Through her fiery nature, creative ability and profound passion for her craft, Camilla dâ€™Errico has become one of the best of her generation and a true inspiration to her growing cult-like fan base. Dâ€™Errico has distinguished herself through her ability to seamlessly weave together Asian manga, North American comic book illustration, and her worldly complex emotional palette. With a love for poetry and literature, dâ€™Errico has been greatly influenced by the artwork of Toulouse Lautrec, Tsutomu Nihei, CLAMP, and many more.
â€œOnce you allow yourself to see past the idea that cartoons are just for kids, it opens you up to a whole new world of ideas. And the stories draw you in; they grab you like soap operas and donâ€™t let go.â€
Format: You appear to be at the pinnacle of your career, having had great success and acclaimed recognition. Take me back to your beginning days as a struggling artist. What were these times like in comparison to the career you lead today?
Camilla dâ€™Errico: Itâ€™s funny to think Iâ€™m at the pinnacle because I still feel like Iâ€™m just getting started! I certainly hope Iâ€™m not there yet, because there is so much more Iâ€™d like to accomplish, but I am definitely galloping along my career path. And you know, I still struggle, funnily enough, but now I struggle with deadlines and with juggling so many projects and in actually managing my time so that I am concentrating on my art and not on all the other distractions. In the beginning it was all more carefree, easier in some ways and rewarding too. It was a huge accomplishment to even get paid for work! I worked as much as I could, often for free and occasionally I got ripped off â€“ itâ€™s the reality of things, unfortunately, and it happens to all artists. One thing that hasnâ€™t changed is my passion for what I do and my drive to continue doing it. Itâ€™s so important never to lose sight of that passion and to be reminded of why I do what I do. I do it for love and for what I can give others through my art. There is nothing that fills my heart as much as when people tell me how my art makes them feel emotions or enriches their lives.
Format: Did you have any formal art training? If so, where and how has it benefited your artistic ability?
Camilla dâ€™Errico: I did have formal art training, but only six months of fine arts at University, and then I took an animation course at a local college. After that I did a three-year degree in Illustration and Design at Capilano College in North Vancouver. When I took the program it wasn’t structured for a manga/comic artist like me. I learned a lot from the classes, and some of them I didnâ€™t really want to take, but all in all it really made me a much better artist and designer. I walked away with a great portfolio and a really great sense of professionalism. It also gave me the opportunity to get a bit of experience doing illustration for local businesses.
Format: Your passion of drawing cartoons is what initially jump-started you into this industry. Growing up, were you a big fan of cartoons/comics? If so, were there any specific ones that influenced your creative style?
Camilla dâ€™Errico: Definitely! I watched cartoons all the time. My tastes evolved as I grew up, and after first discovering Japanese style cartoons, the most obvious one being Sailor Moon, I was hooked. After that I couldnâ€™t get enough of them and I seriously got into manga and anime. I would buy books and rent videos as much as possible, even in original language.
The ones that influenced me most have been a lot of the CLAMP mangas. They were my first Shoujo mangas and helped bridge the crossing from North American to Asian comics. Eventually I started reading a lot more manga from different genres, Blade of the Immortal, BLAME!, Naruto, FLCL with so many more on my shelves. Now I find a lot of my titles online, series that havenâ€™t been released in North America yet. My favorite series is still CLOVER by CLAMP. I just love the design and characters; itâ€™s a beautiful and tragic series.
Format: I read that you spent an entire year conducting in-depth research on Japanese manga, an art form that is apparent in a great deal of your work. What is it about this style of comics that fascinates you so much?
Camilla dâ€™Errico: The culture behind manga is what inspires me â€“ the differences between North American and Asian views on â€œcartoons,â€ is that in Asia they donâ€™t consider it a childâ€™s media, it is another way of telling a story. Once you allow yourself to see past the idea that cartoons are just for kids, it opens you up to a whole new world of ideas. And the stories draw you in; they grab you like soap operas and donâ€™t let go. The love stories and the humour [is] also great! Manga is such an expressive form of storytelling, and I love that it is starting to filter into the comics industry in North America; itâ€™s really catching on.
Format: Over the years, you have collaborated with various renowned comic writers. Tell us about some of these collaborations. Has any one of these partnerships resulted in a project that you are particularly proud of?
Camilla dâ€™Errico: Working with Joshua Dysart on Avril Lavigneâ€™s Make 5 Wishes was a very formative experience for me. He is such a great writer, someone I truly admire, and we got to develop the story together, to turn it into a great story and not just a filler for what could have been judged as a PR stunt by another celebrity. While working together we got to talking about my characters, Helmetgirls, and we knew that we could make it into the project of our careers. In fact, it is so important to me that the pressure I feel and put on myself is staggering. I want it to be perfect. We have the outline of the story, and I have the characters sketched out, and I am getting ready to pour my heart into creating the panels. Ever since drawing the first girl with a helmet, people have been asking me where they come from and who they are. Now I can finally give the answers that eluded even me for so long.
Format: In spring of 2007 you released your second self-published book about a young girl named Tanpopo. What inspired you to create this character?
Camilla dâ€™Errico: Tanpopo is a semi-adaptation of the play Faust, the text and in the book is all taken from Goetheâ€™s writing and Iâ€™ve reconstituted it into a telling of a young isolated girl who makes a pact with a devil. The dandelion symbolizes both life and death. The flower does not die but instead releases itself to become seeds for a new beginning. This story is of a young girl, Tanpopo, who gathers vast amounts of knowledge of the world through her helmet. Her intelligence has also made her very emotionally deprived and very cut off from humanity. This all changes, when one day she is approached by a devil, Kuro, who offers her freedom from her isolated life. Kuro proposes that he be Tanpopoâ€™s guide in the world in exchange for her soul. In Goetheâ€™s play, Faust makes a pact with the devil for knowledge and youth, but in my version Tanpopo makes a pact with the devil for emotional insight and freedom.
There are actually two versions of Tanpopo, the first version from 2007 was shorter and the meaning was different. In the original story, it was a metaphor for death, the girl in the story has to let go of her life and pass on to the next and the little black â€œpoodleâ€ is in fact death come to collect her. I just released, in February of this year, the second version, with a full twelve more pages of images and poetry, bringing the book up to 38 pages. The ending changes insofar as she will not die, rather, she will continue her journey of finding her humanity, to explore and actually feel emotion since she claims to feel none.
The journey will continue over several issues all inspired by other pieces of literature, such as, â€œThe Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner,â€ â€œParadise Lost,â€ and â€œA Chinese Ghost Story.â€ I am inspired by poetry, and I think more people should know about or read some of the classic pieces of literature. Maybe in my own little way, I can spread these amazing pieces of literature in todayâ€™s reader. Itâ€™s a unique telling and isnâ€™t like anything out there really, it is mysterious and breaks all the standard rules that apply to comics. Itâ€™s really something in between a manga and a poem. But thatâ€™s why I love it so much, because itâ€™s a work of inspiration.
Format: Tell us about the concept of your signature Helmetgirls designs.
Camilla dâ€™Errico: Can I admit something? There was never a formal intention behind Helmetgirls, at least not until Joshua (Dysart) and I got to talking and our imaginations got the better of us. The helmets came out of nowhere, through my hands and my pencils and all of a sudden, they were me! I was Helmetgirls. And I do feel a very strong connection and identification with them. It could be because they are so mysterious, that I donâ€™t know where exactly they came from or why they are the way they are. I often feel that way, like my life is a bit of a mystery and the best part is that I donâ€™t know where it will take me.
Format: You have frequently been asked to participate in conventions as a special or honored guest. Can you tell us a little bit about some of these conventions and how if feels to be put at such a high level of recognition?
Camilla dâ€™Errico: Conventions for me are a time to have fun, to meet people, to be surrounded by the enthusiasm and excitement of fans. And I get right in there with them, walk around, get autographs, meet artistsâ€¦ being at a convention always reminds me of why I do what I do. So now that I am starting to move into a more professional role within the convention circuit, it feels a bit weird to have all these people coming up to me asking for autographs, or advice or portfolio reviews. I do love speaking at panels though, because I want people to know that you can make your dreams come true, through hard work and a firm belief in yourself. The day I will get to be a special guest at something like New York or San Diego Con, will be the day that, in my books, Iâ€™ve made it big! It is still always a huge honor to be brought in as a special guest at any convention, because itâ€™s the fans that count and reaching out to them is one of the most satisfying experiences in the world.
Format: Are there any other genres of art that you would love to get involved with?
Camilla dâ€™Errico: I think it would be fun to do costumes; the kind that pose no limits to the imagination. Someone once mentioned I should design costumes for modern ballet and itâ€™s kind of stuck with me since. I would also like to do some sculpting, since itâ€™s been a long time since I made a sculpture.
Format: Any projects in the works for 2009?
Camilla dâ€™Errico: Lots! I will be working on the manga series based on the videogame Billy Boom Boom. The videogame will be released late 2009 on the DS platform. I am also working with a movie production company on a graphic novel interpretation of their film but this is a longer term project set for a 2010 or 2011 release. And of course, I have Helmetgirls. Apart from my core comics and paintings, Iâ€™ll have a few fund licensed products out this year. Gelaskins is releasing my images on skins, Threezero is going to release a resin figure of Tanpopo later this year, and IDW will publish a Sparrow of my work. Iâ€™m working with some other designers in New York on new clothing, and will also be having a huge party and signing event in Portland on April 16th at Compound Gallery. We are going all out with t-shirts, high end art print, canvas bags and an artbook collecting the past two years worth of my paintings from the LA Pop Surrealism scene plus some never before seen pieces. I will also be making my first appearance in Singapore in August at the comic and toy convention there. Iâ€™ve got lots to plan, including the launch of the new Tanpopo with plush toy of Kuro! All in all, itâ€™s shaping up to be another stellar year, and I am giddy with joy and anticipation about it!