Social media, especially Instagram, seems to be a breeding ground for fabulous new artists, who usually work doing fanart of established franchises, giving them a new spin and even creating original characters that live in these familiar worlds. However, every now and then, real fascinating artists take the platform by surprise, introducing us to new concepts and aesthetical veins that defy our definitions of traditional art.
One of these creators is Sarah Pérez, a Costa Rican artist who specializes in illustrations and comics that feature original stories set in her own world, with an aesthetic that plays with gore and erotism. Her art is sparked with subliminal messages dealing with depression, anxiety and trauma. The 18-year-old prodigy has a gathering of over 36 thousand followers on Instagram and Twitter, being one of the most popular artists on said platforms.
Sarah’s line art is very similar to Jamie Hewlett’s (creator of the virtual band Gorillaz and the comic Tank Girl), with thin figures that are always represented in uncomfortable and somewhat inhuman poses. Her characters are almost always presenting injuries, mostly self-inflicted, and their expressions switch from sexual arousal to complete horror. She is closer to a classical fine arts creator rather than a comic penciller, however she imprints her unique perspective in the comics she often posts on her social media platforms.
Warm colors like red and yellow are almost omnipresent in her work, but she is no stranger to experimenting with the whole spectrum, even incorporating photography and applying vintage editions to her work to create the impression that we are watching a still image taken from an old film. I would dare to say she is one of the finest colorists around, working both in digital and traditional mediums and bringing a marvelous array of combinations to her pieces. I had the pleasure to work with her on an illustration for my upcoming comic, Andy Starboy, and it has become one of my favorite renditions of the character (and one of the most popular among its followers).
I was able to get a hold of Sarah Pérez to discuss influences, her art style, social media interaction and future projects.
1- Where do you come from and how did that influence you as an artist?
I come from Costa Rica, a fairly small and quiet country. It was really my father, a writer and musician, who always loved to express his feelings through what he does. He really influenced me to become an artist. So, I was motivated in everything and got interested in art because of him since my childhood. It could be said that what made me become an artist was the way I was educated at home, but not so much because of the environment outside my family.
2- What are some of your main influences?
One of my biggest influences in art were Pixar movies, cartoons, and manga. I have always liked to capture intense and even exaggerated emotions in my work. The artists that have influenced me the most are Michelangelo, Salvador Dalí, Jamie Hewlett, Sui Ishida and Junji Ito. I really admire their work.
3- Your pieces are usually full of symbolism, sometimes going into deep themes of depression and even self-harm. What is your objective with these messages?
I only draw what I feel. I like to show a crude reality to the viewer, forcing him to think about what the injuries and damage could mean, disguised as a fictional character trying to tell him something. I like to give the feeling that the characters actually have bodies, that they have blood and that they can feel pain.
4- I heard you like drawing hands. I figure most of the art community will hate you for that…
Hands are very bizarre when you think about it. Sometimes I even feel they have a life of their own! Drawing hands in a boring pose will take away the viewer's interest in the piece even faster. I know that many artists don’t like to draw hands, but to be honest I love to draw them! I feel that they are a very interesting and expressive part of the body.
5- Could you tell us a little more about your Original Characters?
My original characters represent a part of my personality. some of them represent my insecurities and fears. I like to give them the effect of metamorphosis during their lives, referencing something that happened in my life that changed it forever and turned me into a different person.
I have many characters, but I will mention the ones I draw the most: P17 and Adam are the main characters of my comic "The Priest". They are the characters with the strongest and most complex emotions that I have created. Adam is very strong-willed and perseveres in everything that he sets his mind into, but he is very dependent on another subject. Meanwhile, P17 is the representation of everything opposite to Adam: Anarchist, independent and he doesn’t care if he hurts others to get what he wants. But you know what they say, opposites attract each other.
Then my other OCs are Edward, William, Heydrich, the Daughter of the Stars and my persona. My persona is a kind of representation of me, even if we have differences of course. You can discover more about my other OCs in my comics posted on my Instagram account.
6- You have had major success on Instagram, with over 36K followers. However, I see that you have been censored in the platform several times. What are some of your thoughts about the content controls in social media, and do you think they affect the art community?
I understand that they want to censor violent or pornographic content from a platform where even minors have an account, but I feel that art would not fall into that category where it can be “banned” or “censored”. Art is an expression of the spirit and it should never be censored. Censorship does affect the artist community. They make you modify the way of making art so it fits what they like to see, and I feel that it can be somewhat enslaving. Many artists get frustrated by this and I see it as quite unfair. I have seen that Instagram even shows favoritism with certain accounts while it censors others easily.
7- You have experimented with comics. Are you planning to continue this creative route, and what can we expect from you as an artist in that respect?
I love creating comics, I feel it is a beautiful aesthetic way to tell any kind of story. I will always continue making comics, sometimes I will take breaks to practice other techniques and study other artistic subjects. I have always liked to progress in everything I do. To say what you can expect from me, well ... I don't know! I get to surprise myself sometimes, but you can always expect new art from me.
8- So, what’s next for Sarah Pérez?
What’s next? Well, even I would like to know (laughs). Life is very unpredictable and indomitable. I don't really know yet. My lifelong plans will still stand. Learning how to animate so I can tell more stories through art, illustrate more comics and reach a fairly high level in drawing. I'm just saying that you need to make the most out of life, you never know when everything will no longer be there for you.
You can follow Sarah Pérez at her Instagram account @sarahp_draws and support her work on www.redbubble.com/es/people/sarahartist16.
Daniel D. Calvo is a Cuban writer, editor, translator and comics journalist currently based in Pennsylvania, USA. He is a published author in both English and Spanish, having his work appear in anthologies, magazines and literary websites. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Konkret Comics, working on titles such as “Akolyte”, “Ab