UNNATURAL IN NATURE
Artist creates surreal images, drawing inspiration from her hometown.
Written by Natasha Hemley
Stephanie Stanga dresses far more eccentrically than the average 27-year-old. “I have polka dot pants, all of my dresses are really bright and flowery,” says Stanga. “I kind of describe myself as being free-spirited.”
Today only a pair of green earrings and a dainty cupcake necklace reflect the more creative parts of her personality, but her eclectic attire is just a part of her appeal.
Chicago’s vibrant, urban atmosphere drew Stanga to the city at 21. She left her hometown of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to pursue a B.F.A. in media arts and animation from the Illinois Institute of Art in 2010, which was a first. “I’m the only person in my family to move away for college, or to live outside Wisconsin,” she says.
In her work, she draws inspiration from a familiar environment. “I grew up in nature,” Stanga shares. “I would spend hours in the woods. I don’t know how I ever found my way home at the end of the day.” She mixes animation with a hint of realism—depictions of animals and wildlife with a pop of bright color and some unexpected touches give her drawings a more imaginative appearance. Her depiction of a grizzly bear has chainsaws for arms, is covered in honey and trying to survive a swarm of bees.
Lauren Judy, Stanga’s best friend and colleague, defines Stanga’s work as cute. “It’s fluffy almost,” says Judy. “She’s got this really stylistic, cartoony thing that she just kind of goes to.” Still, her work varies: She can craft a crazy beast, and the style looks child-friendly, even if it’s somewhat gruesome. A pink-clad princess riding a giant green dragon, on the other hand, definitely radiates an aura of “fluffy.”
One thing not included in Stanga’s portfolio? Men. “In my opinion, women are just easier to draw,” she says. She pulls inspiration for the female shape from artists like Frank Frazzeta, whose images include strong, muscular women. “I find myself [drawing women] who have giant legs and giant bottoms and small tops,” she adds. “There’s so much you can do with the female form.”
Like many young creatives, Stanga knew if she was going to have any chance at succeeding in the art world, she would have to hustle. “It is really hard, and living in Chicago doesn’t help,” she says. “All of the art jobs in Chicago are mostly advertising and post production.”
Stanga currently works as a freelance digital artist for NetherRealm Studios, a video game development company. At the studio, she works as an associate artist on games like the recent “Injustice: Gods Among Us,” a DC Comics universe-themed fighting game. She plays a role in creating cinematic storyboards that are later transformed into animated games. When she isn’t putting in eight-hour workdays sketching scenes, she puts in time at the Chicago Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center as a nurse to make ends meet. “I enjoy it, but it’s definitely not what I want to be doing,” says Stanga.
Whatever the struggle may be, Stanga isn’t giving up on Chicago. She made an appearance at Chicago’s C2E2 Expo in April 2014 sell some of her work. A recent application to WMS Gaming, an electronic gambling game company for casinos, will hopefully bring positive news for Stanga and give her the much-needed stability she’s been after.
More of Stanga’s work can be viewed on her Tumblr account.