Welcome to the Women in Fantasy Illustration interview series. I am interviewing a selection of women who work in the Fantasy Illustration Industry. You will find the links to more interviews at the bottom of the page.
This week’s interview is with one of my favourite artists; Linda Adair. Linda creates stunning oil paintings that really succeed at grasping and holding the viewers attention. It was such a pleasure to have an opportunity to interview her and I hope you will enjoy the interview as much as I did.
Necromancer © Linda Adair
1. Please give a brief introduction of yourself, your career and your work.
My name is Linda Adair. I’m from Canada and I currently reside in Sydney, Australia.
I’m a traditional oil painter who specializes in imaginary realism.
I love the possibilities that creating worlds and characters in paint brings, similar to that feeling you get when you’re completely absorbed in a fantastic book or movie, but as the creator you have more control.
I have traveled to 25 countries so far and find that my experiences help inform my art.
I have traveled to 25 countries so far and find that my experiences help inform my art. Getting out and living is, in my opinion, second only to practice when it comes to educating your art and fueling your creativity. This September I will be exhibiting in the Main Show at IlluxCon and am excited to meet so many of my artistic heroes in person.
Women of Legend: Skadi the giantess © Linda Adair
2. When did realize you wanted to make a career out of illustrating?
Initially I didn’t know what the possibilities were, I just knew I wanted to create. I loved drawing as a child, but found it was my passion in my early teens. I remember looking at an ad in the paper of an Alphonse Mucha exhibition at 13 and just knowing that’s what I wanted to do.
Initially I didn't know what the possibilities were, I just knew I wanted to create.
At 16 I left home and funded my travels by doing portraits on the go. I traveled through Russia for a few months, then Brazil, eventually ended up in Mexico where I met my Australian husband. It’s not until the last few years that I’ve been able to actually dedicate the time and focus to make it a career.
3. What difficulties have you faced in transitioning into becoming a professional artist?
As a mom of three, I had put off my dream of pursuing art until recently. When I received a scholarship to the Illustration program at TAD, I made the commitment to study and pursue art as a full-time career. There have been many challenges, but I’ve found the artist’s community online to be welcoming, helpful, and wonderful in every way. Also with the establishment of PACT there is just a wealth of information and help out there.
As a mom of three, I had put off my dream of pursuing art until recently.
Doorways to Adventure © Linda Adair
4. What do you like the most about illustrating?
I like narrative pieces and works that give me an opportunity to show another angle of the story. And, as much as I enjoy creating personal pieces, I still love the rush of problem-solving and bringing someone else’s words or ideas to visual life. I am also fortunate to be able to work from home so I am able to spend ample time with my kids and still keep crazy work hours.
(...) as much as I enjoy creating personal pieces, I still love the rush of problem-solving and bringing someone else's words or ideas to visual life.
5. What do you like the least about it?
Some aspects of the business side of freelancing, like, promoting myself, invoicing and chasing down payments.
Queen of the North © Linda Adair
6. You work in traditional media, which is a real treat these days. Can you tell us a little about your process and your choice of medium?
I love the tactile nature of traditional media, and oils in particular are just so versatile. I tend to work fairly quickly so haven’t found it too much of a disadvantage over digital. It felt a bit like walking a tightrope without a net initially as you can’t just “try it out on another layer and delete it if you don’t like it” or ctrl-z to undo some gaffe.
I tend to work fairly quickly so haven't found it too much of a disadvantage over digital.
I found that having a few “worst possible scenarios” happen kinda helps you get over that fear. For example, screwing up several pieces real bad and then having to problem solve to repair, or scrapping a piece to start over and nailing it in that next go. As for process, in a nutshell it’s thumbnailing compositions–value sketch–model photo reference (if needed)–final drawing–transfer to painting surface–raw umber “inking” to reinforce drawing–under-painting–and then the final painting, working background to foreground.
Viking Wake: After Party © Linda Adair
7. Your paintings often have an almost haunting but beautiful feel with a strong sense of emotion. How do you go about selecting your subject matter?
Each piece is different, some are based on legends and folklore and others, like the Viking Wake I just wondered what happened after. After the viking burial where they send the dead out on a boat and shoot an arrow to light it…then what? I imagined this graveyard of boats under the sea with all the fallen kings having their own after-party to welcome the newly dead.
With Mothgirl, I was thinking about night, with death and decay and the juxtaposition of the delicate beauty of moths and the child with innocence. I pictured her feet representing the journey, as well as thinking, when I walk at night I observe the ground for safety and when approaching someone in the dark I would see their feet first. To me that has more mystery then showing her face. I originally started on this train of thought when reading the poem Ulalume by Edgar Allen Poe.
Mothgirl © Linda Adair
8. You studied at TAD. What was the experience like for you?
Invaluable. Excellent instructors, camaraderie and subsequent life-long friendships with teachers and fellow students across the globe, and just a wealth of information. I am lucky to have had that opportunity. Coming from being self-taught prior to TAD I found that although there is so much information out there, when you’re teaching yourself you can pick and choose, which is great but can lead to learning gaps. Whereas going through a structured program you get a more well-rounded, strong foundation which is then a great springboard to continue in the specialty you may choose.
(...) when you're teaching yourself you can pick and choose, which is great but can lead to learning gaps. Whereas going through a structured program you get a more well-rounded, strong foundation.
Constant Man 1920 © Linda Adair
9. What is the best advice you have ever received regarding your artwork and career?
It’s hard to pick, but one thing that made a lasting impression on me was the importance of carrying a sketchbook with you always, and letting your experiences and life inform your art by careful observation. Art isn’t something you do only when working or on assignment, but it’s a lifestyle. Always be growing your skills — forever learning.
(...) one thing that made a lasting impression on me was the importance of carrying a sketchbook with you always.
10. What are your hopes for the future of your career?
I would like to create book covers that enchant people to read the book; contribute to more gallery work; and create fantastic worlds in paint. I have a few things on my artistic bucket-list but am not limited to what is available now, but hope to seize each and every opportunity I find.
Women of Legend: Dragonsbride © Linda Adair
Thank you, Linda and best of luck with your stunning art in the future!