Monday 9 December 2013

Painting starships, with Bye Bye Robot's Charity Wood

Bye Bye Robot recently released their first ever Star Trek: Enterprise print, and the artist, Bye Bye Robot's co-founder, Charity Wood, was kind enough to tell me all about it, and share a look behind the scenes:

Before you tell me about your latest piece, could you tell me a bit about you as an artist, and Bye Bye Robot. How did you came to create the world of Star Trek art the robot brings us?
I'd be happy to. I'm one of those people who picked up pencils and paint-brushes as (little more than) a toddler and then never put them down again. I've been making art as long as I can remember, so when it came time to choose school and career, art was the obvious choice. I've also been a sci-fi fan as long as I can remember, and as soon as Star Trek: The Next Generation hit the small screen, I was hooked. Fast forward to some years later, after working in several art fields and absorbing as much Star Trek as I possibly could, I realized that I wanted to have Star Trek art on my walls but couldn't find what I was looking for. The natural thing for me to do seemed to be...create Star Trek art for myself. So, that's what I did. My first Star Trek painting was the painting named "NCC-1701" and I just kept going from there. After I began receiving complements from friends I started to think that maybe others would enjoy these paintings too, and kaboom! Bye Bye, Robot was born! It took a bit of time, working through the legal side of things with CBS, but finally we made it and launched the shop. We ramped up our artwork offerings slowly so we could grow organically with the business, and now we work with almost a dozen artists, and are adding new art prints on a regular basis. Our next step, on the horizon, will be to branch out and begin incorporating more genres and licenses to our gallery.
Your latest piece features the NX-01, and is Bye Bye Robot's first Enterprise-inspired design. How did you go about bringing this one to life? Were there any particular challenges, or things you enjoyed, about depicting the first starship Enterprise?
Since painting "NCC-1701" and "Boldly Go" it's always been my intention to continue my ship series adding many more well known Star Trek ships to the roster. The Enterprise NX-01 was always on the list, but when we saw that Scott Bakula was going to be attending the Austin Comic Con last month (which happened to be right in our neck of the woods) I got giddily inspired and began focusing on that one, in particular. I pretty much worked on it non-stop till it was finished, and got it done just in time to bring its prints with us to that convention. Yay!

You ask about the challenges and enjoyment of painting my first Enterpise focused piece. The answer to both sides of that coin is the same...detail. Huge amounts of detail! I never realized how detailed that ship was compared to the "later" versions of her. The NX-01 has so many tiny parts and hull plates. There are so many seams and outlines that I needed to keep clear. Oh...that's another style. I'll give you the short version. I begin my paintings on a black canvas, so the outlines that you see are unlike "typical" outlines that are put on lastly over top of an image. My "outlines" are actually unpainted areas that have to remain totally unpainted during the entire process, so that the black canvas shows through. You can think of it as a kind of reverse painting. So, knowing that, painting something with a lot of detail...and a lot of lines...takes quite a bit longer than not. The detail in the NX-01 was both challenging and zen-like. I found that when I wasn't cursing my hand for making a near miss of a stroke, I was fully absorbed in the work and completely unaware of my surroundings. I found that balance of emotions quite enjoyable. In fact, the overall experience of concentrating on that amount of detail has influenced my next choice of subjects. I will be tackling intricate detain again in the near future.
Charity also sent me a couple of behind the scenes photos, showing how her NX-01 came together. So here's how that "reverse painting" works. Doesn't the ship look nice in black!

Continue after the jump for more from Charity, discussing some of her other pieces, and plans for the future:

The NX-01 piece is in a similar format the your previous USS Enterprise print, Boldly Go. Can we expect the other starships Enterprise to continue the series?
Most definitely! More iterations of the Enterprise and, indeed, more ships with other names. I'm trying to keep the new paintings a bit of a surprise for the fans, but I'm terrible at keeping suspect more tidbits will probably be revealed before their releases.

Your other Trek art for Bye Bye Robot so far is a portrait of a Gorn, Cold Blooded. Might we see more aliens from you too?
I would love to paint more aliens. I've actually been toying around with several ideas, here in my studio, but have yet to decide anything for certain. I have the feeling that I will probably wait till my series of ships is more fleshed out before I move on to alien species.
Her Universe's Ashley Eckstein wearing Charity's Gorn
That Gorn image was also used by Her Universe for a T-shirt design. How do you feel the design translated between mediums? Might we see more Bye Bye Robot artwork finding other outlets like that?
I totally love the way the Gorn image looks on the shirt! I had a ton of fun coming up with the new background for it. It was very interesting to play with the splatters so that they integrated with the nature of wearable art. I certainly hope that I get the chance to work with other outlets, like that, again. Canvas and clothing are so similar that it seems like a natural transition, to me. I met Ashley Eckstein, of Her Universe, at the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention in 2012 when I participated on a Geek Girls panel she hosted. It was there that Her Universe approached me to see if I would be interested in allowing the use of the Gorn on their clothing line. It was a great honor, and I would totally jump at the opportunity to do it again! I'm a geek girl, after all, and my closet is already filled with sci-fi and gaming t-shirts. It's pretty fun to see my own design hanging in there amongst them.
Is there anything else you have lined up for the future? Are there any particular aspects of Trek you're itching to explore? Or indeed is there anything you'd like to share from your work outside the Star Trek universe?
Well...I have begun several more ships...and...(giggles)...I can't say much more about the Star Trek ones than that. However I can say that I've begun working on my aquatic-themed paintings again. Those ones will always be close to my heart and constantly growing, as a series. I find that, to me, space and the deep sea are very similar to each other. Both places are dark, dangerous, and mysterious, but if just a little light manages to reach them...strange and wondrous creatures begin to appear.
My thanks to Charity for telling me all about her art. You can find out more about her via Bye Bye Robot's biography page, where you'll also find details of her prints. Meanwhile I'll leave you with another behind the scenes glimpse Charity sent me. See what happens when you let an artist play with starships:

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