An Interview With Star Wars Artist Denise Vasquez
If you’ve ever been to a fan convention like San Diego Comic-Con and you happened to meet Denise Vasquez in artist’s alley or anywhere else on the convention floor, you certainly remember the experience. With a beaming smile, a relentless amount of energy and a positive vibe that shines from head to toe, the multi-talented artist has quickly become a fan favorite.
GB: Denise, we’re glad to have you here at GalacticBinder. Thanks for stopping in. Considering how busy you are, I’m going to dive right in with some questions. You are a musician, an artist, an actress and someone who gives a ton of yourself to charities and causes. Does one of those passions rise above the rest… or are they all like children that you love equally?
DV: I am an artist who creates because it is a part of my being! Connecting my art with what I do with WO+MEN 4 A CAUSE to help bring awareness to various causes & charities, I feel is all part of my purpose. Life is my canvas and music, acting, writing, photography, illustration...are ALL my mediums on my palette. I allow my muse to flow with every medium equally and I LOVE them all just the same!!!
GB: Well, clearly Star Wars is also on your list of passions. You have been a mainstay at Star Wars events and fan conventions, and you’ve become somewhat of an unofficial ambassador for Star Wars in recent years. Tell us about why it holds such a near and dear place in your heart, mind and soul.
DV: I remember when my grandfather took me to the theater to see the first Star Wars. That movie had such a powerful impact on me like nothing before! The story was GREAT, the music was mesmerizing, the characters were so interesting & the messages in the movie made me think. It rocked my world and touched my soul! Star Wars helped open up this “Bronx Child’s” mind and proved to me that there was a bigger world out there! I walked out of the movie theater totally in love with Star Wars and have been a fan ever since!
GB: You and your man, Randy Martinez, just returned from Italy and also attended Jedi-Con in Germany. You even got to perform some original music at the closing ceremonies! Tell us about the Star Wars fans in Europe and what the convention experience was like over there. Are they as fanatical for everyone’s favorite galaxy far, far away as we are here in the States?
DV: Being in Turin was a wonderful experience and the fans in Italy that I was fortunate to meet are VERY passionate about Star Wars! My personal experience with Jedi Con was BEYOND AMAZING! In my opinion, this is THE BEST Star Wars Event I’ve been to yet. Everything about Jedi Con from start to finish was absolutely incredible!!!! The organizers were sooooo AMAZING, creative & professional. They have the utmost respect for performers, musicians, actors & artists, and it really showed in the way we were all treated. The fans were SOOOOO INCREDIBLE!!! The German Fans were so welcoming, so warm, so kind, so open, so giving, soooo much fun & soooo passionate about Star Wars!!! I miss the fans already!!! Jedi Con was more like a production & crossing Rocky Horror with Star Wars was brilliant! Having live musical performances throughout the show was really unique, and it certainly added something really special. I was honored to be invited to perform my songs during closing ceremony! As I had been recovering from a broken thumb, I asked my man Randy Martinez to perform one of my original songs with me, and I gave him and one of his newest Star Wars Songs, “Padme”, the opportunity to shine!
GB: You also attended Star Wars Celebration Japan a couple years ago. How did that experience compare?
DV: Like Star Wars Celebration IV and Star Wars Celebration Europe, I promoted the events and attended to lend my support and assist my man Randy Martinez at his table in Artists Alley. Star Wars Celebration Japan was a wonderful experience! I connected with some AMAZING Star Wars Fans during Star Wars Celebration Japan, and even learned a little Japanese. I LOVED everything about experiencing the Japanese culture. The trip ended too soon. I definitely plan on returning there someday.
GB: You’ve been drawing official Star Wars sketch cards for Topps for some time now. Tell us about the rewards and challenges of working on such a small canvas and what we can expect to see from you in the future. Any sets on the horizon that you’re a part of?
DV: “Size matters not!" It really doesn’t when it comes to creating art, and I LOVE creating! Personally, I feel that sketch cards are a great way to challenge myself, experiment and have fun. I find that having a small canvas makes me look at and approach the project differently. I’ve been busy having fun with Star Wars projects. I just finished illustrating an Official Droid Hunt Badge For Star Wars Celebration V, which I’m REALLY excited about! I’m currently finishing up my TK Helmet for the 501st Legion's TK Helmet Project to be displayed during Star Wars Celebration V, and I just finished working on Topps Star Wars Empire Strikes Back 30th Anniversary Widevision “RED RETAIL” sketch cards! All with a broken thumb which has been healing slowly but surely!
GB: Tell fans about your process when you work. For instance, what types of mediums are you most comfortable working in? And how do you balance creativity with deadlines?
DV: I first determine how much time I have to complete the project. How much time I have influences what type of medium I’m going to use right from the start. It takes me longer to create my 3D bead art than it would using paint for example. I find that I create the quickest using markers, pens, pencils and ink, so when I’m pressed for time, those are my mediums of choice. I’m learning to create digital art so I’ll keep you posted on that! (^.^) As far as balance goes, I’m learning that I have to keep doing the best that I can with the time that I have to get the job done on time. So far so good!
GB: Knowing how giving of a person you are… how awesome was it to partake in the “Empire Muggs Back” charity program last summer? For those that aren’t aware, Lucasfilm asked a group of artists to each make an original Star Wars themed creation from a blank Mighty Mugg figure. Each figure was then auctioned off publicly, with all proceeds going to charity. Please tell people about your creation, why you chose that concept and how much it raised for charity.
DV: WOW! Being invited to be a part of the “Empire Muggs Back” project was quite an honor!!! Creating Star Wars art for a GREAT cause was truly a dream come true for me! This was my first time creating 3D art on a Mighty Mugg so that in itself was quite the challenge. I wanted to create something unique, so I was also faced with the challenge of coming up with something that no one else in the Star Wars Universe would think of! I began going through my folders of Star Wars photos when I came across a photo of Steve Sansweet and I at Star Wars Celebration Japan. In the photo, Steve's wearing a white and blue Japanese/Jedi Kimono. I giggled to myself as I visualized Steve Sansweet as a Mighty Mugg wearing his Kimono... and Steve is such an important part of the Star Wars Universe... that I figured, that's it! The idea was born, inspired by that photo! I believe my Steve Sansweet Mighty Mugg sold for over $400... I think maybe $475 (can’t remember), but I do know who won it... Steve Sansweet! (^.^)
GB: You and Randy were recently inducted into the 501st Legion as honorary members, which had to be an unbelievably cool moment for you. Tell us about your relationship with that group and why you enjoy being associated with them.
DV: Being inducted as an honorary 501st member was one of the biggest honors in my life!!! I was soooo overwhelmed with love and joy during the ceremony! I couldn’t help but cry... tears of pure joy!!!
I LOVE the 501st Legion, Albin, all the members and everything the 501st represents!!!! They truly are my heroes and inspire me BEYOND!!! They are the epitome of everything my WO+MEN 4 A CAUSE community stands for - utilizing your passions, creativity and all that you have to make a difference in the world. They perfectly embody my slogan, “Together WE CAN make a difference”! They are out there doing it because they can, and they are out there utilizing their LOVE for Star Wars while making a difference in people's lives & bringing awareness to many wonderful causes. I’ve been supporting them in every way I can - from donating artwork to promoting their events to featuring 501st members in my “IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MEMBERS” series in my blog and on my WO+MEN 4 A CAUSE sites. I also mentioned them during my interview for being honored as the “WORTHY WORKS CONNECTION” in the May 2010 issue of THE DIRECT BUZZ magazin!
GB: In a similar charity project, you have been invited to partake in the 501st Legion’s TK Project, with artists each customizing their own stormtrooper helmet for auction (proceeds to benefit Make-A-Wish Foundation). How’s your helmet coming? What type of theme are you going with… or is it still a top-secret? Any chance of a sneak peek?
DV: On January 4th I broke my thumb, which has taken some time to heal. In fact, it’s still healing! This slowed me down on all of my projects, including the TK Helmet. It’s coming along nicely... slowly but surely! It is top secret! No sneak peaks, sorry folks! I’d rather let the TK Helmet Project announce what it is once it’s finished! (^.^)
GB: Finally, here’s our closing question we ask to everyone we interview at GalacticBinder. If you were transported into the Star Wars universe… what era/location and/or setting would you like to end up in, and what’s the first thing you’d do and with whom?
DV: Oooohhhhh...that’s a really good question! I think I would sneak into Empire Strikes Back era, on The Millenium Falcon, as Princess Leia. I would go for the kiss with Han Solo!
GB: Thanks so much for dropping by, Denise! We look forward to more amazing projects from you in the future.
DV: Thanks for having me. And for people who will be hitting a convention or two this summer, my upcoming appearances include:
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