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Art of Darkness: An Interview With Daniella Batsheva

Saturday, August 27, 2022 | Interviews


The future of horror art is colorful. Recently named UK alternative culture brand Kerrang!’s first-ever female lead illustrator, Daniella Batsheva’s June 2022 cover art marks a rare occasion in the publication’s 40-plus year history. Visually alluring, humorous and thought-provoking, Daniella’s aesthetic boasts beautiful detail-heavy, intricate linework mixed with vibrant colors. Her focus for Kerrang! embraces a wide range of timely issues, including mental health, sex, drugs and female empowerment. 

A self-proclaimed “illustrator with a design habit,” Daniella Batsheva is a visual artist who straddles the line between the underground and the mainstream. Her art blends the intricacy of the Victorian era with the dark goth imagery inspired by horror films. Batsheva’s softly stylized figures and deep color palettes evoke whimsy with a creepy twist. 

Recently, Daniella Batsheva took some time out of her busy schedule to speak with RUE MORGUE and share her thoughts, inspirations and perspective on the future of women’s art in horror. 

Congratulations on being named Kerrang!’s first-ever female lead illustrator. This is a tremendous accomplishment that rings extra sweet knowing that you have achieved a first for women and have the honor and distinction of carving that path forward for others to follow. Can you tell us a little bit more about how this came to fruition and what it means to you? 

Thank you so much! Kerrang! has a great team with lots of young professionals, so there’s a lot of fresh talent there. Brand Manager Esme Surfleet brought me on board to work alongside the crew whenever an illustration is needed and trusted me to handle the given topics with care. My work for Kerrang! focuses on inclusivity, mental health, and social issues in the context of alternative communities, so I take it very seriously, but I do still try to maintain a sense of humor about it where possible. It’s very humbling to work alongside so many professionals who are making such a huge impact in the alternative. Particularly as an artist of Middle Eastern descent who has always prowled the underground music scenes, having a space where I can be myself and share my work has meant a lot, and I’m very grateful for it. 

Of course, Kerrang! is one feather amongst many in your cap. You’ve also designed a lot of horror-related artwork – including for Shriekfest and for Sam Raimi’s film Crawl as well toy designs for Teddy Scares “Mazey Podge” Eastern State Penitentiary exclusive and “Annabelle Wraithia.” Where do you find your inspiration? 

It depends on the project and who I’m working for. On the one hand, I look at the logical, business side first and ask, “What’s the demographic? What’s the budget? What’s the message? Are they using this project to channel a specific style?” Once I figure out what we’re aiming for, I have the set guidelines, and I’m able to work around that. As far as inspiration goes, I prefer to hit the books first, so I like checking out the library to see what I can find. Google is also very useful, but I like to take an active approach for reference, so I’ll go out all day and soak in everything from architecture to bugs for fuel.

Your art has been described as “visually alluring, humorous and thought-provoking all at once,” and I must say that I agree! It’s full of intricate detail alongside vibrant colors, mixing a Victorian aesthetic with imagery inspired by classic and modern horror. Who are some of your biggest artistic influences? 

Thank you so much! Off the top of my head, Georges Melies, Irish illustrator Harry Clarke, Versailles court painter Vigee Le Brun, Camille Rose Garcia, Clive Barker, Austin Osman Spare… The list is extensive because I don’t have just one or two artists that influence me. I could probably list two solid pages full of artist names that have made an impact on me for different reasons. 

How does your love of horror influence your art? 

Horror and Halloween tint everything I do. It always has. I grew up loving horror and embracing the monstrous visuals that disturbed others. I found comfort in things that were generally considered to be “spooky” because I liked how different it was. It was the furthest thing imaginable from my Yemeni-Jewish background. I disliked that horror only seemed to be widely acceptable in Autumn and went about my younger years asking, “Why does Halloween ever have to stop?” So, I aim to capture a bit of that quality in everything I do. 

Your portfolio embraces a wide range of timely issues, including mental health, sex, drugs, female empowerment, and more. How do you feel art is important to society? 

Art has always been important to society. Art in all areas is what we use to define where we stand as a species at a particular point in time. If you want to know what happened in the ’50s, what people were feeling and thinking, you look at the illustrations in ads, the clothes they wore, the books they read, what they were watching on TV… Art has always defined us – whether we acknowledge and accept that or not. I feel very strongly about this because, in recent years, I’m afraid people have lost sight of the value of visual and performing arts. Art classes in schools are losing funding, art organizations have minimal resources to work with and the average person is mostly unaware of visual arts outside the rare museum trip. 

I think we need to reintroduce art to the everyman outside of a gallery setting. Personally, I would love to see more care and consideration taken with packaging design and smaller products that someone could use and cherish every day. Art doesn’t have to be highbrow or intimidating, it can just be a beautifully designed tchotchke that makes someone’s space feel nicer. Being in such uncertain times, we need to embrace art now more than ever. 

LR: What motivates you to create? Have you always been an artist? 

It’s funny, I struggle with calling myself an artist, even after all these years. It’s a title that carries such weight for me, like someone walking around claiming to be a knight. I think, “Who knighted you?” That being said, yes, I have always drawn! I have always made art. It’s a compulsion for me. By the time I became self-aware as a child, I was already scribbling and drawing my wonky princesses with purple hair. I communicate much better through drawing than I do through words. Conversations don’t do much for me, I rarely feel like I have the vocabulary to share the depths of my thoughts and feelings. Drawings can be nuanced enough to convey a whole spectrum of emotions, so I often channel my feelings and thoughts into my illustrations.

 Your art has appeared on magazine and book covers (I’m especially fond of the cover art for Chandler Morrison’s Dead Inside, published by Death’s Head Press) to t-shirts and more. How does this – or does it – affect the designs you make as a creator? What’s it like to see your art embraced and rendered in so many ways? 

I absolutely love it. I much prefer to have my illustrations used for many different purposes because I know that they’re going to have a presence in others’ lives. That’s so important to me –  that someone else would be happy to have my art be a part of their home. It does affect how I create, though! Whenever I make a piece, I consider how it will be used. My stylistic approach of hard lines and flat colors is very compatible with printing of all sorts, so there is a versatility to each piece. If I know that it’s going to be turned into a t-shirt, I’ll make sure to cap the design off, so it’s self-contained and neat looking. If it’s for a screen print, I’ll separate the shapes and minimize the color palette accordingly. Before I illustrate anything, I need the dielines and I need printing info, so the format is the foundation for each piece I create. 

Thank, you, Daniella! As we part ways, can you share your feelings and desires about the future of women’s art? 

DB: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me! It was a lot of fun!

The only thing I have to say is that I hope feminine art can become a standard without the need for justification. I’ve been asked so many times “Why do you draw women? Why is your work so girly?” And I’m not sure that men have been asked the same question when they’ve only drawn things like male superheroes or characters. The same way that someone would not have to justify their masculinity in their work, I don’t want to have to justify my femininity. I hope that, someday, being “girly” can be a standard because I’ve had many experiences seeing women’s voices be treated as a novelty. I think we’ll come around to it though! We’ll get there!

You can keep up with Daniella Batsheva and he many projects at her official website.

“I grew up loving horror and embracing the monstrous visuals that disturbed others. I found comfort in things that were generally considered to be ‘spooky’…”

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