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Fantastic Fascinations: The Art of Iris Compiet

0 Comments 23 June 2017

Netherlands-born illustrator Iris Compiet discusses her fascinations with folklore and her upcoming art book Faeries of the Faultlines.

by Daniel Barron

 

 

Iris Compiet is a professional painter, concept artist, and storybook illustrator from the Netherlands who first came to my attention when she volunteered to be a part of last Summer’s fantasy and science fiction-themed Yay! Legends Every Day Original Art Series. Compiet was a natural fit for the project. Her sketchbooks contain page after page of faeries, fauns, and ancient mythological beings, lushly realized with a childlike sense of imagination and a biologist’s attention to detail. Drawing inspiration from European folklore, ghost stories, Victorian photography, and popular fiction, the inhabitants of her Other Worlds have a distinctly tactile quality that evokes modern visionaries such as Guillermo del Toro (a noted fan of her work). They feel like they could have existed on this planet once. A long, long, long time ago.

Compiet recently launched the Kickstarter campaign for her upcoming art book, Faeries of the Faultines, a passion project which snowballed from the popularity of a sketch series she rolled out last year on social media. The campaign was funded less than an hour after it went live and reached 200% in contributions by the end of the first day. Faeries of the Faultlines will also contain a Foreword by Brian Froud, an artist whose book Faeries with Alan Lee was a formative influence on her work.

Yay! LA kicks off it’s “MYTH” coverage with the following sit-down with Compiet about her book’s origins, her design philosophies, and what she would like to tackle next.

Says the artist, “I’ve still got so many stories to tell”

 

Contribute to the Faeries of the Faultlines Kickstarter here. (Runs thru July 21st.)

 

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Let’s start by discussing Faeries of the Faultlines, what it is and how much of your time and work it encompasses.

Faeries of the Faultlines began around this time last year. I had been working on sketching daily mermaids during May for #MerMay and I heard June was going to be #JuneFae. I had vowed never to draw faeries, to be honest, disliking the cute pink ones with the striped socks so much. All the times when I told people I was a fantasy artist they always said “Oh, so you draw faeries,”… but I caved and started challenging myself to draw daily faeries and spirits of nature. Not cute or cuddly, but raw and real. I started telling stories and the thing blew up. #MerMay had been good, seeing a steady increase of my Instagram following, but #JuneFae made it really go bonkers.

I got asked if I planned to do anything with it and I decided it would become a book. At first it was going to be called A Fieldguide to the Fae, but artist Chris Seaman suggested the name Faultlines and I loved that, so that’s how the Faultlines came to be. I fell down the rabbit hole of faeries and got caught in the many traps they set.

It’s my own project, a project made from pure passion. Thirty years ago, I came in contact with Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee and that opened up a world to me, I wanted to become an artist like them. And well… thirty years later, I’m making my own book. I basically work on it daily, just sketching away, stories and creatures. It’s not really a “thing” as in work for me, it’s my way of winding down, of getting the ugly stuff out of my head from the day and I’ve found that working on my own brand, on my own IP is so much fun besides the client jobs I have. It’s a treat to work on the faeries

 

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Does much research, if at all, go into the designs of these creatures? Do they have a basis in existing folklore or are you mostly letting your imagination run wild?

Not really, I look at nature a lot. But that’s something I’ve always done. Basically, to create a believable creature, you will have to look at nature, you will have to understand some things to make something new. Some have a basis in existing folklore and I build upon that, giving it my own twist. Others are purely my own story and they just evolve. I never know exactly what will happen, it’s really very intuitive. Maybe I am guided by the faeries.

I find it important not to give away too much of the story. I’m not a writer, I don’t pretend to be, but I am a storyteller, and I’d like people to use their own imaginations by giving them just enough to work with. It’s fun to see how people react to some images, their imagination takes hold. That’s why I do this.

The fun thing is, when I’m finished with one creature the next ten are already waiting. Daily sketching and idea-generating does work, it makes you think faster.

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Do you design your faeries and mermaids with a biologist’s eye, considering their appearance and traits from a sort of Darwinian perspective? Or do you just go with what looks cool?

I think it’s a mix of both. I’m not a biologist and I know very little there is to know about it. But I do think about how creatures like certain mermaids or faeries would adapt to their environment and I go with a design that fits that. I mix up different animal traits, for instance. I would like things to be as believable as possible. Most design is meant to be there for a reason. Spikes on a faerie are for protection, hairs can leave an irritation on the skin of all who dare to touch them, and so on. I find traits in animals that strike me and see if I can use them, enhancing or enlarging them to make it work.

 

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Have creatures and monsters been an ongoing fascination of yours? Any particular favorite ones in film and literature?
Yes they have. I’m a big fan of anything and everything involving fantasy, mythology, folklore, or legends. I grew up devouring fairytales, listening to stories on cassettes. Those were the darker versions, not the Disneyfied ones. So I knew all about the red hot shoes in which the wicked stepmother had to dance herself to death at an early age. I’ve lost track of how many times I have seen Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Willow, and so on. Also Dracula, deep love for that story, or Frankenstein, The Picture of Dorian Gray. I love Guilermo del Toro and Tim Burton. If I have to pick a favorite character I guess that’s going to be Dracula. I want to one day illustrate it, it’s on my list for things to do.

 

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Are there any artists, contemporary or influential, that you would like to shout out?
Oh my, so so many, where to begin? Tiffany Turrill, Audrey Benjaminsen, Maggie Ivy, Larry MacDougall and Patricia MacDougall, Dug Stanat, Tom Taggart, Jean Baptiste Monge, Kiri Leonard, Travis Lewis, Travis Louie, Laurie Lee Brom, and Chris Berens. I discover new artists on a daily basis and they humble me. They push me further

 

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A selection of Iris Compiet’s #MerMay sketches…

 

 

 

 

 

More sketches…

 

 

 

 

 

Edward Scissorhands art for Yay! Legends Every Day

 

The Fountain art for Yay! Legends Every Day

 

 

Learn more about Iris Compiet on her website.

Follow Iris Compiet: Patreon, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

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- who has written 419 posts on Yay! LA | Arts & Culture Magazine.

Rudderless college graduate Daniel Barron founded Yay! LA Magazine on a love of writing, passion for the arts, and a firm belief that people really like talking about themselves. He contributed to a number of publications, including LA Music Blog and the defunct The Site Unscene, before deciding to cover arts and entertainment the way he wanted to read it. He works as a freelance writer and digital PR consultant in his current home of Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter at @YayDanielBarron.

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