Interview: Artist Brianna Garcia Talks Conventions, Fan Art, and All Things Nerdy

If you’ve been part of the convention circuit as an attendee and semi-active in the Marvel fandom, you may have come across some of Brianna Garcia’s work. The California native is known for her unique, Disney-inspired art-style and her work for several big companies and franchises, but she’s also known for her fan art, sketches, and her take on some of the most popular characters in different fandoms.

I first met Brianna at ACE Comic Con in Chicago last year, where I zeroed in on one of my favorite pieces of fan art ever: her little sketch based on a photo of Tom Holland and Tom Hiddleston, which she turned into a cute sketch of their respective Marvel characters: Spider-Man and Loki. 

Image courtesy of Brianna Garcia

With just a month to go before ACE Comic Con this year, I had the amazing opportunity to talk to Brianna on the phone about her journey as an artist, her favorite Marvel characters, her first fandoms, and her experience with working conventions. If you can, make sure to check out Brianna’s social media (Instagram, Twitter, Deviantart), and if you want to meet her and see her art in person — maybe even buy a print or two — you can meet her at ACE Comic Con Midwest where she’ll have a table in the vendors area!

Nerds And Beyond: Can you introduce yourself and your art to our website?

Brianna Garcia: My name is Brianna. I’m a comic book artist. I’ve done work for Disney, Warner Bros., and also IDW. I’ve worked on original stuff, which I would like to develop further someday.

Nerds And Beyond: Your style is inspired by some classic art styles, can you explain what you think influenced that?

Brianna Garcia: I went to school for animation and illustration, so I studied a lot of classic animation, and we were encouraged to study a lot of Disney, especially “The Nine Old Men” (Walt Disney’s core animation group, who created a lot of iconic characters and stories) – I decided to stick with it because it was comfortable to work with, especially in children’s media. Since then, I have gotten into children’s book illustration. I find the work very rewarding. I love working in this field. Adding to my work as a children’s book illustrator, I also work for a series called Butterbean’s Café on Nickelodeon.

Nerds And Beyond: How did you get started in your field?

Brianna Garcia: I started drawing when I was 5-years-old. I’ve always had the drive to do it. I never wanted to do anything else. My mother was very encouraging; she gave me art supplies for birthdays and Christmas, she got me books, including comic books. The first comic book series I collected was the Jurassic Park series, I was obsessed with Age of Reptiles, a comic series by Ricardo Delgado, too. I really loved dinosaurs as a child and these inspired me.

Nerds And Beyond: From your Instagram and Twitter I saw that you sometimes post small doodles or quick drawings from theme parks, conventions, etc. What inspires you, and how do you turn that inspiration into art?

Brianna Garcia: A lot of it is watching people at Disneyland. It’s a great place to see people, see performers, fans, and witness the passion of the performers at the park. I get inspired by that, and it’s a lot of fun to turn that into art. For example, if I see Rapunzel doing her meet & greets, I see how she makes magic happen for kids, how she brings that character to life, so that’s inspiring. I have so many favorites that it’s hard to pick a favorite performer! I’ve had so many encounters that were meaningful or fun, but recently it was one of the performers who plays Loki. Usually, I like to stay in a corner to do sketches and watch people. But after he was done with his meet & greet, he marched right over to me, saying “I want to see what you’re drawing.”

Image courtesy of Brianna Garcia

Nerds And Beyond: Thor and Loki are two characters you draw a lot. You even have your own sketchbook about them – what do you like about their characters?

Brianna Garcia: They’re my favorite Marvel characters. I love their dynamic together. They have such a fun and chaotic relationship. They’re brothers, and also enemies, which makes it interesting. The family angst, the humor, and the love — there’s just so much that makes these characters charming.

Nerds And Beyond: Do you have any favorite Loki/Thor moments in the movies/comics?

Brianna Garcia: A lot of the scenes I love are in the movies. There are so many, but I love the moments in Thor: Ragnarok where Loki comes back to Asgard and his “Your savior is here!” moment, because Thor encouraged him before this scene by saying he could be so much more than a trickster or the God of Mischief. That showed the characters’ bond and how they had grown as people.

Nerds And Beyond: Staying with the Marvel questions, what movie/project are you most excited for and why?

Brianna Garcia: I’m mostly excited for the Loki Series on Disney+. It’s six hours of Tom Hiddleston, so that’s always good. I hope Thor or any of the other characters from that franchise get to have a cameo in it. Of course, we don’t know much about it. I’m so excited to see where they’re taking the story and how it’s panning out. Tom Hiddleston acts like he doesn’t know, but he is crazy good at keeping secrets, as we’ve seen in the past! I’m trying not to read too much into Thor: Love and Thunder, because I don’t want to be spoiled. I think it’s awesome that they’re taking it into this direction. I have faith in Taika Waititi, but I also want to be surprised.

Nerds And Beyond: What are you hoping to see more of in the future of comics/comic book adaptations on the big screen?

Brianna Garcia: Comics can go into so many different directions. In the comics, Loki now wants to be an Avenger, while Thor is like, “No, you’re still a trickster.” They wouldn’t go in that direction in the MCU. Speaking of representation, my spouse and I being part of that community ourselves, I understand that they’re always apprehensive about that, because they want to make money overseas, but I feel that it’s very important.

Nerds And Beyond: You’ve recently had the opportunity to create a cover for Marvel Action: Captain Marvel, and you’ve also drawn Carol in many other forms/versions. What do you like about her as a character?

Brianna Garcia: I like Carol because she reminds me of Sailor Moon, which Brie Larson also said. I didn’t have a lot of exposure to the character before the MCU, so when I started reading up on the character, I saw strong character traits that I’d associate with the character.

Image courtesy of Brianna Garcia

Nerds And Beyond: When you first got the opportunity to work with and for Disney, what was your reaction? Can you describe your experience/creative process with them?

Brianna Garcia: At first it was almost disbelief! It’s that shock of “Oh my gosh, I get to make art for the company that I grew up on and loved!” It was a lot of questioning of whether I could meet their standards, as they are understandably high! Larry Nikolai my mentor, really helped me stepping into the first project I did for Shanghai Disneyland and having his guidance helped so much. I really cried when I first saw the mural that I had designed. Seeing your work displayed like that is amazing. That job eventually led to designing projects, like small designs, T-shirts, and other things, and then the Disney princess comics. I really loved working on those.

Nerds And Beyond: You attend conventions as an artist/vendor a lot – what is your experience, and what do you love about these types of events?

Brianna Garcia: It’s a great opportunity to travel. I’ve gotten to visit so many places that I wouldn’t have been able to if it hadn’t have been for that work! Like New York, or for ACE it’s been Chicago, Seattle, and Arizona, etc.! The most gratifying part has been meeting with people; people who tell me that they look up to me, etc., talking to these people face to face. Especially young women I meet. I want to encourage them and tell them that they can all do this kind of work.

Nerds And Beyond: Any memories specific to an ACE event that you would like to share?

Brianna Garcia: I did get to meet Tom Hiddleston at my first ACE event, and I was so nervous, but he was so kind, and it was so funny because I say this in every interview, but he’s so kind and gracious. I had a booklet of sketches of Loki I gave to him as a gift, and he said I should do a cartoon with these! Getting his approval is very rewarding, of course.

Nerds And Beyond: How, in your opinion, are fan art/cosplay and other forms of creative expression empowering to young, especially female/minority fans?

Brianna Garcia: I do love cosplay because cosplaying a character you love makes you feel empowered. Even if you don’t want to be like that character, you get that feeling of “I can be stronger. I can be freer.” It encourages you to step outside your comfort zone. I’ve met people who are introverted, and they say they feel stronger going to a convention in cosplay. I love having that freedom, also in my artwork! If I want to draw a character like in gender swap, I can just do that! Having that freedom in fan art is kind of empowering.

Image courtesy of Brianna Garcia

Nerds And Beyond: If you could give a first-time convention goer any advice, what would it be?

Brianna Garcia: I would say if you wanna dress up, absolutely do it, even if it’s simple or little. Do it! Because it’s just for the fun of it. Don’t be afraid to go around and talk to people. If you’re interested in something, go over to people and ask them how they got into something. Go into it with an open mind, and don’t be afraid! Don’t stress about it. Go about and have fun!

Nerds And Beyond: You’ve had a lot of amazing opportunities as an artist – what is your current dream or goal concerning your art/work?

Brianna Garcia: Right now I’m torn between two things: I’d love to continue doing children’s books because they make me incredibly happy. It’s extremely gratifying. Someday I would like to take a shot at working at Disney TV animation, with Disney+ opening up, I’d love to do storyboard work for them too!

Nerds And Beyond: Sometimes fan artists get overlooked or not treated with respect because they don’t produce “original” art – where do you think the challenges lie for fan art and how do they help people become better artists?

Brianna Garcia: I definitely think that fan art is a very positive thing. And I think a lot of artists develop their skills by drawing characters they love. Some opportunities come from drawing fan art! I drew Disney style in college, and it lead to working with them. Fan art is not a dead end. It can lead you to work and other opportunities. It’s a good thing to have originals, but don’t be afraid to do fan art.

Nerds And Beyond: Lastly, I know you also cosplay. Are there any costumes you’re working on or that are on your bucket list?

Brianna Garcia: Sailor Moon is on my bucket list! I would love to cosplay her one day! It would feel like achieving a childhood dream! I’m working on a couples costume for me and my partner. We’re cosplaying as Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus, because these are characters that are inspiring to us. I’m still working with a costume maker on my Thor cosplay. I love Thor so much that I want to make a good costume. Cosplaying him makes me feel stronger and empowered. In the movie he gets his hair cut off, and I’d been thinking of doing the same, and thought about it for a year, so for the cosplay I finally did it! It was so freeing.

Nerds And Beyond: Since we’re a “nerdy” site, we always ask some nerdy questions in our interviews:

– What do you get nerdy about?

Brianna Garcia: I’m in the works with IDW for My Little Pony! I’ve been watching this show since it started. I’m emotional about it ending! I’ve been reading the comics to soften the pain. I love that show so much.

– Who’s your favorite superhero?

Brianna Garcia: Thor.

– What color would your lightsaber be?

Brianna Garcia: Purple! Back in the day, I used to cosplay as Mara Skywalker! I cosplayed her right when they announced the new movie series.

– What was your first fandom?

Brianna Garcia: Jurassic Park as a kid! I saw it when I was nine, and it changed my life. Even before the internet in 1993, I was drawing dinosaurs and obsessing over the comics, so my mother’s friends noticed that, and they told my Mum about SDCC. I was begging her to take me. So the next year, I went to SDCC for the first time. I was absolutely hooked! Jurassic Park opened my eyes to a world of fandoms, so for the rest of my life, I knew I wanted to do art, comics, and be involved with all this nerdy stuff that makes me happy!

Conny

Conny joined her first fandom at the tender age of three and somehow never stopped finding new things to obsess about and love. Her current love is everything Marvel, especially two characters who tend to be frozen at one point or the other. From Drag Race to Harry Potter or musical theatre, as long as it makes her smile (or cry), it’s probably her thing.

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