Dreamy Ink Art Chanelling Folklore and Night Terrors

The sort of artist who describes herself as ‘half-woman, half-beast’ is one you can tell is going to have an interesting origin story. Esthera Preda is the Québécoise  artist whose sonambulent ink illustrations provide just that: brought up on the Brothers Grimm across the hall from a night-terror prone relative, the austere and uncanny dreaminess of Germanic folklore and the haunting logic of dreams are clear veins running through her inky world.

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The moon-faced characters and composite animals of Esthera’s work certainly lay the foundation of a universe all of its own. The colour-ways are delicate, embellishing planes of mottled black with stylised flowers clustered in careful, spare compositions. It’s no wonder her pieces are coveted as decorations for notebooks, totes, even tattoos: they have a balance and simplicity that create curious mythologies, ones that demand and reward a return viewing.

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Who is Esthera Preda, half-woman, half-beast, hidden in her Canadian den? Well, once upon a time…

The Plus: You describe yourself in your Instagram bio as “half-woman, half-beast”. Which beast, do you think?
Esthera Preda:
The beast is somewhat undefinable. It changes shape with mood and season. It’s this beast that finds sympathy for the creatures I draw.

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TP: What makes you pick up a brush to start a new piece?
EP:
I feel like my work is closely tied to feelings of escapism. Everything that leaves an impression on me goes through some sort of filter that transforms those experiences into a new element in my universe. So I would say that it’s probably the desire to feed that universe which motivates me to paint.

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TP: And how long do you work on your pieces?
EP:
I can work relatively fast on a piece because of my process, which involves painting each element separately and then playing around with each of them. It’s very similar to making collages, I use Photoshop, scissors, and glue!

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TP: Where does Photoshop come in?
EP:
Most of the time I paint each element separately and then develop the composition in Photoshop. I like the contrast it creates: the imperfections produced by hand painting superimposed on ‘’perfect’’ digital textures. Although, lately, I’ve been trying to make full paintings without any post-editing computer work, and it feels very liberating!

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TP: And what environment do you best like to work in? Your pieces seem very calm, and clean…
EP:
I like working at home the best. I was sharing a studio for a while, and it was fun, but too distracting for me. I like to believe there’s something about connecting to our most primitive feelings of comfort and safety when working at home, just like our ancestors drawing on the wall of their caves.

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TP: You’ve mentioned that folk tales are a huge influence on your work – why do you think this is?
EP:
Folktales are a great source of inspiration for me. I’m fascinated by the beliefs our ancestors created to understand their environment, and the human condition in general. Nature played a key role in shaping those stories. The woods were seen as a magical and highly dangerous place where anything could happen.

TP: Do you think we can have modern-day fairy tales?
EP:
I think to a certain extent contemporary folktales exist. As long as there is mystery in this world, there will be folktales to be told.

TP: There’s a young face with bobbed hair that appears quite often in your work – do you like to develop recurring characters and images, like building a universe?
EP:
Yes, definitely, but it’s never something I set out to do beforehand. It just happened naturally, and it’s probably just an extension of the folktale influence, where so many characters and elements constantly come back throughout stories.

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TP: The ink and brush style of yours is so distinctive and precise; do you see yourself expanding into other media in future?
EP:
I’m a bit of a creature of habit, so I might always be using ink and brushes as my main tools, but I’m not against the idea of integrating other media into my work. I’m actually starting ceramic classes very soon, and I’m looking forward to experimenting with the 3D world.

TP: What next for you?
EP:
I’m currently working on a book which I’m really excited about! I’m illustrating a fantastic poem my husband wrote. Besides that, I hope to develop a little more my online store with fun derivative products of my illustrative universe.

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