Elsa Cáceres: Emotions through illustrations

This Dominican illustrator, painter and architect shows us a collection of emotions and feelings through a graphic diary of her emotional health during the quarantine period.

Written by Federica Ciotola – teacher, architect and interior designer –

1. How would you describe your illustrations? Tell us in three adjectives. 

Honest, outgoing, realistic

2.  What are the elements that make an illustration effective?

From my point of view, the main elements to take into account in an illustration are the conceptual background whose narrative must be attractive to be represented graphically, only then the selection of graphic elements and the graphic line appear (symbols, gestures, figurations). Elements that make up a good illustration must be selected to allow for textual language. It depends on what the artist wants to convey, there is no closed element. The illustrations must communicate and should provoke reactions. If the illustration does not elicit the reaction that the creator wants, then the illustration does not have the elements indicated for its graphic representation, therefore,  it will not be effective.

3. In how many steps would you summarize your creative process?

 I would say that my creative process is divided into 5 parts:

 First of all, finding a purpose, whether given by a client or by myself, having the need to create something serves as a source of inspiration. This purpose leads me to the second element, research. Sometimes the need arises from exploration, which is interesting from both points of view.

Then comes the process of sketching. I think that sketches always have an added value because you can plan all the ideas that arise in your groundwork. Lastly the execution of the final project.

In case of some illustrations, a final step emerges in the creative process, which is the process of projecting the work in social media. For me, listening to the comments of the people has become an important part because it enriches me and helps me  go deeper, and that leads me to come up with new ideas and therefore make more creations.

 4. What is the illustration that you haven’t done yet and would like to work on?

 I have always wanted to explore the publishing world. As an illustrator, I would love to be able to illustrate other people’s stories in a book.

5. In some illustrations it appears the use of 3 colors: white, black and red. Can you explain the purpose of this choice? 

I have always felt a fascination of how a blank sheet can become a story with multiple readings. That is why in this series, I try to preserve the essence of the beginning. It’s as if you could understand how the black chinographer moves on white paper and I can begin to tell you the story. In terms of the color red, it is a color that I have used a lot in my personal work, both as an artist and as an illustrator. For me, red represents a color of change or high impact, the catharsis Series specially represents the most vulnerable moments of my life as a human being, therefore red is ideal to express the impact in the scenes.

6. The choice of your subjects is mainly female. They are subjects dropped into the everyday and imperfect. Can you explain why? 

The quarantine project is an autobiographical journal that seeks to talk about my catharsis during the first 40 days of confinement by COVID -19. This is why the main subject is a woman. In this case, me being in different phases, understanding my present stories and creating narratives that allow us to alleviate the stress of the situation we are currently experiencing.

From the beginning of my process of becoming an artist, I understood that in order to understand others, one must begin to understand oneself and value the imperfections that we have as human beings. The beauty of the process of documenting my actions and thoughts as a graphic and textual journal is to be able to stop on the 40th day and look back and think about how much I have grown as a human during those days.

7. What is the master of the reference and in what they influenced the your poetic and the style? 

In the case of this project, I decided to start from my own references given the nature of it. My main reference was a project that I developed 5 years ago called “TODAY I “. The project had 21 illustrations that narrated each year of my life, I was 21 then. If I could cite an aesthetic reference, I would say that I have studied Van Gogh’s drawings a lot, the poetic behind his lines and the beauty of his reports inspire me greatly, to the point of integrating some textures of his drawings in the work “Celebration”  on Day 16.

8. Art and culture are finding many obstacles of expression in these years of economic crisis.  How did you make your way in this field?

Apart from being an artist, I am an architect and a teacher, which has allowed me to develop my art without having the pressure that I must sell it to live. I think that this has helped me to project my work without having a concern for the obstacles that we currently present, however, it is true that the sale of art has not been the same as always, but I see this as an opportunity to worry more about making projects that fill the soul and leave traces apart from just for commercial matters. My work is something I always do for myself. If a piece is sold,  it means that the artwork is meaningful and that the client who acquires it loves it as much as I do.

I think that nowadays people are more aware of the importance of art in their lives, either to produce it or to consume it. Human beings need to have art in their daily lives, that is why despite the obstacles of the economic crisis today, for the artist it is an excellent time to continue making art.

9. What are the aspects of this profession that you could never give up?

PRACTICE, the artist who isn’t constantly practicing and producing art is dead. Discipline is also vital for art if you want to do quality work.

10. Does your art serves as a way to go through difficult times? Why?

I could say that it does. I did this series to be able to calm my mind and channel the confinement. I wasn’t expecting to connect with so many beautiful people who wrote to me saying that they expected to see the illustration of the day, or that they were feeling the same as me that day and that the illustration brought them a smile. That filled me a lot as an artist. I am grateful for that, and without realizing it, my profile became a place of relaxation for some people, transforming the catharsis into healing.

Edited by Denisse Guzman

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