Bringing Fairytales to Life: The Art of Zelyss

Pop surrealism inspired by incredible Japanese dolls and fairytales, romanticized and made serene on the canvas. Take a deep breath and fall into their enormous welcoming souls. Bringing big eyes into the millennium, Zelyss‘ boutique doll-like creations are both endearing and engaging. Don’t be fooled by the girls with the sad faces, she is a genuinely happy person that likes to depict a more serious character while bringing to life an air of melancholy that allows the viewer to build stories around their expressions. Zelyss conveys something in her work that most people can relate to, as life sometimes tips the scales in that direction and she has chosen to focus more on these strong emotions in her larger pieces.

Zelyss also does an incredible job placing these girls in their surroundings, the story appearing layered by paint in the background. You might need to check out her beautiful cameos too, you can wear a piece of art with you! She is talented in working and painting on a small scale, not an easy task for any artist!

I was excited to interview Zelyss and get some insight into the creation of her engaging girls. Keep an eye out for her first solo show  ‘Red Thread Tied’ focusing around our favourite children’s fairytales that we all grew up reading.

Exhibition Dates:

July 11 -20, 2017

I recently saw some images of your studio, which is amazing! Does the space you create in, affect your work?

I have an incredible studio now, but I’ve been through the stages like everyone. There was a time when all I had was a drawer with a few paints and a desk that wasn’t even mine, and I still worked with just as much enthusiasm. The studio makes it all easier of course, and it’s necessary when you start working professionally, but for a beginner I think the most important thing is to have a surface where to be able to leave materials exposed and waiting, in a ready and inviting way.

Can you tell us where your fascination with big eye art began and has there always been a love of Blythe dolls?

My fascination with big eye art actually began over an instructive art book, which taught a process of sketching big-eyed doll faces on paper and then applying them on a wood board to decorate and create a painting. As I was testing this technique and while searching for inspiration, I came across Blythe dolls for the first time. They were something completely new to me up until then. I instantly fell in love with their innocence, their soft melancholy and the unique world that can be created around each one of them. Without intending to, I guess they have affected my work in more ways than I can describe. I was smitten.

What do you think makes your work unique and truly your own?

I think my most unique characteristic is that I don’t strictly stay true to one unique and repetitive style of work. I find using several mediums and sizes fascinating and intriguing. It can be quite challenging and even frustrating at times, because whatever step you accomplish in art, there’s always more to conquer, and leaving a process in order to try something else can possibly stall your progress. But I find this challenge vital. As a person, I tend to get easily bored and I don’t like fitting in forms, so doing the same kind of art for a long period seems unbearable to me. I stick true to my themes but I interchange between materials constantly, and joggling among sizes and surfaces makes me feel like a little child.

And then there’s the more crafty side of art: like making jewellery which showcases my work, or customizing frames in order to complete a piece and offer it as an entity to the viewer. This stage completely fascinates me. It’s like the cherry on top of the cake!

What do you believe is the key element in creating a truly beautiful piece of work that best expresses who you are?

I’d say a combination between skills and confidence. The one without the other is not enough to make a statement in art. And both need hard work to achieve and conquer. I don’t follow particular rules and I’m learning something new every day. But whatever the stage of progress in which an artist is at a particular moment, I believe it’s important to create what they truly want, let themselves get lost in what they’re making and flow a piece of them in it. The rest comes along.

Your girls are always beautifully serene and melancholic. When you paint these lovelies, what is your aim for the viewer’s experience?

Thinking about it, I find myself creating two types of girls: those that do have a sad story to tell and others who just exist in a space, often without knowing why. Basically for girls with sad stories I choose the oil painting on canvas. In those paintings, I strongly wish to convey emotions like melancholy, loneliness and I focus very much on working on the expression of the girl, who always looks at the viewer with a sad question in her eyes. I think those paintings are an allegory of life and the perspective is in fact some kind of pessimism regarding our surroundings. The world is a happy place for some but not for most. And life is more often than not, difficult. I don’t like cruelty in art though, I conceive it as repulsive, and I don’t like my work to distress the viewer. My aim when I paint is to create a contradiction between a beautiful image and a heavier hidden message.

But there’s also the lighter side of me, and that comes across my smaller paintings made on wood, which usually depict girls in a bit fancier style and with lighter stories. I somehow need to balance between the two kinds to feel complete. Again these too are quite sad though, or at least serious. I find myself unwilling to paint happiness, and the most typical question I was asked when first introducing my art to the world was ‘why so sad?’. I always answered that I’m indeed a very smiling and happy person, which, strangely enough, is true!

I know you are passionate about various types of mediums and mini art that you use in your cameos! Can you tell us a little about your favourite medium, and what it is about working on a small scale that you love?

Ah, my paintings vary between scales of 1 inch and 60 inches! I paint with several mediums, my most favourite of all being acrylics and oils. I feel more comfortable painting in ‘big size’ but I love so much combining the painting with an ornate frame and those exist widely in a smaller range. So the challenge of painting smaller and smaller originated from there.

Cameos remind me of the doll making technique, in the way that they both combine art and craft. It is absolutely fascinating to make something out of several individual materials that you have to unite into a pleasing outcome. Cameos are lovely with their many colors, and fast to make, but I have to say that the resin finish is a nightmare process! Dolls on the other side are a 3D creation, which combines so many stages and techniques, and I love how it is possible to bring something to life out of almost nothing. I haven’t made an art doll in years and I’m really excited to be making one at the moment.

What is on the horizon for you this year?

This year is proving to be extra special for me as I’m having my first solo show. It will be in Mykonos, Greece, this July 11-20th. Mykonos is the most touristy island of Greece and the galleries there mostly focus on local visitors and not so much on web promotion, but the show is having an online presence through the website www.redthreadtied.com

The show is built around a series of the most popular fairytales, and me and my girls will be there to welcome everyone!


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