Tuesday, May 1, 2018

As an artist, it seems like the landscape is ever-changing from simply the tools, to the aesthetic. I intend to be an artist that never wants to stop learning, and as such, I find more and more interesting artists every day. Each artist has a unique insight and point of view, no matter the experience level. New views help open my mind and teach me there are many ways to utilize my skills and I hope that sharing our stories will help others in the same way. I believe there are many paths on an artistic journey, and each interview will help to show the stories of the artists that tread them.

Today we'll be interviewing Amanda "TheMandii" Solano.

Kaminski: This question is pretty typical for all the creatives I come across, but what drew you into art in the first place? Was there a pivotal moment where you were like, "Holy crap, art has GOT to happen!"?

TheMandii: This question always hearkens back to my earliest memories of art. In order to keep me from making scrawling, colorful scribble masterpieces on the wall, my mother made it a point from very early on to always keep me stocked with lots of paper and coloring books to curb my urge to throw color onto everything. When you're a small child, teachers always ask what you want to be when you grow up. My answer was always "An artist. Or a rock star. Or both."

That being said, it's such a natural part of myself that I feel like I would be doing my very nature a disservice by not making this a part of my life, even in a part-time capacity. Growing up, my family wanted "more" for me, being a doctor or anything that paid well, really. I studied hard in school and did well enough, always trying to find a way that I could make money with my art so that my parents would still approve of what I was doing even if it wasn't saving lives or making new technologies and making six figures.

I think a pivotal moment for me was when I started getting scouted by colleges in high school for my portfolio and college was on the horizon and other people finally started telling me that I should do something with my art even at that level... My parents had finally accepted that for me to do anything else with my life wouldn't be right for me, so I moved forward with it from there.

Kaminski: I can somewhat relate for the need to find something extremely profitable, although my family seemed to be more akin to, "You like art, you should be a tattoo artist!" So, I guess we both share in the aspiration to at least look like a rock star, right?

Speaking of rock, what themes do you find yourself pulled to? Do you have a desire for the macabre? Sci-fi? Regardless of your personal attraction to a specific genre, why? What kinds of things ultimately keep you drawing in that genre?

TheMandii: I have very eclectic tastes, so I have a hard time sticking to just one thing. As a result, I tend to mix and match whatever suits my fancy on a given day. I'm comfortable with most genres as a result of the amount of dabbling that I do.

Right now, however, my major focus is more of an occult alt-punk BDSM vibe, I do a lot of occult imagery with religious or mythological symbolism mixed in for fun.

With that being said, I also have a deep love of fantasy art. Elves, dragons, angelic warriors, brave princes fighting an omnipotent evil - the list goes on, I love it all. The things that draw me to these genre choices usually fall in line with my love of fantasy literature as well as my musical tastes. As far as my current focus goes, it's really just another mashup of the symbols I love - skulls, death, demons, old gods of mythology, and darker themes but not quite on the level of classic horror (which I also love). My endless fascination with this myriad of topics keeps me coming back time and again.


Kaminski: Interestingly enough, it appears to me like your work would suit well on some of the more metal-esque synthwave albums that I've been seeing coming out lately. Artists like Ariel ZB would make a great contact for you to look into what the industry is looking for - if you're into that kind of thing, that is.

What kinds of experiences have you had thus far? What kind of really good experience? What kind of really bad experience? And as far as the bad one goes, what did you do to remedy the situation or what do you think you could have done to make it a positive situation?

TheMandii: So far, I've mainly done assistant or part-time freelance jobs. My first real studio experience was working as an assistant inker doing backgrounds and 'blacks' (large areas filled with black ink in comics) for an artist who's been in the biz for 40+ years. I was working at the time on DC's Flashpoint and the Archie reboot of Megaman. It was a pivotal point in my life as an artist, I learned so much about the business - the pitfalls, the joys, the techniques, so many things that I had never even considered before. The knowledge gained from my time there alone was worth every second - I remember that job very fondly.

On the flip-side (and without being too specific), in my earlier days of taking freelance work, I learned that if you don't set expectations up front, some people may try to take advantage of your time and your skills. In my case, to remedy having that happen to me, in the cases where that happened I just powered through the work and moved on, and in one case I actually bit the bullet and refunded someone in that situation. These were due to my lack of experience, and in the end was mainly my own fault for not having that knowledge.

It's a valuable lesson I learned the hard way: set those expectations, and keep yourself on the level with your client via contracts - this way everyone knows what they're getting into. It's something you can apply to all things, not just art.

Kaminski: I can definitely relate on the destruction of a project that was completely up-front because I didn't nip-it up front. That's honestly what ended up, ultimately, creating my process breakdown. I wanted to be completely transparent as to what the process is and what we'll be dealing with during the course of a project.

Knowing that you had some experience in the comics industry, is this something that you're interested in? Or do you have a specific field that you're striving for? Any specific reasons why?

TheMandii: If I were to do comics, they would be ones that I've written and drawn - other than that, I don't think I could see myself doing comics full-time as a goal. I do admire the industry greatly, but my real love lies in illustration and creating concepts for my IP. I really gravitate towards character art more than anything else, creating otherworldly people has always been my favorite thing. It allows for the idea that an alternate reality in which fantastic things like magic (for example) might be possible, even if only in fantasy. That's what draws me to that kind of art.

Kaminski: Switching gears: I know that you work a day job typically - can you share some insights into working both as an artist and as a day-to-day worker? What kinds of techniques do you have to cope with switching gears mentally? Are the two interdependent or is your day job something completely different?

TheMandii: My day job is completely different and has nothing to do with art - I work in tech during the day. With that being said, I'm very fortunate in that my current employer puts large emphasis on work-life balance. I use all of my breaks (and a huge chunk of my free time overall, outside of work) for art.

I can say though that in past experiences, my work-life balance was not, well, balanced.... My art really suffered for that despite my efforts. I definitely sympathize with people who have a hard time coming home from a rough day at a day job and no longer feel like drawing.

Honestly, the only insight I have into that is that you have to power through it if you want to get better in your craft. It's kind of a tough-love approach, but it's the truth.

Kaminski: Most people tend to forget that life feeds art and vice-versa. So if you're not having a good day, the tortured artist mentality doesn't typically work out. There was a comic by Sarah's Scribbles that talked about this exactly

With the mention of work-to-life balance, what's a Mandii working on these days? Do you have any specific projects you'd like to promote?

TheMandii: Mainly, my real "project" is continual self-improvement. I've been working on a lot of techniques, drills, using reference, and doing exercises and keeping on a strict schedule in order to improve my skills.

Outside of that, I have a wide variety of IP's that I have in the works-many of them I try to keep under wraps as much as possible for now. One that I will be happy to talk about is my current main labor of love. 


I have a particular character that frequents the majority of my work in the last couple years. Her name is Riley, and I am slowly releasing bits and pieces of her world. The best way I can describe it right now is 'Supernatural Cyberpunk Urban Fantasy'.

I have yet to name this project, but expect to be seeing a LOT more of it, and soon!

Kaminski: Now you're speaking my language - cyberpunk! It would appear you've been following suit by sticking to the theme, what with you sticking to a rigorous streaming schedule. What tips do you have for starting to schedule working times and play times? Do you have any recommendations for artists out there that would like to get on a schedule? Maybe you could talk a bit about the pitfalls or upsides to scheduling pretty tightly.

TheMandii: Yes, Rigorous is a good word for that! I treat my streaming times as practice time for my art most of the time, so scheduling it helps prevent me from doing things that are otherwise unproductive. The beauty of it, though, is I am not yet at the stage where I set an end time for my streams, I only stream for as long as I feel like (usually an hour or more).

Advice for other artists who want to get onto a schedule, really, is just look at your day-to-day routine and be realistic about what you spend your time on. All that time you spend on social media, vegging out in front of the TV, or just doing nothing? That could be streaming time. Of course, you want to keep time for yourself for self-care and relaxation! But, if you can spend time scrolling your social media feeds, you can spend time streaming or practicing instead.

Of course, you want to keep time for yourself for self-care and relaxation! But, if you can spend time scrolling your social media feeds, you can spend time streaming or practicing instead.

Tight schedules tend to stress people out - but it's really just a matter of discipline. Pitfalls to avoid would be to forget to schedule free time for yourself. Remember, no one is FORCING you to stick to a schedule, but your fans will come to expect consistency from you. Upsides are, you always know what you're up to!

Kaminski: Honestly, I think lots of creatives feel that obligation to be on at all times. We all tend to feel bad if we take breaks because it's not what we see from the output of major art collective websites. We get this impression that art is just constantly being pumped out, and while that may be true of some artists, we also don't talk enough about the burnout that can happen by not taking breaks. I feel it's an important thing to discuss, so I'm glad that you bring that up. 

Back on track with creating more work, what goals do you have set for yourself for the immediate? And the long term?

TheMandii: My immediate and long-term goals have been and always will be to keep improving. Aside from that, my current long-term goal is to really flesh out and build up the world of my latest IP, and perhaps to revamp some of my older ones. Whether those come in the form of art, or in writing form, you'll have to stay tuned to find out!

KaminskiWhat's the best piece of advice you've received OR what's some advice you could give fellow artists?

TheMandii: The best advice I can give to other artists is that if you want to improve your skills in your chosen craft, you need to put in the time, blood, sweat, and tears into it. Push your boundaries, try new things, study! Even if those studies never see the light of day, the thing that matters is that you're practicing, always.

Kaminski: It's always a pleasure to interview someone whose artistic taste is in line with my own! Thanks for all your advice, and for volunteering to be interviewed!


Thank you all for reading, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Amanda "TheMandii" Solano.
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You can view this interview, and many more, HERE.

You can find view more of Amanda's work at her INSTAGRAM:
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