Meet the designer who created the campaign artwork for the 2019 Milwaukee Film Festival: Whitney Salgado! We recently spoke to Whitney about her art, her creative inspirations, and her favorite films. Read on...
Tell us a bit about yourself! Where did you grow up? How did you get involved in the arts? Where did you go to school?
Hello! My name is Whitney Salgado and I’m a freelance artist based in Milwaukee. Outside of the 10 years I've lived in Milwaukee, I've spent most of my life just north of Madison, WI. I was always doodling in school but never really took art seriously until I was about 15 and thinking about careers. I made sure to take as many art classes as I could and, if I had time to kill, I was always in our art room. At some point, I remember hearing about the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) and just knew that’s where I was going to study. Without MIAD, I wouldn’t be the artist I am today. I learned a lot there, and developed my sense of style.
Your illustrations toe this wonderful line, taking realistic portraiture and placing it in a surrealistic context. What medium(s) do you work with (or prefer to work with), and what is your process usually like when approaching your pieces?
Thank you so much! I consider myself mainly a digital painter, so I work with programs like Photoshop and paint on my Cintiq. It’s essentially a giant tablet connected to my computer that has pressure sensitivity to simulate painting. Before I discovered the magic of tablets, I worked mainly with colored pencils or acrylics. With the way I work, I'm constantly changing sections of my pieces or redoing areas, so working digitally has really helped me work faster and waste less paint. It’s really the only medium that felt natural for me to work in.
Once I see an image in my head and before the sketch phase, I always, always, always create a moodboard. Whether it is a folder on my desktop or a collection on Pinterest, I always have a group of images to reference when I get lost during a project. It’s important to me to find pieces that inspire me and have a similar feel to what you’re trying to accomplish. Then, I sketch out the piece a few times and always work on faces or eyes first. I’ll spend a long time playing with colors and keep working on it and experimenting until it feels right. When I work on a piece, I try to complete it within a few days so the idea is still fresh. My favorite feeling is when you leave a piece alone for a few days and come back to it with ideas or a better direction.
Did your process differ at all while working on the #MFF2019 campaign? Could you talk about your experience working on this campaign?
This project was a little different because it came with a tough prompt: “Between the Lines,” which is very vague. I had a hard time figuring out how to visualize that and put it into a 2D form. It was fun to explore some concepts, and I wanted to create something where you didn’t see the whole picture right away. I think in the end we made something special that kind of forces you to really look it at to absorb everything.
Who/what are some of your sources of inspiration, either within or outside the realm of visual arts?
It’s hard to say because there are so many! I do spend an absurd amount of time browsing Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration. That’s something I try to do daily because I think it’s really important to feed your brain images to keep you inspired. Artists that I’ve always followed and admired are James Jean, Sachin Teng, Loish, Bao Pham, and Erik Jones to name a few. Music is always an inspiration too! EDM, Lo-Fi, Synth-pop, and shoegaze fuel my creativity. I particularly enjoy music that has a strong beat or is kind of trance-like because I find that it helps me focus on painting.
(Sunshower by James Jean)
What is it like to be a Milwaukee-based creative? What makes this community unique?
When I moved here I didn’t know art would be so prominent in the city. I mean, you have sculptures all around the Third Ward, murals popping up all over the city, Gallery night, ect. A big part of Milwaukee is art and I’ve really enjoyed blossoming as a creative here. I've made posters and art for different events around Milwaukee and it just feels like a tight-knit community.
Where do you see your work going in the future? Do you have any dream projects you’d like to work on?
I would really like to play with 3D rendering programs to create more surreal GIFs and videos. Thinking in 3D is different than 2D and think it would be a fun exercise to learn something new. Another project I’ve always wanted to do is paint a large mural. It would be fantastic to leave a lasting mark on Milwaukee, have something that’s always on display, and give back to the community.
Do you have any other hobbies that you enjoy? Is there anything you've always wanted to get into but haven't yet (art-wise or just in life)?
Aside from painting, I try to travel and hike whenever I have free time. One of my goals is to visit as many national parks and state parks as I can. Everytime I go to a new city I always look for places to hike or walk around looking at murals. I grew up in a country town that was surrounded by cornfields and a lot of trees. I’ve always felt close to nature because of that and have the need to get off the grid every now and then. There’s something about being outside that relieves so much stress.
How do you feel film has had an impact on you as a person and as a creative? What is your favorite movie and why?
Film has helped me realize that the best stories are usually the stranger ones, it’s a fun experience to drive into strange worlds. It’s hard to pick just a few, but a few movies that have stuck with me are:
The Cell, Spirited Away, The Matrix, and The Fall for their ability to take you away into a fantasy world. They’re visually stunning movies that captivate you with their story and hold onto you scene by scene.
(500) Days of Summer, Kill Bill, and Hot Fuzz because I enjoy how they are filmed. Each is clever in its own way and has a strong style.
Where can people find you/your work? Website, social media, etc...
My website is whitneysalgado.com that leads to all of my social media. If you are interested in following my work I suggest Instagram, only because I update that one the most!