We chatted to true renaissance woman Angela Bermúdez — painter, sculptor, designer, performance artist and cosplayer — about her art for the Absolver soundtrack, collaborating with composer Austin Wintory and her latest pursuit: speed painting.
By Thomas Quillfeldt
Multi-talented Costa Rican artist Angela Bermúdez makes me feel extremely deficient of creativity and get-up-and-go spirit.
She paints, sometimes at speed and in front of an audience; she sculpts characters from popular film and video game series; she takes commissions for the likes of BioShock creator Ken Levine; she’s also a model and leading cosplayer, including creating incredibly detailed costumes.
In short, Bermúdez is a consummate creator dedicated to making artworks which are often based around pop culture.
Over the last few years, she has repeatedly collaborated with one of the busiest people in games music, Austin Wintory (Journey, ABZÛ, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate). This led to the composer asking Bermúdez to create a cover for the soundtrack CD of his score to the online multiplayer martial arts game, Absolver (available on PC [Steam] and PS4).
In collaboration with developer Sloclap, publisher Devolver Digital and Laced Records (as well as with co-production help from Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA), Wintory’s subtle, mysterious, Eastern-tinged music for Absolver is available to stream and buy digitally via BandCamp; on streaming services like Spotify; or you can buy it on deluxe double vinyl and CD (est. shipping late Q4 2017) from LacedRecords.com.
The making of a renaissance woman
Given that Bermúdez is so capably multi-talented, yet still in the bloom of youth, you might be forgiven for assuming that she was born with a paintbrush in hand, ready to create. She comments: “I’ve always been interested by everything this is even slightly related to the arts. But what started it all was my passion for drawing, which I discovered when I was a child, way before school. Thank God my mother always supported that side of me by giving me books and materials back then.”
Bermúdez’s online presence suggests that she’s all about video games and related pop culture, but she has also worked on any number of projects unrelated to games: “In fact, the video games part is just starting!
“What I'm most used to doing is working to commission for a few agencies here in Costa Rica; these are mostly about costume-making for events, TV commercials and similar things. Sculpture and painting were merely hobbies of mine, but lately I've had the chance to take my artistic abilities to the next level with shows and exhibitions — it's really exciting!”
Wintory is coming
Absolver composer Austin Wintory first got in touch with Bermúdez in the latter half of 2015: “I was invited to a convention in Egypt and realised it would stupid not to take advantage of the Egyptian dunes, so I did some shots as Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens (as a scavenger on Jakku) and also as a traveller from Journey.” Since Wintory had composed the score for the award-winning Journey (and himself been nominated for a Grammy in the process), he was impressed by the authenticity of the shots.
Bermúdez’s Journey cosplay; the right-hand photo was taken by Andrés Herrera:
“He wrote a nice message to me which, I must confess, made me really excited and nervous; so I waited a few hours before answering because I didn't want to look like this crazy fangirl, play it cool, you know. We started to keep in touch very frequently after that.
“He realised that I wasn’t only a cosplayer but a painter too, and subsequently commissioned several pieces: at first, some pieces to give as gifts; and then later we collaborated on professional projects. God only knows how grateful I am that he loved my work and that we continue to work on projects to this day.”
One of Bermúdez’s paintings commissioned by Wintory, casting the composer as an Absolver:
One avenue of collaboration that opened up was the duo performing live — Bermúdez speed painting and Wintory improvising a musical accompaniment. She explains: “Austin mentioned a video from my page of a live speed painting I created at another event…”
“... and it gave him this crazy idea of upgrading the show by adding live musicians to create these improvised 30-minute sessions…”
“The basic idea is that I listen to the music and choose colours and paint based on [the musician’s or ensemble’s] notes and rhythms. The musicians respond by adapting their improvisation to better match the textures, tones and elements on the canvas. It's like a dance — a conversation across artistic mediums. It’s truly one of the best experiences I've had with another artist. It’s such an exciting and scary yet relieving dynamic, and I hope I have the chance to do it many more times in the future.”
Bermúdez hard at work; (bottom left, top and bottom right) with Austin Wintory, speed painting to musical accompaniment:
When working on a commission like that for the Absolver soundtrack CD, Bermúdez recognises that there’s a balance to be struck between immersing oneself in all available material from a project; and absorbing just enough to be able to turn around a piece in a timely fashion.
“In terms of time, it’s always more practical to get little glimpses of the game, but I know that the best way to get great results is to deeply understand what I'm trying to make. It’s not just an image, but a piece that must represents the whole project. I want to see as much reference material as I can, of course — the more, the better.
“Early on, I was shown mostly concept art but I had the chance to get a feel for the gameplay via a Skype call. Austin played for a bit so I had the chance to see the environment and characters.”
Bermúdez’s painting for the Absolver soundtrack CD:
Conception and execution
“This one was pretty simple, actually. I wanted to retain the martial arts feel of the [reference material], so I tried a few draft designs in order to establish a more concrete idea with Austin. We discussed the possibilities and decided to keep those elements of the game, whilst avoiding being too obvious. The concept of the masks on the floor worked well in terms of this line of thinking.”
Some early concepts of the piece:
“It was a hard process at the beginning, but that frequently happens — at least to me! Once you're up and running, things become smoother and easier.” According to Bermúdez, the process for creating the piece was entirely digital from start to finish. “I didn’t really restrict my colour palette: once I start painting that doesn't seem important to me, at least in cases like this where I'm free to paint as I like. Having Austin guiding me was truly a relaxing and fun process.”
Angela Bermúdez is a multi-disciplined artist, sculptor, designer and cosplayer – Facebook.com/AngelaBermudezA | Twitter: @AngelaBermudezA | Instagram: @angelabermudeza | angelabermudez.deviantart.com | angelabermudeza.tumblr.com | YouTube.com/AngelaBermudez | Patreon.com/AngelaBermudez
Austin Wintory’s Absolver soundtrack (featuring RZA) is available on deluxe double vinyl and CD from LacedRecords.com (est. shipping late Q4 2017).
The vinyl front cover and gatefold was designed by the similarly multi-talented Swedish artist and musician, Niklas Åkerblad AKA El Huervo. Read more about how he created the artwork in our interview with him; or check out the Video Game Grooves podcast version of the same interview (episode; iTunes feed).