As promised, here’s the transcript of our interview with artist Becca Saladin. We’ve also included all the links to her social medias and Etsy below.
1) How long have you been working on the Royalty Now project? Since around February of 2019.
2) How did you come up with the idea? I’ve always loved the images you see floating around of colorized statues, and pretty much anything that makes you feel super close to the past. I saw someone on Reddit do something similar with the Tudor wives, and since I am a graphic designer as my day job and a photoshop hobbyist, I just decided I would try it. And then I had a lot of fun so I just kept going and here we are.
3) You clearly have a thing with royals. Why so? What made them a focus for you? Mostly just out of necessity – they are the ones whose likenesses history has deemed “worthy” to preserve. Also, what’s interesting about royalty is they always have a fascinating story connected to them, so not only can I show their recreated image but I can share a little bit about their history as well. I think it’s really cool to make these famous characters of history into a relatable person – like someone you could see out at the grocery store or a celebrity at an awards show.
4) Of the illustrations that you’ve made public so far, what is/are your favorite/favorites? I think Elizabeth I is my favorite. There are always works that I’m really proud of on a skill-level, and then there are some where I feel like the modern version really embodies the essence of that person. To me, the Elizabeth I image really captures her spirit, like I could almost imagine it being a modern portrait she would be happy with if she were the queen today. I’m a Tudor history fanatic so I also love my Anne Boleyn image because she’s one of my favorite figures.
5) A couple of your illustrations reminded me of specific current celebrities. Have you gotten into any of them and realized that they reminded you of someone? Yes, this happens very often. Or my fiance will cruise by and be like “That looks like John Mayer” and then it’s done – I can only see John Mayer. That was the Richard III image he was referencing. A lot of times people will say it in the comments and then I will be like “Oh yeah, it does look like her/him”.
6) What do you have coming up? I’m hoping to get a website up and running pretty soon here, as well as expanding my Etsy store with new items. A YouTube channel and a book are also projects that might be slowly taking shape.
7) Do you have any other artistic endeavors ongoing? I work full time as a graphic designer, so unfortunately that’s kind of the only other artistic endeavor I have time for right now. But I’m really glad I was able to find a hobby that fulfills so much of what I love – history, art, photoshop, & design.
8) Have you been able to make this commercially profitable? I will say that I don’t think anyone at my full-time job has to worry about me quitting anytime soon. lol.
9) Have you been recognized for your work? Yes – mostly by websites and blogs/other Instagram accounts. Buzzfeed did a story on it that was huge. I’m slowly building this little history community on Instagram though, which is super cool. My dream would be to have work in a museum someday.
10) Has there been any criticism for your work? (I don’t know how you would, but 2020 is part of a parallel universe that I haven’t begun to understand) Since it’s the internet, yes absolutely. Most of the criticism is just “I don’t know what’s so special about that, I could do that” or just stuff like “All you do is copy and paste their faces, this is pointless”. That sort of thing, which I think is just a lack of understanding about the time it takes and the digital art & photoshop skills that go into it. But at the end of the day anyone COULD do it and that’s what’s fun about it – I think people should try it, it’s super fun! The most valid criticism I received was a while back, but it was when I didn’t have many people of color on the page. Mostly that was due to me loving European history and then having all of the European photo-realistic portraits available to work from. Some sections of African, East Asian & Central American figures prove particularly elusive, and that’s because their native art styles don’t really lend themselves to realistic portraits. But I’ve definitely found a few masks/sculptures from those cultures to work from. Regardless, I’ve tried really hard to incorporate figures from all over the world and learn more about them.
Let me know if you need anything else!
For the video about this interview and artist, click here.