Daniella Batsheva

Born in: 1989, Philadelphia, PA
Lives in: Between US, UK, and Israel
Education: Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration from The University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA.
Describe your art in 3 words: haunting, spicy, magical
See More Work: daniellabatsheva.com

Sleep Paralysis - Ink, coloured pencil, tipex on found object, 9x12 in. (SOLD)

Daniella Batsheva is a self-proclaimed “Illustrator with a design habit” whose aesthetic straddles the line between underground fine art and the mainstream. Her work has been displayed in numerous galleries such as The Hive Gallery, Gabba Gallery, Art Expo NY, and her most recent solo exhibition, "Skirting Spectres" at the Crypt Gallery. She has illustrated for Paris Jackson, Kerrang!, Revolve Agency, Pizza Girl, and drawn numerous show posters, which have become well-known in London.

What themes does your current work involve?
The themes often involve a blend of urban legends, symbolism from many different cultures, and femininity. The stylistic approach is a fusion between retro punk show posters and children's book illustration with a heavy Victorian flair. Being commissioned to illustrate pieces with completely different topics ends up being tons of fun because I get to process the subject matter through that mental lens. Lately I've been including a lot more humour in my pieces which adds a more relatable, human element that's received a lot of positive responses.
Describe your creative process.
My process is extremely traditional and it always starts with a massive amount of research. Depending on the topic, I might head to a library. Then lots of thumbnailing and sketching. Once I find the right imagery and composition, I roughly draw out the full-sized piece on bristol. This is where my friends say I'm a grandpa - I'll pull out tracing paper, redraw and refine certain elements, and transfer it to the paper, so everything is ready for me to begin inking. Sometimes I'll keep a drawing black and white, other times I'll scan it in and colour it digitally. Most of my work is commissioned, so the client usually only requires a file and I get to stash away the original like a happy little gremlin.
What influences your work? What inspires you? Why do you make art?
I've always felt obsessively compelled to make art. It was my chosen method of communication as an awkward child. I tell people that it's really all I know how to do! These days, I find myself drawing more in defiance of the alarming trends towards AI and the devaluation of artists, but my creations are mostly out of love and a need for mental clarity. My work is heavily influenced by illuminated manuscripts, Victorian era children's books, and horror films. I love taking the naivete and innocence of early illustrations and pairing it with a modern narrative. I generally choose to not rely on a shock-factor or fan-art. I want people to appreciate the artwork, not for its gore or nudity, but for its quality, character, and symbolism.
What are your goals and plans as an artist in 2023?
I'm currently working on an exhibition called "Skirting Spectres" with my friend Susan Slaughter (Ghost Hunters Int., Paranormal Caught on Camera). It's a week long supernatural pop-up show that's taking place at The Crypt Gallery in London from April 25-30. There will be never before seen illustrations on display, along with accompanying stories, lectures, a Q&A session with Susan and I, and live drawing sessions on the weekdays. I also have artwork on display at ArtExpo New York this weekend. I'm continuing to work with my clients, both as an illustrator and designer. Other than that, I'm trying to spend as much time in nature as possible. There's nothing I love more than walking around in the park or woods on a gloomy day.
How do recent advancements in technology affect your art practice? How may recent developments in Artificial Intelligence (image generator software) affect the definition of fine art?
AI hasn't affected my work on a personal level, but seeing artists attacked as "unnessecary" or "gatekeepers" is gaslighting of the worst degree. Artists are not privileged and we are not gatekeeping anything. Anyone is free to put in the work and develop the skills necessary to become an artist. Museums, galleries are free, and you can absolutely find tutorials on youtube. Scraping the internet and using the art of hard working people to create a database that generates derivative images is an insult to any skilled worker that has dedicated their lives to honing their skills. It's simply laziness. We have a culture of convenience and a need for instant gratification due to being perpetually connected to our gadgets and receiving an onslaught of information. We need to touch grass.
What is the role of the artist today?
I think the role is evolving. Artists have always defined their environments through fashion, product design, paintings, iconic imagery and logos, and I think that will continue to be true. However, we're in a place where technology is rapidly progressing, in an attempt to replace artists and, while I don't think it threatens the will to create, public perception of the arts appears to be at an all-time low. People are forgetting why art is important, schools are cutting funding to their arts programs, art is being politicised as something "liberal" rather than something human, and it's all very alarming. I think, as Henry Rollins said, "This is not a time to be dismayed. This is punk rock time." And maybe, right now, artists need to remind people how to be rebellious, critical thinkers.
What is good art? What makes a piece of art great?
A good piece involves striking a balance between skill and cleverness. A piece that is entirely skill, for example, a drawing that is photorealistic but drawn from an existing image, can be impressive, but that's all it is. A piece that has a brilliant concept, but is poorly executed, also misses the mark. Good art is able to communicate a message while being visually appealing in some way. Great artwork should capture the imagination of the viewer and hold it, inspire some emotion, keep them searching, or simply give them a new environment to inhabit for a moment. Great artwork should have a versatility to it. It should be able to be applied in a context outside of visual arts so that it can be enjoyed beyond a specific, exclusive place and the viewer can develop a relationship with it.
Pierrette (Fangoria Exclusive) - Ink and digital colouring, 11x14 in. $20 print
Martyr - Ink, coloured pencil, tipex on found object, 9x12 in. $300
Storming the Gates - Ink on bristol, 11x14 in. $900
Beatrix Potter - Ink, coloured pencil, tipex on found object, 9x12 in. $300

This is the time for artists to create a space for each other, outside of a digital umbrella. We're trendsetters, we're hard workers, and I think we're generally very interesting people. I suspect that if we build that community and space physically for each other, it'll inspire others to follow. Or maybe I'm just being idealistic and people really don't have the will to challenge the status quo. I think we're at an interesting social turning point and we have yet to see where it goes. I'm gonna stick around for the ride and if art becomes disliked, for whatever reason, I'll keep drawing out of spite.


This interview was published by Circle Foundation of the Arts. © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist

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