Christina Oliva: An Interview

Christina's beautiful illustrations promote strong females in culture. She's been drawing since she was little. Here's a little bit more about her and her style. 


Who are you and what do you do?

I'm Christina Oliva, a freelance illustrator living in Southern California.  

Self Portrait, 2016 Christina Oliva


What inspired you to be an artist?

My mother is a painter. She made it okay for us to make art at a young age, so I grew up drawing and painting in my spare time. It was a way to make new friends, communicate ideas, and explore exciting worlds. I always did some form of art whether it was dancing, acting, singing. I had originally gone to Parson's for fashion design. Then realized I was always painting to make myself happy. So then I thought to myself, 'why not do what makes you happy for a living'?


Where do you find inspiration?

I'm one of those people, we all know that one, who does research for fun. I find inspiration everywhere. I once spent a whole day studying mushrooms and their scientific names so I could add them to a painting. I love reading and costuming, and film, and makeup as well, so there is never really a lack of inspiration, only a lack of time, to get it all out there. Once I stopped policing the kind of art I was "allowed to make". Then making art came easily. Now it's daily life and chores that I have to motivate myself to do because they get in the way of art.


What's your process like in creating art?

I try to run with the ideas I get. These ideas usually have simple beginnings. I'll think something is beautiful or unique and then I push that idea even further. I do thumbnails and sketches to find a composition that communicates the feeling or idea of the piece the best. If I'm working traditionally I transfer the sketch to my canvas, if it’s digital I photograph the sketch and upload it to work with. One of the key features of my style I've noticed is my use of outline.  I love outlines even on my traditional works. I'm very much about my artwork that looks like it’s been made by hand. While I love other people who do photorealistic work, I've never enjoyed that process. I think that the key to finding your "style" is: which process makes you the happiest? That's the way you should always work. I try to make sure that I enjoy painting the piece not just the final product. This changes from medium to medium, of course. I treat oil paint, pencil, and digital differently when I'm working with them, but because I work in a way that makes me happy all of my pieces seems to belong together.


What does your sketchbook look like?

My sketchbook varies from completely unrecognizable pages of ideas to finalized sketches. I try to keep my sketchbook as a place to get down as many ideas as possible. I keep one with me at all times, a small one in my purse or pocket and my larger ones when I travel or work. I also write a lot in my sketchbooks. I'm a writer as well and I think it’s important to be able to explain my art in words as well as visually. This helps me with clients, picking out the best options, or getting down a lot of ideas in a small amount of time. I find my sketchbooks are more like instruction manuals for making art, with notes, ideas and visuals that are all important in creating the final piece.


What's your favorite medium to work in?

Buddha and Monkey, 2014 Christina Oliva

I would never be able to pick. Same thing with colors, you need them all so you can work in any situation. I love sketching in pencil and digitally, but the message or feeling of a project dictates the medium. I'm currently working on a comic, "Conscience" by James Crowder, and because it is a futuristic science fiction, adventure story, it makes sense to work digitally so I can make the art quickly, but it also fits the feel of the story. When doing dramatic portraits I like oil on canvas and if I want something unique and graphic I use dry watercolor techniques on wood. Once you learn to use all the mediums, you can pick and choose which ones that lend themselves to the project.


What does your workspace look like?

I'm very tidy. A professor once walked by my work station and asked if I was an illustration major. I said yes and asked how she knew. She explained that her illustration students were usually very organized - I had my pencils all sharpened and set out by softness with erasers on one side and my blenders on the other - while her fine art students were messier. This makes a lot of sense because I'm not usually working on a piece by piece basis for months at a time; I work on several pieces that all have deadlines and contracts, so I have to have all my equipment sorted so I can get to it easily and start working.



Fun Questions

If you could have any superpowers what would you have?

Teleportation! I would also love to fly, but teleporting was always very appealing to me. Nightcrawler was one of my favorite X-men.


If you were stranded on an island what five things would you want with you?

My father, boyfriend and I are all obsessed with survivalism, so this is something we talk about a lot, but besides things that I'd absolutely need to keep my body alive, I would need these things to keep myself from going crazy: graphite pencils, paper, my favorite book "Ocean at the End of the Lane" by Neil Gaiman, my boyfriend, and my best friend.  Yeah, that'd be a pretty okay scenario.


What's your favorite color?

I know I just said I wouldn't be able to pick, but there are two colors that make me smile whenever I see them. I love the color of baby grass in sunlight, that glowing, lively green. And the second, is the deep shade of indigo sky, when it's getting dark after sunset. The sky is that dark blue-green that the best pairs of jeans are.


If you could meet any superhero who would it be?

That's really hard. I love Marvel and DC, so whichever I pick it'll look like I prefer that one. I also appreciate the indie publishers! I love mythology and am really drawn to Wonder Woman and her story arc, and then Thor and Asgard. But on the other hand, I'd rather go to Hogwarts than be a superhero.


If you could go back in time where would you travel to?

I'd prefer to do space travel than time travel. I'm a big Trekkie. There are so many theories about how time travel would work, and the rules about it, that it seems a little hard to enjoy while risking the timeline. But if The Doctor comes to my door, who am I to say no? I think I'd head to Golden Age of the Roman Empire, or somewhere in the East to watch the rise of civilization, medicine, and science.

Christina can be contacted via social media



714 425 3294 

insta @binkyoliva