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An Interview with Cyberella

cyberella avatar
Myrto Simic (@cyberella) is a UX and UI designer, illustrator and a painter in her spare time. She is from Greece. And she makes monsters.

Interviewer Alexi Ueltzen (@alexi) is Ello’s Community Evangelist. If she’s not at the office, she’s probably swimming, getting muddy with her dogs or baking cookies. Seriously. The best cookies.
monsters at a gallery

Alexi: How did you get interested in digital art and making crazy monsters?
It all started when in the early years of Greece’s economic crisis, a bunch of friends formed a mobile apps development and design collective called “Tarentola.” We designed mainly educational games for children but it seemed that adults also loved playing our games. At the time I was designing a bunch of minimalistic 3D Takashi Murakami-like birds for a mobile game called “Make 24” and you know what happens when you start creating, right? You cannot stop. So I used those birdies along with other animals to create a series of illustrations where they interact in a 3D world, much like humans do. It all ended in a published form of a free illustrated e-book. So I started experimenting further with 3D modelling in order to create a comic series involving creatures's stories. Those creatures turned out to be bunny-like and octopus-like cute, chubby monsters.

woman walking naked through the desert
Alexi: Your monsters are often part of a very normal street scene or activity. How do you decide the setting for each piece?
First of all, the general concept was to place a creature in photos I took during my visits to friends and family abroad. The notion behind this was that those monsters are trying to rule the world. They are everywhere, in Paris, Britain, Greece, etc., but they fail miserably because they became quiet cozy with this world. So they visit museums even though they look creepy and eerie, they enjoy long walks and going on summer vacations - much like humans do - whilst sometimes their world integrates rather than merges with our own. The content of the photo lead to the story behind the illustration. Nowadays I simply take an urban or landscape photo just because I know that a great story with monsters will spring from this image.
monster invasion

Alexi: Along with making wonderful 3D creatures, you work on web and mobile design (and wallpapers, and fonts, and…) Do you plan to stick with digital art or are there other mediums you want to try?
Let’s face it, digital art is ephemeral. It involves all an artist’s virtues like creativity and inspiration, but it doesn’t display the artist’s soul because the medium gives infallible and almost realistic results. A computer software, from a photo manipulation to a 3D program, cannot bring a soul to a plastic/3D-ish object or character. The soul is defined by the flaws and accidents of human interaction with the acrylics or temperas, the canvas or the marble. Analogue art, like painting, sculpting, et cetera, bring that “fire” forward and that is possibly the reason why those arts are timeless. I used to paint with egg-temperas and aquarelles right after I graduated from art college here in Athens - which was like 20 years ago - and in the last couple of months I started painting again, learning more techniques. I became a student again and it almost feels that I will probably be a "student" all my life.

Alexi: What inspires you, or where do you go for inspiration?
There are so many creators that inspire me. From Takashi Murakami, to Mr. Kat, to Aaron Martinez, to Teodoru Badiu, to ChocoToy and Juan Carlos Paz. But I reckon the source of inspiration is not from browsing some web galleries but actually everyday life. From visiting museums and galleries, to a walk in the park, from a bicycle ride with my husband, to an unexpected afternoon near the sea watching the sunrise. Very simple and everyday moments can inspire unique stories.

hairy monsters
Alexi: What are your favorite design tools or software to work with?
I use mainly 3D programs like Vue and C4D to model, render and create ecosystems. I also use photo manipulation software like Photoshop to give the illusion of realism in the photo frame and integrate the digital creature in it.

Alexi: Do you have a favorite piece?
Yeap, it is an old illustration I made during anti-austerity manifestations in Athens in which I participated as a citizen-journo activist. Those days were very intense in the centre of the city, riot police was everywhere, police brutality also everywhere in every march, even in the peaceful ones. I was taking a photo of the riot police squad from behind while walking towards Propylaea into an area where later on clashes occurred. And there was the perfect space to add a monster to depict the panic attack that hits you right after you inhale teargas. This illustration is really not a reminder of those times of continuous manifestations, it depicts my inner feelings during that season of non-ending teargassing and relentless unreasonable police violence.
monster running in panic
Alexi: What are your thoughts on social media, and how it helps or hurts artists today? Specifically, can you share some thoughts on Ello?
Social media I suppose, are multi-tools much like a Swiss army knife. They can either be a medium to promote your work, or a microblogging platform, or a cyber activism social tool, a way to exchange and share ideas publicly, and most definitely a way to spread the news seconds after the events. But - of course there is a “but” - it is the people that give character to the medium. So if - in my honest opinion - a creator thinks that Twitter, or Facebook sucks, it is probably not the tool’s fault, but how people use it. It is like 2001 Space Odyssey, where HAL is going bonkers, while it is not HAL’s fault. It is the human’s fault. HAL is a tool, that's programmed to perform a job, but humans never tested HAL in space, never saw how an AI entity will perform in space - and you know the rest of the story. As an artist I reckon that social media can become a window of inspiration. Artists usually interpret emotions, stronger and differently from the rest of the world, so if the refugee crisis that’s happening in Greece, or David Bowie’s death, or even Donald Trump’s absurd rising, from political, to social, to everyday life inspire you to create, social media are pretty fine tools to get to that source of inspiration.

Alexi: What’s something about you that would surprise our readers?
Well, I am still unemployed for more than 8 months now. Do you know many unemployed with more than 18 years experience, one BA and two MA degrees? Well, here in Greece lots of us are like that, labeled as “over qualified” because companies prefer to hire a junior designer and pay him/her 400€ per month - sometimes less - to getting a senior designer who’s much more expensive. I also went - like many friends and acquaintances - into a depressed stage. Thankfully that didn’t last long and currently I am living for the moment because, seriously guys, there is no second life. This is it!

Follow Myrto on Ello, Twitter, Tumblr, Dribbble and her Monsters website
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