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Linda Tso

Meet the artist who, since discovering fantasy art just three years ago, has really found her niche

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LINDA TSO
Age: 22
Country: New Zealand
Favourite artists: Rackham, Mucha, Waterhouse, Socar Myles, Gez Fry, Nivbed, Alex Stodolnik
Web: www.stickydoodle.com

It’s easy to lose yourself in the enchanted worlds that Linda Tso’s sublimely crafted characters inhabit. Her work has a magical quality, that draws you in before guiding you around every inch of the digital canvas, then spitting you back out and making you realise what a beautiful image you’ve just been gazing into.

The young artist has an incredible talent for achieving mood, through subtle use of colour, tone, and detailed, yet not overworked form. Somewhat unbelievable when you consider she only started painting digitally in 2003. “I stumbled across a few art community sites, namely GFX Artist and DeviantArt,” she tells us, recalling her introduction into the world of fantasy art. “From then on I was exposed to some stunning digital paintings and after a while, I decided to try my hand at that too. I started by copying photos then slowly learning to paint my own things, and learning how to draw people.”

Linda reveals that it wasn’t until she’d finished her second ever painting that she gave in and bought a Wacom tablet: “Painting with a mouse was just torture,” she laughs. Today Linda works almost exclusively in digital mediums, from the sketch through to the final composition. The initial sketch is usually completed without any kind of reference material – coming straight from the artist’s head. “I sketch on the computer, a very rough sketch at first, refine it to a degree, and start painting on a layer beneath,” Linda explains. “I block in the main colours first, and sometimes I flatten down the sketch layer to the paint layer. I usually use more layers than necessary – the character would at least be on a separate layer.” She continues, “I play around a lot with colour Adjustment Layers to reach a scheme that I like before really getting down to the details. I have a tendency to use lighter and brighter colours, combinations that lean towards ‘pastel-ish’ and candy-like. I don’t know why, maybe it’s because I prefer colours to appear as they are and under bright sunlight. After that it’s just a matter of refining and tying everything together.” Linda reveals that on average the time taken to produce one of her digital paintings is around 20 hours: “Although this can be anywhere from a few hours to many, many, many hours, spanning weeks.”

The complexity of digital painting software only aids Linda in her artistic quest: “I am fascinated by the use of layers and colour adjustment tools. It provides a lot of room for experimentation.” The advantages of digital mediums don’t stop there: “It’s clean as well,” laughs Linda. But, as Linda freely admits, there are some disadvantages to working digitally: “You can become too reliant on effects, and you must learn about colour from the offset. Also, it’s tempting to spend an endless amount of time fiddling with details when you don’t really need to.”

Still on the subject of Linda’s working methods, she states that Photoshop 7 is the tool of choice, with Painter 8 coming a close second. “I use the Hard-edged brush as a general purpose brush, but also a set of ‘dirty’ custom brushes. I’ve also created a special smudging brush. In Painter I mostly use the Tinting and Acrylic brushes – and anything with bristles is great for painting hair!”

Finding inspiration for new pieces can be a toil for any artist, but thanks to the thriving global fantasy art community, rife with work and ideas, and willing to share them, this is not a problem for Linda. “Art sites, graphic novels, art books – I’m inspired by anything and everything.” She adds: “I’m predominantly inspired by the mood a particular piece conveys by its use of colour. Dreams, movies, and music play a role, too. Maybe an interesting shape of a cast shadow or a nice dress in a magazine. I love clouds too, even though I can’t seem to paint them as well as I’d like.” As you can see, Linda is an artist who’s always on the lookout for the next angle, the next spark, the next idea, that leads to one of her trademark enchanted visions.

When quizzed on her thoughts on how the traditional art world sees the kind of art Linda is producing, she is hesitant to take the bait we so kindly presented on a plate. “My own familiarity with the art world would be too limited to answer this question, I think,” she replies. However, Linda begins to open up: “For the most part I have been more involved with the online art communities, and the digital artists I got to know through them. I haven’t really encountered the snobbish elitist type who doesn’t consider fantasy art ‘art’ at all, neither of those who think traditional art is more superior to digital art.” Our loaded question eventually leads Linda to reveal a sense of karma with her current situation. “I’m in a niche I feel comfortable in, with lots of people who share my enthusiasm, and that’s good enough for me.”

Linda Tso is still building her career as a digital artist, though the foundations are as solid as they come. But even at this early stage in what is bound to be an incredible and awe-inspiring journey, she has some nigh-on essential advice for young artists everywhere: “Whatever you want to paint or draw, you have to learn what it really looks like first. And know how to accept critiques. Make friends with other artists through community websites. Practise constantly and as you get better and develop a style you will begin to gain more recognition.” Taking notice of an artist with such a refined eye for colour and form can only be a good idea.

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