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Interview with Elisa Fortes
Report filed by Mar 20th, 2013

Hello Elisa! Thanks for doing the interview. Please tell us a bit about the book you’ve been working on, and a little bit about your background in art! I like that some of your Silent Hill art is more imaginative, and shows us things that the game doesn’t necessarily show us. What makes you want to draw a particular scene/character in a Silent Hill artwork?

First of all, I would like to thank you for this amazing chance!
I am glad that you find my art more imaginative. I have always loved Silent Hill, ever since the first game, and I find myself hugely inspired by it. I think I am not the only one that feels that way!

What makes me choose what to draw is based mainly on my feelings when I play each game. There is always a scene, a line, or even the whole situation that makes me always think about it, or bring it up in discussions. They might seem silly, or immensely important in the game itself.

For example, one of my illustrations recreates one of the affairs that we are suggested Lisa and Kaufmann have in Silent Hill Origins. While at first I hated the idea of Lisa getting in bed with him in exchange of drug, I decided to go for it. Simply because, with this book, I was trying to work facial expressions, and I could put myself in Lisa’s shoes; how she would feel in those situations with the doctor.

In general, what I wanted with this book was a series of things. First, obviously, was making a tribute to the games. Then, working on 2 persons a illustration. Focus my attention on the interaction between those persons, or person and monster. When I was done with the first wave of illustrations (one for each main game), I thought it would be interesting to make scenarios or locations centered ones. You don’t often find this kind of illustrations in fan arts, and in all honesty, I’ve never been fond of drawing backgrounds. But I was taught that we are not going to work only what we like all the time, so I am always open to new topics and techniques.

And to draw a scene is harder than characters, because you connect somehow with one or two characters, but a scene? How do you connect with it? Although I must admit this is easier when talking about Silent Hill. There are certain moments and key scenarios that you think of immediately when remembering a game. Or some part of a puzzle that gets stuck in your head, maybe because of its symbolism, or maybe because of how tricky it is. But sometimes I just had to ask for suggestions, because I would run out of ideas. When you are working on the same topic for a while, your brain gets tired and so you need to look out for new, fresh inspiration. So in this way, I am very thankful to everyone who has ever lent me a hand.

The Silent Hill series has always relied heavily on its visuals. Which game do you think is visually the strongest, and/or has your favorite visual elements?

I think every game has very specific visuals that don’t appear in any other game. The most obvious examples would be the rain atmosphere in Downpour, or the ice elements play in Shattered Memories. I can’t choose a favorite above all, because each one is different.

However, there are things that I strongly like. The texts on walls or scattered papers that address the player or the main character directly, I find those things to be really shocking. Because it makes you wonder, “Who is watching me?”. And then you feel absolutely helpless, but still you need to go on in the game.

I specially love the relation that Silent Hill has with sound. I specially remember a moment in the first game. It was in the Otherworld hospital, in the basement. At this time, I used to switch off the flashlight before entering any room, so that I would have more time to react in case there was a monster. So, in this room I tell you about, there was no enemy. Instead, a non-stopping noise of crashing glass started to sound, all over. It wouldn’t stop. I was so scared I turned on the flashlight to see there was absolutely nothing in the room! So this could be also a kind of shocking visuals, the fact that you look for something but it isn’t there, and you imagine what *should* be there, but it doesn’t exist.

I may enjoy some visuals more than others, but it is always the hidden stuff, and the reference to other things, that I enjoy the most. In this aspect, Silent Hill is full of them. Back to the first game, in the “NOTICE” messages that you can find in the hospital, it says “HELL IS COMING” in this kind of clunky, low resolution graphics that the game had. Or for example, the infamous wall in Silent Hill 2 “There was a hole here – it’s gone now”. And also, in Downpour, the black light flashlight, the whole thing with the footprints that you can only see with this flashlight, that was also awesome. Or how the house in Silent Hill 4 gets possessed and the atmosphere becomes more and more claustrophobic. I could go on forever!

To sum it up, Silent Hill to me is art. So obviously, it is a huge source of inspiration for me.

What is your favorite medium for drawing/painting? Do you prefer traditional or digital media?

Oh, definitely I prefer traditional media. Watercolors, ink, graphite, acrylics, you name it. I learned a lot of these in Illustration school, we would even work zinc plate engravings!

Reality is a lot different though. Nowadays, you are going to be asked to work digital media, such as vectors, pixel art, etc. And of course, you are expected to master painting software such as PS. Some people actually believe that working digital is a lot easier than working traditional media. This is not entirely true because of many reasons.
In my experience, working digital media takes up a lot more time than traditional media. This is because you have a lot more tools to work with and, because of the infinite possibilities you want to obtain a result as perfect as possible. Not perfect as in a picture being flawless, but perfect as in what you want to represent. So you have a lot of different brushes, with different strokes each, you work on independent layers, with different hues and transparency levels, and you can just make a lot more stuff that you cannot do with traditional media.

But traditional media is way more satisfying than digital media, and somehow people appreciate it better from an outside point of view (surely because of the belief that I mentioned before, about digital work taking less time), and you can experiment a lot. Having a wide range of surfaces to work on, with different sizes, textures, base colors. Feeling how the picture evolves under your fingers, and overall, getting your hands dirty with paint… all that is extremely delightful and make you feel more connected with the work that you are doing. Of course, if you mess it up, it is harder to fix than in digital programs. Don’t we all wish we had a control + z function in real life?

Last year, you interviewed Akira Yamaoka at the Play Fest. What was it like meeting Akira?

Do you know these life situations that you daydream about and then the real thing turns out to be much better? Somehow like that!

I work for an important website about Japanese music. I heard Akira would come to Spain as guest for an event about music in games and animation, and I just had to go there. At first, I just asked for a press pass, but then some time later I got an interview with him. I was so excited!

It was my first time interviewing a musician ever, and of course, knowing his work for so long, I was very nervous. I arranged a poll to have fans send me their questions, and I chose the most interesting ones.

When I arrived to the event, he was giving a talk about the sound of Silent Hill. By the end of it, he came downstairs and he would happily take pictures with every fan and sign stuff and so on. He is incredibly humble, and he would walks among his fans and the press as if he were just one of us.

I spoke to him in Japanese and he loved it, given his English is not excellent. He was very kind to everyone, and that made things way easier for me.

He loves travelling, and this was not his first time in Spain. He brought his family along! They were in the crowd with everyone else, and always with Akira’s manager. His manager, thankfully, speaks English fluently. He is also a very good person.

Akira usually looks kind of scary in videos and pictures online, but he is absolutely humble and has a warm heart. If I admired him before meeting him, now I admire him even more.

Do you listen to SH soundtracks while doing illustrations to get into the proper “Silent Hill mood”? Do you have a favorite OST or song?

I spend all day listening to music, overall Japanese and heavy metal. I never listen to instrumental music, but Silent Hill is the exception. The tracks of Silent Hill don’t need a voice to speak by themselves. It is not just background music, they are proper songs.

To work my Silent Hill art I don’t necessarily listen to Silent Hill songs, but somehow I always find myself listening to the same 10 songs on and on… and I never get tired of them!

I don’t have a favorite OST, but I do have a few top favorite songs, and only a few would be instrumental. “Not tomorrow” is very special, because of the moment it is linked to. “Angel’s Thanatos” is inspiring because it is different; “Theme of Laura” is most people’s favorite, and it is also in my list, as well as “Promise”; “Silent Hill Theme” always gives me the chills, and I also love the versions of classical songs that you find playing on the radios in Downpour, specially the one to “If I had a boat”.

Now specifically vocal ones… I like all of them, but maybe my top favorite ones would be “Elle’s theme”, “Love Psalm” (the vocal one is from Book of Memories), “Waiting for you” and “Hell Frozen Rain”. It depends on my mood though, but if I had to choose favorite songs these would be it.

How can people get your book?

You can easily purchase the digital version on my Lulu page here http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/elisafortes .
In a few days I will also make it available for purchase a physical, hard cover version of the book for those who want the real deal.

Alternatively, I am open to commissions all the time. So if anyone would like a specific illustration, no matter the theme or media, I would do my best, as usual, to offer the best product possible.
To see more of my work, people can find my portfolio here http://elisafortes.daportfolio.com/

2 Responses to “Interview with Elisa Fortes”

  1. I have seen her art before is one of the best ones I’ve seen because is very original not just a copy of an still from the game

  2. i’ve been following elisa’s steps through illustration and i’m proud to say that she’s mastering her own style, and becoming a fantastic artist! i’m sure we haven’t heard the last of her!

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