27 juillet 2018 par Vincent Mondiot
So, in less than a month, my new novel, Les Mondes-miroirs, written in collaboration with Raphaël Lafarge, will be out in bookstores. That’s a story i’m really proud of, for a lot of reasons, and to help its promotion and make things more interesting for everyone, i’ve decided to interview those who participated in making this book a reality. All the persons who work hard in the background of the publishing world, and without whom no book would be possible.
We start these series with Qistina Khalidah, the incredible malaysian artist who did the cover of Les Mondes-miroirs. Thanks a lot to her, both for said cover, and for her meaningful answers below. This book would not have been the same without her participation! If you don’t know her already, be prepared to discover an amazing artist.
Hello Qistina! So, i’ve came to know you because you did the cover of our novel, but it seems that you actually draw for quite some times! How did it started for you?
First off, I’d like to thank you for the interview. It was a pleasure to work on your book, it looks pretty interesting to me!
I haven’t been in the field for very long compared to the other industry professionals. I’ve done freelance work for three years and ongoing and I started right after I graduated college in 2015. Freelancing wasn’t really my initial plan after college. My art career got kicked off in the right direction and I decided to pursue it.
At wich point have you started to feel like it was getting « serious », in terms of reactions, popularity, professional recognition…?
I think it was when my work started attracting authors and publishers alike, and i realized that I could make a living out of pure freelance work. I even got to work with Cassandra Clare, the author of the popular Mortal Instruments, which I think is one of the biggest highlights of my career.
Your art is very striking and personal. I only know you for a few months now, but i’m already able to recognize one of your pieces immediately. What are your main influences?
A lot of people come to me and say that my work reminds them of Gustav Klimt’s, and I’d like to think he’s one of my major influences but he’s not the only one. I’m also a huge fan of Sergio Toppi, Bob Peak, Jeff Jones and so many others.
A major point of your art is your colouring. How do you work on it, technically?
My process is purely digital. I only work in Photoshop and nothing else. Eventhough my pieces look traditional sometimes, but that’s because I intentionally edit them to look old and dated. It’s just a little preference of mine. I’m a huge fan of classical paintings.
It seems that you mainly work within the fantasy imagery. Is it a genre that you love as a reader too?
Oh, yes definitely ! I grew up reading Narnia and Eragon and so many other fantasy books. That’s when I knew I wanted to illustrate fantasy novels for a living and I think I’m already living that dream now.
Is there some of them that you would have loved to illustrate?
I’m currently a fan of the Game of Thrones novels so I think it’s obvious that I would love to illustrate George R.R. Martin’s characters and the universe they’re in.
You have another particularity (at least for me who’s french!) : you’re malaysian. It’s a country and culture we rarely stumble upon, as french people. Can you give us the names of some malaysian artists (illustrators, writters, directors, whoever you want) that you think are important?
When I was in school, I admired a local artist who goes by the persona kiDChan. Her work is very unique and well-known. She’s one of the artists who inspired me to pursue art. Then there’s Johnson Ting who’s very large in the concept art industry, and lastly Vince Low, the artist who made those abstract celebrities portraits that went viral.
It’s the second book cover you did for a french novel (the first being La Crécerelle, by Patrick Moran, published some months ago by Mnémos too). Have you done some others in other countries?
No, not really for now. My clients are either from the US or France, though I would love to work with clients from other countries. Aside from Mnémos, I am working with a different French publishing house called Arkhane Asylum, on their role-playing games.
Business-wise, is it getting easier to have publishing contracts and visibility, for you? Most of the time, do the publishers contact you, or do you contact them? Do you live off your art?
Yes, I think it’s getting much easier for me to gain clients because of networking and also keeping active on social media. Clients always contact me first for future projects and I do think I’m successful at what I do and manage to make a living off my art.
Do you have any advices for a young illustrator?
I would say that although it’s important to improve your craft, it’s also just as important to learn how to manage your business. You are your own manager, agent, accountant and so on. It’s not an easy task but it can be done. I’ve had plenty of people say that it’s not possible for me to make a living out of pure freelance work but here I am, still strong as ever. So don’t give up !
Is there an illustration you’re particulary proud of?
I think my Beekeeper artwork is something I’m proud of the most. Eventhough it’s not the most extravagant piece I’ve ever made, but I’m proud of it because I’ve had a hard time describing my hardships and insecurities into words. So, putting all of my bad feelings onto canvas felt a whole lot easier. It was still hard for me to finally show everyone my vulnerable side but I did it because I think that’s what being an artist means. To show something that can’t be said.
Do you plan to draw your own characters and stories, one day?
Yeah, I really do, but I’m more interested to do a collaboration with an artist or a writer to further expand our stories together. I think that’s even more interesting.
[It’s whenever you want for us to work together, Qistina 😀 ]
For Les Mondes-miroirs, as the novel is written in french, you were not able to read it… But you succeeded to be very in touch with the tone of the book and the spirit of the characters. How did you work? What are the specificities of illustrating something you can’t directly read?
« Je comprends un peu le français »! I have been learning a bit of French for the past several months so when I read the synopsis of your novel, I understood enough to get a feel of the whole story. They did give me a short brief in English but I decided to go a bit further to know what it was about. Which is why I genuinely feel that the story is quite interesting. Can’t wait to read your novel!
How people who are interested by your art can follow or support your work?
They can either share my artwork on any social media platform that they like, provided that they link it back to my profile, or they can buy prints and merchandises from my INPRNT and Society6 stores. I’m currently active on Twitter and Instagram under the tag Qissus for those who are interested to get to know me and my work better. For portfolio purposes, they can view my DeviantART page as well. I hope I get to meet new people!