Interview with an Artist: Tatiana Battle
On Friday, July 17th, 2015, an artist walked into Merseles Studios, in Jersey City. As she walked up the stairs, she was met by a person who was holding a Casting Call for artists. This casting call was unlike any other. It was an opportunity for an up and coming artist to showcase their work in one of the most popularized trade shows in America. As she filled out her application, she had the moral support of her graphic designer/photographer boyfriend who accompanied her. With her fiery determination and portfolio in tow, she was prepared for an opportunity of a lifetime which was equivalent to an artist’s version of American Idol. As she interviewed with the sponsorship holder, her work illuminated and her passion for her drawings and artwork was confirmed as she described her characters without fail. She has a talent, a gift that truly has shown throughout her work, a breath of life to each masterpiece.
When the interview ended and days turned into weeks that blurred into months, she received a phone call from the sponsor; she was selected for the chance of a lifetime. She would be considered the first of many to display her talents and abilities for one of the biggest comic-book events in the world.
Her name is Tatiana “Stark” Battle and she became the winner of the NYC Comic-Con 2015 Casting Call. This is how she and her art had taken the world by storm, from the very beginning and beyond the beauty of New York City.
Origin and Influences
Tatiana’s artistic origin was based on field experience. Striving for the pursuits of learning art through academics, she found that the skills being taught were not leading to a successful career. As a result, she decided to travel the path of self-discovery through trial and error.
She pursued the field of comics by studying the influences of great artists. One such artist, Michael Turner, was a former TopCow artist, who left to start the company Aspen MLT; he started a company that prides itself on creating the best comic book and figurines available. Tatiana reminisces on this by saying, “One of the many inspirations from Turner’s work was his use of pencil techniques and dynamic covers and splash pages. His voice is kind of my guiding light while I work, a beacon to always remind me to not always think while you draw. Don’t overthink it, just let it flow.”
Additional influences such as J. Scott Campbell and Mark Brooks have critiqued her portfolio and given her praise on her improvements. With J. Scott Campbell, she fondly recalls, “I would visit him every year at Comic Con; he remembers me, my work with my characters and how I was coming along artistically. With every portfolio review, there was fresh new advice on something that could be improved with my work. That was great motivation.” For Mark Brooks, Tatiana states, “He is a great influence with color and technique in regards to the use of mediums, especially with copic markers.” She further explains, “He was intimidating at first, but now there is a mutual round of admiration in regards to technique and showcasing characters.” She also mentioned that Mark Brooks is currently working on the current Star Wars covers and as I took a glimpse of these beauties, I’m amazed by his attention to detail and character facial expressions. They really are phenomenal. I can see that even though Tatiana was self-taught, surrounding herself with great people has helped elevate her artistic talents. Tatiana’s artistic influences are not only legends but humble artists as well.
Comic-Influences and Society
For years, comic-book characters have inspired the human psyche-from Captain America’s motivating the American spirit during World War II to Black Panther’s impact on African-American Society; Wonder Woman was her influence in regards to strength and wisdom. Tatiana states, “With Wonder Woman, she is an iconic message for women to be strong and independent. Even though I am a woman, I am not weak or powerless and I feel messages like this should be expressed more in comics in broader retrospect”.
Iron Man v. Captain America
Another character that appeals to Tatiana is Iron Man. With the soon to be released Captain America: Civil War, Tatiana leans towards the inspirations of Tony Stark and identifies with him: “Captain America, personally, I feel has too many virtues and I cannot connect with him. There’s too much of good, borderline, boy-scout. When I feel with characters in comics, books and film, there has to be a balance. With Tony, he has a lot of vices but also virtues and with the inspiration of my own characters there has to be both”.
Aside from her artist and comic character influences and beliefs, the creation of her characters were influenced by the creators of the Avatar series- Michael D. DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. Aside from the Avatar Series, Michael D. DiMartino is famous for directing shows such as King of the Hill, Family Guy, and Mission Hill. Alongside him, Bryan Konietzko worked as an assistant director for the series Mission Hill and King of the Hill. Bryan was also a storyboard artist and art director for the Nickelodeon's animated series Invader Zim. Tatiana reflects on them by saying “They created a beautiful story that helped me drive the momentum to create my characters. I strive to stay true to my own work and respect theirs. I gather the inspiration from their work to create an original concept all my own.”
“My pride and joy is Araceli,” Tatiana states. A blue haired powerhouse, Tatiana has received critical reviews and attention in regards to her design and storyline. The end of the Avatar series was the inspiration for the character. Tatiana further describes her character by stating, “With Araceli, she can use a combination of earthly elements: air, fire, water, earth and spirit energy. For example, from manipulating air she can create sound, from water she can make ice or snow. I’ve been working on a graphic novel for her.” Araceli is a powerful female who is a force to be reckoned with. Currently, Tatiana is also working on a host of additional characters with mythical backgrounds in the fantasy genre. One such notable character from her collection is the character Soren.
Another character under experiment and receiving positive feedback would be the female elemental Soren. What makes her interesting is that she is drawn without a full body and performs without speech. “What makes her phenomenal is that she is drawn without a whole body. She can form and reform from snow and ice and I’m creating her without speech. I’m experimenting by trying to convey language and dialogue through her body movements rather than actual words”.
Currently, the Comic book industry is steadily growing in creating stories relevant to society. The accepting of new ideas and the expansion of issues affecting diverse readers from the premiere of Miles Morales (Ultimate Spiderman, who is now Puerto Rican and Black) to Captain America (Steve Rogers) passing the shield to Sam Wilson-The Falcon (Sam Wilson: Captain America #1), to Superman fighting police brutality (Action Comics: #41-42), has not only brought the issue of diversity into the spotlight but has enhanced the reader demographic as well. Changing the mainstream character creates an atmosphere for diverse groups to resonate with the heroes more. Tatiana continues the conversation by offering insight about the comic book industry and how they should focus on gender and psychology.
“The industry is open for the publishing of new material, but they should be more open towards the LGBT community. I feel that if they are not portrayed in a certain way the industry doesn’t pick up on it and that in turn, I feel, hurts the community to at least express themselves more in the comic book spectrum. There are also other companies that have darker themes, such as Vertigo and Dark Horse. I feel that comics can also be used as therapy in order to help others deal with certain topics such as being depressed and/or anxious. They can help them heal and help them recover. I want to also create comics and manga to help people overcome serious issues such as depression and suicidal thoughts and behavior. I want to be able to help those suffering from these issues to help show them, you’re needed, how you can get better. I also feel that more attention should be drawn to characters who aren’t always in the spotlight, the underdogs and their worlds connected to them.”