A digital artist who channels her adoration of retro-style cartoons into her illustrative comics and character designs. She constructs her character based on a storyboard. Providing center stage to her Mexican/ Salvadoran heritage through her character designs.
Vanessa Flores is a character designer, storyboard artist, cartoonist, and illustrator of comics who particularly adulates retro-style cartoons. She has studied at the Art Institute of California and resides in the heart of Los Angeles.
She adores creating characters, and developing and designing them, whether it be for others, or herself. Be it collaborating with others and tossing ideas back and forth and having fun with it. Even though she is a bit quiet, with artistic people, her charisma and enthusiasm for her work come across in her artistic thumbprint. Her preferred choice is a simple pen and paper as she can easily create what she imagines.
How did you develop your unique sense of style of drawing retro-style cartoons?
Vanessa Flores: I’ve just always loved cartoons with a retro flare: My Life as a Teenage Robot, Powerpuff Girls, Kim Possible. I might have not been solely inspired by them. But as I grew up, I’ve grown to appreciate them a whole lot more as my style gradually became what it is now. I also owe it to my mentor Stephen Silver for sorta bringing forth the retro “awakening” so to speak to my work. As you can see the drastic change in style after I took his mentorship classes and highly recommend it.
What brings your characters to life? And how important is the story behind them?
Vanessa Flores: Incorporating a bit of myself into them makes my characters come to life, Mostly, when I make characters of Latino descent as well. You don’t see many Mexican/Salvadoran girl characters, so why not make one myself? And that’s how my character Fawn Vela came about. I’ve had an extensive history with my family, a lot of it just Latino family dynamics, and some of it just in-jokes just my family and I share.
I just enjoy sharing those aspects and making the effort to teach folks about what sets us apart from others, which is our rich culture. I admit I’m not a huge expert on Salvadoran culture, but I do know some of it from my dad, and what I know, the good (slang, food, culture, folklore, significant differences from other Latin countries), and the bad (the war in the 80s my dad fled from) it just so interesting, why wouldn’t I want to share it? Just bringing out the Latino cultural aspects in my work makes it truly special.
While sketching a character, where do you draw inspiration from your comics (Smol Frijol)?
Vanessa Flores: I need to get back to that small comic, but I primarily based those comics on real-life situations that just seem funny enough for a comic. Most moments were retail-related, which I’m sure most of us have had experience in.
What does your typical everyday drawing routine look like?
Vanessa Flores: Well, if I’m not having an art block, usually just draw what comes to my mind. Whatever I think looks cool and appealing and draws out a so-called first draft. Maybe it needs more added on, maybe it’s too much and needs to be toned down a bit. That’s usually how it goes.
Some characters I’ve designed sometimes have a quick design process in which I didn’t have to make any alterations to finally be satisfied with a design as my “Serval ” character was pretty easy to tackle. The character first had short legs until I realized servals are very leggy. Once the change was made she was pretty much finished.
Even though some artists take years to have a “finalized” design as I do too as the character of “Jazzie”, my mind is not fully “final” yet. But I tend to interpret an existing character in my style, which is fun to see to test the limits of my style.
Which character that you have designed is your favorite? And why?
Vanessa Flores: I have to say, it’s James “Monochrome” Castle, the silver fox, who is based on my husband. It’s not because of obvious reasons, trust me. But in designing him, I knew after a while, I wanted to design him in my favorite dorky male character design. With a lanky, big nose/snout, and big cartoony expressive eyes.
Let me clarify, when I was younger, like in my junior high days, the way I used to practice drawing was by watching my favorite animated movies and just mashing the heck out of the pause button. I know what expressions I like because I know that if I went too far to miss them, I have to rewind and pause through every frame to get the *right one*.
And one of my favorite movies to do this was The BraveLittle Toaster. Primarily to draw Lampy, because, for whatever reason, I always had a crush on Lampy. But it wasn’t always Lampy. Other male characters I’ve adored designs of were pretty similar: Punkin, that yo-yo-wielding flamingo from Fantasia 2000, Mushu of Mulan, Rayman (even though I’ve never played a single game of that character haha), and a small handful of others but I’m sure you get the pattern of thought here. I just love these designs, and that’s what makes drawing Mono so fun for me.
In your opinion, which is the best medium to develop a character according to the storyboard?
Vanessa Flores: Pencil and paper definitely as it I feel freer that way, for some odd reason.
How do you integrate new forms of software, tools, and methods of animation into your work and what is their influence on your creations?
Vanessa Flores: Just try toying with things and seeing what happens. Mainly finding simple tutorials aids my artistic process. I remember my early days of digital drawing and I could not get the hang of shading digitally for the life of me. And then I found out about clipping masks with multiple features and I’ve never used any other shading method since.
What is your preference between creating your characters on pen/pencil and paper vs digital?
Vanessa Flores: Pencil and paper feel like I can churn out whatever and it feels more organic. With digital, I feel like one-time sketches would be an easily forgotten files, or I feel like I have to commit to the sketch, and sometimes it feels wonky to me. I dunno, some days I feel comfortable sketching on a canvas, but sketching on paper just always feels right no matter what. Also, it’s fun to use my Ohuhu markers on them too to practice my marker coloring. In short, it feels like being a kid again, and who doesn’t like that?