According to the bio on her website, “Val Freire is a female writer/artist/designer, born in historic Greenwich Village, New York in 1979, to two creative, albeit offbeat, educators. She is the second of four rather sheltered and inspired children.” About her early life, she writes, “At birth, she was expected to be a boy, and thusly dubbed “Mathew Alexander” until the minute of. This surprise abruptness set a life-long precedent in her development.”
Young Miss Freire was self-educated and, at age 14, decided she was too intelligent to graduate from high school. It would take two more years to convince everyone else of this. At age 16, she actively pursued interests in typography, photography, illustration and of course, storytelling. Thus keeping her engaged as a tattooist’s apprentice and shop manager, a logo designer for a photo lab and an overactive member of the Harvey Milk High School youth program. The combination of which would inexplicably drag her through 48 states, and entirely against her will, back to New York, in time to turn 18. (Yes Val, I did steal your bio, because only one person can tell their life story how it should be told, and that is YOU — insert smile.)
Around March, I was just finishing the “Mortal Instrument” series by Cassandra Clare, craving more of the action and wondering when the next book would be out I ran across the artist that was doing the artwork for the characters: Miss Valerie Freire. You know how you’re going to meet only one person in your life that is extraordinary . . . besides your significant other? Well, like Harry Potter had Dumbledore, and Jamal Wallace had William Forrester, I have my Val. A fellow New Yorker. (insert proud smile!) Anyway, I had the pleasure of conducting the following interview with her.
Q: As an artist your work centers alot around anime-like designs and characters. Does that mean you are an anime fan, or just an original underground (sort of) artist?
A: As a family, my Mom raised us with animes like Robotech in the background. I was too young to differentiate one cartoon format from another so I didn’t think their production was any different from say Bugs Bunny. I love them equally! My earliest days teaching myself how to draw was putting Bubble Gum Crisis on pause and tracing from the TV screen. Of course, I was 5 but think it’s fair to say anime has always been an influence. In my teens my stronger artist role models were Wendy Pini and Jim Lee, both two artist that anime had been a great influence in their style. Now, the industry calls that style ameri-manga because more and more artists have grown up with anime/manga as such an undertone influence, whether they realize it or not. It’s definitely tapped into some sort of cultural unconscious… I think my favorite hodge-podge of all this, becoming a voice of this influence are artists like Jim Mahfood or even The Gorillaz. In their work, that influences is so evident but the work is Original as well. So, the short answer I guess would be “Yes!”
Q: Also, I noticed a lot of your drawings — that is such an understatement, but whatever, haha — have a big city feel, like a this-is-what-this-teen-sees-when-strolling-the-streets-at-night feel. Why is that? I myself, have an obsession with strolling the streets at night, but maybe it’s just me. 🙂
A: I grew up very home-bound while in New York. As a kid I fantasized about traveling the world exploring new and better cities. But as a teen, the two biggest things I noticed while travelings is A) every bit city thinks their superior to everyone else… B) which sort of makes all of them the same. Liverpool, Paris, Seattle and New York are my favorite Cities. Places like LA, DC or London are somehow impersonal since you can get really trapped in them if you don’t have a car. That losses intimacy of both the personality of a place but the people in it. The best way to experience a place wander it’s street, which is how I fall in love with it. And the things we love, its only natural that it reflects in the products we create.
Q: Have you ever considered offering lessons, or are you strictly business only with your work?
A: I have taught before. I taught short programs in a some public schools, years ago. I enjoy it and never realize just how much junk I knew until I’m up in front of students. Sometimes I still mentor/tutor, one-on-one, always a friend of a friend, a cousin or a nieces, through word of mouth but never in any formal capacity… not that I would be opposed to that.
Q: How do you come across your clients, or rather, how do they come across you?
A: The same really, rather word of mouth. When I manned the front of a tattoo shop, I had to learn the art of figuring out a clients needs, very quickly while being very personable. This way not only could I arrange the perfect piece for them but to set them up with the right artist. It’s a bit like putting together pieces of a puzzle, I might have creative input but sometimes the best thing I can do point someone in the right direction. I met Holly Black while she needed help researching “Valiant” because Cassie Clare demanded it, for exactly that reason! And we we’re a perfect match! Have been ever since. Same Fantasy Obsessed, Coffee-Drinking, booze mixing, Urban-Fairy Friends.
Q: Who all have you worked for besides Holly Black and Cassandra Clare?
A: Oh, wow, not everything I do is illustrations or tattoo designs. I’ve worked with so many wonderful amazing creative people in so many different capacities. Of course, there are my cousins (Rachel Freire; UK clothes designer/ Veronica Rachel Freire; cartoonist) but also plenty of local talent, Brooklyn-based Jaida Jones; writer, Ali Wilgus; writers and artists … but it’s hard to tell where the line of business and living blurs completely. It’s never been about money, always about sharing what I love with people I love. Recently I shared illustrations for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s company HitRECord.org, which turn around and were used in productions of their “Tiny Book of Tiny Stories.” While it’s a passion project, it’s still work you know and love and life and everything in-between. Sorry, I really don’t have a short answer for this question.
Wonderful interview, wasn’t it? Be sure to check out the authors mentioned throughout this interview, especially Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. I swear you won’t regret it! Also, check out Val’s website http://www.far-eviler.com !!