At times, Charles Morales feels like he was born in the wrong decade. The past, especially vintage illustrations from the Golden Age of Illustration and his home city El Paso’s rich history, leaves its mark in Morales’s work. He dreams of taking a stroll in Ernest Hemingway’s Paris in the roaring 20s or mingling among fellow artists in New York City during the 60s. Morales, also known by his social media handle Honey Power, is an illustrator and designer based in Texas, in the United States. His work is stylistically inspired by vintage illustration, comics he read as a kid (including Spiderman, his favourite character), pop art, and 80s music. Additionally, having grown up in El Paso, a border town situated less than an hour from the border with Mexico, has had a major influence on his work.
Morales’s work heavily resembles pop art and illustrations seen in comics, as seen in the linework, textures used and how Morales draws from pop culture to create his work. In particular, film and music. Musician David Bowie is among his favourite subjects to illustrate and he has a series of portraits of 80s musicians planned. Though figurative, colour in each of his pieces seems to be the main element in Morales’s work and he wields it to look into an important theme to him: inclusivity. His characters don’t have natural skin tones. With their red, hot pink, and light blue skin tones, his subjects ooze a cartoony and playful vibe that invites viewers in. Morales says that this is intentional. He uses vivid opaque or unusual colours with the aim of making his subjects appear relatable to everyone who views his art, no matter their race or gender. Morales’s work is similar to pop art in that it doesn’t use symbols or vaguely implicit visual cues to signify a piece’s meaning. It simply is what it is, and what it is is accessible for everyone.
Portraits are also a prominent feature in Morales’s work, and much of his recent portraiture features cowboy-related imagery. This is tied to a theme of the home he continuously examines. A year ago, he decided to begin a project where he drew subjects that had to do with El Paso’s history, like Billy the Kid, and Pancho Villa. “Six Shootin’ Jolene”, which shows a cowgirl holding a gun in each hand. is an example of this. Morales says he’s been mostly influenced by living in the United States, but that is changing soon as he is keen on exploring how to incorporate his Mexican heritage into his work. Along with comic book artist Jack Kirby and fashion illustrator René Gruau, Morales cites Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and contemporary Latinx illustrator Ruth Mora, who is also known as Mean Machine, as sources of inspiration.
His process of creating is intuitive and has become more so as of late. Morales typically prepares by making multiple thumbnails, creating a mood board on Pinterest to get the feeling of a piece right, and writing down the main colours, but ultimately, he draws whatever comes out. Having started out imitating comic book art, he says he used to be a perfectionist. That has now changed, and Morales sees ample space for his art to grow. For that to happen, he has begun giving himself more space in which to fail, experiment, and improve. He has stopped drawing from references to further develop his own unique style. Being a mostly digital artist, he plans on getting back to traditional art, trying out different mediums, and highlighting the surrealist and dreamy aspects of his work. This is all a challenge to him, but one he is more than willing to continue.
Axelle Ringoet recently took on a challenge she had been evading for some time: dipping her toe into the unknown waters that were digital and NFT art. Ringoet is a collage artist based in Brussels, Belgium. A newcomer to the NFT art scene, she had previous abstract painting experience and only started doing digital art about two years ago. She’s never been much of a computer person, Ringoet admits, so even after her partner suggested she try digital art she was hesitant to keep experimenting. Learning Procreate and being able to create work on it was enough for some time. When she did finally get around to animating old collages, it immediately clicked and she realised this was NFT material. The success Ringoet and her partner have found selling NFTs is as baffling to her now as cryptocurrencies were to her initially, “Then like not even a year later we are in this crazy world where NFTs are taking over the complete art world.”
Describing her process of creating a piece, Ringoet says she mostly uses Procreate. She chooses the images online, finds a link between them, and then focuses on the background. This is one of the parts of her process that she enjoys doing the most, and interaction between the various elements and characters in a piece with the background is key. “For me, when it really comes alive is when I’m choosing the colours for the background and making it move.” Though she relishes in the background more, the characters are vital for Ringoet as well. Most of them are women, which Ringoet calls the “protagonists” of her pieces. With them, she likes to create a sort of window to a parallel universe she and the viewer would like to go to. These parallel universes are ones where women rule them, as opposed to reality, where history has been mainly shaped by men. Ringoet compares it to an episode of the TV series “Rick & Morty,” where two of the show’s characters visit a planet ruled by women and find a balanced society in place.
While in school and university, Ringoet says her style was inspired by painter Wassily Kandinksy and sculptor David Smith. Fantasy worlds are something she’s passionate about but it was watching science fiction movies, especially Star Wars, that really opened her eyes to the endless possibilities of what she could do. She found worldbuilding and costume design deeply fascinating. As a result, the figures in her collages and the worlds they inhabit are intricately styled. This influence is particularly evident in the “Emergency Intergalactic Space Meeting.” The amount of precisely crafted detail is new in Ringoet’s work, and she says working digitally and selling her art has encouraged her to be more attentive towards details and aim for constant improvement. One way she has improved is by giving her collages more depth by working with shadows and looks forward to learning how to work with programmes like Cinema 4D and After Effects. She may be new to all this, but Ringoet does not lack enthusiasm and is eager to explore the possibilities available for her, “I have a long way to go, but I like the process.”
“Muses on the Rise'' is an ongoing project of Ringoet’s. It is composed of portraits of women who through hard work and dedication are excelling in their respective fields, from movement artist Sandra Hilaerts, to hip hop/ rap artist Miss Angel. From personal experience, Ringoet knows the value of their effort and seeks to celebrate it through her lively animated illustrations of these women. She’s always found herself easily discouraged in her own efforts to pursue ideas by insurmountably high expectations of herself, only taking herself seriously as an artist until recently when she found that making money from her work could be a very real option. Her hard work has paid off and Ringoet is ecstatic, “Being approached by a company that loves your art, an NFT platform, it has happened two times now, and it’s very rewarding. It’s the first time that I see that when I pursue, there’s also results in turn.”
Stepping outside one’s comfort zone is hard to do, but this is exactly what Charles Morales and Axelle Ringoet have set out to do with their art, looking to the past or the future as inspiration. They have a way to go, and their journey’s just begun.
Follow Charles and Axelle on Instagram: @honeypowerr and @axelle.rngt