Interview by Savana Ogburn
I first found Celia Cummiskey’s beautiful work through Tumblr. She sent me a message about exchanging prints (her art for my photo!) and I obviously said yes! Celia’s art is gorgeous– always colorful and sometimes sparkly, she often uses band members- most frequently The 1975 frontman Matty Healy- as her subject matter, and the result is absolutely killer. After being internet pals for a while now, I was so thrilled to be able to pick her brain about her process, her advice for aspiring artists, and the very first time she ever made fan art.
What is your favorite thing about making fan art?
Hmm, well I think that music really hits deep for people, and it makes you feel so strongly that you want to participate in that feeling. Whether that be running a blog, making Youtube covers, or creating visual fan art, it’s all about feeling like you’re involved in that surge of emotion that is touching you and so many other people. So for me I paint, because that is how I express myself. It’s how my brain processes stuff. So much of my art has come from me listening to a particular song and thinking, Wow. I have to paint that bit.
How has making fan art played a role in your growth as an artist?
I think being comfortable putting your art out there and receiving feedback from your peers is so important as an artist. I definitely feel like I’m much less reserved about showing people my art since I’ve started posting on Tumblr. Also, I tend to try out different techniques or ideas in my smaller fan art pieces. Maybe some collage elements from one of my smaller paintings might make it into a larger original painting. Fan art is a space for me to be a bit indulgent with myself, paint gratuitous pictures of whatever song is really sticking with me at that moment, but also to experiment a bit with whatever ideas are bouncing around my brain on a smaller scale.
What is your favorite piece of fan art you’ve made + why?
Such a tough question! For me they all represent such different moments in time. I love this one because I really wanted to capture [The 1975’s] song “Medicine” and the emotions and colors I associate with it. It’s also one of the first pieces that I thought HEY! Let’s just throw some glitter on here! and it ended up working and being a piece I’m really proud of. It also just so strongly reminds me of that moment in my life, where I felt like the only thing really tethering me down to reality was The 1975’s music. That might sound a bit silly, but it just felt so important and all encompassing and I’m really grateful for that album. It’s been a good friend. :’)
Tell us about the first time you ever made fan art! Who/what inspired it? How old were you?
WOW, this is going to be embarrassing. Well, I used to draw the characters from the fantasy novels I read as a kid when I was really little. Then of course I drew all of my Neopets (lol), and moved on to my cringe-worthy anime phase in middle school. From there I sort of left fan art behind, and was mostly focusing on my own original art. I think I felt like if I was making anything fan-y it didn’t have the same inherent artistic value as my other art. Which is such bullshit, you know? I finally got back to painting fan art in college when I was having a hard time and listening to the 1975’s first album quite a bit.
How have your tastes changed over the years, and how has that manifested in your art?
I think as an artist and a fan when I first started deciding to post fan art, I thought the more representational and ‘real’ it looked the better. As I’ve gotten older I feel a lot less tied to the idea of those hyper realistic pencil sketches of band members. Not that those aren’t great! It just isn’t how I want to make my art. Realizing that and finding my own voice within fandom has been an ongoing journey but one I’m happy and comfortable with.
Which medium is your favorite to work in and why?
I generally tend to paint in watercolor. I think it’s a very forgiving way to paint and depending on how much water you use can manifest in really different ways. I love oil as well, but it’s a bit harder to carve out the time and space to oil paint without a studio, so I don’t get to do it as much as I’d like!
Has your fan art ever been noticed by the subject of the piece? If so, how? What was your reaction and how did this affect your confidence in your art?
A few of my pieces ended up being used on screen at the Alternative Press Music Awards. That was a really nice moment and felt super validating. I think it was shown during a segment on like fan base awards or something and it felt like I was representing these really dedicated group of fans and generally rad people. In 2014 I gave The 1975’s head of security a letter to give to Matty and George with some of my prints in them and a letter. I mean, he could have thrown it out immediately, but he promised it’d get to them and was so kind so I’m hopin’ it got where it was meant to be. I don’t necessarily want to see the band’s reaction to my art- I didn’t paint it for a reaction you know? But I would like them to know that their music has been so inspirational and really invaluable to so many people.
Who are some of your favorite fan artists and why? Shout ’em out and give us links, please!
- Littlenim on Tumblr! I went to an art program with her in high school and I doubt she remembers me. But she has such a distinct style and its been really cool to watch that develop! I’m huge nerd for The Force Awakens and her Kylo is really cool.
- Also Vulcains! She’s most well known for her One Direction art I think, but also of course draws some X Files, Star Wars, and other fun things. The one of Harry [Styles] and Zayn [Malik] as witches is to die for. Her style is killer.
- ERIN! I’ve followed her for a while, but met her when I met up with some friends for the New York 1975 show. Her oil paintings are beautifully executed and really imaginative.
- I love Lim’s work so much that I’ve ordered commissions [from her] before. Really wonderful style. You can instantly tell when you see a piece of her work.
What is your best piece of advice for aspiring artists?
Just paint paint paint! Don’t worry about likes or reblogs or any of that shit. Make the art you need to make. Also, don’t force a dichotomy between fan art and other forms of art, no one cares and you should do whatever floats your boat. ✿