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Melanie Delon

In the guise of Eskarina, Melanie Delon creates enigmatic fantasy portraits, each with their own rich mythologies.

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Melanie Delon
Age: 25
Country: France
“It wasn’t easy at first, but I kept on working and the more I painted, the more I tried to surpass my last work while learning new things”

Software used: Painter, Adobe Photoshop
Web: www.eskarina-circus.com

Feelings like sadness or solitude are pretty strong and even violent,” enthuses Melanie, who works under the moniker of Eskarina – a name taken from a heroine in one of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. “It’s the story of a little girl who wants to became a wizard,” she explains. “It’s a kind of tribute I make to that author.”

Melanie is well known for creating otherworldly portraits that are mysterious and often emotionally charged.

Images with titles such as Madness and Lost in the Darkness show her attempts to try to capture the power of these feelings on a digital canvas. “I try to re-transcribe what I am feeling when I have an idea, and to paint them I often contrast colours,” she says, describing the starkly juxtaposed reds and greens of these images.

Brain teaser

But not all of Melanie’s paintings deal with such morbid subjects – images like Boheme and Sucre d’Orge show she has a much lighter side. “They are all a part of me,”
she says, “kind of like a puzzle.”

In many ways, Eskarina’s paintings are indeed a part of her. Look closely at her
work and you’ll notice they share some similar features, as much of the reference material comes from her own image: “For everything that concerns anatomy or posture, I use myself and a mirror,” she explains. “I have a little one next to my computer for painting faces and a big one in my room for the whole body.”

Like many fantasy artists, Melanie is
an avid reader and she draws on literary references from Philip K Dick, Tolkien and obviously Terry Pratchett. “Some drawings are inspired by music, other drawings, movies and everyday situations. All my characters have their own stories – it helps me to create them and to give them life,”
she muses.

But Melanie leaves some room for ambiguity and wants the viewer to infer their own stories from the images: “When I post on forums, I don’t go into much detail in my descriptions,” she says. “I prefer the reader to make up his or her own mind.”

One day she hopes to publish a book of her images and set the record straight: “I think it will be fun to compare the stories they thought of with mine,” she says.

Down with tradition

One of the most surprising things about Melanie is how quickly she has developed her style, particularly as she only started using Photoshop a year ago. What is even more remarkable is that her technique has been developed entirely using digital tools, having never worked on a traditional canvas. “I never painted,” she confesses. “I drew a lot, mainly with pencil and markers, but it was for fun; until I discovered Photoshop.”

Rather than seeking professional training or reading manuals, she learned entirely through experimentation. “It wasn’t easy at first, I didn’t know which way to go, but I kept on working and working, and the
more I painted the more I tried to surpass
my last work while learning new things,”
she enthuses.

Melanie combines Photoshop CS2 with Corel Painter, taking advantage of the relative strengths of the two packages: “For my rough sketches and quick colouring, I find Painter easier to work with, but the biggest part of the painting is done with Photoshop CS2 and a Wacom. I do sometimes switch back to Painter for certain textures.”

She’s enthusiastic when talking about her tools: “I use my own brushes, two in particular: a basic Hard Round edge that I use for almost everything, and a Spackled, which is great for blending colours and bringing life to texture. Then all my custom texture brushes, the Blur tool (never the
filter one), which is extremely useful and adjustable, and finally, layers. I love layers,” she grins.

History of art

But while she may not have painted traditionally, she has developed a unique and self-confident style that owes a lot to her university studies on the history of art. “Those two years of studies helped me discover many artists and to understand the evolution of art,” she explains. “It’s also, culturally speaking, a big help. I think that’s why my works can’t be tagged as pure fantasy, there are always historical elements that blend in with the ones I create.”

Look closely at the detail of Melanie’s paintings and the historical influences become clear. She references Turner, for example, as an influence on her background painting technique. But the artist she draws on most heavily is the 19th century French academic painter William Adolphe Bouguereau, who painted mythological themes. Melanie is humble in acknowledging her debt. “I think he has influenced – and keeps on influencing – me on all levels,” she says. “Moreover, the way he deals with lights and colours, it’s incredible. Bouguereau’s characters are so alive. I would like to have his talent!”

Melanie has clearly thrown herself into her artwork since going digital. “Drawing has become more serious for me and more than just a hobby,” she says. “I usually spend about 10 hours a day on my painting – even more sometimes! I paint all day long, for my work and for fun. I’m trying to learn more and more with each painting.”

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