Q+A with artist Crystal-Jade Vaughan!

Posted on July 02 2017

Crystal is an incredibly talented and imaginative London-based artist, designer and story teller who has worked in the fields of illustration, toy manufacturing, story development, costume design and more for companies like Dreamworks, Microsoft, Disney, 3A and others! 

I was so honored to work with her recently on a design and characters for Margarita Mermaid! You can see the character and bikini "Aurora Crystal" we designed together HERE. And our magical girls that each represent a different mythical creature (Mer Princess, Sea Witch and Unicorn) HERE!

I asked Crystal a few questions so that we could all get to know her better, and it turns out she is even more of a badass than I knew! Read on to get some insight into her wonderful world and see some more illustrations!

 

1. You're so good and passionate at what you do. Was being an artist a calling since you were a kid or was it something that came to you later?

Thank you so much, that’s very sweet of you to say! :) I can 1000% say by the time I was five, I knew exactly what I wanted to do! My brother, sister and I were raised by a single mum, she was working flat out ALL the time to make ends meet. We really had no choice but to cherish one another, get along, and work hard to fend for ourselves in a way that was so raw and unapologetically hard. I really get on with my siblings. We were always in survival mode, nothing was ever handed to us. Everything that was so basic for most people, was a dream or luxury for us. However, in a strange twist, it made us see the world with open hearts and through romantic eyes. We’d talk of all the things we could only WISH for in our wildest dreams! As a gift for our struggles and hard times, I believe we were blessed with the purest form of creativity and imagination.

So, I began enjoying every moment of writing and drawing from about the age of five. I would create worlds that were better than my reality, I’d escape there, and read those stories to my sister and brother. We’d make forts and castles from sofa cushions, treehouses, swings, mechanical toys. Everything. We became good at making something from anything, a go-kart from scrap, toy robot’s from junk metal, we could fix up bikes…we really began doing things that you wouldn’t expect very small children to do. In that way, we had the perfect childhood. We were free to be ourselves and blessed to be anything we imagined we could be.

I grew up a very old soul, sometimes finding it hard to relate to other children, because we were already self-sufficient enough to cook for ourselves, clean the house to help out our mum, walk to school, do our homework, travel solo, have adult conversations, and make decisions about money, expenditure, budgeting. All that stuff most do when they move out to university, or move out for the first time.

There was no internet back then, so I’d cycle after school to the local town library. I wanted to educate myself on the particulars I felt most important. Namely, in the beginning, it was all comic books, fictional fantasy stories, and the great classics! Then I moved to Shakespeare, history, factual books, aviation, and world war books. My sister nicknamed me Matilda. After the Roald Dahl character, and indeed there’s a lot of that story I can relate to!

I remember the first time catching the train myself at seven years old. There were no safe automatic doors then! They were big heavy doors that you could only open by yanking down the window and pulling the inside door lever. The gap from the platform to the train was so huge, that you could easily slip down if you weren’t careful! I remember sneaking into First Class, back when the classes of travel used to be compartmentalized, and shutting the door so I could travel in luxury! The train guard would always chase me for a ticket, and I’d run off down the train and hide in the bike carriage, which was dark and thunderingly LOUD! I had a very unusual childhood, but I would not change it for the world! My foundation made me grateful, appreciative, and strong.  It made me see my brother and sister as comrades, we were always on an adventure to survive together, always needing the bare minimum to be happy.

It was my sister’s passion and knowledge of film, that led to my interest in designing for the entertainment industry. When I began watching films, it really changed everything. I began to see something more powerful than my little stories and drawings. The screen held a majesty of its own! Colour, sound, moving pictures! It was fully immersive, and I completely fell in love with it. I would go down to our local video shop, and rent out as MANY VHS tapes as humanly possible, borrow as many video games from friends as I could, rent tapes and games from the library. I knew then that I wanted to design and write for the entertainment industry.

From that point on, it’s been a long and arduous journey to get there, many tough battles, only getting harder! Opposition after opposition. Especially when I was in my twenties. People really take the piss and underestimate a woman at times, embarrassing themselves with stereotypical comments and ridiculous assumptions! Obviously when they meet you, they have no idea who you are, your path, skill set, nothing. The only way is to carry on and show people. Only then will people fully realize what you’re capable of. My advice to creative women out there is to keep going, you can do it! Just go for it one step at a time and surprising and beautiful things will eventually start to show themselves!!  Especially when creative women come TOGETHER, it can be a real force of nature. No one can really argue with a group of hardworking women!

2. Why do you love mermaids? 

My sister, Jessie! You have to meet her! She has the biggest connection with the ocean.

Everything about it, makes me think of her!

Her house is full of shells, curved stone furniture, everything feels spacious, breezy, cool and ocean-like! She’s the kind of person that leaves you feeling smiley, appreciated and wonderful! She’s magic!

Growing up we could never afford to go on holiday, however we lived 5 minutes from the beach which was our luxurious peace haven! We found plenty of local nooks and crannies, caves, underground tunnels, crabbing pools, old promenade architecture, Victorian bandstands, hey-day lidos and Victorian beach gardens.  

Let me just say - I am not a good swimmer at all! When I was six, I walked along the edge of a swimming pool made of concrete that was on our local beach. The surface was covered in barnacles and limpets, and very slippery seaweed! I turned to wave at my sister and brother, they seemed to frantically wave back from the towel on the dry sand. I thought they were waving, but they were actually signaling me to come back immediately! I was so oblivious, (and without glasses on!) I climbed onto the pool wall, unaware of the violent waves at the top end of the pool crashing in! The next thing I knew I’d slipped on the seaweed, banged the back of my head, and blacked out.

I later learned a ginormous wave had scooped up my lifeless body and carried it into the swirling current! She’d run like lightening, jumped in, and dragged me back to shore. Real life mermaid! Hoorah for big sis!

So many stories like that! So many. Our mum nearly killed us from all the calamities we’d get into, but looking back…we had a really superb time!!

As Jessie got older, her connection with the ocean grew quite special and rare. She instantly seemed happier by the sea, it gave her energy and strength. Her hair blew in the salty fresh air, she smiled, her freckles came out. I was always more at home in forests and the idea of fairies, but for her, there was no place she’d rather be than by the ocean.

Ever true to the sea, she became a marine whale medic, ocean conservationist and qualified diver. Actively conserving dolphins, endangered whales, and other marine mammals. She is very much a real-life mermaid!

3. What are your favorite fantasy books and movies that inspire you? 

I like films that make me feel something. I really liked Aliens growing up. I could identify with a lone female wolf character, tackling darkness and finding solutions to make it out alive! I’d sneak downstairs to watch it when everyone had gone to bed. James Cameron is one of my favourite directors.

I also liked The Terminator, because Sarah Connor starts off so normal and defenseless, but later transforms into this badass, smart, strong survivor. Rising from fire and flames, that end scene where she’s slowly and painfully trying to escape T- 800…AMAZING.

I’m mainly into science fiction of the 80’s, but growing up I was really into fantasy and action adventure movies too. I was named after the Dark Crystal, so films like Labyrinth, The Never Ending Story, Return to Oz, Romancing the Stone, Indiana Jones, they all had something special to me. All so so good. Oh, anything with a training montage, or gang of kids on an adventure! 

4. If you weren't an artist what would you be?

I couldn’t be anything else. Maybe a private pilot. My biggest passion is creating new worlds, properties and stories for the entertainment industry.

I think the versatility in where this path can take you, the incredible people you meet, and the disciplines it touches, for me are so satisfying. There’s 3d model making, sculpting, fabricating, 2d conceptual artwork, costume and fashion design, character design, vehicle design, ship designs, weapon designs, fashion design, environment work, script writing, I enjoy all equally, and they all seem to merge into one! Everything from animation, video games, toy design, to even Jim Henson and Muppets!

5. Are there any plans or dreams you have yet to achieve? What's something you would like to accomplish in the future?

There is…but I don’t want to jinx anything!

 

6. What is your favorite....

- Flower? Hmmmmmmmm. That’s hard. I’m going to say pink roses.


- Type of gemstone or crystal?

A classic shaped white diamond, iridescent.


- Season?

Summer and Autumn. So hard to decide!

Summer is so alive and full of sunshine!

Autumn is so cosy and makes me think of hot chocolates, log burners, secret escapes, rustic blankets, fox print socks, snuggly scarves! Oooh! ^_^


- Animal? Fennec Fox, birds of prey..Owls are magnificent!


- City? Hong Kong and Tokyo

Asia is very close to my heart. 

 

What is it about house Slytherin you like so much? Do you think you would be Slytherin? Why?

Harry Potter was a very special book to me. When J.K. Rowling released the first book, I was roughly the same age as Harry, so it felt like we were living at the same time, in an alternate universe.

I entered my first International drawing competition, and I met one of my oldest and dearest friends, Cliff Wright, who illustrated some of the very first original Harry Potter books. He too felt at home in the forest, lover of foxes and all creatures. He was the first kindred spirit I found in my lifetime, and continues to be someone I hold in the highest regard.   

I love drawing witches and wizards too! All magical things!

I’d undoubtedly be Slytherin! Only because above all things, I value people that are tenacious to achieve their dreams, who are talented, brave the struggle, go against all odds to try hard, to make something from nothing, who are resourceful and who think first and carefully. I am most attracted to people that get their heads down and work hard, than those who are over the top, brash and all talk. I love people that are modest, thinkers, kind, thoughtful, observant, independent, they strive, they encourage others, the real grafters, the ones who go that extra mile, burning the candle at both ends, they get it done, spurring on the team, HUNGRY for their dreams, the ones that don’t fatigue and complain. Diligent, meticulous. Those who look inwards to improve themselves, not outwards and jealous of others. Grateful for what you are given, and to build and work with those limitations, THAT is the definition of resourcefulness. But they have to be kind, unselfish and have their own thing going on. Their own vision, style and dreams. Someone that stands out. Not a copy.

That is my favourite type of person. Someone strong, but very sweet too. That's amazing. I fully support that.

Slytherin to me is not evil, or bad, every person has dark and light, we are all split. But it is the house I would probably identify the strongest with, though all the houses are very interesting and worthy!

Thank you! 

A drawing Crystal did of me wearing the Courtesan Suit! Never felt prettier!
 
Crystal's SUPER CUTE sketches designing together!
Our Unicorn Magical Girl "Irissa". Drawing and story written by Crystal! Check out the rest of the girls HERE!
Follow Crystal's fantastic work on her Instagram!

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