Between 1999 and 2009 Lightsabre.co.uk brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Our twenty-ninth guest draws Lord of the Rings, Buffy and Star Trek characters, but we love her best for her fantastic Star Wars art – Cynthia Cummens.
Lightsabre – Cynthia, welcome to Lightsabre.
CC – Hello, hello!
Lightsabre – During your career you’ve drawn Frodo, Spike and done many illustrations for children’s books but you have swiftly become best known for your artwork in the Star Wars universe. How exciting is that?
CC – Very! Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.
Lightsabre – Tell us something of your career. How and where did you begin in comics and what led you to where you are today?
CC – My career has been a bit of a winding road. Star Wars is what inspired me to start drawing as a kid, and I’d always wanted to do Star Wars artwork professionally but had no clue how to go about it. So I let myself get sidetracked, went to art school, and exhibited my figurative oil paintings in galleries around Chicago while working full time as a production artist. I sold a lot of paintings, but just wasn’t fulfilled.
In ‘98, being frustrated yet determined (or just plain ol’ stubborn), I closed my painting studio so that I could change my career and get back on track. There were a couple years of soul searching, which were quite painful, actually. I had to unlearn what I had learned, as Yoda would say, and start believing that it was completely possible to become a full-time freelance illustrator.
Things started to gel for me in 2000 when I worked at a Renaissance Faire as a portrait artist. I had given myself my first taste of creative independence and loved it. Illustration work started coming in. The projects were fun but still unrelated to Star Wars. Everything changed when I went to Star Wars Celebration II in 2002, followed that same year by San Diego Comic Con. I remember walking through the doors and feeling like the mother ship had landed! I was home! Suddenly, it all made sense – all my life wanting to do work in connection with Star Wars and suddenly it seemed entirely possible. So I just kept going to these conventions, showing my portfolio to everyone.
Randy Martinez, another Star Wars artist, was very generous in sharing his experiences, having been an official SW artist since ’99, and I listened to all the advice he offered. Then in September 2004, I was hired by Topps to work on Star Wars sketch cards, my first official Star Wars project. Quite a happy day, to say the least!.
Lightsabre – You’ve had your work appearing on the official site, showing children how to draw many saga characters. How fulfilling is that for you, knowing that your work is inspiring kids to pick up their crayons and pencils?
CC – It’s more fulfilling that I imagined it would be. It’s a way to honor Star Wars and what it meant to me as a kid, how it affected me. Like a lot of other artists, I learned how to draw by copying Star Wars comic books, and I still have those stacks of drawings. Starlog magazine was another favorite of mine – I found all sorts of pictures to copy from that magazine, and not just Star Wars, but E.T. and Indiana Jones. So to be able to encourage a child to draw those saga characters on Star Wars.com, or by giving a lesson at conventions, is more rewarding than I can put into words and I hope to do it for a long, long time.
Lightsabre – What has it been like to be a part of the Star Wars phenomenon?
CC – Exciting, fun, dizzying, you name it! The folks at Lucasfilm like Bonnie Burton, Mary Franklin and Steve Sansweet, are the nicest people and very supportive. They invited me to be in the Art Show at Celebration III earlier this year and I even visited Skywalker Ranch in July. I’ve become friends with other people involved with Star Wars, including many of the other artists. And knowing my artwork is in the collection of other people who love Star Wars as much (or more) than me is fantastic! It’s very cool to be a part of it. It’s been a dream come true.
Lightsabre – Being involved with Lord of the Rings as well as Star Wars must be exciting, given that Lord of the Rings is probably second only to Star Wars as our favourite trilogy. How different is your work on Rings??
CC – I have a very exciting Lord of the Rings project coming up for but at this point, I’m unable to mention anything which is very frustrating as you ask that! But I will say that teaching kids to draw at The One Ring Celebration last January was again very rewarding and I hope to continue with that in the same way as Star Wars. I’ve done a lot of commissioned work for collectors and I’m looking forward to more projects on the horizon, whatever they may be!
Lightsabre – You are now an official Star Wars artist. Just how proud does that title make you feel?
CC – You know, there are many people who would love to do what I do, or who want to be painters or designers or musicians or whatever, but whose creativity wasn’t nurtured as kids or they weren’t encouraged to pursue a career in the arts, or even told not to. There are days when I have to remind myself of how fortunate I am to be doing this, especially not knowing how long it all might last. So I have fun with it and appreciate it. And I always try to express my gratitude to the people, my family and friends, who supported my decision to go for it in the first place!
Lightsabre – What were your feelings on Revenge of the Sith? Did it satisfy the little girl who had such a crush on Han Solo way back when?
CC – Well, Anakin is smokin’ hot (no pun intended), but he’s no Han Solo! And what do you mean ‘had’ a crush on Han Solo? It’s lifelong! What can I say!
Lightsabre – If you could chose any art project, Star Wars or otherwise, what would it be?
CC – That’s a difficult question to answer…there’s a lot of creativity in me just waiting to take shape. One thing I’d love to do is to write and illustrate a children’s book one day.
Lightsabre – Now that Star Wars has finished on the big screen and we have a while to wait for the TV shows to start, where do you think Lucasfilms focus should be, to keep us all interested?
CC – Well, they’ve recently announced the new cartoon series for 2007 and we are certainly expecting there to be a Celebration IV! I think that will keep us feeling very satisfied until the next adventure!.
Lightsabre – You certainly have many hobbies outside of your art. Figure skating, your love for dance as well as being a double in films. Any good stories from your other past times?
CC – This weekend, I got to see myself on the big screen in The Weatherman (first time as an extra). Ok, I was in the background for about 5 seconds, but it was quite surreal to see myself up there! I also figured skated once dressed as Leia from A New Hope, but that trust me when I say that photo remains safely tucked away!
Lightsabre – What lies ahead for you in the future?
CC – How can I know? Always in motion is the future. I do know I’m going to keep attending conventions. In fact, I’m attending Collectormania with Randy Martinez in Manchester this February, which I’m very much looking forward to! I’ve never to England and I’m looking forward to meeting a lot of collectors who have been requesting a U.K. appearance. And I have some very exciting sketch card projects which I’ll be announcing soon on my web site. 2006 is going to be a busy, busy year!
Lightsabre – It’s been a great interview, and thanks for being our guest. Just one final question. Frodo Baggins, Watto and Willow from Buffy are sitting around a table for a night of gambling. Watto has his chance cube, Frodo has the One Ring and Willow has her magic’s. Who wins the game?
CC – Thanks for the interview, it was fun! My money is on Willow!
This interview was originally posted on lightsabre.co.uk on 11th December 2005.