Euclase, also known by her real name Elicia Donze, was born in 1980 in Oil City, Pennsylvania. Euclase is a self-taught artist who has been drawing her favorite characters from films and television shows for over twenty-five years. As a child, she would drive her parents crazy by watching the same movies over and over again way too early on Saturday mornings, sometimes hitting pause on the VCR so she could sketch the characters right off the screen. Drawing inspiration from pop culture and fan culture, Euclase combines digital media and a style influenced by classic science fiction and fantasy illustrators to create vivid, realistic character portraits. Euclase is primarily a hobbyist who creates art for her personal enjoyment. Professionally, she works as a graphic designer and typesetter in the offset printing industry. She resides in Western Pennsylvania. Her website is euclase.tumblr.com.
Let’s get the technique issue out of the way first. Your technique is astonishing. Beyond photo-realistic. Yet with a vividness and a slightly unreal quality that make your works recognizably different from photographs. It’s like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within except without the dodgy lip-sync and post-plastic surgery facial expressions. It’s like you’re intentionally working from realistic photographs and pushing their hyper-reality so hard that it makes them nose-dive into a second, undiscovered uncanny valley. What are you doing technically to achieve that feeling? I assume these are all digital works. Are you working from photographs? What have you done to the source material to achieve this level of detail and this realer-than-real feeling?
Thank you very much! Yes, they’re digital paintings. My technique isn’t all that different from traditional photorealism, except that I use a stylus and software instead of a paintbrush and paint. I use photo references just as if I were painting a detailed portrait on a canvas. The realistic look that I like comes from a layering-and-blending technique that I’ve hashed out over the years. It’s not complicated, but it’s time-consuming and has taken me a lot of practice.
I know that the cover image Mothboy is pretty different from all of your other works. The image is squarely in a tradition of outcast, lonely monsters that seem pitiable and even cute to some, and repulsive to others. This is particularly fitting since moths, as harmless as they are and lovely to some people, make others unaccountably hysterical with fear and revulsion. Please tell us a little more about this theme, or any other themes you were exploring in this piece.
Mothboy comes from my love of dystopian fiction. I don’t make a lot of original character art, mostly because I’m simply not interested in sitting down and drawing for that reason, but every now and then the mood strikes me. I love monsters. I think being an outcast of any kind can make someone feel like they inspire repulsion in others. I think we all feel like that at times, and it makes us want to hide away from the world, whether in our favorite book, in our imagination, or up on a roof somewhere. It’s loneliness, you know? In that sense, I think Mothboy is pretty similar to the rest of my work.
Almost all of your works besides Mothboy are fan images of characters from film and television. What are some of your favorite screen characters? Are you drawn to them primarily because they are visually memorable or because you respond to their characters?
Visually striking characters, sure. My favorite characters are the ones who’ve drawn into themselves, either because they’re conflicted or lonely, or because they’re on the fence: Castiel, Dana Scully, Effie Trinket, Brienne of Tarth, and so on. Characters who have to choose a side. That’s why I love speculative fiction so much, because it’s full of all these seemingly competent characters who come to realize that their world isn’t so simple or rigid (or real).
How has your experience working in the world of fan art been? I would think that your works depict these well-known characters with such vivid and faithful detail that no fan of these characters could have anything but a positive reaction to your works. However, I know that fans are unpredictable. What has your experience been?
Overwhelmingly positive. And positively overwhelming, too! Fans are the most enthusiastic, giving people. And incredibly intelligent. I’ve watched teenagers analyze text with more aplomb than a roomful of Shakespeare scholars. I love sharing my art with them.
Why are you drawn to producing fan art? There is a long tradition of worship through fan art in many cultures. Religious devotional art was essentially an early form of fan art. Somehow, the process of trying to render the cherished thing/person/religious figure was important and satisfying. Can you describe to us why it is satisfying?
Because I can share it, I think. Without climbing too deep into a pool of weird psychoanalysis, I think that’s basically the reason. I grew up in the ’80s and ’90s believing that whatever the television showed me was important and beautiful, and I like that fan art exists as a way for me to examine that TV dreamworld culture. Especially science fiction and fantasy, which is even more of a dreamworld. The fact that there is a community where I can share my passion with people who grew up in the same culture and who understand it and accept it is invaluable.
What is your dream project?
I think I’m already doing it. I get to draw my favorite things, and I get to share them with other people and maybe make someone happy or inspire them to make their own art. It’s a pretty rad gig. I’m amazingly blessed.
Spread the word!