This week we “sat down” with the talented Panamese artist Andi Soto. She is a self-educated illustrator whose detailed pictures are produced using mixed media such as ink, graphite, colored pencils, acrylic and markers.
With these tools Soto creates compelling portraits of mainly female ghost-like figures with hypnotizing eyes and sporting never ending strings of hair, that often move across the image. In her work she tries to visualize the subconscious, examining her emotional response to the darkness in what is past, present and what is yet to come.
And what is yet to come is our interview…
SG: Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where you grew up? How you got involved in art?
AS: I was born in Panama and since I was very little I had a fascination with elements of nature and fantastic creatures. I’m self-taught as well. In my journey as an artist I’ve explored many subjects depending on my interests, from anime and manga to old masters of surrealism.
Fig.1. ‘The Visitor‘ (2019) (Inspired by the nocturnal visitors, bending space and time not necessarily to deliver a message but for us feed on their beauty)
SG: I read somewhere that manga (Japanese comics) played a major role in the development of your style. Can you tell something more about this?
AS: I was so fixated on how versatile manga is and how you can take subjects and themes and make series out of them. Sailor Moon was (is) my favorite of all time!, but I was also introduced to erotica through manga and anime (i.e. Urotsukidoji). But then I discovered Neon Genesis Evangelion and then I was obsessed.
SG: On your site you mention that you live on two continents (South America and Europe). How did that happen?
AS: I often feel that I don’t belong in a single place, and then I met my husband in Panama, who has deep roots in Croatia, and we’ve been traveling back an forth since then. I feel fortunate to be able to experience both tropical new world and the old continent and its classic beauty.
Fig.2. ‘The Holder of Darkness‘ (2019) (Inspired by one of my favorite stories from The Holders series. The Holder of Darkness: “Your knowledge of their fears is up to you to share, but you may not want to use it as a weapon against them)
SG: Can you live from your art?
AS: I’ve been able to live from my work for almost 3 years now. I’ve been able to create bonds with customers and galleries and keep a steady amount of workload through out the year, so yes! stressful but fulfilling.
SG: Where do you get your inspiration from? Who is your favorite artist?
AS: My main source of inspiration at the moment is my own emotional response to darkness. Words are not enough to describe the tides of emotional and psychological responses to my surroundings and some of them are very abstract and I feel the need every time to try and translate them into illustrations. If I had to choose a favorite artist from a long list (there are so many amazing artists! both dead and alive), I would say John Bauer.
Fig.3. ‘Sleeping with Ghosts‘ (2018)
SG: Do you have a special interest in shunga? Or was the work ‘Sleeping with Ghosts‘ (Fig.3) you produced for The Secret Garden your only shunga trip?
AS: I’ve done erotica works in the past for a gallery in Amsterdam (Sexy Art Gallery
). I distanced myself from erotica for a long while to develop my style and polish my technique. Then I had the honor to work on a piece for The Secret Garden
and I was able to put into paper all the practice I’ve done for the past 10 years and create something beautiful yet a little bit dark. I’ve explored shibari
-inspired pieces, but only as practice.
SG: The striking hairstyles are clearly a recurring theme in your work. What is your fascination with this?
AS: I’ve always been obsessed with intricate details and hair allows me to get lost in an artwork. Its very difficult but at the same time I feel its an exercise of patience, and I feel at peace when I do it.
Fig.4. ‘Temptress‘ (2019)
SG: The protagonists in your paintings are all females. Why is this?
AS: I find female figure beautiful and dynamic and I can play with all the curves I want. But this year I feel I’ve been leaning toward creating androgynous figures. Mixing both female and male anatomies is fascinating.
SG: Your work reminds me of the art of Takato Yamamoto, such as the resigned (ghost-like) facial expressions, the skulls, the dark sensuality. Are you familiar with this artist?
AS: Yamamoto is part of my all-times favorite artists! I discovered his work a few years ago and I’ve been admiring since then.
SG: I am a big movie fan and always curious to know the favorite of the people I interview. What is your favorite movie?
AS: Huge fan of sci-fi movies right here! But its so hard to choose one favorite, I´ll just name a few: Blade Runner (both the original and 2049), Primer, Cloverfield, Moon, Brazil & Sunshine. As you may have noticed, I love space exploration and dystopia future related movies!
Fig.5. ‘Secrets‘ (2018) (This piece is inspired in women and how they use masks to cover up feelings and emotions, usually revealed by the masks themselves)
Fig.6. ‘Morior Invictus‘
Fig.7. Manga illustration of a ‘Girl and tentacles‘
Click HERE for more modern shunga art from the book The Secret Garden..!!
More art by Andi Soto can be found on her site…!!
Let us know what you think about the art of Andi Soto in the comment box below!