Qistina Khalidah is a 25-year-old artist from Malaysia who has done cover illustrations for various clients, such as Cassandra Clare (author of The Mortal Instruments), BOOM! Studios, Restoration Games, and more. She spends her free time doing wall-climbing, collecting tea flavors, and being engrossed in videogames. Please go to deviantart.com/qissus to view her artwork!
Qistina provided the illustration for the September 16th story “This Is How,” by Marie Brennan.
When did you decide to work with art? Can you tell us a bit more about your journey so far?
Ever since I was a kid, in fact. I did have my doubts about being an artist when I was about to graduate from high school. A lot of people tried to convince me to go for something else; a more “practical” career. I thought of studying psychology, literature, and even forensics but I always had my mind on making art. It’s not something I can let go very easily when art has been my primary focus almost my entire life. My artistic journey has been difficult and extremely challenging at times, but I can fairly say that everything is going great so far. I have never regretted becoming an artist.
Your work has a very distinguished use of gold against dark colors, in a very regal and dramatic fashion. How did you develop your style?
Well, my work didn’t always look like that back then. It was just trial and error and finding out what I liked and didn’t like. Though, I have always loved admiring classical paintings. Namely, Rembrandt and Klimt. Rembrandt’s paintings are usually very dark and dramatic whereas Klimt’s use of gold was unique and beautiful. I decided to mix these two styles together and add in my own flair to it.
What are your artistic influences?
Aside from the two artists that I mentioned, I’m also a huge fan of Phil Hale, Jon Foster, Sergio Toppi, Mead Schaeffer, and so many more. I could go on, but I’ll fill the entire interview!
What is the process behind your work?
It’s eccentric and very chaotic, I think. I love to experiment, so a lot of my artworks are done in different ways. Sometimes I will mash different artworks together to create my color palette and play around with the blending modes to see if I can get anything interesting out of the chaos. I love to improvise as I go, am not much of a planner I’m afraid. So, I don’t really panic when something goes wrong or the artwork doesn’t look the way I want it to. I’ll just keep experimenting until I get something good. I don’t like planning because I feel that I am restricting my creative capability, so I just go nuts with it!
Which illustrations are you most proud of?
Oh, this is very hard because I don’t really love and hate any pieces that I’ve made. Though, I tend to feel at peace when I can put out an artwork that speaks about my vulnerabilities and subconscious fears. It feels like overcoming my problems and moving on to something more positive, so I’m quite proud of that. “Beekeeper” and “Paranoia” are some examples.
You already worked with Cassandra Clare in her Mortal Instruments series, and did the cover art for the French fantasy novel Les Mondes-miroirs by Vincent Mondiot and Raphaël Lafarge. How is the experience of working with other peoples characters and stories?
It’s interesting to work with other people’s characters and stories. I will always try my best to preserve the character’s personality and flaws while adding in my own style. That way, I’m adding something new for the fans without deviating too much from the authors’ original vision. It’s a lot of fun collaborating with these authors and I hope to work with more stories in the future.
If you could choose one other speculative book or series to illustrate, which one would it be and why?
I’m a huge fan of dark fantasy so I would love to illustrate some stories that are of that genre like Dark Souls, Lovecraftian stories, and the Berserk manga.
Any forthcoming projects you want to share?
I am currently working with Restoration Games on their new tabletop project called “Return To Dark Tower” as their lead artist and I’m also the cover artist behind The Magicians comic that is being published by BOOM! Studios. I currently have no personal projects going on but I am open for collaboration if any artist or writer is interested!