About the artist

A self-portrait of artist, Anca Balaj

This week we meet Spanish artist, Anca Balaj. Anca creates conceptual storytelling images straight from her imagination. She defines herself as a mobile digital artist, as she prefers to use only mobile devices for her work. Anca’s artwork is instantly recognisable: she loves to use a mix of digital collage and digital painting, and she particularly likes to work with old photographs, which she sources from online resources such as Flickr, where it has the massive Library of Congress archives. Her work combines photos with hand-painted elements, creating surreal worlds with her unique style of illustration.

How did you first get into digital art?

I tried to create digital art many years ago, using a computer, but I didn’t like it; I found it difficult, due to the distance between the hand and the screen. Everything changed when the first iPad was released; I fell in love with it and bought one as soon as I could! That’s how I got into digital art.

Why did you choose digital art as your medium?

Haha, because of my cats, who know how to open drawers! They used to eat my paint tubes, and almost every morning I would find them with perfect cyan coloured fur! With digital art, I no longer have to bath the cats every day!

From a creative point of view, I like digital art for all the possibilities it offers, by eliminating the fear of experimenting and for being able to create multiple versions of the same work. I also like to be able to carry my entire studio in a bag and know that I will never run out of colour or paper.

Tell us about the process you use to make your art.

I always start with my imagination, defining the concepts I want to represent and the elements I am going to use, then I begin to mentally form the picture. In the second stage, I do an extensive search of reference images, and then I start to compose the image. This last stage always follows the same steps: crop the source photos, paint the missing elements, add and create the background, and finally make adjustments of lights and shadows, colour and textures.

What artistic styles are you particularly drawn to?

I like a lot of styles, I don’t think there are really any that I don’t like, but when I do my work, I usually set limits to give a certain coherence to the pieces, especially if they are part of the same project. But I wouldn’t know how to define my style.

What inspires you?

I am particularly inspired by old photographs, especially finding images of people with unique expressions or postures; it always makes me wonder why they posed for the photo in this way. I have an extensive collection of this type of photograph, and when I look for inspiration, I always go to it.

What is your artistic motivation?

I’ve always had a passion for storytelling, it’s my way of making the world around me more understandable. I started telling stories through words, and now I tell them through images.

Of all your images to date, which is your favourite and why?

I think my favourite is ‘Belonging’ (above) because it was something I needed to say, but I was frustrated as I could only think of stereotypes to translate it into an image. One day another way of conveying it was revealed to me, and I knew that was how I should make the image!

Which three words or phrases would you use to describe your work?

Conceptual, whimsical, creative.

What memorable responses to your artwork have you had?

Everything that is happening around my artwork, including this interview in Twisting Pixels, is exciting and surprising to me. I didn’t expect such good feedback!

Name three artists who inspire you.

Henri Matisse, Toulouse Lautrec, Gabriel Pacheco

How do you think you’ve improved as an artist compared to when you first started?

Oh, there’s no point of comparison! When I began, my work was heavily improvised; I didn’t know where I was going with it, and the work I was making were just lucky accidents, only in the very end would I discover what the image was about. Now the technique is simply the method to set down the idea — which is the essential part of the artwork — first I think of the concept, and then I work out how I am going to use the technique to create the imagined result.

What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started making art?

Believe in yourself!

What devices/equipment do you use to create your art?

I use an iPad Pro 10.5 and Apple Pencil. I don’t need anything else.

Which apps/programs do you use to create your art and which are your favourites?

I used a lot of them in the past, but at the moment the list is short: Procreate, iColorama and Werble for a touch of animation. The first two are my favourites.

Do you use images from stock sites as well as your own photos and if so, which are your favourites and why?

My favourite source of images is Flickr because it has a vast amount of old photographs.

And finally, do you find that people dismiss digital art as a valid art form?

Yes, I think so. With that said, as soon as people get a little deeper into the digital art world and find out that it’s not as easy as it seems, they start to value it more.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and ideas with us, Anca!

Where to find Anca’s work online


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