Maya Doka: Spring 2014’s Featured Artist

One of the marks of an exceptional tool is the diversity with which it can be used. The Featured Artist Gallery you are about to enjoy is a testament to the various approaches and executions an expressive graphics person can make using Xara Designer and its previous incarnations. Audiences from every walk of life and level or art appreciation always stop and stare, and then smile, at the work the Xara Xone is proud to present here.

Come take a look at what Maya Doka has been doing with her talents and Xara:

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Portrait of MayaMaya Doka (Crow Haven on TG) is no stranger to TalkGraphics or the Xara community; a member for over a dozen years, we’ve read her insights and now it’s time to see her work. Barbara and Gary have been privileged to see both her physical paintings and drawing, and her digital work, which includes work using Xara Designer shown in this gallery, as well as 3D modeling and paint programs. We wanted our community to understand this unique, talented personality a little better, so we asked the questions here that you yourself might ask after seeing her work:

Xara Xone: Maya, were you interested in art, and creating art as a child, or is it a talent you discovered and developed later on?

Maya: I started marking up things as soon as I could hold a crayon or pencil, and was eagerly painting on whatever surfaces the teacher allowed in kindergarten. My mom let me use up what remained of her oil paints on pieces of cardboard…the one painting I tried first was of a Siamese cat with blue circles all over the background. It was awesome, I thought!

Xara Xone: In what part of the world do you live and you live in an urban or rural area? Do you think that where you live affects the kinds of images you create?

Maya: I live in a rural part of the Oregon coast, USA. Although there is much natural beauty in this region, I haven’t lately been incorporating it into my images. I’ve also lived in other states across the US, both coasts, and large cities.

Xara Xone: What is the best thing you ever did to help develop or hone your skill? Take a art class? Formally study art? Spend time around other artists? Books? Trips?

Maya: Mostly I just painted everything and on everything that couldn’t get away. I had just a few art classes in grade school and high school. One art teacher in Jr. High gave me my first set of acrylic paints when they were the newest thing and said to me, “See what you can do with these.” I loved them and how fast they dried compared to oil paints. I’m mostly self-taught through experimenting with all sorts of media.

Xara Xone: What got you interested in computer graphics?

Maya: I first attempted to try and draw a cartoon with a little cube-shaped Apple Mac many, many years ago. It only allowed for drawing in black and white and didn’t have all the cool drawing/painting tools our digital programs do now. I got a simple desktop computer around 2001 and wanted to try artwork with it so I began researching programs. I had no idea how easy or hard vector drawing would be to learn, it was all going to be new anyway, I just jumped in feet first and landed on Xara.

Xara Xone: We’ve seen very polished and inspiring digital painting work and rendered models in your complete portfolio, Maya. What was it about Xara Designer that led you to include it in your artistic toolbox? Do you have a favorite feature in Xara?

Maya: Thanks so much for your kind words. Xara presented itself as fully capable of expressing whatever effects the artist wished, and seeing the imagery provided by other artists using it, I knew I could use it, too.

A favorite feature in Xara would be hard to pick, as I find most of them pretty much essential most of the time. I love the layers and undo features!

Xara Xone: I know that in addition to your digitally-based artwork, you are an accomplished physical painter. How do you think your background in physical painting affects your approach to the artwork you create using Xara Designer? Is there some recalibrating, cross-over, is there anything you bring from the physical world into digital art-space?

Maya: I like to translate my physical painting style, the soft shading, to my digital works. I’ve found this is quite possible even with a vector-based art program such as Xara. My owl painting, Night Flier, is an example.

Xara Xone: When inspiration strikes you, how do you decide whether to pick up a physical paint brush or a digital one; a 3D modeling app or to open up Xara Designer?

Maya: Frankly, Xara is frequently the fastest way to express my ideas and designs, so it is more often my go-to now for laying out an idea. Sometimes I use it for planning a painting to be done with physical paints and canvas.

Xara Xone: The artistic themes you seem to gravitate to are nature and animal, or space and fantasy. Do you ever reconcile these two different sources of inspiration or do you just let impressions strike you and you “follow your heart”, so to speak?

Maya: I’ve always been fond of nature and animals since a child. Likewise, I’ve had an intense interest in the night sky/astronomy and the sciences and pursue my first love of these things to this day. My choices for artwork subject matter is heavily influenced by these interests, and with that I “follow my heart” most often, but do like to work with other subjects too.

Xara Xone: You and your husband built yourselves an observatory? Has this firsthand look at the sky and the universe had an impact on your artwork?

Maya: My husband isn’t interested in astronomy, but he is very supportive of my interest in it, and gifted me with an amazing and beautiful observatory he designed.

Viewing the starry night sky and the wonders it contains gives me a sense of perspective, a feeling of renewal. I’m inspired by it, but there’s nothing I could ever paint in any media that could fully compare or express what I feel and experience when I physically view the vastness of the universe with my own eyes.

Xara Xone: What kind of reference materials do you use? Life models? Do you trace over photos you’ve taken, models you’ve built?

Maya: I’ve used sketches of live models, digital models, and used information from studying photos, too. I prefer to not use tracing, I like the challenge of trying to achieve the results on my own no matter how it ends up.

Xara Xone: Your work is quite detailed. Do you use a drawing tablet or a mouse?

Maya: I have an (old now) drawing tablet but I never really liked using it. It just gathers dust on a shelf. I’m still using an old 2-button mouse to draw with in Xara.

Xara Xone: Do you have a day job that takes advantage of your artistic ability, or do you freelance or is your work mostly for your own enjoyment? Do you have an outlet where sell or display your physical work or do you do commissioned work?

Maya: My work is primarily for my own enjoyment. I have done some commissioned work also, but it isn’t a real motivator.

Xara Xone: What is the best advice you can give to fellow Xara artists to help them realize their visions on a digital page, a scrap of physical paper, or some other medium ?

Maya: Just get your ideas on the page, be it digital or some other media. Be patient. There’s always a way to achieve your goal. Share your thoughts and questions with others on the Xara forums, everyone there is extremely helpful, and I guarantee you will find a world of inspiration.

Xara can do it all. The rest is up to you.

Xara Xone: Thank you, Maya! Let’s get on with the show now!