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YOUNG, INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNISED ARTIST MARTINA PILCEROVÁ BREAKS ONTO THE DREAM SCENE

One woman's fantasy success

ONE of Slovakia's leading science fiction and fantasy artists, Martina Pilcerová, 31, returned from a trip to Helsinki, Finland, November 8. She had gone there to meet fans and card collectors, some of whom had travelled great distances for the chance of meeting her in person.
The event was an autograph-signing session organised by the publishers of Magic The Gathering cards. She likes to meet her fans face-to-face and has done several such sessions: the first being in Seattle, Washington, USA, a few years ago.


THE ARTIST protects herself.
photo: Courtesy of Martina Pilcerová

ONE of Slovakia's leading science fiction and fantasy artists, Martina Pilcerová, 31, returned from a trip to Helsinki, Finland, November 8. She had gone there to meet fans and card collectors, some of whom had travelled great distances for the chance of meeting her in person.

The event was an autograph-signing session organised by the publishers of Magic The Gathering cards. She likes to meet her fans face-to-face and has done several such sessions: the first being in Seattle, Washington, USA, a few years ago.

Without firm commitment from the beginning, her works could easily have remained just a fantasy.

More than once, Pilcerová was told to stop dreaming and get into the kitchen, where women belong. Instead, she saved money all year round so she could travel to Worldcons - an international trade fair for sci-fi and fantasy - and meet the leading people in her field.


PILCEROVÁ's fantasy and sci-fi works have appeared in dozens of publications.
photo: Martina Pilcerová

"People don't realise how strong you have to be to get through all the people who tell you exactly why you won't make it. Only the strongest survive," she said.

"I was surrounded by negativity from the very beginning. When I tried for my first breakthrough abroad, I was told I shouldn't even try, as no other Slovak had ever made it."

In total, Pilcerová has received nine international awards recognising her as the best emerging artist in her field. She received her most recent award, The Gaughan Award for Best Emerging Artist, in Boston, Massachussets, USA, in 2003.

She first arrived on the local scene, and received her first award, when she was just six years old. In 1979, Pilcerová's art teachers entered her work in There Is No Life Without Energy, a national Czechoslovakian competition in Prague.


photo: Martina Pilcerová

She has certainly shown remarkable energy throughout her life. As a child, the only way her parents could make her keep still was to give her paint and paper.

And yet, she says she did not always want to become an artist. In fact, she originally did not like the idea at all.

"I'd always imagined artists as old, tired men, painting pictures in dark rooms, and being bored to death," she said.

Nevertheless, as a young girl, she got into art as a way of escaping the reality of everyday life. She was inspired by Westerns and stories about Indians, and science fiction films such as the Star Wars Trilogy.

After Pilcerová decided to study art seriously, at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, it took her five years to get in and another six to receive her Master's Degree in Fine Arts.

"I guess at the time when I applied for the course, the university wasn't used to accepting someone with fantasy and sci-fi ideas. I heard that when I left, they took on more students interested in sci-fi. I like to think I helped them a little."


WEIGHTLESS.
photo: Martina Pilcerová

At the start of her professional career, she was paid very little, if at all. Still, as her reputation and experience grew, she began to receive more substantial offers for contracts and assignments.

Fero Mráz, artist and the editor of Slovak comic Bublinky, helped her at the start. Later on, Paul Barnett, the editor of publishers The Paper Tiger and Todd Lockwood, showed her work to Wizards of the Coast, a publisher of sci-fi.

Since then, she has moved from strength to strength. She has designed book covers and done illustration work for fantasy and sci-fi stories. She has written and published 14 of her own comics. All together, her work has appeared more than 70 times in different books and with various magazine publishers.


SECRETS, inspired by Tubular Bells III by Mike Oldfield.
photo: Martina Pilcerová

Pilcerová has exhibited her paintings 26 times at different conventions including, most famously, The Lacon III in Los Angeles, California, USA (1996). Recently, her work was exhibited at ConJose in San Jose, California, USA (2002).

She even managed to secure herself a contract with Volker Engel - the famous special effects designer for Hollywood blockbusters such as Independence Day. He asked Pilcerová to paint ten paintings for his own solo project.

To see more of Pilcerová's works visit www.martina.sk.

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