Head Above Water by Sarah Wilkinson

Studio de Sade Talks With Anime Herald

Interview With Studio de Sade
Location: Email
Interview Date: 9/24/2019

Studio de Sade Logo

Anime Herald: How did each of you get into art?

Sarah Wilkinson: I’ve been drawing my whole life. I started taking art classes in high school. I ended up taking AP art classes. In college I started as a graphic design major. It turns out I’m really bad at graphic design and I don’t like that side of things. During that time I discovered illustration. That seemed to fit what I was interested in doing. I decided to pursue that. While I was going to college for illustration I got my first professional art job working for Lucasfilm. I was nineteen and was in school and one of my professors was working on these sketches of trading cards for Star Wars. They said “you should submit your work. I was like, “Yes!”

I submitted it a couple times. They didn’t respond at first, but I was politely persistent. They finally responded and they gave me a job. I did a bunch of card sets after that. That was my big thing early on. With each job, my portfolio grew. Things got better and better offers came along. That’s that.

Nigel Sade: I went to school for genetics. Well, I say I went to college for genetics, and I did, but I took about seven and a half years of college for my undergraduate degree. I took a lot of art classes and I took a lot of philosophy courses. I took a lot of anthropology courses. At the end of all it I ended up with a degree in philosophy. Metaphysics and logic. Not Shirley MacLaine, that’s not metaphysics. I’d call that “paraphysics”.

When I graduated, towards the end of it I was taking a nosebleed section of drawing. I could have gotten a degree in art, but art history and me didn’t get along. I didn’t do my thesis and I didn’t do my art history class. Those were the two classes I didn’t do. By the end of my nosebleed drawing class I had to do a recreation of a masterwork. I chose Bartolomeo Passarotti’s Two-Headed Figure. The response to it was so overwhelmingly positive I decided that I was going to show my artwork to people.

Bartlomeo's Two-Headed Figure - (Note: this is Nigel's version)
2-Headed Figure, by Nigel Sade

Nigel Sade: I really wanted to go into illustration for gaming artbooks. Like Dungeons & Dragons and Shadowrun and things like that. Turns out I’m not an illustrator by any stretch of the imagination. If you want what’s in your hear, I’m not your guy. I’m very good at drawing what’s in my head. I started showing my art at shows fifteen years ago and it took off immediately, and now we have a career doing it.

Five Year Mission by Nigel Sade
Five Year Mission by Nigel Sade

Sarah Wilkinson: It’s kind of weird.

Nigel Sade: I have done work for those companies and stuff like that, but it isn’t really where we lie. Most of what we do nowadays is private commissions and gallery work.

Anime Herald: Both of you talked about how you had ideas of what you wanted to do in art then you changed your direction within your own artistic sphere.

Sarah Wilkinson: Oh yeah.

Anime Herald: How did you find your lane? How did you each go about that?

Nigel Sade: I think it’s about being honest with yourself. About who you are as an artist.

Sarah Wilkinson: Yes. If things are extraordinarily difficult then there might be a better path that’s more suited to your interests.

Nigel Sade: We all have our ideals about what we dream we’re going to do in this industry. Usually, as far as my experiences, it’s never the best idea. You fall into the thing that’s natural, and then that becomes the ideal that it should have been all along.

I wanted to do gaming art. Everyone wants to do video games these days. You might be one of the people who wants to do concept design, but those jobs are very few and far between. They’re very difficult to break into. Same with graphic design. Graphic design is all about getting an agent and doing work for larger companies. You like the end product. You start getting into graphic design or gaming because you like what you see.

Sarah Wilkinson: I didn’t like graphic design as an endpoint. I still use graphic design in what I do today. It helps me with every piece I work on. It’s just that there’s other elements I love more. I was told graphic design is the only way you can make money in art. All of my counselors told me that. I was like “OK, I guess that’s what I’ll do.”

Letting Go by Sarah Wilkinson
Letting Go by Sarah Wilkinson

Nigel Sade: That’s the other side of the coin. What they’re going to tell you, it’s all wrong. The one thing they don’t teach you in art school is how to be an artist.

Sarah Wilkinson: They teach you the skills.

Nigel Sade: Yep. They teach you how to do art. They don’t teach you how to sell art. They don’t teach you how to market yourself. I refer to it as the Underpants Gnomes from South Park.

Step One: Steal underpants.

Step Two: ???

Step Three: Profit!

Sarah Wilkinson & Nigel Sade: Step one is do the art. Step three is you’ll be a famous artist and profit. How do you get to that point? There’s so much they don’t teach you. It’s difficult to teach in a lot of ways.

Anime Herald: How did each of you manage step two?

Sarah Wilkinson: I was in an illustration major. My whole wing was media and communication arts. They kind of were prepping you to be viable in a work environment. They taught you how to work for companies, but they didn’t know about doing conventions or anything like that.

Nigel Sade: The convention scene is the great equalizer in a lot of ways when it comes to art. Before the convention scene was a big deal. Art fairs would have been an equivalent in a lot of ways. Now, conventions are where you can go for a relatively inexpensive booth cost to go and show your art work. As long as you have the talent, the people are there to see your art work, and buy it.

Sarah Wilkinson: We kind of stumbled upon our online presence. We were promoting ourselves online. We had a website. We just fell through it and figured out what worked.

Anime Herald: What is the physical process each of you use to create your artwork?

Nigel Sade: First and foremost, we both do oil paintings. That’s where our passion is. I do some abstract work. Art Deco starships and Egyption gods. Those start off as a pencil sketch. That pencil sketch gets exploded out into a diagram with a bunch of layers. Every layer is then associated with a texture, like an oil texture or photography or something along those lines. That’s then collapsed and flattened. I then paint highlights and shadows on top of that. It’s mostly traditional with a digital backend.

Make Me Pretty by Nigel Sade
Make Me Pretty by Nigel Sade

Sarah Wilkinson: For me, like he said, we do the oil paintings. Those are pretty much exclusively original content. Those are our own ideas and characters.

Forever in You by Sarah Wilkinson
Forever in You by Sarah Wilkinson

Nigel Sade: On both of our parts.

Sarah Wilkinson: Yep. Also, with the fan art for me, each element in the piece is a pencil sketch. I’ll do a nine-by-twelve pencil sketch. I’ll do light and shadow on that. I’ll scan that into Photoshop and do spot color. From there I’ll do the rest of my assembling in Photoshop. It’s a little bit of mixed media too. I use a lot of acrylic paintings in the backgrounds. It’s the same thing: traditional beginnings, and then a digital final product.

Head Above Water by Sarah Wilkinson
Head Above Water by Sarah Wilkinson

Anime Herald: Are there any current working artists that you consider inspirations?

Sarah Wilkinson: Yes. There are so many artists that I love that are working today. I love Drew Struzan. He was the movie poster guy forever. He was a huge inspiration to me. In comics Bill Sienkiewicz is one of my favorites working today. Now that I’m trying to think of people I can’t think of many.

Nigel Sade: For me I’d say Brom. I love Brom. Jeffrey Scott, Factory 1019. I think he’s an amazing artist as well.

Sarah Wilkinson: I agree.

Nigel Sade: Contemporaries are always interesting. I say Brom, but to be fair I feel like Brom is an inspiration to me because he’s been inspired by the same artists who inspired me.

Anime Herald: Can you go into that?

Nigel Sade: For me, Brom looks to have been inspired by (Hieronymus) Bosch and (Frank) Frazetta, whereas I’m more (Salvador) Dali and Bosch. We have a similar ideal, but very different art styles. They feel like they’re in the same category, (very softly) if not quite the same quality. *Smiles wanly*

Nigel Sade: My three main inspirations are Dali, (Edgar) Degas, and Hieronymus Bosch. Funny story: When I was a kid I got into Dali through Looney Tunes. Elmer Fudd would be hunting the Dodo Bird, and he’d go through a portal into the Dodo Bird’s world. Those worlds were based on Dali paintings. I didn’t realize this, I was just a kid, but they were my favorite episodes. The dodo bird episodes, and the Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century episodes. Those were also inspired by Dali. That was his go to when he wanted to express something weird. When I discovered Dali was a real artist I lost my shit. I got into the artwork and I think that helped propel me forward. I was always going to be an artist. I was going to be a geneticist, but I still would have been an artist. Art is a compulsion. I still would have drawn. You don’t get away from that.

Anime Herald: We’re an anime and manga site. Do you watch any anime or read any manga?

Sarah Wilkinson & Nigel Sade: Ghost in the Shell. Cowboy Bebop. Evangelion and Fullmetal Alchemist. Serial Experiments Lain. Attack on Titan. We liked the symbolism. Anime has interesting takes on philosophy.

Anime Herald: Any final thoughts you can share with our readers?

Nigel Sade: If you have the compulsion for art, don’t give up. If you can do it all day every day, then you should do it, because you won’t do anything else. If you can stop, stop, because it’s not healthy, no matter what they say. If you can’t stop, find a way to make it more healthy.

Anime Herald: Thank you very much, it was a pleasure!

Sarah Wilkinson & Nigel Sade: You too!

You can find much more of Studio de Sade’s work at their website.

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