SpecArt Spotlight: Beste Erel

I’m a little late in posting this. You can thank our American turkey-eating holiday, Thanksgiving. Anyway, here we go, into another SpecArt Spotlight! This time we’re talking with Beste Erel, a freelance illustrator in the grey-blue city of Istanbul, Turkey. She’s been creating art since she was a child. Her art ranges from surreal to fantasy and even a bit of light horror.

Concept Study, by Beste Erel
Concept Study, by Beste Erel
Question 1

SM: You have a wide range of stuff on your ArtStation profile. Some is kind of surreal and others are more traditional digital paintings. While still others have a distinct chalk-painting look. What would you say is your personal style, what you think is more you as an artist?

BE: Well I like working on many different styles, I always like trying new things..That’s why I have a wide range of stuff. As for style, I love doing traditional stuff so I have an impact of that on my digital works too. Before I started digital art I was doing oil painting, watercolors, I also love working with pencils.
And with the subjects, I love doing surreal, fantastic paintings under the influence of orientalism.

Question 2

SM: Your profile says you’re a freelance illustrator. What does that mean to you and do you do freelance work as your day-job? Also related, if you were to have a full-time day-job for your art, what would that be?

BE:I think I like telling stories with my pictures. I love the idea that people feel something different when they see your paintings. I just try to catch that feeling with all who are interested in seeing them.
I’m working as a landscape architect as a day job and also doing freelance works for advertisements. I’ve worked on many advertisement jobs for Turkcell, Galatasaray SK, Vodafone, Rexona, Samsung, Supradyn and more.
If I were to have a full time art job, I think that would be doing concepts for films and also doing book covers.
.

Creatures of the Woods by Beste Erel
Creatures of the Woods by Beste Erel

Elf Maiden by Beste Erel
Elf Maiden by Beste Erel
Question 3

SM: Rarely do creatives just kind of pop up out of nowhere, particularly someone with your level of talent. Usually there’s some person or persons who have acted as a mentor, someone who pushes and guides the artist to be better. Do you have a mentor?

BE: Thank you for saying so. I don’t have a mentor but I’ve been inspired by so many great artists. I’ve always been an inquisitive mind. I studied after Da vinci’s, Bouguereaus’ sketches just for fun when I was 15-17. There are many classical and modern painters that I love. Especially the pre-raphaelites. Then I discovered Royo, Giger, Brom, Stawicki, Howe and many more and I was in another world. I think they have a big influence on me. Also lots of digital artists. Too many to mention.
For some of my works I got very useful feedbacks from fellow artists like Jana Schirmer, Kerem Beyit, Halil Ural. They’re all amazing artists.
.

 

Question 4

SM: As creatives, we’re always struggling with something.. As a writer, it could be finding the right voice or trying to get action scenes right, you know the kinds of things you as an artist are always looking to improve upon. As a visual artist, what is your biggest struggle right now?

BE: At first it was learning the basics. Because it doesn’t matter if you have the best ideas to draw, when you don’t know the basics good enough, you can’t draw it the way you want. Well I’m still learning, there is always more to learn. And for me another struggle is time. The only time I’ve got for doing art is the nights because during the day I’m doing another job and that one is not also easy. To be a good artist is always a challenge and I think it’s mostly getting better with practice so time is a struggle for me now.

Portrait of Mermaid by Beste Erel
Portrait of Mermaid by Beste Erel

Hidden Temple by Beste Erel
Hidden Temple by Beste Erel
Question 5

SM: When it comes to coffee… are you a hard-core black coffee person, or do you like the foofy stuff like lattes and such?

BE: None, it’s Turkish coffee, of course.

A little over two years ago, I did a flash story called The Hearts of Men based on Beste’s dark and brooding piece, In Darkness. I’ve kept tabs on her very interesting work. For this story, I decided to do something a little less dark. Okay, only a little. This time we go to a land of cloud bunnies and chronoflies. So here go you, The Dream Forest, based on Stealing Time from Dali.

Stealing Time from Dali by Beste Erel
Stealing Time from Dali by Beste Erel

The Dream Forest

“Here you go. I got something tasty for you!”

Nera held out the fresh nugget of sunlight and waggled it just a little. Brilliant golden light shimmered from the solidified sun beams in knife-like rays that cut through the forest fog. The tree imp rose up from it’s crouched position until it was as tall as her shoulders. It inched forward on its two legs, its steps tentative and cautious, and sniffed at the air. 

“Come on.” Nera smiled. Tearing off a small piece, she tossed it to the midpoint between her and the imp. “I’ve got more if you help me.”

The imp leaned back for a second then moved in and snatched up the morsel of light with its twiggy hands. Another sniff-sniff at the bite and it downed the nugget piece in one gulp. Its eyes closed for a second and the sound of rustling leaves and bending branches came from the creature.

Another five minutes passed before the imp trusted Nera enough to nibble from her hand, but once it did she knew she’d made a loyal friend. She ran her fingers over the course bark of its skin and scratched behind its knot-ear. “I think I’ll call you… Pistachio.”

The tree imp let out a pleasured groan at the touch. 

Climbing to her feet, Nera picked up her walking stick and looked around. In the distance, cloud bunnies drifted along the forest floor. A small pack of the critters sat, sipping from a puddle. In the center of the puddle was a small part of what Nera was searching for, a time-lily pad. 

She pulled another small bit of sunlight from her pocket and tossed it to her new companion. The tree imp hopped up and snatched it out of the air. With a pat on the imp’s head, she made her way toward the cloud bunny puddle. 

Tiny branches snapped and popped under her sneakers. She’d thought about imagining herself into more appropriate clothing for adventuring, but figured it really didn’t matter. In the Dream Forest, her t-shirt and pajamas were just fine. 

At first, Nera thought the cloud bunnies would scatter when she got close enough, but instead they formed a circle and hopped around her. She smiled and reached out to pet one of them, but her fingers passed right through it. Fluffy water vapor dispersed at her touch then coalesced back together.

A screech echoed from far off in the distance. The cloud bunnies and the Pistachio all froze and looked off in the direction of the sound. After a few seconds, when another screech didn’t come, they went back to their play.

Nera had been to the Dream Forest enough to know that sound. It was the Harpy. While she’d never actually encountered or even seen the nightmare monster that terrorized this place, she knew it in her heart of hearts. And even though this was a place of her own making, the Harpy terrified her. 

But she’d come here for a reason. She needed more time. And while time flowed in the normal world in the usual way, here it was different. Here, time was a thing, tangible, that she could touch and feel and collect. It came in several forms, but the time-lily pad was the easiest to find.

Nera reached her stick out toward the puddle and prodded at the time-lily pad floating at its center. The round pad squished under her stick’s touch. She pushed the golden edge down and let a bit of the puddle water run up over the pad’s white surface.. The patterns on the pad looked conspicuously like the numbers and hands on a pocketwatch. She supposed that was not entirely a coincidence.

Sliding her stick under the edge of the time-lily pad, she pulled it up out of the water. The air rippled around the strange, floppy disc, and she smiled. This was what she wanted.

When she grabbed the time-lily, it nearly slithered through her fingers.. To her, the texture felt like slippery, soggy bread but slightly tougher. 

With the time-lily pad in hand, she climbed onto the tree imp. The creature snorted under under the shift in weight and a chronofly buzzed by Nera’s ear. As the fly flew away, the sound of its buzzing slowed to reveal more of a rapid tick-tocking than the beating of wings.

In the distance, the Harpy screeched again. Nera wasn’t sure, but she thought it might be  closer. She also thought she’d heard a word in the nerve-rattling sound, but she couldn’t pick it out. The Dream Forest creatures around her seemed to react that way too, as a few scurried for cover. She peered in between the trees, trying to spot the horrid creature, but the gray mist hid the world beyond.

Knowing it was time to go, Nera poked a small hole in the lip of her time-lily pad and hooked it on the end of her walking stick. She rubbed the top of the tree imp’s head. “Okay, Pistachio. Let’s get a move on.”

The tree imp bounded along through the forest as a quintet of cloud bunnies hopped along beside them. Twice more she stopped to pluck a time-lily pad from a puddle or small pond, and twice more she heard the Harpy screech. Each time, it sounded closer. And each time she told herself that she was safe, that this was a world of her own making and if she wanted the Harpy to go away, it would.

Still, she urged her tree imp friend on faster.

When Nera stopped for the fourth time, she didn’t hop off the imp right away. Branches cracked and snapped nearby and a shiver ran down her spine. Fog pressed in, creating a small, clear circle around Nera.

The imp chittered and stomped its feet under her. Nera patted the imp’s head. “Shhh… easy Pistachio. It’s okay.”

Another screech split the air, making Nera’s blood run cold. She swallowed with a loud gulp. The sound seemed to come from every direction at once.

In a puff, the cloud bunnies evaporated. 

Leaves crunched and Nera turned. A large shadow appeared in the fog. The shadow had two long legs and a wide body. As she watched, massive wings unfolded. 

With jerking steps, the Harpy stepped out of the fog. Black feathers covered the bird-like body and wings. While it’s head was more or less human, the face was shriveled and contorted like a twisted Halloween mask. The monstrosity opened its jagged-toothed maw and a shrill scream stabbed into Nera’s ears. 

The Harpy lunged forward and knocked Nera from Pistachio’s back with one of its wings. Nera tumbled through the air and slammed into the soft underbrush. She rolled and stopped when her head bounced off a tree trunk. 

Pain rippled through her head. Opening her eyes, the forest swam around her. In a blink, the Harpy was on top of her, gnashing its teeth. From the corner of her eye, she saw her polka dot pajama pants and realized she didn’t want to get eaten while wearing polka dot pajama pants. 

As the Harpy leaned down closer, ravenous slobber dripping from between its yellowed fangs, it let out another screech. The piercing tone shook Nera’s bones. 

Then something clicked in her thoughts, and she remembered. 

This was her dream, her world. The Harpy was only as real as she wanted it to be. It might be a part of her own mind, her own nightmares made monstrous flesh, but it was still hers. 

Nera turned and looked the Harpy right in the eyes and—summoning every ounce of courage she had—screamed right back.

The half-bird-half-woman monstrosity rippled. She let out one final scream and puffed away in a cloud of feathers and smoke. The faint odor of smoke and tar wafted on the breeze. 

Nera climbed to her feet and looked around. The forest around her began to dissolve. She picked up her time-lily pads and patted Pistachio on the head. “Good Pistachio. I’ll see you next time.

Pistachio hopped and cooed. Then, shadows swallowed the rest of the Dream Forest. The darkness of sleep became complete, then shuddered. A warm, red glow blanketed everything. A distant bird’s chirp echoed. 

The real world called to her, and as much as she wanted to stay in the Dream Forest, she knew it was time. So until next time, she let the forest go.

And then Nera woke up.

Okay, there we go. That was our second SpecArt Spotlight. I’ve got more lined up and should have another great artist for December. If you want to check out more of Beste’s work, which I highly encourage you to, you can find her on ArtStation.

And remember, whatever you do… stay shiny and keep flyin’.

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