Star Wars Artist Spotlight: Claudia Caranfa

Claudia Caranfa is an artist who first came on my radar in 2016 in the lead up to Rogue One and she has been creating awesome Star Wars art still to this day. Here is my interview with her:

Where do you reside? Are you creating art full-time?

I live in Chieti, Italy. Art isn’t currently my full-time job, but I create art on a daily basis and I often do professional illustration.

When did you become a Star Wars fan?

When I was a kid, like most people. The original trilogy is among my favourite childhood movies along with Gremlins, The Neverending Story, The Goonies and many other classics from the 80’s and early 90’s. But I liked Star Wars in particular because it was a trilogy. Back then, serialized fantasy blockbusters and sagas weren’t as common as they are now, so I was fascinated that it wasn’t just one movie but three, all connected as part of the same story. I can’t tell how many times I watched Star Wars with my dad, who introduced me to fantasy and sci-fi fiction. When the prequel trilogy was released, I was a teenager who thought she was out of her “children fantasy” phase, so I didn’t appreciate it as much as I could have (though I still liked it a lot). But I didn’t actively participate to the Star Wars fandom until shortly before The Force Awakens, which sort of reintroduced me to the Star Wars universe after a long hiatus populated by other interests.

How did you begin making (Star Wars) art?

Again, shortly before The Force Awakens was released. My first Star Wars themed fanart was a portrait of princess Leia as she looked in the finale of A New Hope. I made it to celebrate the beginning of the new trilogy. Little did I know that I would become so invested in the new characters!

Leia by Claudia Caranfa

What did you think of The Last Jedi?

I thought it was amazing. I know there’s some controversy in the fandom about the movie, but I personally really loved what Rian Johnson did with those characters. As you probably can tell from my artwork, I’m a huge fan of Kylo and Rey, both as individual characters and as a pairing, and The Last Jedi pushed their relationship forward in the direction I hoped for and even beyond. The Force bond between them is one of my favourite aspects of the new Star Wars canon. And the praetorian guard fight is one of my favourite lightsaber combat scenes in the whole franchise, period. I also loved what the film did with Rey’s parentage and with Luke’s character. Again, I’m fully aware that those choices were divisive and disappointed some fans, but I think it’s the most significant and compelling route the franchise could go in terms of these characters’ journey.

Halves by Claudia

What did you think of Solo?

I loved it too, though not as much as The Last Jedi (it’s less about the film itself and more about the fact that I’m not as much invested in the standalone movies as I am in the main trilogy ones). But I liked a lot the concepts and visuals in Solo and the entire backstory they created for Han. And the supporting characters were also awesome, especially Qi’ra, Beckett, Enfys Nest and young Lando. There are details in this movie that I really appreciated, like the presence of Han’s dice that connects the story to The Last Jedi like an emotional thread linking all the members of this family, and how they made the Millennium Falcon more than just a ship and almost a sentient character in its own right, by having the “conscience” of Lando’s droid companion uploaded into the ship’s system.

What do you hope to see in Episode IX?

Ben Solo’s redemption, an epic romantic kiss, a lightsaber battle that makes all the previous ones pale in comparison, new planets, hopefully a new and thrilling manifestation of the Force and/or a new Force power. Maybe an Anakin cameo in his Force ghost form, or an Obi-Wan one. In general, what I really want is the Skywalkers to have their final happily ever after, and the story to come full circle in a positive, hopeful way. I would have loved to see a family reunion between Ben and Leia, but I know it will be likely left to our imagination, given the unfortunate circumstances of Carrie’s passing.

The Prayer by Claudia Caranfa

Do you have a favorite Star Wars character / favorite character to make art of?

Yes, Kylo Ren. I love all the main characters (especially the original trio and Rey), but Kylo is definitely the one I’ve drawn more often. I really like the way he’s written and Adam Driver’s performance is incredibly compelling. He’s a character with a lot of grey areas and has some edge and mystery surrounding him, not to mention strong Mordred / “Prodigal Son” vibes, which is creatively very inspiring. There are many things you can do with him visually and symbolically.

Corrosion by Claudia Caranfa

Have you recognized any visual elements of what makes Star Wars art / design unique? 

The retrofuturistic aesthetic for sure, it’s just so unique to this saga. I think Star Wars is more fantasy than sci-fi, so you have old fashioned fairytale imagery revisited and adapted to a galactic context. Lightsabers are basically swords; the technology is campy and colorful and doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense from a practical perspective; the heroes and villains wear cloaks and capes and helmets like medieval knights, you have princesses and wizards, monsters and caves, temples and castles, and so on. Then there’s the elaborate, vivid, majestic worldbuilding, with all the different planets each with their unique scenery, costumes, social structure, the variety of creatures and aliens, the staggering size of the Star Destroyers looming against the empty blackness of outer space, the endless expanses of the desert planets. And finally, I love the iconic character design, how it contributed to create wildly popular, instantly recognizable characters, the simple but effective visual symbolism in the different use of colors, shapes and materials to convey the characters’ narrative role and psychology (dark, sharp and angular suits for the bad guys VS flowing and earthly-toned garbs for the heroes), etc.

What does your usual process look like – from idea to finished art piece?

I usually start with a rough concept that I try to capture in a quick pencil or digital sketch – either entirely from my imagination or inspired by stuff I find on Pinterest, in the movies themselves, in advertising, music videos, anything. Then I start developing the original idea by collecting poses and references that help me translate my often vague initial concepts into a more definite structure and composition as well as achieve a semi-realistic look. Choosing the pose(s) and composition is very important to my process, because that’s where I build the entire artwork from. In fact it’s often through the characters’ pose and facial expressions that I try to convey the emotional, narrative or symbolical meaning of the artwork. I generally start my digital pieces in grayscale and then progressively add color.

What advice would you give for any aspiring Star Wars artists?

I don’t know if I’m in any place to give advice to other artists, to be honest, but I’d say be yourself and let your own style, personal inclination, cultural baggage influence your work. Draw the characters you want in the style you want, be it anime or hyperrealistic portraiture; borrow visual inspiration from anywhere you want; don’t be afraid to make strange associations and contaminate classic Star Wars imagery with other sources and elements. I’ve seen amazing Star Wars art done in the style of Blade Runner; medieval or samurai or modern versions of the characters, crossovers with Game of Thrones or Harry Potter or Disney classics; fanart depicting scenes we’ve never seen in the movies or anywhere else in the official canon. Star Wars is a pop culture phenomenon and I think everyone can revisit it in their personal style. For those interested in classic Star Wars aesthetics, though, I recommend buying the official concept art books and learning from the great visual artists that helped create the Star Wars universe as we know it, particularly Ralph McQuarrie.

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