Surreal, Grotesque & Lovely: Interview With Artist Valentina Brostean

5 Jul

On the surface, Italian artist Valentina Brostean’s beautiful digital art and traditional paintings are surreal and grotesque, with its audience appreciating the subject matter, skill and curiosity it conveys. However the pieces she creates offer deeper meaning and reflect on the artists views on life and personal experience. Not only does she create these wonderments, she designs posters, mixed media collages, posters, characters and books. We had the pleasure of interviewing Valentina Brostean and found out how young she was when she first started drawing, the process involved and the challenges she faces in creating her haunting masterpieces.

Where did you grow up and where do you live now?

At this point of my life I am in the process of moving to Torino and the only one you can blame for it is LOVE itself. I fell in love with a very special person who lives there so suddenly my compass turned into that direction. Considering that I am very intuitive person I just followed my internal voice and this is the result of it. Before that  I spent some time in the States working on several projects, exhibiting my work, and I also lived and worked for a long time in my native city where I grew up and studied – Novi Sad in Vojvodina/Serbia.


I always loved to travel and be on the road – discovering new places and cultural backgrounds and I would like to professionally continue that way in the future too..but at this moment I sincerely hope that Torino will be the town of my forthcoming future, my new starting point for all my new exciting creative moves.

What were your influences growing up?

While I was growing up and maturing, artistically and as a person, influences and inspirations have been changing of course… But I never accepted direct influence or copying someone’s work, style, appearance etc..I like that subconscious influence that is not obvious on a first look…I always was much into cartoons, illustrated books, I had great passion for good quality music – so I guess my influences came from those sources. Of course during my studies I was much into art history and the big changes that happened in the beginning of the 20th century, but nowadays I am more interested and occupied with urban street art and illustration, which obviously changed my perspectives and approach to my work and on art in general. I think how times are changing the whole structure and the postulates on which the world functions are also modifying, so that has direct influence on changes the face of art too, as well as every individual involved into art process.

Amputation of a princess heart

When did you start illustrating? Did you always ere on the side of fantastical and grotesque imagery?

I remember myself with an age of four – five, small little girl surrounded with a bunch of papers and colored pencils all around me, drawing my fantasy worlds already at that stage, trying to explain to my parents who are all those characters and what they represent or do. Most of the times it didn’t have any sense but even then it was a great fun…so yes I can say I am practically doing it across my whole life – more and more serious with the time passing, but I haven’t been so “dark” then. I think it comes to me periodically..sometimes I am obscure sometimes I am sweeter…but as you asked; labels  like “ grotesque, dark, demonic, etc” could all pretty much relate to the world in my art, depending on who observes and most of all what interpretation he gives to it.

In Voice of Shades…what was your inspiration for this set?

Ah, Voice of shades is one of my darker phases where I explored possibilities of digital illustration. You can notice that in all of my works, no matter of the project I was doing, I am relevantly occupied with figurative and narrative approach. Presence of a human (male, female, children) for me is inevitable. I am focused on telling a story, trying to reach and explain all the mystery, complexity and deepness of human relations (either positive or negative ones), as much as existence itself. I am trying to get to the core, to find the answers – or at least give a visual shape to the questions I ask myself while working on them. So to get back on the voice of shades – it was period where I was pretty much occupied by the questions of death, afterlife, ways and levels of being…beginning and the end, and all that lays in between. It’s all at the level of philosophical question about “meaning of life”. I also connected all my thoughts with the mythological characters like Hades, Artemis, Hera etc… trying to make a link and erase the line, connect the opposites – past and present, imaginary and life itself.

From Voice of Shade Set

In “What Comes After the Fire” — How long did this piece take to create and please describe for us the meaning behind this painting.

What Comes After the Fire

It is an original painting acrylic on canvas and its size is 150 x 100 cm. I worked on her for a few weeks but periodically of course. Sometimes I work almost whole day, sometimes a couple of hours, sometimes less..Depends on my mood and current inspiration…But “What comes after the fire” is one of my latest works and also one of my favorites…It is pretty much like a dark fairytale for adults. I imagined that weird strange family, that holds on together so tight in fear and relief after surviving a fire…a fire can be very metaphorical or real one ( depends of the imagination of a viewer) but for me it’s more than a symbolical name for all bad times and things that can happen to the people and a struggle and strength they find into themselves to survive it and outlive it…to rise again and continue… it is pretty much connected also with my personal experience (accident of burning I had a few year ago) which was very real and which I survived and overcame like my characters. So in one way I can say that each of thess characters on the painting represents a part of me and my personality. I also used a small part of lyrics from a song of “Cinematic Orchestra”:

“In joy and pain each one will grow

for wisdom is so much more than what we know

And every child will find their way

Of living the whole life story day by day……”

Which is your favorite piece you have created?

My favorite piece is definitely “Self healing princess in a circle of life” which is fully a self-portrait – the title explains it all. On a painting you can see the girl with a big needle that’s sewing her dress – which represents me and my life, my power, my visions, my struggle, my faith, my dreams, my ideals, my goals… full of dark and light, full of internal power…

Self healing princess in a circle of life

Who is your favorite artist?

I have several favorites that I really enormously respect and admire, we might mention James Jean, Joe Sorren, Nicoleta Ceccoli, Shaun Tan, Camile Rose Gracia, Mark Rayden…but if I’d have to outline only two names, my heart really beats faster when I see the amazing works of James Jean and Joe Soren

How do you keep yourself motivated?

It’s an internal thing, it happens spontaneously and it’s like some life force.. but I like to be surrounded with creative energy around me so I guess that can be inspiring too..:)

What are your biggest challenges when starting a piece? If any.

Every time it’s a challenge, every time it’s like a first time and it’s never easy…I often joke it’s almost like I am giving a birth again and again. Standing in front of an empty canvas is sometimes very scary…but there is a story that has to be told, that wants to break outside…and nobody can stop that, it’s an unexplainable joy and excitement, and I am so grateful that I can do it.

If you had to choose only one medium to create your artwork, painting on canvas, or digital illustration which would it be? Why do you prefer this medium?

I prefer painting on canvas definitely…but doing only that wouldn’t satisfy me completely, for me it’s not enough…I really enjoy combining mediums and exploring the infinity of possibilities to mixing them.

If you could describe yourself in only 5 words…which would they be?

Total dreamer, emotional freak, honest, lost in space sometimes, passionate worker. :)

Page from Illustrated Art Book

Tell us something quirky about yourself that no one really knows.

I have to keep my little secrets. But for a careful watcher I revealed so much of my privacy in my work…little tip – just watch carefully and follow the lead.

Have you shown your work at any galleries?

Yes I did, I exhibited my works in a few galleries in the States and mostly in some group illustrators show in my birth country, you can bump on my work very often in magazines for popular culture and few of them  that published my work since now are juxtapoz, new web pick, castle, candy etc….I have some big and important plans for the upcoming solo show in Italy in the near future, you can check it out at the Dorothy Circus Gallery,  I also have some group shows in L.A. in July at the “HIVE Gallery”, then *Alterazioni Visive, an annual group show in Italy, etc…there is always something happening on creative plan that carries me along…and it really makes me happy.

*Alterazioni//011 is the title of the second edition of Alterazioni, an event centered on art, music and theatre which is going to be held in Arcidosso, July 29th through July 31st, 2011 at the Castello Aldobrandesco and on the contiguous Piazza Cavallotti.

What do you hope to accomplish in the next five years?

I hope I will be working hard, be inspired and collaborate with huge amount of creative professionals worldwide. I am mostly interested in exhibiting my personal art in gallery shows and also illustrating weird and interesting books. So I hope I will get lot opportunities in that direction…that might be all, for a good start .

Visit Valentina Borstean’s Behance portfolio and her Etsy shop to see more of her artwork.

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