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Celtic Art at its Finest

by Mark Tichenor

March 2003, Volume 4, Number 3


The mention of Celtic artwork tends to conjure up images of vibrantly green fields and steep cliffs edged by crashing, angry surf. Timelessness. Stone cottages, gray skies, and simple, stark beauty. Not many people will think about the flat, wheat-rich fields of Alberta, Canada.

Despite the unlikely geographical location, Calgary artist Cari Buziak showcases a distinctive Celtic-inspired style. Primarily using the Internet, the Web-savvy Buziak has been able to turn her passion into a career, averaging $800-$1,000 for private commissions. In addition, Cari is a true commercial artist. She has worked on projects for Chronicle Books and Llewellyn Worldwide. Also, she has done work on Mythic Entertainment's computer game Dark Ages of Camelot and she has worked on an archaeological dig in Ireland as a sketch artist. Over the past six years, Cari has created Irish dance costumes, sarongs and jewelry, even sword props for an upcoming movie.


The spark that lit the way

Buziak's interest in professional art was sparked in 1995. Enrolled in a calligraphy class on Uncials (the letters used in ancient Celtic manuscripts), she became entranced by the decorations and spirals adorning the actual lettering. Through intense research, reading, and practice, with a healthy dose of trial and error, Buziak was able to develop her own techniques for creating the intricate, decorative designs, as can be seen in her website Gallery.

At the time, a job in an art store gave Buziak ample access to myriad materials. The melding of her newfound technique with unique and varied material was the touchstone for a series of works that are as varied in form as they are unified in theme.

"I never really chose Celtic art with any sort of intent or means to an end," Buziak says. "I've always loved color and fine, tiny details, and love old ancient artifacts, so when I found Celtic art, it was like I could have all those things in one!" Indeed, Cari can work in different eras and likes to fuse artwork from other cultures, such as mayan or Islamic, into her work. She is also flexible with her clients, varying the era or historical accuracy of the piece. It's the kind of capability that can only be developed by a careful, time-consuming study of the world's art and cultures.


The method behind the madness

When designing her artwork, Buziak goes completely digital. "I work extensively in Adobe Illustrator on my Mac to sketch the design and comp the work together, which allows me to have all the benefits of vector," she says. "And from that starting point we can go anywhere." Her clients appreciate the luxury of being able to get their final artwork in any format necessary, with the added benefits of being able to make last-minute changes.


Career insight

When discussing how she made the jump to commercial success, Buziak is quick to mention the Internet. "Get a Web site!" she exclaims. "Forget all that jazz about making slides and trotting around from gallery to gallery trying to get a show or tour. You can reach hundreds of thousands of people through a Web site."

In fact, Cari took the most grassroots of technological paths; she learned HTML and coded her own Web site, hooked up with kagi.com, an Internet credit card processing company, and she was in business.

Cari draws traffic to her Web site by providing surfers with real value for their time. Her site, aon-celtic.com, offers a series of free online Celtic artwork tutorials and a library of downloadable clip art. Currently, Aon Celtic averages 65,000 hits per day, and she updates it regularly to keep it fresh.

Buziak also has her own philosophy of Web design: simplify. "It's better to have a small, simple site that works for everyone that a big razzle-dazzle site that only work on one browser type, with only the latest plug-ins. Insist on multi-browser compliance from anyone who makes your site!"

Cari also recommends that artists and designers who are trying to make that commercial jump pick up a copy of the "Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines" and the "Artist's and Graphic Designer's Market Guide". These two books cover how to get jobs, and what to do when you have them, and contain sample contracts and pricing ranges for different art fields.