Women in Fantasy Illustration: Cynthia Sheppard

Welcome to the Women in Fantasy Illustration interview series. I am interviewing a selection of women whose work have made an impact in the Fantasy Illustration Industry. You will find the links to more interviews at the bottom of the page.

Today’s interview is with illustrator Cynthia Sheppard. I first became familiar with Cynthia’s beautiful work through Awesome Horse Studios online and later on I had the pleasure of meeting her in person at New York Comic Con and IlluxCon. Cynthia is such a warm and lovely person so I am very excited to share this interview with you.


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Unfinished Melody © Cynthia Sheppard

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Cynthia Sheppard

1. Please give a brief introduction of yourself, your career and your work.
Hi, I’m Cynthia. I’m a full-time fantasy illustrator working mostly in the printed game industry (Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, Fantasy Flight Games, etc.). I mostly work in digital media, though I also enjoy pencils and paint.

2. When did you start drawing? And when did realize you wanted to make a career of it?
I was really young. My dad is an artist and he started me on the foundations of art training when I was just a toddler. I’ve always been surrounded by art and art books for as long as I can remember. Observing art and putting ideas down as visuals on paper is one of the most deeply-ingrained parts of who I am.

Observing art and putting ideas down as visuals on paper is one of the most deeply-ingrained parts of who I am.

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Reap what is Sown © Wizards of the Coast. Art by Cynthia Sheppard.

3. What difficulties have you faced in transitioning into becoming a professional illustrator?
Money and my relationship were two major struggles. I got married around the same time I started working professionally (about six years ago, give or take), and I had to postpone my transition to full-time freelancing for a few years beyond what I’d planned on so my husband could go back to school and change careers. When I left the relatively stable world of corporate web design, my income decreased more than 50%, so budgeting is a continual challenge, but something I’m willing to deal with to get to do what I love every day.

(…) My income decreased more than 50%, so budgeting is a continual challenge, but something I’m willing to deal with to get to do what I love every day.

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Omens © Cynthia Sheppard

4. Do you feel like you have faced any challenges particular to being a woman working with Fantasy Illustration?
In some ways I think being female has made things easier for me, especially when meeting people in person at conventions. The artist community has been very accepting of me, and I don’t feel like I’ve been denied any opportunities for work because I’m female. The only real disconnect that still exists seems to be the perception of the general public; when I say, “I’m an illustrator,” most still assume I paint kids’ books, or more traditionally-feminine subject matter.

I think being female has made things easier for me, especially when meeting people in person at conventions.

5. What do you like the most about illustrating?
Increasingly it’s about storytelling and narrative for me. I won’t lie- I started out as someone who just wanted to make portraits and pretty pictures- everything illustration teachers hate! But I feel like now that I’m a little older I have more to say, and it’s starting to show in my work. We all start somewhere. I do still enjoy illustrating other peoples’ ideas, too, but the more it’s connected to a story or interesting world, the more I enjoy it.

I feel like now that I’m a little older I have more to say, and it’s starting to show in my work. We all start somewhere.

6. What do you like the least about it?
Waiting to show off work until it’s commercially released is still super hard. UGH. With most work under nondisclosure, there’s about a year between completing a piece and the date it gets published, and there can be a lot of artistic growth during that time. It’s sort of sad to release work into the wild that I would do differently if I had the chance to do it again, and I still haven’t gotten used to that feeling.

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Rubinia Soulsinger © Magic: The Gathering. Art by Cynthia Sheppard.

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Rubinia Soulsinger © Magic: The Gathering. Art by Cynthia Sheppard.

7. About a year ago you made the choice to focus on digital art over oil painting, both mediums which you produce excellent work with, what spurred on this choice and how has the choice impacted you?
This was a really tough decision. In 2010, I had decided to make an effort to incorporate more oil paintings and traditional media into my portfolio, a decision that was mostly influenced by the traditional-only exhibition IlluXCon, and its founders. It was a strangely uneasy road for me, and I got mixed results and reviews.

I haven’t expressly given up on oil painting, but am definitely more comfortable (and growing) with digital, and I’ve been able to focus more on storytelling and composition better without having to struggle so much with the medium itself. Working more in oil is something I’ll revisit eventually, but not today.

I haven’t expressly given up on oil painting, but am definitely more comfortable (and growing) with digital, and I’ve been able to focus more on storytelling and composition better without having to struggle so much with the medium itself.

8. Life recently threw you a curve ball, which led to you producing one of your best pieces yet. What is your experience with putting yourself into your work? (ie. Is it difficult? Does it help work through some emotions? Does it improve the work?)
The aforementioned curve ball is my recent divorce, which resulted in this painting:

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Learning to Leave © Cynthia Sheppard

Not to sound overly dramatic, but pretending I was fine when I wasn’t had become its own full time job for a while before the separation, and it was having a serious negative impact on the quality of my work. If I hadn’t done that painting right then, I think I might have set something on fire- it was a release of months of pent-up emotion. So on the one hand, putting myself wholly into my work can have good results like that, but if I’m not careful, a bad day can translate into a bad painting, too. Simply put: art tends to help my emotions, but my emotions don’t always help my art!

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Half Her Heart’s Duet © Cynthia Sheppard

9. How do you balance your client work and personal work? Do you ever struggle with restrictions of art orders from clients compared to the freedom of doing your own work?
Usually client work wins out. I haven’t done many personal works over the past three years, but I’m hoping that will change now that I’m living on my own again- I’m hoping more personal work will find its way into the balance.

10. What is the best advice you have ever received regarding your artwork and career?
Rebecca Guay stressed at the Illustration Master Class that we all need to make art for us- even when it’s an assignment, find something you love about it, and paint with that in mind. It took years for that message to sink in with me, but it’s at the top of my advice-that-needs-taking list.

Rebecca Guay stressed at the Illustration Master Class that we all need to make art for us- even when it’s an assignment, find something you love about it, and paint with that in mind.

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“Denizens of the Underworld” Cover © 2013 Fantasy Flight Games. Art by Cynthia Sheppard.


Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Cynthia Sheppard, if you did please share it with your friends!

Links:
Cynthia Sheppard’s Website
Cynthia Sheppard on Twitter
Cynthia Sheppard on Facebook
Cynthia Sheppard on DeviantArt
Rebecca Guay’s Illustration Master Class

The Frog Queen © Kristina Carroll

Women in Fantasy Illustration: Kristina Carroll

Welcome to the Women in Fantasy Illustration interview series. I am interviewing a selection of women whose work have made an impact in the Fantasy Illustration Industry. You will find the links to more interviews at the bottom of the page.

Today’s interview is with Kristina Carroll. I first became familiar with Kristina through her Month of Love blog, a blog where a group of professional artists post new illustrations every day throughout February.

Recently I was looking through the proof of theArtOrder’s Inspiration art book and was mind blown when I came across the stunning work of Kristina. I asked her for an interview and here you go! I hope you will enjoy it.


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Elevation © Kristina Carroll

1. Please give a brief introduction of yourself, your career and your work.
My name is Kristina Carroll. I currently live in Boston but grew up in Billings, MT and lived in NYC for 10 years in between. I grew up on Tolkien, Froud and Gaiman and as a kid, tried to convince my friends I was actually a fairy changeling.

I grew up on Tolkien, Froud and Gaiman and as a kid, tried to convince my friends I was actually a fairy changeling.

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Kristina Carroll: Fairy Changeling? © Photo by Scott Bakal

So it isn’t much of a stretch to see how I ended up drawing fantasy to make a living. However, my career has been sort of a roller coaster. I actually started off doing theater in NYC but quickly discovered it wasn’t for me and after some twists, made my way back to art. I’m drawn to mythology, folk-tales, archetypes and pretty much any story with a well-done fantastic element.

I’m drawn to mythology, folk-tales, archetypes and pretty much any story with a well-done fantastic element.

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Dreamheart Artifact © Wizards of the Coast

2. When did realize you wanted to make a career out of illustrating?
Probably the moment I realized that it was possible. Even though I grew up with comics and D&D – which rely on illustration and even though I drew all the time; art as a career always seemed abstract to me.

(…) Art as a career always seemed abstract to me. In high school, the only professional artists I knew were my art teachers and I didn’t want to be them.

In high school, the only professional artists I knew were my art teachers and I didn’t want to be them. Then, as I was becoming disenchanted with the theater world in NYC, I started getting back to my roots: D&D, comics, fantasy.

I began volunteering at MoCCa and actually met working artists. I met wonderful professionals and it switched on a light-bulb in my head. They were always so kind and encouraging; they made beautiful things and got paid for them.

3.What difficulties have you faced in transitioning into becoming a professional illustrator?
Money and fear. Money isn’t everything, it isn’t the road to happiness, but when you have debt and are constantly living hand to mouth It is really hard to get ahead. Especially trying to live in any big city.

Money isn’t everything, it isn’t the road to happiness, but when you have debt and are constantly living hand to mouth It is really hard to get ahead.

Sometimes it’s a motivator and other times it adds a weight that is very hard to get out from. You can get so wrapped up in thinking about next month’s bills that the really important things like portfolio development and long-term business plans get pushed aside for the current “crisis”. The good news is: all those problems become smaller when you are making art. The moment you realize life is stopping you from making art, that’s when something needs to change. It’s important to do everything in your power to just keep making art. Good art, bad art. It doesn’t matter. Just keep making.

It’s important to do everything in your power to just keep making art. Good art, bad art. It doesn’t matter. Just keep making.

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The Bavrogar © Kristina Carroll

4. What do you like the most about illustrating?
I love storytelling in all forms and art is the language I am most fluent in so that is what I use. Although someday I plan to have published writing as well. I also love collaboration. Whether it’s a very simple set of directions or making art for a specific story, I love the act of being able to contribute something new to an idea and that feeling of “rightness” when it really works. Storytelling is sharing and it is meaningless if the story you are trying to tell doesn’t resonate with anyone. That’s partly why I like myths and archetypes- they are all stories that have been told over and over for thousands of years in thousands of cultures and yet there is still something we respond to. I love channeling those ideas in my work.

I love storytelling in all forms and art is the language I am most fluent in so that is what I use.

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Echo © Kristina Carroll


5. What do you like the least about it?
The hustle. All those things you have to do to run a business and get noticed that aren’t making art. Especially when you are still trying to “get there”, it takes up a lot more of your time that should be spent on getting better. It often feels like shooting arrows in the dark.

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Maiden, Mother and Crone © Kristina Carroll

6. You attended the School of Visual Arts. What was your Art School experience like? Would you recommend it?
I have few regrets. I squeezed so much out of my SVA experience that I really felt I was getting my money’s worth. I researched teachers so I knew who I would learn the most from (some of who gave me jobs after school). I connected with so many amazing artists who I still keep in touch with. The NYC art student experience was one of a kind and I absolutely loved it.

The NYC art student experience was one of a kind and I absolutely loved it.

I’m the sort of person that needs a community and needs to be surrounded by people who challenge me so I think that, with my knowledge of my options at the time, I made a good choice. At the same time, I would be hard pressed to recommend it to someone else without a real, hard look at reality. The debt that comes from an art school education in an expensive city can stop you before you even get started, especially if you aren’t smart about where that money is coming from.

The debt that comes from an art school education in an expensive city can stop you before you even get started, especially if you aren’t smart about where that money is coming from.

I made a few bad decisions about how to pay for art school because I had stars in my eyes but I still did my best. I worked on my portfolio for a year before applying so I would have a better chance at getting scholarships and used my 401k that came from an office job in those “in between” years to help pay for it.

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Vernal © Kristina Carroll

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Vernal – Work in process © Kristina Caroll

7. Please tell a little about your process and your choice of medium.
There are a couple mediums I work in for different types of jobs. I prefer oils for color and charcoal for black and white work. The quicker the deadline, the more process I do and because I work realistically, it’s much more time consuming. I do lots of thumbnails. The most exciting thumbnails get fleshed out a bit more with stronger lighting choices and then the 3 best from there get sent to the client.

The quicker the deadline, the more process I do and because I work realistically, it’s much more time consuming.

After the decision, I will either start color studies or shoot reference. Sometimes I will do the studies first because they may inform decisions I make when shooting reference. For instance, if there’s a strong color or light decision that hasn’t been figured out yet or I want to run it by the client first. Then I get reference.

I shoot as much of it myself as possible to control light and perspective. Sometimes I also make Marquette and light them. I try to make time to do studies from the reference so I can avoid using the photographs as much as possible, this helps to take away some of the stiffness that comes of over-referencing.

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Minotaur in Clay © Kristina Carroll

I try to make time to do studies from the reference so I can avoid using the photographs as much as possible, this helps to take away some of the stiffness that comes of over-referencing.

Then I do the final drawing either in charcoal (if atmosphere and value play a stronger role in the image) Or line drawing with shading (if details play a stronger role). If it’s a black and white piece, I can stop here. With color, I prefer to do all oil paint but if the deadline is fast I mix in some acrylic at the beginning and/or digital at the end.

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Minotaur © Kristina Caroll

8. What is your favourite genre/or subjects to paint and why?
I love figures. Specifically I love figures that are somehow a bit unfamiliar or transformative. Whether it’s some sort of animal/plant element or a strange shape of the face or hair, I want to put in something unexpected. I love characters inspired by mythology and folk-lore, especially if I can do something in the visual storytelling that makes you see a familiar story from a different angle.

9. What is the best advice you have ever received regarding your artwork and career?
Several people have said a different version of the same thing to me: Finding who you are as an artist is being able to say no. I think one of my biggest obstacles is one a lot of young artists share: We want to do anything and everything. But that is deadly to progress. Whether it’s recognizing that the things you love aren’t necessarily the things you should do, or saying no to most paths in order to follow just one.

Several people have said a different version of the same thing to me: Finding who you are as an artist is being able to say no.

The sooner you focus on that one thing, the sooner you will start building the sort of career that will give you the freedom to branch out to some of those other avenues. That being said, even though I understand the truth of this advice and have seen the proof, it’s still sometimes very hard to follow.

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The Frog Queen © Kristina Carroll

10. Where do you hope to take your artwork in the future?
I hope my artwork takes me places! I want to keep discovering and getting better so I can translate my ideas with more clarity and they resonate with more people. I want to create my own stories eventually too, whether that means picture books, illustrated short stories or graphic novels. On a practical level, I see so many artists take extraordinary leaps (both artistically and professionally) when they are do something entirely their own. But mostly it’s because I love stories and want to make some of my own.

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Rivendell © Kristina Caroll


Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Kristina Carroll, if you did please share it with your friends!

Stay tuned for next week where I will be interviewing Cynthia Sheppard.

Links:
Kristina Carroll’s Website
Kristina Carroll’s Blog
Kristina Caroll on Facebook
Month of Love
Scott Bakal’s Website

Interview by Wax Ecstatic Magazine

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Evelyn Grace Healy, one of the owners of Wax Ecstatic Magazine, for their April Issue. The interview is an 8 page spread, we talk about my upbringing in Denmark, my artistic motivation and affinity for fairies as well as the New York art scene.

I still have much to learn as a draftsman, but it takes time and practice, something I have learned I need to be patient with. It takes years and years to become good at painting and drawing; it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not talent—it’s hard work.

Click here to read full interview.

was ecstatic april 2014 issue Interview by Wax Ecstatic Magazine

Wax Ecstatic, April 2014 Issue

Women in Fantasy Illustration: Karla Ortiz

Welcome to the Women in Fantasy Illustration interview series. I am interviewing a selection of women whose work have made an impact in the Fantasy Illustration Industry.

Today’s interview is with Karla Ortiz. Karla was suggested to me by fellow artist Travis Lewis. I was mind blown when I saw Karla’s stunning work so I’m delighted to have this opportunity to share this interview with you. Karla is also a very encouraging artist, I’d recommend any art student or artist who suffers from severe cases of self doubt read this interview. Enjoy!


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Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts © Karla Ortiz

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Karla Ortiz

1. Please give a brief introduction of yourself, your career and your work.
My name is Karla Ortiz I am a 28 year old artist. I was born on Halloween in the very small island of Puerto Rico. My mother is a fashion designer and my father is a musician, so from very early on I was immersed in a very creative environment. My mother claims I drew before I spoke…though I get the feeling she may be stretching the truth a bit on that one.

My work is inspired by many things that I loved (and still love) when I was a child. (…) I was always living in my imagination and all my activities as a child consisted of daydreaming.

My work is inspired by many things that I loved (and still love) when I was a child. I’ve always had a fascination with myth, fairy tales and animals. I was always living in my imagination and all my activities as a child consisted of daydreaming. I lived in distant worlds, where I would adventure with my animal companions.

I would look at illustrated fairy tale books, watch fantasy movies, play video games, look through National Geographic magazine or zoo books … and of course drawing all the time. Today most subjects I find fascinating revolve around those same worlds I used to play with as a child. I now live for the fantastic, the mystical, the morbid, the beautiful, the laws of nature, and the imagination.

Now in terms of my career, it has taken me to places I’ve never expected to go. The most exciting part is that there’s still so much more to do! I am looking forward to being 70 years old, and see what I’m painting like then!

I am looking forward to being 70 years old, and see what I’m painting like then!

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Order of Deacons © Karla Ortiz

2. When did realize you wanted to make a career out of illustrating?
It was never a sudden realization, more like a thing I had to do. From a very young age I just knew I could do nothing else except paint. This has been illustrated over and over again by my inability to maintain to maintain jobs that have nothing to do with art. For example, earlier in my college years I was kicked out of my first and only cafeteria job after the second day of training. I messed up so bad that they just couldn’t bare to finish my training! I called my father later that afternoon and told him the very distressing news to which he replied “Karla, this is just a sign that you should only focus on finding jobs that are painting related… you’ll starve otherwise”. And he was right!

From a very young age I just knew I could do nothing else except paint.

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Voces De Venus © Karla Ortiz

3. What difficulties have you faced in transitioning into becoming a professional artist?
Being an artist means that you will have moments of darkness and insecurity. I truly believe it comes with the territory. Most of us will have an amazing day and feel like we’re at the top of the mountain. But on that same day we could feel like we’re worth nothing because we made the wrong brush stroke.

Being an artist means that you will have moments of darkness and insecurity.

I faced a lot of those feelings transitioning to a professional artist. I felt like “Why me with this job? There are 20 other people that are definitely more qualified than I am!” But at some point you realize to let that go. Those thoughts and feelings are monsters that stop us from truly focusing on the love of painting. As soon as I embraced the craft and the love for it, everything wonderful followed.

4. What do you like the most about illustrating?
Oh man what a isn’t there to like?! Painting is like meditation to me, meditation with a visual story. Then when you hit roadblocks its like a wonderful puzzle that you have to solve. It’s also so satisfying to see something tangible come out from an abstract concept in your head! Not only this but the art community is full of such wonderful individuals who share ideas, techniques, and support each other. Like comrades in a big adventure, trying to collectively improve our craft and tell stories! Yeah it’s pretty much one of the best things in the world!

Painting is like meditation to me, meditation with a visual story. Then when you hit roadblocks its like a wonderful puzzle that you have to solve

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Brooklyn © Karla Ortiz

5. What do you like the least about it?
The little monsters that haunt your thoughts. They whisper all kinds of evil thoughts in your head, like “ Hey! Look at your neighbor! Look at how amazing they paint! You’ll never be able to paint like that.”

The little monsters that haunt your thoughts. They whisper all kinds of evil thoughts in your head, like “ Hey! Look at your neighbor! Look at how amazing they paint! You’ll never be able to paint like that.”

But just imagine yourself smashing those monsters with the broom and kicking them out of your head. That usually does the trick for me. Note: feel free to get as violent as you want with those devious monsters! They deserve it!

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Leah © Karla Ortiz

6. You work as a full time concept artist. What made you pick concept art over illustration and how has it impacted your career?
I don’t I think I ever consciously picked one over the other. To me they both feel very similar so I never feel at a loss when I’m only illustrating, or only doing concepts. However, I do feel quite fortunate that lately I’ve been approached by both Industries and I’ve gotten the opportunities to work on some amazing projects!

7. Is there a difference in how you approach concept art over say card illustration?
Outside of image dimensions not really. The process of illustration is not very different from the process of concept art. They both rely on strong technical foundations, good story telling and good design. A great concept artist will always be telling a good story with visuals, and so will a great illustrator. So it’s very hard for me to mention any true differences as I approach them very similarly.

8. Please tell a little about your process and your choice of medium.
I always go to digital, graphite, and oils (sometimes when I want to have a headache, watercolors). My process always starts with a very basic doodle, this is the part where I am laying down my ideas. I’m not very precious at this moment as all I’m interested in is getting a ton of ideas onto paper.

My process always starts with a very basic doodle, this is the part where I am laying down my ideas. I’m not very precious at this moment as all I’m interested in is getting a ton of ideas onto paper.

Once I’m certain on the direction I want to take it , I then begin to gather references and information. This is the part that takes the longest because I want to make sure that I’ll have everything I need, so that its smooth painting afterwards. After all my references are gathered, I will usually do a very detailed sketch in which I work the values and colors of the painting. If those sketches are approved then I move on to an accurate line drawing and only after all of this is done, I begin the painting process.

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Thumbnail Sketches for Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts © Karla Ortiz

9. What is the best advice you have ever received regarding your artwork and career?
The best advice about painting and career came at a point in my life where I was at my lowest. I almost quit art! I asked a room full of artist who I admired if they always felt like their work sucked. That opened the floodgates to a very long conversation about how everyone felt like their neighbor was better. I realized this inadequacy was something we all felt… It was liberating! That was the moment I realized I needed to shut away useless fears and thoughts and focus on more important things, like painting, and enjoying life!

The best advice about painting and career came at a point in my life where I was at my lowest. I almost quit art! I asked a room full of artist who I admired if they always felt like their work sucked. That opened the floodgates (…)

Another good advice is to take care of your body. Too many artist paint all hours of days, I was one of them until my body decided enough was enough and I injured my hands. Take breaks all the time, learn hand stretches, and sleep! All these things will keep you healthy and will let you paint for many years to come!

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Serf and Greyhounds © Karla Ortiz

10. What are your hopes for the future of your career?
Oh so many! I hope I will continue to improve upon my craft, and that I continue to work with incredibly talented individuals like I do today. I hope to travel and to see the world, and with it to learn to not only be a better artist but more importantly a better human being. And I also hope to find a sister to my very lonely cat, and to continue to play great video games when time allows!

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Mending Touch © Karla Ortiz


Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Karla, if you did please share it with your friends!

Also if there are any professional female fantasy artists you greatly admire and would like to see interview with, please leave a comment with their name and a link to their website, thank you.

Links:
Karla Ortiz’ Website
Karla Ortiz on Facebook
Karla Ortiz’ Blog

Options for Online Art Education

kirileonard pratt classroom Options for Online Art Education

Art Schools have been under frequent attack for their steep tuition costs in recent years which naturally lead many students to question whether attending art school is really worth it. There are a variety of opinions on this subject and personally I think it’s up to the individual to determine whether art school is for them or not.

elizabeth kiri pratt Options for Online Art Education

Elizabeth Daddazio and Kiri Østergaard Leonard at the Pratt Institute Campus, 2011

My experience with attending Pratt Institute for a year was without question one of the best year’s of my life, but if experiences teaches us one thing it is that it differs from person to person.

Some people have the time of their lives in situations where others are miserable. Therefore I don’t want to tell you to do one thing or another but I do want to tell you there are alternatives to obtaining a well rounded art education.

“I would recommend college for any aspiring children who want to grow into adults, but not necessarily for artists, if finances are an issue.”

Rebecca Yanovskaya

The benefits of online art schools and Mentorships

The internet is ripe with many intriguing alternatives for boosting your artistic abilities. There are a wide selection of Mentorships with professional artists as well as online art schools, academies and ateliers where you pick and choose your classes and programs dependent on which area you need the most help in.

Studying under professional artists can really boost your skill level, so if you feel stuck or confused about your art career it’s a wonderful opportunity to move forward.

“Maybe the best advice I got was to sign up for SmART School?!” – Elisabeth Alba

Cost

Cost is naturally the most immediate concern for most of us when it comes to picking an education. Although online art education are without a doubt more affordable than enrolling in a college, there are still careful consideration to be had before deciding. I found that the online options that are offered vary from just $18/mo up to as much as $2500 – which is closer to a college level class tuition. The large variety will hopefully offer you at least one option that is a financial match.

One critique I have of the schooling sites is that I didn’t find them to be very upfront with the cost. It’s frequently well tugged away under enrollment. For your convenience though, I’ve compiled a list of estimates along with the links below.

Research your professors/mentors

When making your choice next to finances you need to carefully consider your teachers. Finding a mentor whose work you can connect to and who possesses the values you find missing in your own work will definitely make the experiences more rewarding.

Having a good teacher is just incredibly important, so before making your choice do some research on the teachers that are available through the different programs and find one that’s just perfect for you.

I have never been critiqued by anyone who has been able to see into my artistic soul like Rebecca Guay.
- Elisabeth Alba

kirileonard pratt classroom2 Options for Online Art Education

Here are some Options

  1. Watts Atelier
  2. Price range: $99/mo – $699/mo

  3. SmARTSchool
  4. Price range: Est. $595 – $2500

  5. Lamp Post Guild
  6. Price range: Est. $99 – $140

  7. New Master’s Academy
  8. Price range: $19/mo – $39/mo

  9. School of Visual Storytelling
  10. Price range: Est. $20 – $150

  11. Motivarti Mentorships
  12. Price range: Est. $595

  13. Noah Bradley’s Art Camp
  14. Price range: Est. $200

  15. Chris Oatley Academy
  16. Price range: Est. $18/mo

  17. Schoolism
  18. Price range: Est. $470.00 – $998.00

  19. CGMA CG Master Academy
  20. Price range: Est. $699

Thank you for reading, if there are some online art educations I have missed, please drop a comment with a link to them. I hope you found this blog post to be helpful, if so please share it with your friends!

As always I’d love to hear from you. Have you had experience with online art education? If so, what was it like? Do you recommend it?

Women in Fantasy Illustration: Lisa Hunt

Welcome to the Women in Fantasy Illustration interview series. I am interviewing a selection of women whose work have made an impact in the Fantasy Illustration Industry.

Today I have the pleasure of sharing a great interview with renown tarot and fairy tale illustrator Lisa Hunt. Lisa Hunt is a veteran of fantasy illustration, she’s also a traditional artist who renders her beautiful work in watercolors. I remember fawning over Lisa’s work before I learned to draw myself so I was very excited to have this opportunity to interview her and share it with you.


Lisa Hunt blackbird Women in Fantasy Illustration: Lisa Hunt

Black Birds © Lisa Hunt

1. Please give a brief introduction of yourself, your career and your work.
Hi, I’m Lisa Hunt, an artist living in South Florida. I consider myself lucky. I’ve been working for over two decades as a professional artist and writer, surviving the mutable nature of freelancing. I’m still at it — growing and learning as a creative. I’m best known for my published tarot decks and shapeshifter portraits but I’ve worked in many genres as an illustrator, writer, conceptual artist and educator. I’ve also managed my online gallery/store for about 6 years. It’s been a long career so far and I’m grateful to have been employed for the duration.

I consider myself lucky. I’ve been working for over two decades as a professional artist and writer, surviving the mutable nature of freelancing.

Lisa Hunt studio morning 600x443 Women in Fantasy Illustration: Lisa Hunt

Lisa Hunt in her studio.

2. When did you realize you wanted to make a career out of illustrating?
I always drew and was the “class artist” as a child. I was accepted into an Honors Art class in high school, and then onto the prestigious Educational Center of the Arts in New Haven, Connecticut during my senior year. I somehow knew becoming a professional artist was my destiny. I never questioned my proclivity for the arts or thought about how I was going to make a living. I just went for it!

I never questioned my proclivity for the arts or thought about how I was going to make a living. I just went for it!

Lisa Hunt Tornak Women in Fantasy Illustration: Lisa Hunt

Tornak © Lisa Hunt

3. You broke into illustration in a different time than what many young artists are facing today. What difficulties did you have to face when you decided to turn professional?

That is an interesting question because I don’t necessarily separate myself from other generations. I don’t think one era is necessarily easier than another, just different. Obviously the world of art has been changing at lightening speed due to the digital revolution.

When I started out in the late 1980s as an intrepid twenty year-old, there was no internet, but it also felt like a less crowded industry more receptive to new talent. I “hit the pavement” with my portfolio and dreams. I sent out a steady stream of my art samples and project proposals via snail mail. I also networked by going to conventions and conferences. There were very few opportunities to exhibit art otherwise. I was tireless in my efforts until I finally received steady contracts and monetary rewards.

The great thing about those early years is that I could completely focus on art and writing without ancillary distractions or concerns like online marketing.

The great thing about those early years is that I could completely focus on art and writing without ancillary distractions or concerns like online marketing. Once I started getting work, the publishers took care of most promotional efforts. At the same time correspondence was much slower and the beauty of online art galleries had yet to be realized. It’s hard to imagine now because I’ve grown used to the immediacy of the internet. My latest contract I acquired the day I sent a proposal to the publisher …via e-mail!

Lisa Hunt Gaia the world Women in Fantasy Illustration: Lisa Hunt

Gaia the World © Lisa Hunt

4. What do you like the most about illustrating?
It’s a soulful pursuit. I’ve always felt art making is a physiological process. I don’t feel physically centered if I’m not drawing, painting, writing or playing music. It is an integral part of my being that has been a constant companion since I was a little girl. In some ways, creating art is not a choice, it’s a necessity. I think a lot of people in the arts feel that way.

Lisa Hunt pent ankou pt Women in Fantasy Illustration: Lisa Hunt

Pent Ankou © Lisa Hunt

5. What do you like the least about it?
You have to work long, hard hours to make a living. That’s the truth and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise! It’s a consuming lifestyle and in some ways it can render an individual somewhat anti-social.

You have to work long, hard hours to make a living. That’s the truth and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise!

I know my mind keeps painting even after I shut the studio lights off. In that regard, social networking is a blessing for those who must live the studio hermit life to make deadlines and keep food on the table. I’ve become a little more laid back over time because I’ve become a faster, more efficient painter — a natural progression as one gains experience. I’m also older now, more reflective and appreciative of my life.

6. Please tell a little about your process and your choice of medium.
I’m a watercolorist. I started out with acrylics and oils until I took an illustration class with Lauren Mills. She was an illustrator in the children’s book field when I had her as a teacher back in 1987. I was spellbound by the process of layering washes of color. It resonated with me and I found it far less messy than other painting mediums.

My process: Usually I stretch several pieces of watercolor paper at a time (stapling paper to board). This way I can rotate from piece to piece and maintain an objective eye. Earlier in my career, I would fastidiously draw things out on tracing paper and transfer it directly onto the paper. These days, with a more rehearsed and confident hand, I’m much more spontaneous, and draw secondary elements right onto the paper. It’s an extremely liberating way to draw and paint, employing a certain amount of stream of consciousness.

Lisa Hunt studio painting Women in Fantasy Illustration: Lisa Hunt

Lisa Hunt painting in her Studio.

7. How has being a traditional artist impacted your career as the publishing world has turned more digital?
Interestingly, I did earn a Bachelor’s in Computer Animation in the 1990s when the digital arts industry was in its infancy. I created many digital environments and was known among peers for my custom texture maps and conceptual executions. But ultimately I returned to my roots as a traditionalist. I adore the tactile nature of actual brush and paint on textured paper. I also like having the option of selling one-of-a-kind originals. Given the ubiquity of digital art now, it sets me apart to an extent, so I don’t feel pressured to abandon my methodology.

I adore the tactile nature of actual brush and paint on textured paper. I also like having the option of selling one-of-a-kind originals. Given the ubiquity of digital art now, it sets me apart to an extent, so I don’t feel pressured to abandon my methodology.

Lisa Hunt pussinboots Women in Fantasy Illustration: Lisa Hunt

Puss in Boots © Lisa Hunt

8. Much of your work is focused on fairy tales, mythology and legends. What attracts you to illustrating the fantastical and mythical world?

I was four years old when I became cognizant of fairy tales. The universal motifs, archetypes and poignant narratives have always inspired me. These stories made me think and explore the “what ifs”. They provide the perfect material for those who want to paint fantastical realms, creatures and spirits. Being engaged creatively in the mythical realm is a spiritual exercise for me. The stories have always activated my imagination and made me feel well rounded and content.

Being engaged creatively in the mythical realm is a spiritual exercise for me. The stories have always activated my imagination and made me feel well rounded and content.

Lisa Hunt Published Decks 600x406 Women in Fantasy Illustration: Lisa Hunt

Published Tarot Decks © Lisa Hunt

9. You have an interesting and active blog. What benefits have you seen from maintaining a blog?

My blog is not just a chronology of art processes or a venue for promotion. The reader gets glimpses of my garden, me being a Jazz piano student, me being a family woman, and so forth. If you see my garden, you’d know that I’m thinking about design and layout. Viewing my house, you’ll see it s filled with books and art and reflects who I am and what I paint. My studio life and “real” life cross over in many ways, one influencing the other. I enjoy sharing a day in the life of an artist, and hope to inspire others to live more creatively. It adds a dimensional quality that helps me connect with my audience. I myself love blogs that have an intimacy about them.

I enjoy sharing a day in the life of an artist, and hope to inspire others to live more creatively. It adds a dimensional quality that helps me connect with my audience. I myself love blogs that have an intimacy about them.

Lisa Hunt stream of consciousness 526x700 Women in Fantasy Illustration: Lisa Hunt

Stream of Consciousness © Lisa Hunt

10. What is the best advice you have ever received regarding your artwork and career?

Hands. Pay attention to how you portray them. The hands can be just as communicative as facial expressions. Also, enjoy the journey and don’t get too hung up on end goals. If what you’re doing is dominated by frustration, then you’re doing something wrong.

(…) Enjoy the journey and don’t get too hung up on end goals. If what you’re doing is dominated by frustration, then you’re doing something wrong.

Lisa Hunt swan shapehshifter Women in Fantasy Illustration: Lisa Hunt

Swan Shapeshifter © Lisa Hunt


Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Lisa. If there are any professional female fantasy artists you greatly admire and would like to see interview with, please leave a comment with their name and a link to their website.

Links:
Lisa Hunt’s Blog
Lisa Hunt’s Website
Lisa Hunt on Facebook

Spectrum 21 – List of Artists released

21 525x700 Spectrum 21   List of Artists released

Spectrum 21 Cover. Art by Rebecca Guay.

Spectrum Fantastic Artist, the fantasy art annual that yearly spirals the Sci-fi and Fantasy community into a fit of anxiety and excitement has finally released a list of the artists who made the cut and it looks like Spectrum 21, which is published by Flesk Publishing this year, is going to be one stunning book!

You can find the full list of artists here: [CLICK HERE]

I’m particularly excited to see Jenna Kass and Rebecca Yanovskaya, whom I recently interviewed [click here to read interview], in the mix of artists who were accepted in.

Jenna, a young artist who has been working very determined on her artwork in recent years, has undergone a lot of struggle and doubt about her career path. I’ve previously featured Jenna on the blog here: Aspiring Illustrators – Put yourselves out there and it’s wonderful to see her hard work is paying off! I’m very excited to see where her career takes her next.

You can follow Jenna on Facebook here and find her online here.

Spectrum has a new group of judges every year, this year the judges were Cory Godbey, J. Anthony Kosar, George Pratt, Shelly Wan and Allen Williams.

Green Witch Tarot: The Oak King / The Hanged Man

rider waite hanged man 145x250 Green Witch Tarot: The Oak King / The Hanged Man

Rider-Waite Tarot: The Hanged Man

Disclaimer for new readers: Welcome! I am in the process of illustrating a full tarot deck for Llewellyn Worldwide, the artwork has been shared here with permission from the editor. There is no release date yet for the deck, but it should be sometime in 2015. It will be a full 78 card deck with no borders. The author behind the project is Ann Moura, who is widely known for her Green Witch books.


This week’s card is commonly known as The Hanged Man. In The Green Witch tarot it is named The Oak King.

The Oak King hangs upside down by his heel from a great oak. He is peaceful and contemplative. He draws an infinity symbol below his head. Gorse grows below symbolizing hope, endurance and rebirth. A robin watches him from a branch. The robin is a symbol of change, the cycle of the seasons and messages.

I should mention there will be a fuller description of the cards meaning and symbolism by Ann Moura in the final product.

kiri leonard the hanged man Green Witch Tarot: The Oak King / The Hanged Man

This card came together easily and quicker than some of the others, yet it’s one of my favourites so far. The author Ann Moura gave me a wonderful description to work from. The mood of the card was set as springtime which is perfect now that the weather is finally beginning to warm up.

I have compiled a gif of the process for you to see the full process:

kiri leonard hanged man Green Witch Tarot: The Oak King / The Hanged Man

Illustration Process

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this little look into my illustration process. As always I’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment. If you like the artwork I would also like to encourage you to share it with your friends.

To view all cards posted on the blog so far, please click here: http://kirileonard.com/category/clientwork/greenwitchtarot/

Links:
Llewellyn Publishing
Ann Moura

Have you heard about ArtPACT?

pact logo Have you heard about ArtPACT?

In 2012 I attended an Illuxcon panel presented by Jim Pavelec, Mike Sass, Aaron B Miller, Randy Gallegos and Todd Lockwood; a group of veteran artists. They were frustrated with the state of the illustration industry, specifically with the low pay rates and increasingly stringent contracts that made it increasingly difficult to make a living. They proposed that illustrators band together through a website to try to change this. The concept for the website was to create an informational resource for illustrators, and to implement a rating system where artists could share the working conditions of different companies with one another, and if the conditions were too poor – warn one another.

This was the beginning of PACT, an acronym standing for Professional Artist Client Toolkit. Now, two years later, after a difficult but successful Indiegogo campaign, another IlluxCon panel, and a whole lot of work, PACT is finally live.

pact panel illuxcon 12 600x390 Have you heard about ArtPACT?

PACT Panel, IlluxCon 2012. Photo by Jeannie Wilshire.

In my conversations with other artists, particularly aspiring and young illustrators, the PACT initiative really spurred on a lot of hope for better circumstances. I think it is important to note, though, that PACT will not do all the work for us. If you want to see a change in your circumstances, you are going to have to play an active part.

I think it is important to note, though, that PACT will not do all the work for us. If you want to see a change in your circumstances, you are going to have to play an active part.

PACT’s website has just launched in beta with a nice and clean layout that’s very user friendly. Currently the website offers a variety of articles written by industry professionals that educate artists about the business they are in. There is also a selection of professionally drafted contracts readily available for download, which should prove very useful to those of us who aren’t familiar with how to write a proper contract that covers all the important aspects of illustrating.

If you opt in for the paid membership you are granted access to the company rating system, which is where the strength of PACT lies, and also where you can be most active.

Paid members can rate the companies they have worked for and thereby share their working experiences with one another. The rating system is based on a six star rating system, divided into four sections: the amount of pay, timeliness of pay, contract, and ease of work. Through this rating system the user can get an idea of what a company is like to work for and if they are worth the artist’s time.

Paid members can rate the companies they have worked for and thereby share their working experiences with one another.

I recently had to pleasure to interview to Jim Pavelec, the driving force behind PACT, about the initiative and some of the concerns that have been voiced about it:

Schrei Jim Pavelec Have you heard about ArtPACT?

Schrei © Jim Pevelec

Tell us a little about your career. How long have you been working as a professional illustrator?
I’ve been working as a full time freelancer for over fifteen years now. I’ve worked mainly in the tabletop gaming industry, having done work for just about every company out there. I’ve dabbled in comics a bit, painting covers here and there. I’ve published several how to books through Impact including “Hell Beasts” and “Ink Bloom”, as well as self publishing two art books featuring demonic artwork from a variety of artists called “The Golden Ones.”

What originally gave you the idea to launch this initiative?
I noticed conditions in the industry worsening, and it concerned me greatly. More and more companies were asking artists to sign Work for Hire contracts, and the pay was stagnant, if not decreasing. I heard stories from my peers of their increasing financial woes, and decided that we needed to try to band together to try to make conditions better for ourselves. The culture of corporate greed had infected even our niche industries, and I was very frustrated that my peers, my friends, people with such tremendous amounts of artistic skill, could barely seek out a living.

I noticed conditions in the industry worsening, and it concerned me greatly. More and more companies were asking artists to sign Work for Hire contracts, and the pay was stagnant, if not decreasing.

One of the main concerns that have been expressed about PACT is for it to potentially become a platform for disparaging companies that individuals might harbor a grudge against. What have you done to address this concern?
The rating system we have in place on the PACT site is fair, as it rates a company over four different criteria, the amount of pay, the timeliness of pay, the contract, and the working relationship. If a company doesn’t pay much, but they pay on time, have a great contract, and are easy to work with, they can have as good of a rating as a company that pays a lot, but has a terrible contract and is a nightmare to work for. It’s not all about the money.

If a company doesn’t pay much, but they pay on time, have a great contract, and are easy to work with, they can have as good of a rating as a company that pays a lot, but has a terrible contract and is a nightmare to work for. It’s not all about the money.

If a person has a grudge against a company, and chooses to air that grudge in their review, there’s not a whole lot we can do about that. As long as the review doesn’t become cruel and resort to name calling, we’re going to err on the side of free speech.

What are your hopes for the future of PACT?
We’ve already had a few successes in getting pay raised by working directly with companies, and are currently in talks with getting contracts revised with a third. That is my main hope for PACT, that we can work WITH companies in an amenable fashion to improve the working conditions for freelancers. My other hope is that young illustrators come to the PACT site as their main informational resource.

We’ve already had a few successes in getting pay raised by working directly with companies, and are currently in talks with getting contracts revised with a third.

At current PACT is largely focused on various types gaming companies with a focus on Fantasy and Sci-fi illustration. Do you have plans to expand to other types of publications and illustration genres?
Ideally, PACT would expand to encompass all of the visual arts. I would really like to make inroads into the comic book community, because I know that many of their artists are in the same boat as we are. From there on I would like to expand into animation, children’s books, 3-D work, you name it. We have a solid foundation built. All we need to do now is get the word out to these other industries.

I’m very encouraged that within the first few days of launching the site that we have been contacted by many artists working in the music industry doing album covers. I hope that this kind of growth will continue in the months and years to come.


I hope you enjoyed this look at PACT and please do take a moment to check out the site and its features for yourself: http://www.artpact.com/

Links:
PACT on Facebook
IlluxCon
Jim Pavelec
Todd Lockwood
Aaron B Miller
Mike Sass
Randy Gallegos

Women in Fantasy Illustration: Rebecca Yanovskaya

Welcome to the Women in Fantasy Illustration interview series. I am interviewing a selection of women whose work have made an impact in the Fantasy Illustration Industry.

Today I have the pleasure of sharing a great interview with amazing artist Rebecca Yanovskaya. Rebecca Yanovskaya was suggested for this series by another artist on Facebook and I am very happy she was. The first word that springs to mind when I look at Rebecca’s beautiful work is Epic. It only makes it all the more mind blowing that it is rendered in ballpoint pen. I hope you will enjoy the interview and closer look at this fantastic artist.


Rebecca Yanovskaya Ascent 406x700 Women in Fantasy Illustration: Rebecca Yanovskaya

Ascent © Rebecca Yanovskaya

Rebecca Yanovskaya photo 242x250 Women in Fantasy Illustration: Rebecca Yanovskaya

Rebecca Yanovskaya

1. Please give a brief introduction of yourself, your career and your work.
My name is Rebecca, I am an illustrator from Canada with Russian background. I am a graduate of the Illustration program at Sheridan College, and recently began exhibiting at conventions. I work in ballpoint pen and gold leaf, and my one goal is to bring beauty into the world.

(…) My one goal is to bring beauty into the world.

2. When did you start drawing? And when did realize you wanted to make a career of it?
I remember drawing as the earliest thing I ever did. When I was bored, when I was excited, I would always draw things that I loved, to the chagrin of my mother who was constantly trying to get me to go outside more. I always preferred the company of my imagination, though, and the instant I realized it was a real career option was the time I knew I wanted to draw for a living.

I always preferred the company of my imagination, though, and the instant I realized it was a real career option was the time I knew I wanted to draw for a living.

Rebecca Yanovskaya The Guardian 479x700 Women in Fantasy Illustration: Rebecca Yanovskaya

The Guardian © Rebecca Yanovskaya

3. What difficulties have you faced in transitioning into becoming a professional illustrator?
Being your own boss is one of the hardest things to do in this day and age. Not only are there tons of distractions, there is so much information out there that one could easily spend their entire month doing research and not actually creating any work. Forcing oneself to sit down and consistently draw, even when you’re not “feeling it” is a skill that only comes with practice. There is no one to give you encouragement, or criticism, except yourself.

Not only are there tons of distractions, there is so much information out there that one could easily spend their entire month doing research and not actually creating any work.

4. What do you like the most about illustrating?
Seeing the finished work that came out of your mind, with all its disappointments and faults, is one of the nicest feelings in the world. I also love the act of rendering an object or figure out, and knowing that the first few marks and the last few are all equally important in bringing the piece to life.

Rebecca Yanovskaya Reaper Mercenaries2 600x432 Women in Fantasy Illustration: Rebecca Yanovskaya

Reaper Mercenaries © Rebecca Yanovskaya

5. What do you like the least about it?
The uncertainty of my own vision is something that causes me great anxiety. I can never know if the ideas I have are going to hit a nerve with people, or if they will miss the mark entirely. Having to trust myself and my vision is something I wish would become easier.

(…) I can never know if the ideas I have are going to hit a nerve with people, or if they will miss the mark entirely.

6. Who are some of your main inspirations in your artwork?
As long as I can remember I have loved the work of Alphonse Mucha. He is, without a doubt, my greatest influence and the goal I strive to emulate. If I could recreate a tenth of the raw aesthetic pleasure he gives me, in my own work, I would be content. The classical sculptures of the Greek, Roman, and British spheres, and the neoclassical and classical paintings of Europe are also great influences. Great painters I always look to specifically are Klimt, Herbert Draper, Bouguereau, Waterhouse, Godward, and Alma-Tadema.

Alphonse Mucha The Precious Stones Ruby Emerald Amethyst Topaz1900 600x346 Women in Fantasy Illustration: Rebecca Yanovskaya

Alphonse Mucha: The Precious Stones (Ruby, Emerald, Amethyst, Topaz)(1900)

7. You attended the illustration program at Sheridan College, what was that experience like? Do you recommend college for aspiring artists?
I had an important time at Sheridan, that I wouldn’t give up for anything. I met enthusiastic, driven people there that I learned a great deal from. I also came out of my shell and that, I think, was the most important lesson I learned there. I would recommend college for any aspiring children who want to grow into adults, but not necessarily for artists, if finances are an issue. We are lucky to live in a time where a wealth of information is at our fingertips, and I think institutions should now serve the purpose of teaching professionalism, not technique.

I would recommend college for any aspiring children who want to grow into adults, but not necessarily for artists, if finances are an issue.

Rebecca Yanovskaya working 600x397 Women in Fantasy Illustration: Rebecca Yanovskaya

Rebecca Yanovskaya in full illustration mode.

8. Tell us about your process, what lead you to using ballpoint pens as your chosen medium?
I had been doodling in ballpoint since middle school, and as a result refining my use of it. When I was faced with the art industry, I sampled every other medium in an attempt to find one that clicked with me, to no avail. My thoughts and ideas were simply clearer with a pen – and aesthetically I always saw monochrome as the most beautiful visual. I finally gave up on trying to be someone I was not (a great painter, or great inker) and decided to do the best I could with what I loved to use.

My thoughts and ideas were simply clearer with a pen – and aesthetically I always saw monochrome as the most beautiful visual.

9. What is the best advice you have ever received regarding your artwork and career?
The best advice I ever got, and became my Rule #1: “Finish your work”. Rule #2 is “Do more work”. No one will remember the illustrator who created one perfect piece and never drew again, and no one will remember the illustrator with great ideas in sketches but no pieces to show. It is and always will be a daily struggle to live by those rules, but the strides I have taken in following them have already paid off.

No one will remember the illustrator who created one perfect piece and never drew again, and no one will remember the illustrator with great ideas in sketches but no pieces to show.

Rebecca Yanovskaya Cairn Woods 520x700 Women in Fantasy Illustration: Rebecca Yanovskaya

Cairn Woods © Rebecca Yanovskaya

10. You are fond of illustrating mythological stories, what draws you about mythology and have this always been a theme in your work?
Mythology to me has always been about bigger than life struggles, and a world which is better than life, more idealized. The personalities are strong, exaggerated, passionate, heroic, beautiful. These are all qualities I want to capture through my art.

Rebecca Yanovskaya Eowyn Nazgul Tolkien 485x700 Women in Fantasy Illustration: Rebecca Yanovskaya

Eowyn and the Nazgul © Rebecca Yanovskaya


Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Rebecca. If there are any professional female fantasy artists you greatly admire and would like to see interview with, please leave a comment with their name and a link to their website. I have future interviews planned with Cynthia Sheppard, Lisa Hunt and more.

Links:
Rebecca Yanovskaya’s Website
Rebecca Yanovskaya’s Blog