Beautiful Art — is a 24 year old artist based in the UK. She specializes in fan art and all things dark and beautiful. She’s been drawing since she was very young but in the last few years has switched focus from the canvas to her tablet with digital art. With a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Winchester, when not drawing, she is usually writing and redrafting her own dark young-adult fiction series, which she also often creates art for.

Thank you so much for answering a few questions, Gina! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself as an artist? What is your background and how did you get into creating digital art?

I’ve always been creative. At school, I always performed better in more creative/arty subjects than in academic ones. Even when I was at home, I was often drawing or doing arts and crafts. Art was ‘my thing’. I distinctly remember my Nan telling me I should be an artist when I grew up (she did of course add that I wouldn’t make any money until I was dead, but that was before the internet had the influence that it has now for creators). When I was at university, I put art aside and pursued my love of writing. So there was a good 3/4 years where I didn’t do any art at all. It was in early 2017 that I got into digital art. I practiced on things such as objects and animals to build up my art skill again. It was the first in a long time since I had created art for myself rather than for education and so art became another little escape from reality for me!

When did you start creating art inspired by books?

I’ve always had a love for storytelling and fictional characters. To be able to create fan art was my main reason for getting into digital art in the first place. I was so inspired by the fan art of other artists. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas was the first fandom I went to with my art. It was the first book to inspire me and captivate me in so many years with such incredible and mesmerizing characters. As I built up my confidence, I ventured outside of ACOTAR, creating art for books such as Caraval, Cruel Prince and many more, including a few of my own book characters too!

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How would you say your art has evolved since you started?

As I’ve rekindled my love of art, I’ve started to focus more on people. Funny thing is, when I first started digital art, I had the intention of crafting a style that was more akin to classic 2-D Disney; more animated in the style of other fan artists such as Meahb and in some cases, Charlie Bowater. But the more I worked on my style, the more I realized I wanted realism: The more realistic my characters looked the more satisfying was the journey.  Some still have a slightly animated edge but honestly, I’m okay with that! I sometimes wonder if I want to turn into one of those artists that have really  hyper realistic art, like high fantasy artists. But I’m excited to see how my style will progress.

What is your process like when you work on a drawing? Do you see the whole image in your mind first, or does it evolve as you work?

 Sometimes I see the whole thing. But more often than not, I see a concept. Often, there will just be specific things I have in mind — posture, hair style, outfit, objects etc. everything outside of that is changeable. Sometimes I even start a drawing, intent on depicting a certain character and finish it with an entirely different one!

Do you listen to music while you work?

Yes. Always. 99.9% of the time I listen to an ever-growing Disney playlist. I have no idea why! I could be drawing something really macabre and be singing along to ‘How Far I’ll Go’ at the same time. It’s quite a bizarre mix!

What has been your favorite piece of art to create so far?

I just finished a piece of art which is the first in a series that I’m planning for – ‘Dark and Beautiful Fairytales’. It’s actually based on Beauty and the Beast, but a darker, gender-swap retelling. I’m a little biased because Beauty and the Beast is my all time favourite fairy tale so a lot of effort and detail went into it! Another favourite is my ‘Stalking Jack the Ripper’ piece. I think both of these pieces reflect what I want to create as an artist, which is literally dark and beautiful art. I love the aesthetic of Victorian London and the macabre that comes with it, so SJTR is definitely a series I intend to do more art for in the future!

What has been the most challenging piece of art to create so far?

Quite a while back I did a piece depicting the High Lord Meeting from ‘A Court of Wings and Ruin’. Overall the piece consisted of 14 characters which is still to date the biggest cast of characters I’ve ever drawn in one piece. It took a lot of time and dedication. It’s something that I would like to try again, now with more experience, it would be interesting to see the difference. Though it would likely take me even longer now!

What are you excited to create next?

I’m really excited for my ‘Dark and Beautiful Fairytales’ series as it’s something I’ve wanted to work on for quite a while! I also can’t wait to sit down and read Wicked King, because I’m already desperate to do some fan art! The same with Finale, the last book in the Caraval series.

What are a few of your favorite books of all time?

  • A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas
  • The Nessian Spin-off by Sarah J Maas (I know it’s not out yet, but I already love it!)
  • Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer — this was a big inspiration for me as a writer
  • Hush, Hush saga by Becca Fitzpatrick — as was this!
  • Caraval by Stephanie Garber
  • To Make Monsters out of Girls – Amanda Lovelace (Poetry)

What books are you most looking forward to reading in 2019?

  • Wicked King by Holly Black
  • Finale by Stephanie Garber
  • The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh
  • Capturing the Devil by Kerri Maniscalo
  • The Mermaid’s Voice Returns In This One by Amanda Lovelace

What do fairy tales mean to you?

I love fairy tales. I love that no matter how old I am, I am repeatedly enchanted by them. Granted, the older I get, the more I prefer darker tellings of fairy tales. But I’ve had a strong love for them since I was a small child. I used to rewrite classic fairy tales when I was younger. It was nothing major but I once wrote a story called the ‘Three Christmas Trees’ when I was about 6/7 years old. Which was a slightly different retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

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Do you have an absolute favorite fandom?

The Sarah J Maas fandom is one of my favourites. If not just for the inspiring fan art I see, then for the love I see poured into the series through theories, ‘friendly reminders’, fan fiction, memes and, of course, the ‘wingspan’ humour.

What inspires you / how do you stay inspired?

The funny thing about inspiration is that it can come in any form at any time. Scenes and stories tend to inspire me the most. I could find a photo scrolling through Pinterest that inspires me and tells me a story that I want to see turned into art. Or I could just be at work, away with the fairies and suddenly a scene comes to me and I will obsess over it until I’m able to bring it to life! Staying inspired can be slightly more challenging. If I’m working on art for myself and I find myself losing interest in it, then I try to take a step back and look at it differently. I ask why don’t I like it? More often than not, all it takes is a different outfit, or a different tone to grab my interest again.

When you aren’t creating art or writing, what do you like to do?

When I’m doing neither of those, then I’m binge-watching Netflix and fangirling over dog videos!

Where can people find your work?

Most of my art can be found on my Instagram account (@darkandbeautifulart) and my  Tumblr account (@dark-and-beautiful-art). For buying any prints or posters, my art is on Redbubble under Dark-Beautiful. My ‘Dark and Beautiful Fairytales’ series, however, will be available exclusively to my Patreon account — so if dark fairy tale retellings are your thing—please check it out!

…Check back soon for more artist spotlights and author interviews soon!

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